Willo the Wisp

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For similarly spelled terms, see Will-o'-the-wisp (disambiguation).
Willo the Wisp
Willo the wisp.jpg
Willo the Wisp Titles (BBC Series)
Genre Children's Animation
Written by Nick Spargo (1981 series)
Bobby Spargo (2005 series)
Voices of Kenneth Williams (1981 series)
James Dreyfus (2005 series)
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons Two
No. of episodes 52
Production
Running time 5 minutes
Production company(s) Nicholas Cartoon Films (1981 series), Spargo Films & Double:Take (2005 series)
Broadcast
Original channel BBC1 (1981 series)
Playhouse Disney (2005 series)
First shown in 3 April 1981
Original run 3 April 1981 – 7 December 2005

Willo the Wisp is a British cartoon series originally produced in 1981.

First series (1981)[edit]

In the first series, Kenneth Williams provided voices for all of the characters, which included these main characters:

  • Willo the Wisp, the narrator. A blue floating ghost-like creature, Willo had a long pointed nose which caricatured that of Williams. The name refers to the ghostly light will-o'-the-wisp from folklore.
  • Arthur the caterpillar (as a gruff cockney).
  • Mavis Cruet, a plump clumsy fairy with erratic magical powers.
  • Evil Edna, a witch in the form of a walking, talking television set who could zap people with her aerials.
  • Carwash, a snooty bespectacled cat with a character based on Noël Coward.
  • The Moog, a supposed "dog" who is unable to think for himself.
  • Twit, a small bird.
  • The Beast, who began life as the dim Prince Humbart The Handsome, who can't pronounce the letter r correctly; an unfortunate encounter with Edna ended up with his transformation into a hairy shambling creature. In this encounter, he crashed into Edna on his bicycle and called her, "Vewy dangewous. And what a wotten pwogwamme." Edna replied, "I'll 'wotten-pwogwamme' him!" and transformed him into The Beast.

Other recurring characters include:

  • Gnomes, one of which Mavis takes a liking to.
  • The Astrognats, explorers of space with a mushroom-shaped spaceship.
  • The Bookworm, a very clever intelligent worm who eats facts from books as a source of knowledge.
  • A regiment of toy soldiers.
  • A bat.

The series was written and directed by Nick Spargo and produced by Nicholas Cartoon Films in association with the BBC and Tellytales Enterprises. The character of Willo the Wisp originated in an educational animation created by Nick Spargo for British Gas plc in 1975 and the stories were set in Doyley Woods, a small beech wood in Oxfordshire, near the director's home.

Each of the original 26 episodes lasted approximately 5 minutes and were broadcast at 5:35pm on BBC1, a tradition as short cartoons were always shown between the end of the main children's BBC drama or sitcom for that afternoon, and the BBC Evening news at 5:40pm. This tradition ended with the first of two major reshufflings of the BBC1 schedules, within 6 months of Michael Grade becoming the head of BBC1. The first reshuffle occurred in September 1984, with the BBC Evening News being moved to 6pm, and the regional news programmes to 6:30pm. This vacated a 25-minute slot starting at 5:35pm, which was filled with various programmes until Australian soap Neighbours filled the gap on a more permanent basis.

The series was repeated on satellite channel Galaxy Kids Club (aka Sky Kids) in 1989 and on Channel 4 during the early 1990s

Credits[edit]

Second series (2005)[edit]

A second series of 26 episodes (5 minutes each) was produced by Bobby Spargo in 2005, and voiced by James Dreyfus. Although it maintains the style of the original, alterations include:

  • Willo no longer being a caricature of Williams.
  • Mavis being slimmer (although still too heavy to fly).
  • Evil Edna being a widescreen television, with a wheeled stand instead of the original's metal legs.

The second series aired on Playhouse Disney in the UK.

External links[edit]