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Mr. Squiggle from the 1990s
|Also known as||Mr. Squiggle and Friends|
|Created by||Norman Hetherington|
|Voices of||Norman Hetherington|
|Country of origin||Australia|
|No. of seasons||41|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Picture format||Black & White (1959–1975)|
|Audio format||Mono (1959–1979)|
|Original release||1 July 1959 –|
9 July 1999
Mr. Squiggle (originally also known as Mr. Squiggle and Friends) is an Australian children's television series, and the name of the title character from that ABC show. The show was presented on television in many formats, between its inception on 1 July 1959 and 1999, from five-minute slots to a one-and-a-half-hour variety show featuring other performers, and has had several name changes, originally airing as Mr. Squiggle and Friends. At its height, the program was one of the most popular children's programs in Australia and toured theatre and conventions, entertaining several generations who grew with the program. It became one of the longest-running children's programs on Australian television.
Mr. Squiggle, the central character was created by cartoonist and puppeteer Norman Hetherington, and the character first appeared on the Children's TV Club on ABC TV, but was spun off into his own programme which first aired on 1 July 1959. Hetherington voiced and operated all of the show's puppets, while his wife Margaret wrote the scripts.
The basic premise of the show remained the same: children wrote in with their "squiggles" and Mr. Squiggle would turn them into recognisable drawings by connecting lines with his pencil nose. More often than not, the picture would be drawn upside down (Hetherington manipulated the puppet from above by viewing the drawing upside down), and then Mr. Squiggle would gleefully declare, "Upside down! Upside down!"—asking his assistant to turn the picture the right way up and reveal the completed drawing.
The last episode went to air just over 40 years after the first, on 9 July 1999. The last episode was produced in 1997; however, it was not until 2001 that the contract with the ABC concluded. After the show ceased production, the entire cast of puppets from Mister Squiggle and Friends were owned by the show's creator, Norman Hetherington. They have been loaned for display at exhibitions, such as at the National Film and Sound Archive and as part of the "50 Years of TV" exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in 2007. Hetherington and his puppets appeared on the ABC TV series Collectors in 2010.
Mr. Squiggle, the central character is a marionette with a pencil for a nose, who visits his friends from his home at 93 Crater Crescent on the Moon, flying to Earth in his pet rocket (named Rocket). In every episode he would create several pictures from "squiggles" sent in by children from around the country. Mr. Squiggle is a cheery, gentle and good-natured yet scatter-brained character who is often distracted and occasionally goes for "space-walks", leading his assistant to calm him down and get him to focus on the task of drawing.
Other puppet characters that appeared in the show included:
- Blackboard, the grumpy blackboard that Mr. Squiggle uses for an easel, whose catchphrases are "Hurry up", "Hmmph", "Double hmmph" and "Booorrriing".
- Gus the Snail, who had a TV for a shell and later, a flower pot, often tells knock-knock jokes.
- Bill the Steam Shovel, who likes to tell corny jokes and belch steam (talcum powder) out of his "nose" when he laughs.
Mr. Squiggle was helped by a human assistant in all of the show's incarnations; they included Miss Gina (Gina Curtis), Miss Pat (Pat Lovell), Miss Jane (Jane Fennell), and later series featured Roxanne (Roxanne Kimmorley) and Rebecca (Rebecca Hetherington, Hetherington's daughter). In his first incarnation as Mr. Jolly Squiggle on the Children's TV Club his assistant was Miss Faith (Faith Linton).
Comedians Mikey Robins and Merrick Watts played one of the show's characters, Reg Linchpin, for a year from 1989 to 1990. Other notable guest performers on the show included actor Paul Chubb and magician Timothy Hyde.
In February 2019 the Royal Australian Mint released a series of two dollar coins to mark the 60th anniversary of the first broadcast of the programme. The coins feature images of Squiggle himself, Gus the Snail, Bill the Steam Shovel, and Blackboard.
- Timeline – 50 Years of Kids TV, Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
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- Samandar, L., Puppetmaster draws final masterpiece, The Daily Telegraph, Tuesday, 7 December 2010.
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- Toshack, M., "Pulling the strings in a magic world", The Sydney Morning Herald, (Wednesday, 24 November 1971, p.20.
- Tuohy, Wendy, "Mr. Squiggle: Magic on a String", The Age Green Guide, (Thursday, 24 October 1996), p.10.
- Vasek, L., "End of the line for Mr. Squiggle animator", The Australian, Tuesday, 7 December 2010.