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Toonhound presents...






It's A Puppet!

      The Woodentops

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   producers: Westerham Arts for the BBC
26 x 12mins


    "This is a story about the Woodentops...."


    The Woodentops were a regular post-war family, only they were made
    from wood. The opening narration always introduced each family member
    for us. There was Mummy Woodentop and the Baby, Daddy Woodentop,
    Willy and Jenny the twins, Mrs Scrubbit "who comes to help Mummy
    Woodentop", Sam "who helps Daddy Woodentop", and last of all "the
    very biggest spotty dog you ever did see!".

    The family lived together
in a little house in the country, at the time when
    we still had parlour rooms and housemaids, and we were always terribly
    polite to one another.

    Mummy Woodentop was a thoroughly modern housewife. She was regularly
    engaged in housework (in her best frock), looking after Baby Woodentop
    and putting on the dinner for the twins and Daddy Woodentop, who would
    return from his hard day's work in the turnip field and wait to be summoned
    to the table. Twins Willy and Jenny would make the most of their duality
    by chiming together when they spoke, or sharing dialogue. When ever they
    threatened to over-step the line a stern word from Daddy soon put them
    back on track. Stories were as simple as could be. Just basic snapshots
    of life around the home and country garden, as the family engaged in
    day-to-day activities, work, and games with their spotty dog or Buttercup
    the cow.

      Daddy Woodentop comes home...

    Of course, it's easy to knock all this out-dated domesticity, but this early
    "Watch With Mother" creation needs to be looked at in context. "The
    Woodentops" was the BBC's attempt to depict regular family life for children, 
    without any whistles or bells or fantastic additions. Unlike Andy Pandy, who
    never spoke, the Woodentops talked to one another and engaged in
    family conversations - albeit rather mundanely. That was a first for
    kids' tv, although the BBC's viewpoint was terribly old-fashioned, even
    for the 1950s. The times they were a-changing rapidly and the Woodentops
    were perhaps too middle-class - especially for country folk. Still, one can
    look back at the series for what it is: a social snapshot from the dawn of
    children's television.

     Mummy Woodentop wrestles with the Baby!

    And one must also admire some of the artistry involved. The series featured
    some very long static shots and slow pans, with all the action taking place
    on camera, which means sequences like the one with Baby Woondentop
    repeatedly throwing his blanket around for Mummy Woodentop to pick up
    must have needed some skill to film!

» Notice the name of Peter Hawkins on the voice credits. Peter was the
       creator of Bill and Ben's Oddle-Poddle language in The Flowerpot Men...

» Trumptonshire creator Gordon Murray was also engaged on the series
        as a puppeteer...


     Broadcast info

     "The Woodentops" was friday's presentation in the BBC's "Watch With
      Mother" line-up. The series premiered on on 9 September 1955, at 3.45pm...

      The Woodentops say "goodbye!"


       created by Frieda Lingstrom

      writers:          Frieda Lingstrom,
Maria Bird
      music:            Maria Bird
Audrey Atterbury, Molly Gibson,
                            Gordon Murray
      voices:            Maria Bird (narrator)
                            Eileen Browne
                            Peter Hawkins
                            Josefina Ray


     On the web

        A look back at all the Watch With Mother shows...


        Here's the BFI's guide to the series..

      index »   previous »    

© BBC / F2006