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Toonhound presents...






British TV series

     Mr Benn

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Mr Benn              (1971 / 2004)
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      producers: David McKee / Zephyr Films for the BBC  
   animation: 2D animation
        episodes: 1971 / 13 x 15mins
                        2004 / 1 x 15mins


   "As if by magic, the Shopkeeper appeared..."

     Mr Benn lives at No. 52 Festive Road - a very ordinary street, in an ordinary
     part of town. But every so often, he feels the need to escsape from the ordinary,
     so he pays a visit to a mysterious Fancy Dress Shop, run by an equally
     mysterious fez-wearing Shopkeeper. The changing room is more mysterious still,
     for once Mr Benn has put on one of the Shopkeeper's costumes he always finds
     himself stepping out into an extraordinary fantasy land in which he is the star
     performer. The land is different each time, in keeping with the costume
     Mr Benn has chosen. And each time, problems are solved and situations
     sorted just before the Shopkeeper mysteriously reappears and directs
     Mr Benn through a magical portal, back to the Changing Room and the
     ordinary suburban world again. Was his experience for real? Mr Benn
     can't be sure, but after every adventure he always finds himself holding
     a memento from his trip, which leaves him pondering....

     A simple premise here, so beautifully and intelligently executed. Author
     and artist David McKee created a series of distinct busy landscapes and
     characters, and cleverly disguised deeper messages within the escapist tales:
     In "The Hunter", Mr Benn persuades the Big Game Hunters to shoot wildlife with
     their cameras rather than guns. Then, in "The Clown", Mr Benn persuades a
     circus troupe to work together as a team to solve their problems. Only thirteen
     episodes of Mr Benn were made, but like so many BBC series of the time, they
     were repeated regularly in their "See-Saw" programme slot and thus
     ingrained themselves in the memory of the nation...

      123456789 Benn - by David McKee   Big Top Benn - by David Mckee

     Benn books

     Mr Benn first starred in a David McKee storybook "Mr Benn - Red Knight"
     which was published back in 1967 and formed the inspiration for the series.
     Follow up tales have been published intermittently, in 1970, 1979, 1980,
     1993 and 2001 so that there are now seven tales in print.

     In the books, David McKee's talent runs riot. His illustrative style takes an
     almost childlike, skewed perspective on the world. When he writes about
     a character progressing from one place to another his busy illustrations
     depict the journey, round streets, or over hills with buildings and objects
     at crazy perpendicular angles to one another. The reader is encouraged to
     turn the book around to follow the progression. In every house and building
     there is something going on, folk interacting with the environment and
     the goings-on of the story.

       Smasher Lagru - from the cover of 123456789 Benn   

     It's interesting to note that the second tale "123456789 Benn" never made
     it in to animated form. In this adventure Mr Benn finds himself posing as a
     convict in a rather drab prison. Here he befriends a burly prisoner called
     Smasher Lagru and together they persuade the other men to invigorate their
     lives by painting their cells in rainbow colours, adding colour to their prisoners'
     uniforms and incorporating party food in to their prison dinner regime.
     Smasher returns in "Big-Top Benn" too. Now released from prison, Lagru
     helps Mr Benn and his circus pals to construct a bridge over a gorge for
     them to traverse...

     Benn again

     Thirty-four years after he first walked down Festive Road, Mr Benn returned
     to the Fancy Dress Shop in "Mr Benn - Gladiator" (2001). Perhaps inspired by
     a certain Oscar-winning movie, this adventure whisks Mr Benn back to
     Roman times where he helps a group of slaves to turn the tables on their
     all-commanding Emperor. And he teams up with Smasher too. The story
     is presented in a different format from those earlier books, and Mr McKee
     uses a thinner pen line than before, but the splendid skewed perspective

     Poor old Smasher never appeared in the original tv series. But King Rollo
     Films made amends when they turned
Mr Benn: Gladiator in to a film
     which premiered in January 2005, because he's present throughout.
     And the arrival of the film means that there are now, officially, 14 Mr Benn
     films to treasure - which might catch a few folks out, next quiz night!
     By the way, for those of you who are wondering, Mr Benn's street is actually
     based on a very real London Street, Festing Road in Putney where David McKee
     used to live.

     And let's not forget that David McKee may have only produced a small number
     of Benn books but he remains a prolific author, artist and creator having
     brought us King Rollo as well as the fabulous Elmer the Patchwork Elephant,
     Melric the Magician and more. And as if that weren't enough his production
     company King Rollo Films have helped bring to life Tony Ross' Towser,
     Eric Hill's Spot, and most recently, Lucy Cousins' "Maisie Mouse".

     Rumours persist that Mr Benn may yet become a live-action star. In the
     late 1990s, it was suggested that the production would star Ben Kingsley
     as the Shopkeeper, and James Nesbitt as our festive hero...



     If you're watching closely,
at the beginning of The Caveman we step inside
     Mr Benn's living room whilst he watches television, and there on his display
     cabinet are the mementoes from his six previous adventures!

     The Caveman - Mr Benn with his mementoes

     Episodes (mementoes)

    The Red Knight (box of matches)         
    The Big Game Hunter (photograph)
    The Clown
 (red nose)              
The Balloonist (medal)          
The Wizard (a jar)              
    The Spaceman
 (lump of rock) 
The Caveman (stone hammer)         
The Cook (wooden spoon)                
    The Zoo-Keeper (parrot's feather)
 The Diver (a shell)
    The Cowboy
 (Sherrif's badge)
    The Magic Carpet
 (bottle stopper)
    The Pirate
 (Jolly Roger flag)
    The Gladiator (whistle)


     Broadcast info

"The Red Knight" premiered on BBC1, on 25th February 1971 at 1.30pm.
     The series continued, once a week for five more weeks, in the
     same "See-Saw" slot, until 1st April 1971.

     The series resumed with episode seven, "The Cook", on 21st January 1972
     and played on like before, at 1.30pm for six more weeks, until its
     conclusion on the 31st march 1972...

    "The Gladiator" premiered on Nick Jnr, 1st January 2005.

     Recent Promos/Tie-ins

      "Mr Benn's Little Book of Life"

     Author Tess Read takes inspiration from our bowler-hatted chum
     in Mr Benn's Little Book of Life which was published in 2001, by
     Arrow books...

     Mr Benn beanies from Golden Bear Toys

     In 2002 Golden Bear Toys produced a great line of Mr Benn beanies.
     They were initially to be a Woolworth's exclusive, but the parameters changed
     at the last minute and the beanies were made available to a wider range
     of stores. However, availability was still short because only one container's
     worth of beanies were ever imported - which may make them rather
     valuable in the future!....

     Mr Benn         
 Mr Benn Spaceman
Shopkeeper     Mr Benn Wizard

     Robert Harrop's Mr Benn Musical Box + Mr Benn figure - (each sold separately)

      In 2006, Robert Harrop unveiled the first figures in their ongoing Mr Benn
      collection. Each came with its own "memento", as featured in the relevant
      episode. Some of the secondary characters got a look in too, as the line
      expanded, and there was even a version of Mr Benn from his Pippin Comic
      appearances. Best of all was the magnificent musical box that was
      limited to just 1000 editions. Alas, the range was retired in 2011...

     BN01 Mr Benn           
BN09 The Dragon from The Red Knight 
BN02 Shopkeeper       BN10 The Diver
     BN03 The Spaceman   BN11 The Cowboy
BN04 The Wizard        BN12 The Hunter
BN05 The Red Knight   BN13 Captain Tempest from The Pirate
BN06 The Cook            BN14 The Zookeeper 
BN07 Caveman          BN15 The Policeman (from Pippin comic)
BN08 The Pirate                    

      BNCP Mr Benn Collection Plaque
     BNMP Princess Annabella from The Cook
      BNMB1 Mr Benn Musical Box (ltd ed)
     BNLE01 Clown Car (ltd ed)

     BNLE02 Magic Carpet (ltd ed)

     BNSF01 The Costume Shop Front

      Mr Benn giclee prints from the Animation Art Gallery

      Oh, but wait. We've saved the best till last. You see, True Blue collectors
      should make their way over to The Animation Art Gallery at once.
      They're currently offering up a selection of  magical Mr Benn giclee
      prints to frame and display on your wall. The range was initially launched
      with four designs, each limited to just fifty editions and signed by David McKee
      himself. But they've proven so popular they've added a fifth, plus a whole
      range of hugely affordable miniatures known as "Mr Benn Adventures".
      They feature Mr Benn in his many and varied costumes and - yes - the
      Shopkeeper is in the mix too - Oh, bliss!...

     Mr Benn Adventures       
Signed ltd edition of 50
                 Festive Road
     Mr Benn                          
As if By Magic         
     The Shopkeeper
                             Knight & Dragon
                            Ltd edition of 200
                              Mr Benn Waving


    In the news

    The Hound: October 2005
    Mr Benn's still magic...


     Mr Benn on DVD

     UK DVD
Mr Benn - The Complete Series
                Region 2 / all 14 eps / Contender / October 2005


    Original series credits

    Mr Benn created by David McKee

    writer:        David McKee                   
    drawn by:   David McKee, Ian Lawless
    director:     Pat Kirby
    music:        Don Warren
    musicians:  Ken Baldock, Harry Stoneham, Art Morgan,
                      Peter Hughes, Kenny Wheeler, Terry Emery
                      and Ray Swinfield
    filmed by:   Zephyr Film Productions
    sound:         United Motion Pictures (London)
    narrator:     Ray Brooks

    Mr Benn - Gladiator credits

    produced by Clive Juster and Associates
    in association with Noggin / Nickelodeon

    story and art:     David McKee
    director:             Leo Nielsen
    producer:              Clive Juster
     exec producer:    
Debbie Macdonald
                             (for Nickelodeon UK)

    art director:        Andy Wagner

    music:                Duncan Lamont (aka Don Warren)
    musicians:          Alec Dankworth, Brian Dee,
                              Duncan Lamont Jnr, Noel Langley,
                              Rob Millet, Nick Moss, Andy Robinson
    filmed by:           King Rollo Films
    sound:                Iain Grant, Steve Lowe
    editing:               Adrian Church, Chris Gunningham
    narrator:             Ray Brooks


     On the web

      Mr Benn
      The official site, currently being redeveloped....

King Rollo Films

      The official studio site...

      Clive Banks
      Clive's got a very thorough guide to the show...

      Mr Benn - What was it all about?
      Deconstructing the show here, in this affectionate Q&A page...

      index »    previous »   next »    

© David McKee / Rollo Rights Ltd / F2008