Zippy (Rainbow)

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Rainbow character
Zippy (second from left)
First appearance 1972
Portrayed by Violet Philpott (puppeteer, 1972)
Ronnie Le Drew (puppeteer, 1973-present)
Voiced by Peter Hawkins (1972)
Roy Skelton (1973 - 2011)
Ronnie Le Drew (1992, 2012-present)

Zippy is a fictional character on the British children's television programme Rainbow. Zippy is a brownish-orange puppet with a rugby-ball-shaped oval head, blue eyes and a zip for a mouth, hence his name. His voice was first provided by Peter Hawkins and later by Roy Skelton. Violet Philpott and Ronnie Le Drew operated the character, the latter also providing the voice for the 1994 series and Rainbow Days.

It is unclear what kind of creature the character represents; while Bungle is a bear and George a hippopotamus, Zippy bears no obvious resemblance to any real animal. Presenter Geoffrey Hayes has said of him, "I don't think anyone has a clue what he's meant to be."


Zippy (with George) at the National Media Museum

The character retains a cult following among those who watched the show as a child, and is overwhelmingly the most famous character from the show. Zippy claims to be the best at whatever is being discussed, and always claims to be right. He loves to eat sweets, sing songs and tell his favourite jokes, and always has to be the centre of attention. For example, the other characters might be having a discussion, when Zippy would shout: "But I don't want to talk, I want to sing! I'm very good at singing! [starts singing] I'm a little teapot short and stout, here's my handle and here's my spout..."

Due to his frequently loud behaviour and silly voice getting him into all sorts of trouble, other characters in Rainbow occasionally zip his mouth shut for a short time, rendering him unable to talk. On at least one occasion he unzips himself, although he appears unable to do so on most occasions. Zippy is well known for his love of food, and in many episodes is seen eating.


In a The Sun tabloid newspaper article headlined "Revealed: Why lost star Zippy is orange", Zippy's orange colour is apparently due to presenter Geoffrey Hayes following Dundee United F.C. when living in Dundee, Scotland, during the 1960s and 1970s. The show's producers were set to make Zippy blue - the colour of neighbouring rivals Dundee F.C. - but Geoffrey was convinced otherwise.

However, Zippy had been orange from the earliest episodes in 1972,[1] over a year before Hayes joined the series.[2]

In a BBC online poll from March 2006, Zippy was named as Britain's favourite sporting celebrity fan by a landslide margin with 47% of the vote.[3] Described as Dundee United's biggest fan, several newspapers including the Daily Record, The Courier and Sunday Herald also covered the story in print and online. The poll included lifelong Port Vale F.C. fan Robbie Williams and Delia Smith, a director at Norwich City F.C.. In second place with 9.74% was movie star and Sheffield United F.C. fan Sean Bean. The poll attracted more than 15,000 votes.

Later appearances[edit]

In 2002, Zippy appeared in the "My Mate / I hate" advertising campaign for Marmite in the UK.[4] In the TV commercial he zipped up his own mouth when confronted with Marmite, thus confirming his hate for the product.

During in-character interviews on shows such as SMTV Live, Zippy is often portrayed as even more loud mouthed and crude than normal. An infamous "Christmas tape" of the series also displays cruder humour from the entire cast.

In December 2007 Zippy and George appeared on a puppet special of the Weakest Link hosted by Anne Robinson. Zippy answered each of the questions asked to the pair, most of them being incorrect, and they were voted off in the third round. During a between-rounds interview, Robinson zipped up Zippy.

Zippy also appeared in the 2008 BBC Kudos programme Ashes to Ashes with George.

Zippy appeared twice in a 2008 episode of Harry Hill's TV Burp. He featured in an edited scene of EastEnders, appearing at the door after a character had been seen undoing a large number of zips when searching someone's handbag. He later appeared in a montage of television figures saying the word "cataracts". In 2009, Zippy and George appeared on Peter Kay's The Official BBC Children in Need Medley, and Zippy made an appearance on the seventh series of Celebrity Juice as the celebrity from the Glamourerer Magazine Head section of the show.

The character of Zippy was retired with voice artist Roy Skelton's death in 2011. However this hasn't prevented him and George from appearing in parody sketches, performed by various imitators. Appeared on BBC Children in Need 2016.

In March 2017, Zippy appeared in the second episode of John Bishop's week of hosting The Nightly Show.

In October 2017, Zippy, George and Bungle appeared in the Pizza Hut advert

In November 2017, Zippy appeared on The Last Leg.


  1. ^ Rainbow series 1 episode 1 - Shapes, Thames Television, transmitted on ITV 16 October 1972. (Character appears from 13:13 to 15:01)
  2. ^ "Although not the first presenter of Rainbow (that honour goes to David Cook, who left at the end of series 1 {sic - he actually stayed until the end of series 2}), Geoffrey is the most widely remembered."
  3. ^ BBC (2006). "Zippy named top fan". Retrieved March 11, 2006. 
  4. ^ "Stoke/Staffordshire - Zippy is Face of Marmite". BBC. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 

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