Welcome to Doyley Woods, a strange place where
overweight fairies, obstreperous
caterpillars and spectacled cats rub shoulders
with a maleficent walking, talking
That's right, a television.
Doyley Woods is presided over by the gregarious blue
spirit Willo the Wisp.
It's Willo who introduces each short tale and
ushers on stage Mavis Cruet the
fairy, Arthur the caterpillar, a dog-cow type of
jolly critter called the Moog, Car
Wash the "Noel Coward" cat, the Astrognats who
dwell in a magic toadstool,
Twit the twitterpated birdie, and The Beast - who
isn't actually a real beast at
all, but Prince Hubert The Handsome transformed
by Evil Edna's most wicked
spell. Which leaves you wondering who Evil Edna
is. Well, she's the television.
And you'd better watch out for her spell-casting
When ever those superflouos lists of "cult"
tv shows are put together, you'll
find "Willo the Wisp" lurking somewhere
near the top. The show is fondly
remembered for its eccentric characters, esoteric
humour, and above all,
its extravagant voicework by former Carry-on star,
the late great Kenneth
Williams. His versatile vocal chords lift Willo,
Mavis, Arthur and the rest
right off the screen and into our living rooms.
Indeed, he is even immortalised
in the animation...
If you watch the series closely you'll unearth
the following credit:
"The Willo the Wisp
by permission of The British
That's because our waspish hero was actually
born out of a Supernatural Gas
advertsing campaign, produced for British
Gas in the early 1970s. The campaign
featured a flaming blue characture of Kenneth Williams,
extolling the virtues
of gas, and it was conceived by animator Nick
Spargo. Nick's career began with
Halas & Batchelor's groundbreaking version
of Animal Farm. He set
up his own
company, Nicholas Cartoons in 1954 with his
wife Mary, and their work centered
upon advertising and information films.
Nick found the germ of a series idea in that
gas campaign, so he put together
a host of off-kilter characters, and a setting
in which they might all live. Williams
agreed to loan his voice to the show, and
so, a pilot was completed in 1978,
and approved by the BBC. Unfortunately, it
took four years of fund-raising efforts
to eventually bring the series to our teatime
TV screens, and in the intervening
years, Nick was able to direct the Emmy-winning
Bill Melendez production
of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe".
"Willo the Wisp" turned out to be a teatime
tv smash. At its peak, 8million
people were tuning into the show!
Sadly, Nick Spargo died in 1997. But Willo
lives on. Recently, Nick and
Mary's daughter Bobbie Spargo has teamed
up with Tim Hollier
Productions and they have re-conceived the series for a new
have wisely opted not to tinker too much with the original
concept and, in keeping with the spirit
of the piece have even brought
"Gimme, Gimme, Gimme" star
James Dreyfus in as the new voice of Willo
and friends. The all-new Willo the Wisp is
Hound: September 2003
New Willo series in development...
the Wisp episodes
The Hot Hot Day
Food For Thought
Boring Old Edna
The "You Know What"
The Flight of the Mavis
The Thoughts of Moog
The Beauty Contest
The Joys of Spring
Games With Edna
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