Monday, 8 March 2010

"We Want Muffin!" The Mule with Strings and All That...

Muffin the Mule- Muffin's Aquarium Part 1

At last, our children's genre goes back to the 1950s, heralding one of the most iconic shows of the decade. A non-pc decade where smoking was given the thumbs up, TV was a very expensive luxery and we were beginning to let our ration books gather dust, as western prosperity rose to great proportions. "Muffin the Mule" was a simple delight for kids and adults alike on the BBC. Broadcast live from 1946 to 1952, the string puppetry show was screened in the late afternoon. In this 2 part, full episodes Muffin the Mule, the main puppet of the show, keeps stock of a small aquarium on top of a piano, while Annette Mills the presenter speaks to Muffin, and plays the piano with her angelic voice. The show may be dated, but still relatively amusing and lively, string puppetry from all the characters. The Mule first appeared in a 1930s puppet circus known as Hogarth Puppet Theatre. It first appeared on TV in 1946 in "For the Children". Annette Mills worked on the show, and named the puppet "Muffin" herself, in agreement with the puppet creators Jan Bussell and Ann Hogarth. The theme song is also well known, as "We Want Muffin" san by Mills via piano. Now that's probably street slang now...ahem. At the end of each episode, Mills sings "Goodbye Muffin".

Muffin of course became very popular with children in the 1950s, and the character is always mentioned when it comes to 50s children's TV. Like most 50s TV in it's day, the production value was crude and small-time, but it doesn't take much to entertain people. Other string puppet characters appeared on the show, though less remembered. The ones that appear in this "Aquarium" episode, are Mr. Peregrine Esquire the penguin, a snappy billed, menacing looking thing, and the much more elegant Oswald the Ostrich, along with dancing sea snakes and a smiling Octopus who plays the bells.

The show abruptly ended in 1955, after the sudden heart attack of Mills, at the age of 61. After the death, new episodes were made for rival channel ITV, presented by Sally McNally, daughter of puppet creator couple Hogarth & Bussell. They all though contributed to a final farewell to Muffin, back on the BBC in 1957. Muffin the Mule returned after a long hiatus, in a new animated series of the same name, on CBBC in 2005.

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