comes Muffin, Muffin the Mule,
Dear old Muffin, playing the fool..."
Muffin the Mule was one of Britain's very
first tv stars. He was a performing
marionette, "discovered" by Annette
Mills and Ann Hogarth in 1946. Mills was
the older sister of actor John Mills.
She played songs on her piano, and told
stories, whilst Ann brought Muffin to life on top
of her musical stage in "For the
Children", which was broadcast live by
the BBC each week from Alexandra
Palace, until 1952. That's when the show was
renamed "Muffin the Mule" and
editions were filmed for weekly broadcast, and
repeated, and repeated. It's a
popular misconception that Muffin was a "Watch
With Mother" star. But although
he was on screen at the same time as those shows,
he was broadcast and
billed separately, at teatime on a Sunday, until
Annette's untimely death
in 1955. Anne Hogarth then took her hoss over to ITV,
where he clippety
clopped for two more years, until 1957...
Muffin wasn't a solo star, of course. He initially
used to perform alongside
Crumpet the Clown, but alas, the poor fellow
didn't quite fit in to proceedings
and he was dropped to be replaced by a growing
collection of animal costars.
Thus we had Poppy the Parrot and Sally the
Seal, Peregrine the Penguin,
Katy the Kangaroo, Oswald the Ostrich, Louise
the Lamb and more.
Muffin was originally constructed by puppet
designer Fred Tickner, and the
circus mule was part of a collection of marionettes
owned and operated by
Ann Hogarth and her puppeteer husband Jan
Bussell. Indeed, Ann Hogarth's
daughter, the late Sally McNally, recalled
a puppet mule kicking around the
Hogarth collection as early as 1933 (see:
Collector's Club). Each episode,
Muffin would clop and clatter atop Mills'
piano, accompanying the Muffin song,
before we were lead into a story starring
the mule and his pals. Mills wrote
the songs, and Hogarth the scripts for her
puppets. And that was that.
No extra jiggery-pokery. No whizz-bang effects.
Looking back from today's giddy world of computer
generated eye candy, and
corporate branding, it's difficult to see how such
a simplistic creation could
have spawned any success at all. But Muffin
proved to be something of
a fifties phenomenon, spawning a wealth of associated
and apparel, toys and books, and regular appearances
in "TV Comic". This
hoss was a star, all right. And it's a measure
of his success to find that he's
still with us today, 60 years on, honoured
by his own fan
And now he's back on our screens, in a new-fangled animated
in which he looks younger than ever!...
the Mule (animated)
Hound: August 2005
Old mule, new tricks...
Hound: April 2003
Animated Muffin announced...
Muffin on DVD
the Mule: limited edition
2 / anniversary disc / Maverick Ent. / October 2005
2 / regular edition / Maverick Ent. / September 2005
Created and written by
Annette Mills and Ann Hogarth
Presented by Annette Mills
puppeteer: Ann Hogarth
neat page from Whirligig-tv with pictures, audio WAV, and more...
the Mule Collector's Club
Details of the club and its activities,
historical info and more...
The BFI's nifty
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