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Toonhound presents...






It's A Puppet!

     The Flowerpot Men

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   The Flowerpot Men    (1952-1970)
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    producers: Westerham Arts Ltd for the BBC
        creator: Hilda Brabben
12min b/w episodes


    "Bill and Ben... Bill and Ben...
      Bill and Ben, Bill and Ben, Flowerpot Men!

Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men, live in the garden by the old potting shed with
   their pal Weed. Bill and Ben aren't "men" at all, rather each is a humanesque 
   construction of plant pots, with a man's face. Similarly, Weed isn't a real weed.
   She's actually a big talking sunflower-come-dandelion with a smiley face.

   Oh! - but now we have another anomally, because Weed, Bill and Ben, don't
   "talk" in the way that we might expect. Instead, the Flowerpot Men gabble to each
   other in a language known as "Oddle-poddle" - a queer language which is centered
   around the word "Flobbadob" and various combinations of similar nonsense talk.
   And Weed herself can only conjure forth her own name, in a kind of high-pitched
   shriek. This jolly trio come to life when ever the man who owns the garden is away,
   and together they plant seeds, grow things and generally play and frolic around
   the garden. From time to time, Slowcoach the tortoise drops by to join in
   the fun too...

     Bill & Ben & Weed

   The Flowerpot Men were created by Hilda Brabben, who named the duo after
   her two young brothers, William and Benjamin. Weed was based upon her
   youngest sister Phyllis. The characters were voiced by Peter Hawkins, and
   for years, rumours have persisted in the press and media regarding the birth
   of Bill and Ben's "flobbadob" language. Supposedly the term was actually
   based on the exclamations conjured forth by Hilda's brothers when ever they
   broke wind in the bath. But alas, this simply isn't  true. Here's Peter's son
   Silas Hawkins, to correct us all:

   "The word 'flobbadob' is the word 'flowerpot' translated into
   'Oddle-poddle' the language my father invented for Bill and
   Ben, the Flowerpot Men. For each episode of the show he
   would be given a script in English which he would then
   translate into Oddle-Poddle.

   e.g. in the episode 'Scarecrow' there occurred the line 'What
   do you think of that?- gloves as well as a hat!', which became
   'Woddle oo teep a dop? Gloob a woddle a hop!'

   The 'fart in the bath' story was trotted out in 2004, in an
   episode of Stephen Fry's otherwise admirable quiz show 'Q.I.',
   featuring John Sessions and Clive Anderson. It (the story) first
   appeared some 20 years ago in a newspaper article to which my
   father immediately wrote a rebuttal, and which was obviously
   ferreted out by some BBC researcher for 'Q.I.' It may be 'Quite
   Interesting' but, in this case, it just ain't true..."

   Well, "Oddle-poddle" aside, it certainly is true that Hilda Brabben wrote three
   Bill and Ben stories for the BBC's "Listen With Mother" radio series, in 1951,
   before Freda Llingstrom and Maria Bird stepped in for the television adaptation.
   The show arrived on the 12th December 1952, and it was shown every Wednesday
   as part of the popular "Watch With Mother" childrens' television strand. Bill and
   Ben's infectiously dotty language was soon picked up and repeated in households
   and playgrounds up and down the country. Although it also provoked complaints
   from some quarters, with concerns raised about the deconstruction of the English
   language, and how it might cause children to start speaking incorrectly!

   The series was repeatedly broadcast on the BBC right through to 1970, and the
   characters'  popularity spawned numerous tie-in products and books. Such has
   been the persistance in the memory of a generation that, forty years on, Bill and
   Ben have returned as the stars of a whole new stop-motion series from the folks
   at Cosgrove Hall. The strings may now have gone, but the Flobaddobbing brilliance
   of the original concept remains...


    Once upon a time there was a little house...

    "Once upon a time there was a little house. And all around
    the house was a beautiful garden. And down at the bottom
    of the garden was a place where the man who worked in
    the garden left his things while he went in to the house
    to have his dinner..."

                                                                   - opening narration


     In the news

     The Hound: October 2002   
     The death of Hilda Brabben...

     The Hound: June 2002   
     Bill & Ben's new hit record...


     a Westerham Arts Ltd production
     created by Hilda Brabben

    producers:    Freda Lingstrom, Maria Bird
    puppeteers:  Audrey Atterbury, Molly Gibson 
    voices:         Peter Hawkins (Bill / Ben / Weed)
                       Julia Williams (narrator)
                       Gladys Whitred  


     On the web

     Details here of all the Watch With Mother shows,
     with pics and more...

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© BBC / F2006