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
Running time 5 minutes
Production company(s) Nicholas Cartoon Films (1981 series), Spargo Films & Double:Take (2005 series)
Original network BBC1 (1981 series)
Playhouse Disney (2005 series)
First shown in 14 September 1981
Original release 14 September 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 (known by Arthur as Mave), 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 Humbert 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


  1. The Bridegroom
  2. Edna's Secret
  3. Food For Thought
  4. Holidays
  5. The Dragon
  6. The Wishbone
  7. The Chrysalis
  8. The Magnet
  9. Wugged Wocks
  10. The Flight of Mavis
  11. The Thoughts of Moog
  12. The Joys of Spring
  13. Games With Edna
  14. The Hot Hot Day
  15. Halloween
  16. The Gnome
  17. Boring Old Edna
  18. The 'You Know What'
  19. The Bean-Stalk
  20. Cats and Dogs
  21. The Midas Touch
  22. The Viqueen
  23. The Potion
  24. The Beauty Contest
  25. Magic Golf
  26. Christmas Box

On the Kult Kidz Gold DVD there was an extra video "Do Not Touch" which featured the last part of Cats and Dogs, where Evil Edna makes the screen black.


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.


  1. Moon on a Stick
  2. The Toothache
  3. The Nature Walk
  4. Feed the Birds
  5. The Magic Bone
  6. The Knotted Handkerchief
  7. The Little Cloud
  8. The Mind Reader
  9. The Fancy Dress Ball
  10. Bowling for Carwash
  11. The Knee-Knocking Tree
  12. The Best Friend
  13. The Tiddle Me Wink
  14. The Makeover
  15. The Miracle
  16. The Love Bug
  17. The Wobbly Wood
  18. The Doyley Hunt
  19. The Cocoa Demon
  20. The Beauty Spot
  21. The Curse of Celebrity
  22. The Lost City of Polenta
  23. The Woodwind
  24. The Vegetable Garden
  25. The Art Class
  26. Here Comes the Judge

External links[edit]