Mister M-M-Mayor, Sir!"
to Toytown, the busy bustling home of Larry the stuttering young lamb
and his best friend Dennis the Germanic Dachsund.
These two get up to all
sorts of innocent mischief around town, much to
the chagrin of the egocentric
Mayor, Ernest the stout policeman, the bumbling
Magician, miserable miser
Mr Growser, the Inventor, Mrs Goose, Mr and Mrs Noah
and the rest.
Toytown folk enjoy attending their local theatre,
they get up to "dreadful doings"
in Ark Street, regularly run into Highwaymen on
the Toytown Road, and set sail
with the haughty Captain Salt of the good ship Mermaid
(bound for the
Cannibal Islands, I'll be darned). Most of all,
they are unctuous and dismissive
of their ghastly neighbours from nearby Arkville..
Twenty-six Toytown stories were adapted for tv
by Hendrik Baker, a close friend
of the creator of the original characters and
settings, the late great S G Hulme
Beaman. The TV stories were filmed by Bura and
Hardwick, who also brought
Gordon Murray's three Trumptonshire
series to life. The characters designs
stuck closely to Hulme Beaman's original figures,
with their chunky,
squared-off heads and bodies. Likewise much of
the language and narrative
from those original stories remains intact. Characters
bowdlerise and expectorate
in a most-particular way. Old-fashioned to some
in this new millennium, but
endearing to just as many others of a particular
generation weaned on the
books and radio shows that preceded the series.
The Toytown stories and characters were created
by Sydney George Hulme
Beaman. They date back to the end of the First World War,
when Hulme Beaman,
a theatre hall actor by profession, turned his artistic
talents to carving small
wooden animals, figures and vessels. Excited by
his models of Mr Noah and
Noah's Ark, folks invited commissions from him for
various wooden characters
and a mini-industry was born. In 1923 The Golders Green
Hulme Beaman's comic strip "Philip and Phido".
His pen and ink characters
were deliberately styled after his wooden creations.
Several Toytown stars
emerged from the strips, like the Mayor who developed
from a self-important
Admiral figure. Now on a roll, Hulme Beaman wrote and
illustrated a number of
classic storybooks after the same fashion, before the
first true Toytown story
"The Road to Toytown" was published in 1925.
Anthologies of Toytown stories followed, and by
chance "Tales of Toytown",
published in 1928 was happened upon by May Jenkin
"Aunt Elizabeth" on the BBC's Children's
Hour radio programmes.
Hulme Beaman was eventually commissioned to write
some 28 Toytown stories
for the BBC. It was through these shows that the characters
of Larry and
Dennis were developed from bit-part characters
to true Toytown stars.
The BBC programmes were hugely successful, but
Hulme Beaman himself
wasn't quite fulfilled. He continued to develop
his carved figures and vessels
alongside his writing and even went so far as
to construct a model stage show
with accompanying string controlled puppets for
a performance of "The
Arkville Dragon". It proved to be a stepping
stone on to a fully-fledged
animation experiment, shot with the assistance
of the Pathe film company
in 1932. Sadly, though, Hulme Beaman died of pneumonia
The Toytown stories and characters lived on, though.
There was even a command
performance given in the presence of Royal Family
at Broadcasting House
in 1939. Toytown tales continued to be broadcast
and performed for more
than three decades, through to 1963.
Numerous promotional items, published material
and tie-in products have
been produced over the years. Larry The Lamb annuals
and picture books
abound. The Hound's favourites are the series
of 20 page A5 picture booklets
published by George Lapworth and co. some time in the
undated and thus tricky to tie down to a date).
These reprint "The Original
Toytown Story of the famous Broadcast Play"
with illustrations by Ernest Noble
and they go by the generic banner title of "The
Adventures of Larry the Lamb"
- fabulous little things, these...
Two Larry The Lamb LP records were released by
EMI featuring artistes from
the theatrical productions. In the 1970's several Toytown
stories were reprinted
as TV tie-in editions with stills from the show accompanying
the tales. But
better yet, in 1979 a retrospective anthology
"The Book of Toytown and Larry
the Lamb" was published by Harrap. Along with
a well-chosen selection of Hulme
Beaman's illustrated stories this volume contains colour
photos from the TV series
and a short but informative biography of the creator
by Hendrik Baker. A great
introduction to Hulme Beaman's extraordinary world...
The Tale of Captain Brass the Pirate
The Extraordinary Affair of Ernest the Policeman
The Disgraceful Business at Mrs Goose's
Golf (Toytown Rules)
The Arkville Dragon
The Tale of the Inventor
The Tale of the Magician
The Theatre Royal
The Toytown Treasure
Tea For Two
Mr Noah's Holiday
The Toytown Mystery
A Portrait of the Mayor
Pistols For Two
How the Wireless Came to Toytown
The Brave Deed of Ernest the Policeman
The Tale of Ernest the Policeman
The Showing Up of Larry the Lamb
Larry the Plumber
The Mayor's Sea Voyage
and directed by Hendrik Baker
from the Toytown Stories by S G Hulme Beaman
settings in the Toytown Tradition
by Colin Large
animation: Bura and Hardwick
animators: Pasquale Ferrari,
Lots of Toytown goodness here...
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