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Zippy (second from left)
|Portrayed by||Violet Philpott
Ronnie Le Drew
|Voiced by||Peter Hawkins (1972)
Roy Skelton (1973 - 2011)
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, if any, the character represents: while Bungle is a bear and George a hippopotamus, Zippy, despite a frog-like appearance, bears no obvious resemblance to any real animal.
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, 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.
|“||Zippy was going to be blue before I begged the producers to make him tangerine. One of the most common questions I'm asked is "What in God's name is Zippy meant to be?" You have me, a big bear, and a pink hippo and then there's Zippy. I don't think anyone has a clue what he's meant to be, but I do know why he's tangerine. It's because - like me - he's a Dundee United fan.
I lived in Dundee for much of the 60s and even came back a few times in the 70s. I had very happy times there and my fondest memories are of going to Tannadice Park one week and Dens Park the next. I became a United fan. They were languishing in the Second Division in those days, playing teams like Brechin and Alloa. Dundee were the strong successful team at the time, but we thought United played the more attractive football.
Because of that I was determined Zippy was not going to be blue.
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. 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.
In 2002, Zippy appeared in the "My Mate / I hate" advertising campaign for Marmite in the UK. 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, an they were voted off in the third round. During a between-rounds interview, Robinson zipped up Zippy.
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.