Come Outside Title Card
|Created by||Elizabeth Bennett|
|Directed by||Elizabeth Bennett
Pippin the dog
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||40 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Judy Whitfield
|Location(s)||Middlesex & Buckinghamshire|
|Camera setup||Graham Latter
|Running time||14 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Tricorn Productions|
|Original channel||BBC Two
|Picture format||576i (4:3 SDTV) (now cropped to 16:9 for broadcast)|
|Original run||23 September 1993– 18 March 1997|
Come Outside is a BBC educational children's television series that ran from 23 September 1993 to 18 March 1997 and continues to be repeated on CBeebies. The series aims to encourage young children to learn about the world around them. The starting point for each programme is something with which children are already familiar, such as water, wood, paper, boots, spiders, buses, soap, street lamps. The two main characters are Auntie Mabel (played by Lynda Baron of Open All Hours), and her dog Pippin. They go on adventures in Auntie Mabel's aeroplane, travelling far and wide across the UK to find out more. Music, rhymes and stories enrich the programme topics.
The episode entitled Bricks won the Royal Television Society Educational Television Award 1997 in the Pre-school and Infants category.
This was the main theme at the beginning of every episode:
Look up, look down, look all around
Up in the air or on the ground
Come for a walk, come for a ride
There's so much to see so Come Outside
The "adventures" are generally concerned with showing how something is made, or how everyday objects and systems work. Examples are:
- "Clay" – Auntie Mabel's teapot breaks. They have to buy a new one, but the potter has run out of clay. Auntie Mabel and Pippin bring him some, then find out how teapots are made.
- "Sewage" – Auntie Mabel goes down a drain to see where waste water goes. Then she visits a sewage treatment plant to see what happens to what's flushed down the toilet.
- "Street Lamps" – Auntie Mabel reports an out-of-order street lamp. She joins the maintenance man as he uses a hydraulic platform to replace the bulb, and explains the mystery of how the streetlights switch on when it gets dark. She also tells a story explaining how street lamps were lit in the olden days.
- "Buses" – Auntie Mabel's plane won't start, so she and Pippin have to go on a bus instead. She gets on at Hill End Road in Harefield and accidentally leaves Pippin on the bus, but is soon reunited with her thanks to the helpful driver of the U9 in Uxbridge.
- "A Woolly Jumper" – Auntie Mabel has run out of wool while knitting a woolly jumper. She and Pippin visit a sheep farm and a wool factory in search of supplies.
Most episodes would start with clues of what today's adventure was about. Auntie Mabel greets the viewers at the beginning of every episode with "Hello me Dears" and Pippin often gets up to mischief prompting Auntie Mabel's final "Oh Pippin!" at the end of the programme, which Pippin likes.
Series 1 Programmes 1 – 11 a cottage on the corner of Denham Airfield in Buckinghamshire was used to provide the exterior shots of Auntie Mabel's house. She would come out of the house, walk through the back garden and on to the airfield to climb into her aeroplane. The interiors were shot at Capital Studios in Wandsworth, South West London.
Series 2 Programmes 12 – 30 was to be shot entirely on location, including the interiors of Auntie Mabel's house. The cottage at Denham Airfield was occupied and so a new location had to be found. An empty cottage on some farmland in Harefield, Middlesex was rented. In the original transmission schedule Programme 30 (based in Harefield) was to be followed by a repeat of Programme 1 (based in Denham) and so a programme about moving house was shot to link the two locations.
Series 3 Programmes 31 – 40 was commissioned two years later and was also shot at the cottage in Harefield.
In every programme Auntie Mabel ventures outside and this involved shooting in many locations in the United Kingdom, such as a pencil factory in Keswick, the manufacture of Wellington boots in Dumfries, a pottery in Stoke, growing bulbs in Spalding, Lincolnshire and making brushes in Portsmouth.
Sometimes Auntie Mabel's adventures stayed closer to home. Some of the episodes were filmed in the Middlesex area, for example in the episode "Buses" Auntie Mabel boards a bus bound for Uxbridge and is later seen exiting the public library at Ruislip Manor. Scenes were also shot in Woodley, in the precinct and in the veterinary clinic.
In the episode "Marmalade" Auntie Mabel flies to Seville to visit an orange grove. Shooting was restricted to the one day on which the oranges were ready for harvesting. This was only known with very short notice and consequently arrangements to fly out were made at the last minute. It happened well outside the main production period by which time Lynda Baron was committed to other work and was not free to travel to Seville. To make it appear that Auntie Mabel had visited the orange grove, she was recorded in the studio against a Chroma key background while a body double was used for reverse angle shots of her in Spain.
A feature of Come Outside is Auntie Mabel's unusual mode of transport. She flies a small plane, often referred to as 'Spotty Plane' because of its big red, blue, green and purple spots. Lynda Baron is shown as Auntie Mabel climbing in and out of the cockpit and sitting at the controls, usually with Pippin at her side. The actual flying was done by John O'Hara (Series 1) and aerobatics pilot Alan Cassidy (Series 2 and 3). They dressed in Auntie Mabel's coat and old-fashioned flying hat complete with red wig, and operated a puppet version of Pippin sitting by their side.
Three different Slingsby Firefly planes were used in the series. The first was G-RAFG, based at Denham Airfield. The flying sequences for Series 2 and 3 were shot with Slingsbys G-BOCM and G-SFTZ based at White Waltham Airfield. One of these has a different propeller from the first plane, with black stripes which made a whirling spiral effect when spinning.
Aerial views of the various locations visited by Auntie Mabel were shot by Jeremy Braben.
- Auntie Mabel – the main human character of the show. She lives with her dog, Pippin. In some episodes a close up of Auntie Mabel's hand can be seen, revealing a wedding ring. Auntie Mabel never talks of her "elusive" husband, but rather about her sister Edie. Played by Lynda Baron.
- Pippin – Auntie Mabel's pet dog. Pippin often has a comedy sub-plot during each episode, where she gets up to mischief without Auntie Mabel knowing. For example, in the episode "A carton drink", she secretly eats the sausages from her lunch box. In the episode "Soap", she hides the bar of soap to avoid having a bath. Played by Pippin and Mr. Higgins.
- Edie Featherstone – Auntie Mabel's sister, who is often referred to but never seen on screen.
Pippin was a mixed breed dog, possibly part Tibetan Terrier, possibly part Bearded Collie, roughly third generation descended from the famous American acting dog Benji and was owned and trained by the award-winning animal trainer Ann Head. Pippin was quite old at the start of the first series in 1993 and so she performed the slower but complex moves while her grandson, Mr. Higgins, performed any physically demanding actions. Pippin retired at the end of Series 1 and Mr. Higgins took over the role of 'Pippin' entirely for Series 2 and 3. The only time a puppet was used was in the flying sequences when the plane was actually in the air. At all other times the real dog was used. Mr. Higgins also starred as the Bakers dog for Bakers Complete pet food commercials and is still pictured on the products..
Many other animals took part in Come Outside. Specially-shot footage included snails from London Zoo, exotic frogs at Chester Zoo, geese at Folly Farm in Gloucestershire, rabbits at Tilgate Park in West Sussex, butterflies in the Butterfly Centre, Eastbourne, hedgehogs supplied by St. Tiggywinkles Animal Hospital and spiders from a private collection. In addition archive shots were provided by the BBC's Natural History Film Library in Bristol. The last Pippin the dog died in 2008
Elizabeth Bennett created the format and characters, wrote the scripts, directed many of the programmes and produced all three series.
Two different production companies were involved. Series 1 was made by Spelthorne Productions which has since closed. Series 2 and 3 were made by Elizabeth Bennett's production company Tricorn Associates.
- Series 1: 11 editions first shown 23 September 1993 – 2 December 1993
- Series 2: 19 editions first shown 22 September 1994 – 9 March 1995
- Series 3: 10 editions first shown 7 January 1997 – 18 March 1997