Johnson and Friends

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Johnson and Friends
JohnsonandFriendsTitleCard.png
Title card for the series, seen at the beginning of every episode.
Created byRon Saunders
John Patterson
Ian Munro
Directed byIan Munro
David Ogilvy
Narrated byPaul Bertram
Composer(s)Chris Neal
Braedy Neal
Country of originAustralia
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes78 (list of episodes)
Production
Producer(s)Ron Saunders
Donna Mitroff
Jay Rayvid
Editor(s)Robin Archer
Neil Thumpston
Frans Vandenburg
Running time10 mins
Production company(s)Film Australia
ABC
Avalon Studios
Fuji Television Network
Fox Children's Network
WQED
Release
Original networkABC
Picture format4:3
Audio formatStereo
Original release3 September 1990 –
10 July 1997

Johnson and Friends (stylised as Johnson & Friends) is an Australian children’s television program broadcast on the ABC from 3 September 1990 to 10 July 1997. It was produced by Film Australia and lasted for four series. In the UK it was shown on TCC, CBBC, and then on UK Living's Tiny Living strand for under-fives.[1] It was later aired in the United States with dubbed American voices as a part of The Fox Cubhouse, an educational children's anthology series on Fox Kids, between 1994 and early 1996. The series was last repeated on ABC1, with this run ending on 19 March 2002. The fourth series was produced in 1995 for Fox and was not aired in Australia until 1997.

Plot[edit]

Johnson and his friends are toys that belong to a boy named Michael, unseen except for when he sleeps in his bed. They reside in his bedroom, but do not move or show any signs of life until he has left the room or has fallen asleep. Each episode involves a story about the toys and it will usually have an educational message to convey to the viewer.

Themes[edit]

The series is aimed at children less than five years old, and plays upon their fascination with the notion that toys come to life while they are gone. However, the stories often have a deeper message, and sometimes they are very poignant.

Characters[edit]

  • Johnson: The leader of the toys. A furry pink elephant who loves being an In The Home Coordinator. Johnson is the wisest and oldest of the group, despite a shortcoming of not been able to count past one, and a tendency towards impatience sometimes.
  • McDuff: A blue and yellow concertina who loves having fun. Although she is a little silly, McDuff is a kind and loyal friend, especially towards the misunderstood Diesel.
  • Diesel: A red toy truck with a yellow and black hat that spends most of his time going "bruuum, bruuum" around the floor. He speaks with a very pronounced Australian accent. Although brusque, he means well and is obviously fond of his friends.
  • Alfred: A green hot water bottle, which is technically not a toy. He is a real fusspot and lives in the dark, dank area of the bedroom that is under the bed. He is neurotic and anxious and complains constantly. His face wears an aggrieved expression, but it is Alfred that supplies a lot of the humour. He also owns an old "banana skin blanket" which he is very protective of. Although grumpy and sometimes selfish, Alfred is generally good natured and helps Johnson out on his endeavours.
  • Squeaky: A black and red robot. She guards the bedroom while Michael is asleep and loves singing to herself. She is childlike and believes that the vacuum cleaner is her mother. She does not appear in every episode.
  • Victoria: A slow-moving orange and purple dinosaur that actually belongs to Michael's elder sister, Melissa; Victoria will often appear at the door of Michael's bedroom with some bad news she has just heard.
  • Alphonse: Alfred's long lost friend from the hot water bottle factory, he mentions that he and Alfred are both very musically talented and were once known as "The Hot Water Rockers".
  • Albert: Another hot water bottle acquaintance of Alfred's, Albert is known for his temper.
  • Alfred's Friends: Aside from Alphonse and Albert, Alfred is shown to have many hot water bottle friends, whom he has invited to the bedroom at least once.
  • Michael: The boy who owns the toys, he is only seen while asleep, but is frequently mentioned throughout the series.
  • Melissa: Michael's sister who is the owner of Victoria. She is never seen on screen, only mentioned.
  • Michael's Mum and Dad: Michael's parents are occasionally mentioned throughout the series, however, they never appear physically.
  • Michael's Aunt and Uncle: Michael's Aunt and Uncle are mentioned very briefly in one of the episodes.
  • Baby: Michael's infant cousin made a non-physical appearance in one of the episodes.

Cast[edit]

Character Costume Actor Voice Actor US Voice Actor
Johnson Garry Scale (Series 1)
Arky Michael (Series 2)
Jonathon Hendry (Series 3 and 4)
Garry Scale Tony Marino
McDuff Katrina Sedgwick (Series 1 and 2)
Dra McKay (Series 3 and 4)
Katrina Sedgwick Zoje Stage
Diesel Bruce Wedderburn (Series 1 and 2)
Matthew Chamberlain (Series 3 and 4)
Doug Scroope David Flick (Series 1, 2 and 3)
Doug Scroope (Series 4 and revised cuts of Series 1, 2 and 3)
Alfred Peter Browne Peter Browne Peter Browne
Squeaky Kristen Lyons (Series 1 and 2)
Sarah Boddy (Series 3 and 4)
Emily Lumbers (Series 1)
Kristen Lyons (Series 2)
Sarah Boddy (Series 3 and 4)
Angela Toohey (Singing voice)
Katie Watkins
Victoria Elisabeth Easther (Series 3)
Leighton Young (Series 4)
Deborah Kennedy Minette Seate

The program is narrated by Paul Bertram. The US dub is narrated by Amy Hartman.

Episodes[edit]

International broadcast[edit]

Johnson and Friends was broadcast in over 50 territories. These include India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan, Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, South America, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, Cyprus, Turkey, France, Germany, Norway, Finland, The Netherlands, Ireland, Iceland, Russia, Canada, New Zealand, Israel, Estonia, The Middle East, Scandinavia, the UK, Namibia and the USA, among many other areas. In addition, several non-English speaking countries showed the original Australian version as well their own localised dub.

The series was shown on CBBC in the UK from 1991-1999, as well as The Children's Channel and Tiny Living, TVOKids and Knowledge Network in Canada, Fox Kids in the USA, M-Net, Bop TV and SABC 2 in South Africa, TV One in New Zealand, Network 2 in Ireland, Fuji TV in Japan, Mediacorp Channel 5 in Singapore, BFBS in Germany and NBC in Namibia. The series was critically acclaimed in Japan and spawned an extensive range of merchandise, including plush toys, jigsaw puzzles and more. A small amount of merchandise was also released in the US.

American version[edit]

In 1994, executive producer Ron Saunders approached Jay Rayvid, a producer at WQED, Pittsburgh's local PBS station (known for producing Mister Rogers' Neighborhood) to see if the station was interested in helping to get Johnson and Friends on television in the United States. Jay agreed, but was unable to find a market for the series as a standalone program. By this point, 52 episodes (the first three series) had been produced and were available to WQED for distribution. FOX Kids were looking to start a preschool series around the same time and thus The Fox Cubhouse was created.

WQED and FOX teamed up and implemented Johnson and Friends as a segment in Tuesday and Thursday episodes of the 'Cubhouse'. In addition, The Fox Cubhouse itself was shot at WQED. However, the FOX network executives believed that the Australian accents in Johnson and Friends would confuse American viewers, so the series was dubbed over by local Pittsburgh actors.

It was decided that Peter Browne would be retained as Alfred's voice actor, but due to master recording issues, all of his dialogue had to be rerecorded. Several additional songs and music tracks were written by Chris Neal and his son Braedy, who had previously composed the score and songs for the original version of Johnson and Friends, as FOX felt that some of the earlier episodes were "too quiet" and didn't fit the atmosphere they wanted for the series. Instrumental versions of preexisting Johnson songs were also used. As the series was broadcast as a segment rather than a standalone program, the credits were featured at the end of the Cubhouse itself and each Johnson episode ended with the final chorus of 'Toys, Toys, Wonderful Toys' from the Johnson album, re-recorded by the US cast. Minor cuts were also occasionally made along with adjustments to John Patterson's scripts, to remove Australian terminology and slang. Series director Ian Munro maintained a level of creative control over the American version of the program and was involved with voice direction.

The Fox Cubhouse became a short-lived success, and FOX commissioned an additional season of 26 episodes of Johnson and Friends for the Cubhouse's second season. These episodes were also shown in Australia, dubbed by the original voice cast and marketed as the fourth series of the program. David Flick, who had provided the American voice of Diesel was replaced by Doug Scroope, Diesel's original voice, and several episodes of the first season of Cubhouse were also revised with Doug Scroope as Diesel. While previous Cubhouse episodes featured two episodes of Johnson, each, the second season was quite different, and one episode was sometimes replaced with an episode of Budgie the Little Helicopter or Magic Adventures of Mumfie, due to the fact that these programs also had a running time of ten minutes. Some episodes, however, still featured two Johnson episodes. Shortly after the broadcast of these episodes, The Fox Cubhouse was taken off the air, and the American localisation has not been seen since. It is believed that the master tapes of the US version were wiped, however, several master copies are known to exist.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tiny Living Information on DigiGuide.com - Lists Johnson and Friends

External links[edit]