"Izzy wizzy - Let's get busy!"
Sooty, the little yellow bear with a penchant
for magic tricks has been waving
his magic wand and causing merry mischief
on our tv screens and in theatres
since 1952. He was, however, "discovered"
four years previous to that in 1948
when his stage-partner Harry H Corbett
found him on Blackpool Pier and
purchased him for his children's amusement.
At the time, the bear was
known as Teddy, and it was Harry and Teddy
who first took our tv screens
in the BBC variety show "Talent Night".
Several performances in, Harry was
persuaded to make his bear stand out from the crowd,
so he blackened
the bear's ears and "Sooty" was
Don't say it too loudly, but Sooty is actually
just a simple glove puppet
with a very restricted amount of movement for his
performer to play with.
But Corbett was a genius. Sooty came to life in his
hands. Harry treated
him like a real-life little bear, talking and interacting
with him as if it was the
most normal thing in the world. Sooty doesn't speak, of
course. At least,
not out loud. Instead, he whispers to his stage-or-screen
partner who then
imparts his words to the audience. What genius!
After "Talent Night" came regular
appearances on "Saturday Special".
Sooty was a hit, and he subsequently got his own
titular show, "The Sooty
Show" in 1955. two years later he was joined
on stage by Sweep the
squeaky dog who played the xylophone and
sprinkled magic Oofle
Dust everywhichway. He became Sooty's bestest
pal and buddy and
together they made a double-act to rival the
very best of British Variety acts.
(Oh no, they didn't! - Oh yes, they did!).
If Sooty was the mischievous one,
Sweep was as mad as a March Hare, with his
incessant squeaking and
erratic behaviour and his love of sizzling
Sooty and Sweep needed a calming influence,
and in 1964 they got it, when
the lovable panda bear Soo joined the gang.
Butch the dog, Kipper the cat
'Enry robot and Ramsbottom the snake also
muscled in on the act. Together,
they survived a channel change from ITV to the
BBC where they stayed until
1976 when Corbett Snr handed over the reins
to Corbett Jnr.
Matthew Corbertt injected some welcome vitality
in to the act. His father's
performances were tailored to a generation
weaned on Music Hall and "Watch
With Mother" television productions which
performed "to" children - perfect back
in the 1950s and 1960s - but the times they
were a-changing. Matthew allowed
himself to become a stage stooge. Sooty and
Sweep didn't just joke with
him, they humiliated the fellow! It was great
fun. And usually very messy,
because there was always copius amounts of
water and cream flange
flying around, and most seemed to end up on
Throughout the 80s and into the 90s the Sooty
concept was tinkered with
and developed constantly, embracing new audiences
and changing tastes.
The gang were given their own home to have
fun with and Sooty's cousin
Scampi arrived. They went outside in to the
real world regularly, and their
anarchic schemes, plans, designs and tomfoolery
got bigger, messier, more
destructive and consequently, even funnier
and regularly bringing down the
house - literally. Indeed, there was a time
during that particular era when
the production was unmissable television for bigger
kids too, on a par with
the creative highs of "Tiswas" or
latterly, "SM:TV Live".
In 1996, Sooty dipped a toe into animated
water, thanks to our friends
at Cosgrove Hall. But the venture was short-lived,
and the following year
"Sooty Heights" opened its hotel
doors. By now, Matthew had decided to
retire from the tomfoolery, and Richard
Cadell and Liana Bridges
into the breach. Although Richard and Liana
bravely took all the insults,
custard pies and water pistol squirting that were
thrown at them, some
of the Oofle Dust seemed to have been lost along
Sooty's last reincarnation occurred at the
turn of the millenium, when he
returned in the titular series, "Sooty",
which is best remembered for the
arrival of Miki, the sly tomcat.
Ownership of the little yellow bear has chopped
and changed over the
last decade. Guiness Mahon bought the Sooty
rights in 1996, with Matthew
Corbett maintaining ties with the character
until his retirement in 1998.
Planet Gullane then took control in 2000.
But in 2003 HIT Entertainment
got their hands on the character as part of
their buy-out of the company,
and they've since suggested that Sooty doesn't
fit into their current
roster of stars. But who knows? Sooty remains
as popular as ever with
the public at large. Why, he's a Great British
Institution, up there with
Rupert and Basil
Brush - both having been reinvented for changing
audiences with great aplomb. Basil is currently
running amok in
"Foxed" and Rupert is about to get
a brand-new animated series.
There's nothing to suggest that Sooty couldn't
do the same...
A look at Sooty's Tv Comic exploits...
Hound: August 2003
Sooty for sale!...
Sooty/Teddy made his first "Talent
Night" appearance on BBC1
on 3rd May 1952...
1957 - Sweep
1964 - Soo
1960s - Kipper the cat, Butch the dog,
Ramsbottom the snake
1976 - Matthew Corbett
1991 - Cousin Scampi
1996 - Katarina the cat, Captain Fogbound
1997 - Richard Cadell, Liana Bridges
2001 - Miki the Tomcat
Obviously, it wouldn't be practical
to generate a complete list of series
credits here - even if that kind
of info was available. So instead, here's
The Sooty Show (1987 credits)
devised by: Harry
exec prod: Charles
musical dir: Ted
prod asst: Vivianne
Peter Saxon, Brian Sandford,
Lockwood, Brenda Longman
dub mixer: Gary
Le Drew, Crispin Lowry,
Gray (Portia du Pont)
Longman (Soo / Dotty)
Original Sooty Show: Wet and Wild Water Fun!
Region 2 / 3 episodes / Prism
/ April 2002
Sooty Show: Sweep Superdog
Region 2 / 6 episodes from various
series / Fremantle / August 2001
Izzy Whizzy Let's Get Bizzy!
Region 2 / February 2004
Brand New Sooty Heights
Brian Swann's enthusiastic
Brand New Sooty Heights
And here's Brian's Yahoo! original...
Ronnie operated Sweep for four
seasons of "The Sooty Show"...
this is silly, and fun, and actually informative. It's a
semi-official site following the
mis-adventures of PC Sweep
Watch out for the cones!
& Sweep's Online
Stop the presses, though. Here's
a full-blooded site, rounding
up info on the little bear
from across the web...
Travels of Sooty and Sweep
And now some more Sooty silliness.
This one features snapshots
of the yellow and grey one "on
tour" with their human friends.
They've even seen "Iron Maiden"
in concert, don't you know...
The rights holders, with info
on all the characters they own...