December 6th saw the demise of the creator and operator of Mr Squiggle, Norman Hetherington. Norman was a cartoonist who thought he would try to create a TV character for kids way back in 1959. Even though he thought the concept would fail, he gave it his best shot and was rewarded with a successful program that lasted until July 1999. A full 40 years on the screen.
The idea behind the art work is Norman lying down above the screen and adding lines to the drawings sent in by viewers to create imaginative drawings. In many instances he started the drawings upside down and then had his assistant turn them right way up (for the audience) towards the end of the work. He was able to draw by having a hand grip on the top of Mr Squiggles hat and he required his assistant to hold Mr Squiggles’ hand to apply pressure to the pen. A simple and clever idea.
Over the years a number of characters accompanied Mr Squiggle. Rocket (his method of getting to Earth from his home at 93 Crater Crescent on the Moon) and the impatient Blackboard (who may be the first TV character in Aussie TV to be ADHD). Once we got a TV we were delighted as kids to watch this program and would try and guess what the picture was going to turn into.
As a program to inspire a child’s imagination, this has to be top drawer stuff.
I was delighted to learn in the obituaries that Mr Squiggle was a family business. Norman operated Mr Squiggle, while he wife Margaret wrote the scripts. In later years his daughter, Rebecca was the on-camera assistant.
I can’t imagine a modern day equivalent of Mr Squiggle. The concept is just too simple and static but it was perfect for the younger kids and I think it’s a shame our Grand kids will not be able to enjoy such an inspiring program.
RIP Norman Hetherington. A bloke who did a fabulous job.