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This page is presented on behalf of the Hetheringtons and Mr Squiggle.
It would be very rude not to acknowledge, if you use any of the information here, where it came from. The images on this page are not to be used without the express permission of Norman and Margaret Hetherington
With lots of fun for everyone
Here's Mr Squiggle, sing a happy tune
You can see we're as happy as can be
Mr Squiggle, the man from the moon.
I'm sure many Australian children and quite a few adults can sing the Mr Squiggle jingle. Mr Squiggle was an important part of the childhood of most Australian fans.
The show was also the first science fiction show on television that is still continuing today, quite a record when you think about the attitudes of television executives!
You don't think Mr Squiggle is science fiction? Now think about this, Mr Squiggle lives on the moon and travels to earth in a rocket, he goes for moon-walks - that's science fiction. He lives with a doormat, has friends who are a snail, a steamshovel and a blackboard - that's fantasy.
Way back in 1988 or so a group of fans were present when Mr Squiggle played to a packed audience at the Alexander Theatre at Monash University. I think we caused a bit of a stir as we were 10 adults with no children accompanying us. For many of us this was a meeting we had looked forward to for years. With the English and American television shows we had grown up with, Mr Squiggle was part of our heritage and probably the only one we were ever likely to meet in person.
Mr Squiggle began his career on the 1st July 1959, as a six week fill-in on the ABC. This would make him older than some fans currently in fandom! His career has been very successful - he has won two Penguin awards - 1984 and 1989 , been guest of honour at two science fiction conventions, and been part of two exhibitions at the Performing Arts Museum here in Melbourne, one in 1995.
Mr Squiggle has over time had many lovely assistants, the current one being the puppeteer's daughter, Rebecca (who prefers not to be a 'Miss'). Others have included Miss Gina (Curtis) (1959-1960), Miss Pat (1960-1975) - who I only vaguely remember, Miss Sue (Lloyd) (1975), Miss Jane (Fennell – whose father was a comedian) (1975-1986), Roxanne (Kim Morley – who seems to have vanished) (1986- 1989) and Rebecca from 1989.
Mr Squiggle has also been joined by many other characters and celebrities over his time in television and stage. Bill Steamshovel joined the team in 1962. Gus the Snail joined the show in 1977 and was modelled on a Senior Executive Producer of the time who was very flattered. Blackboard has been with Mr Squiggle from the start, and yes, he does only have one eye that works. He is my favourite character. Terry Dowling, now a successful science fiction writer, was with the show from 1979 to 1982. He wrote and sang his own compositions accompanying himself on the guitar. I surprised Terry at a science fiction convention once by asking him to sign my book as a Mr Squiggle companion, rather than as a famous author. An unexpected addition to the show was Mikey Robbins who played Reg Linchpin for a year in 1989-1990 when the show was a 20-minute format. For those of you who listen to Triple J, Mikey is now one of the breakfast announcers. Several important characters were carried through for more than one season. Terry Bader was Spud the gardener, he also played the yuppie character in The Fast Lane. Paul Chubb was Mr. Wallop of Bandywallop, who seemed to be take a very long time to fix Roxanne's car.
The format of the program has changed over its time. The show has varied from a five minute show, to an hour and a half with cartoons, songs and such included. In 1966 it was "Squiggle, Pat and Bill" and was 15 minutes long. It then went to 30 minutes and became "Mr Squiggle and Friends". The Bandywallop series ran from 1986 to 1989 and was a half hour show. The format changed to a five minute length in 1993. Mind you, after all this time Mr Squiggle might be looking for a bit of a rest! The 1995 series has Rebecca shipwrecked on a desert island , with Squiggle and Blackboard dropping by for a squiggle or two.
Mr Squiggle has a very special friend called Norm Hetherington who helps him with his squiggles. Margaret Hetherington has supplied the words for Mr Squiggle to say for many years now. Both are delightful people and were excellent guests at Huttcon in 1990. Rebecca was the hit of the convention with a quite a few males very interested in her!
Producers have come and gone on the show. Margaret says they had 50 in the first 3 years. The producer and the director have always been the same person. There has always been an Executive Producer who has overseen the whole show from beginning to end - ideas for series, script outlines, finished scripts, sets, costumes.
Mr Squiggle has even made an entry into the Asia sphere with the show being part of the ATV Satellite program since April 1993. Although not officially shown in England or Europe, Margaret has told me that he's very popular with children in Switzerland.
Mr Squiggle and his friends have stood the test of time. Children are still rushing to send their squiggles into the show so Mr Squiggle can turn them into masterpieces. Of course, other shows have also lasted as long, Coronation Street maybe, but this is ours, it's Australian and boy, are we proud of it!
Thank you to Margaret Hetherington for some of the above information. Okay, a lot of the above information!
Mr Squiggle was seen on advertisments for Virgin Mobile late 2000. He was also seen in printed advertisments for a nasla spray.
There is a stencil of Mr Squiggle on a box near Richmond Station here in Melbourne. I'll try and get a photo of it.
Norm Hetherington was mentioned on JJJ during January as there is an exhibition of his cartoons in the Blue Mountains, at the One Van International Puppet Festival, 20-27th January 2002 in Blackheath.
MX News, 11th July 2001. P.2.
Back by popular demand, Mr Squiggle is set to make a come-back next month. But the picture-drawing man form the moon will not be part of regular ABC programming.
Mr Squiggle will return on August 1 as part of the ABC's new digital kids channel, which will also screen on Optus pay-TV.
Mr Squiggle and friends Blackboard, Gus the Snail and Bill the Steamshovel have not been seen on air since 1999. Episodes of the children's favourite have not been produced for more than 4 years.
MX News, 3rd July 2001, p.8.
(Photo of Mr Squiggle) Mr Squiggle creator Norman Hetherington is waiting for an ABC decision on whether to repeat the show, created in 1958, after a contract expired today. Viewers have enjoyed Mr Squiggle for more than 4 decades, although the ABC has not broadcast the program for more than 2 years.
Compiled by Dhana Quinn. The Age, 17th May 2001
The Age Green Guide, Networking (Brian Courtis), December 14, 2000, p. 14.
Would Mr Squiggle be the appropriate replacement for Paul Barry on Media Watch? Well, after the suggestion came form a reader of the Sydney Morning Herald recently, his creators, Norman and Margaret Hetherington, turned down the job on his behalf. They said thanks, but no thanks. "Mr Squiggle, like so many other Australians, loves his ABC and is most unhappy with the direction it is taking these days," the Hetherington's said. "Things are much better organised on the moon". (Photo: Squiggle with Rocket)
Elizabth Wynhausen, The Australian, 26th July 1999, p.3.
Like his alter ego Norman Hetherington, Mr Squiggle hangs his hat in a comfortable old house in a harbourside suburb of Sydney. Heatherington and his wife Margaret live upstairs. Downstairs, Mr Squiggle, the puppet with a pencil for a nose, shares a workroom more enticing than Aladdin's cave.
Dozens of brightly coloured marionettes dangle from strings or lean together tipsily on the tops of cupboards. Surveying the scene from the sidelines is a large imitation Mr Squiggle, which turned up after some court case or other.
It wasn't the first time some-one had ripped off the idea of Mr Squiggle, who's been around on the ABC for so long that he and his fellow characters Blackboard and Bill Steamshovel are like much-loved old furniture.
The good-humoured marionette who lives on the moon has captivated Australian children for 40 years. That makes the unworldly Mr Squiggle the longest-lived television character in Australia and the longest-lasting children's television show on earth.
The show began on TV in 1959, the same year as Johnny O'Keefe's Six O'Clock Rock.
But Heatherington and his puppets had previously been on the Seven network. Long in show business of one sort or another, he spent the war years in the 1st Australian Army Entertainment Unit. Photographs of the time show the lanky, ethereal-looking Heatherington dressed as an artist in a paint-spattered smock and beret, up on stage doing lightening sketches of the better known members of his army audience.
By the 1950's, when a cartoonist on the Bulletin, he was making puppets. "one of the attractions of puppets was thet they were, in effect, three-dimensional cartoons which could be animated and brought to life for a show," says the softly spoken Hetherington, whose long nose and expressive Buster Keaton eyes suggest something of a family resemblance to Mr Squiggle.
It hardly has to be said that the adorable puppet draws with his charcoal-tipped schnozz, making pictures out of the small squiggles people send in. In the show's heyday they sent them by the boxful, says crisp Margaret Heatherington, a one-time social worker who married Hetherington the year before Squiggle and the first of their two children was born, and has written every script since the beginning.
"It's still the same simple format we developed in that first week," says Hetherington. The same goes for Mr Squiggle, it seems. Over the years, the marionette has been repainted, rejointed and redressed. But underneath he's the same character, of course. Says Mrs Hetherington: "He's a very domestic creature, really."
Sydney Morning Herald, 2nd July 1999.
The Age Green Guide, 24th October 1996, p. 10. By Wendy Tuohy.
You can tell an Australian's age by the presenter they remember on Mr Squiggle.
Depending in the vintage of their childhood – or their children – they will know either Miss Gina, Miss Pat, Miss Sue, Miss Jane, Miss Roxanne or Rebecca. Everyone knows Mr Squiggle.
Getting him to turn your squiggle into an elephant with a balloon on its trunk and a yo-yo on its tail was worth a week of Christmases.
Mr Squiggle and Friends has been on air 37 years and is the longest running show on Australian TV. But for the man who pulled the strings and has been the voice and soul of one of our biggest TV stars still goes around unrecognised.
His name is Norman Hetherington, he is 76 , and for people who know him – including his daughter, Rebecca – he is Squiggle.
"When you look at how Mr Squiggle moves and walks and talks, it's obvious he is my father," says Rebecca, who appears in a documentary about the Hetherington's in the ABC's Australian Story series next Wednesday night at 8pm.
The posties of Australia must have the same impression, since letters from young fans addressed simply "Mr Squiggle, Mr Squiggle Land, Queensland" have reached the family home in Mosman in Sydney, and ones marked "Mr Squiggle, Care of the ABC" find their way to the studio as well.
Rebecca and her father describe Squiggle as a gentle man who likes having his hand held and someone to help him solve his problems. They both say he got these qualities from his maker.
Squiggle and Norman certainly have their facial expressions in common; the smiles and the big eyes move in sync as Norman leans over the top of the set, operating Squiggle and talking into a tiny microphone clipped to the rim of his cap.
Rebecca says when her father sits down to watch Mr Squiggle on the TV, his lips move with the puppet's and his face mirrors his expressions. "He's (her father) never grown up – and why should he?" she says.
Rebecca has an especially close relationship with Squiggle; she has been the presenter on the show since 1989. Her mother, Margaret, has written ever Mr Squiggle script since the program started as a six-week experiment in November 1959. At the beginning, Norman Hetherington was also working as a cartoonist at the Bulletin with the artist Norman Lindsay and others.
Margaret used occasionally to dictate the weekly Squiggle scripts to Norman from her position at the ironing board, but now a year's worth of programs is shot in two-and-half-week burst, so she hammers them out on her typewriter.
The Hetherington's live with about 500 puppets made over the years by Norman and every Mr Squiggle script and prop. Mr Squiggle is treated like a member of the family, Rebecca says.
When she, Norman and the puppet do an interview in the Sydney ABC officer, Mr Squiggle gets hung up from the roof, facing the group so he gets a good view.
"I identify with Squiggle, every time I go into the studio with Squiggle, I look forward to getting him out of his sleeping bag, and getting on with the new day and fresh experience." Says Norman. The Squiggle audiences still see the same doll he built 37 years ago, with a bit of old feather duster for hair and ping-pong balls for eyes.
Norman conceived the character as a reaction against the fad of sarcastic-sounding ventriloquist's dolls popular in the 1950's. "There were a lot of them around then, a lot of smart alecs," he says.
"Always proving the puppeteer is stupid," says Rebecca. "Always scoring off one another," says Norman. "We felt a gentle little man who needed someone to hold his hand would be a change – and it seemed to catch on."
Just how much Mr Squiggle and his mates Rocket, Bill Steamshovel, Gus the Snail and Blackboard caught on – and endured – in the hearts of viewers was clear to Ben Cheshire, the ABC Sydney 7.30 Report journalist who made the Mr Squiggle Story for Australian Story. Not only did everyone he told about the story show instant interest, every time Cheshire turned around during his editing work on the Squiggle tapes at the ABC, he found a crows peering over his shoulder.
"It has been the most fantastic fun to film: for example, every time I have been looking at tapes, I turn around and there are 10 people looking at it."
Cheshire says he originally phoned Norman Hetherington looking for a contact number for someone who had appeared on Mr Squiggle in the 60's. The it dawned on him he ad never seen the Hetherington's documented on television. He was surprised when he went to the ABC film archives in search of reports on the Hetheringtons to find nothing other than news reports on Norman receiving his Order of Australia in 1990. "There has been almost no coverage of the Squiggle family on TV all these years."
Cheshire spent three days filming at the Hetherington home, and also took film this month at ABC studios of Rebecca and Norman taping a year's worth of programs. His story illustrates the connection between Norman and Mr Squiggle, and the role Mr Squiggle has had in the lives of the Hetheringtons.
"People have said that Mr Squiggle is Norman's alter ego but it's hard to see where Squiggle ends and Norman begins," says Cheshire. "He has a sense of playfulness that we have in all of us that he brings out in you. He looks at the world in a way that's delightful."
Standing in the studio, it dawns on those lucky enough to see Mr Squiggle getting made that he well may be an inspiration for the actor Geoffrey Rush, who played the eccentric piantist David Helgott in the recent hit Shine. The character and the puppet have their sill speech patterns and gently skewed view of the world in common.
They also share the ability to leave lasting impressions on their audience. "The level of interest in this story, even before people have seen it, is greater than anything I have ever worked on," says Cheshire.
"As soon as you say you're doing it they ask: 'When's it on? Why does he draw upside down? How does he really do the drawings?'" And whatever happened to Miss Pat?
Sunday Sun-Herald, 10th April 1994, TV Extra, p.10.
Mr Squiggle has done more interplanetary kilometres than the American and Russians put together. The program is Australia's longest running children television show.
Norman Hetherington, said Mr Squiggle and Friends was about entertaining children. "We're not straining to educate, it is about teaching children that things aren't always what they seem." Hetherington said. "It's also a show about being creative."
The characters help children come to terms with various issues, particularly related to the environment. "Often Mr Squiggle takes a short cut to Earth through the hole in the ozone layer." Hetherington said.
by Lisa Kearns The Age, 8th April 1993. Entertainment Section - p.15.
Mr Squiggle, the gentle, blinking star of Australia's longest-running children's show, has survived a feminist onslaught and the ravages of age.
After 34 years, his creator, Norman Hetherington, still manages to attain the high- pitched, squeaky voice that has endeared Mr Squiggle to legions of children.
Just what is the secret of Mr Squiggle's enduring success? Says Hetherington: "Well, he is a warm, friendly, polite character who needs someone to hold his hand and help him solve his problems. Children identify with that. He's not a brash smash sort of character."
"A few years ago, the ABC told us to start using Ms instead of Miss," says Hetherington. "But Ms Pat doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it? It sounds like it's short for miserable. So since 1986 we've simply had Roxanne and now Rebecca."
by Julie Kusko.
The Australian Magazine. Date Unknown (1991?)
Millions of Australians have grown up with the TV adventures of Mr Squiggle. His creator, Norman Hetherington, this year celebrates 32 years of pulling the strings on the ageless puppet for the ABC. "Mr Squiggle and Friends" is a family affair. Hetherington's wife, Margaret, has written the scripts and their daughter, Rebecca, is the show's current (and sixth) hostess. Rebecca made her name in TV presenting kid's shos on commercial networks and subsequently worked at Sydney's radio 2UE as a associate producer. Her brother, Stephen lectured in philosophy at the University of NSW.
Norman : I always used Rebecca and Stephen as guinea pigs for new ideas. When Rebecca and Stephen played up or were in trouble, they used top produce puppet shows to curry favour. They'd concoct some things out of a paper cup or a handkerchief and paint. Rebecca has always been creative. She auditioned for Mr Squiggle when she was 12, when Miss Pat left. A director had met her at a Christmas party and suggested she audition. She was very good, but we felt she was a bit young. People think I must be tired of Squiggle after so many years, but every time I go in it's a new happening and you never know what Squiggle is going to say, even though I'm saying it for him, and you never know quite what Rebecca is going to say. She's been good at adlibbing from childhood when she was playing parts while bringing puppets to life.
I suppose I have at least 500 puppets, probably more. As well as downstairs being crammed, I have 14 full tea-chests in the attic. The puppets need all that space, so they decide the house you're going to live in, because you have to transport stages and props and things, and they decide where you're going to work. So, they really do pull the strings.
I worked at the Bulletin until 1961. There, I was working on political cartoons for 40- year olds. I'm much more at home working for the four-year-olds.
Rebecca : A great thing for me and for Stephen too, was that we did get to see a lot of Dad because he was working from home. I used to go with Dad when he'd go out and do shows in shopping centres and theatres. I'd sit and watch and, little by little, I'd do a bit.
I'm very fond of Mr Squiggle, always have been. I never felt he was a nuisance. He's part of the family - not that he ever sat at the table or took over.
Dad is one of the more energetic people I've worked with and very optimistic. He's still a boy at heart ; he's never grown up. He talks to the kids the way they talk to each other. He's also very shy, so probably the puppets are a way to communicate.
by Melissa Jones
The Australian Women's Weekly, July 1989. page 65.
Mr Squiggle may be made of wood, felt and string, but after 30 years in the business, he is Australian television's longest running personality. The pencil-nosed puppet with the artistic flair is as popular today as when he first landed his trusty rocket at the ABC's studios on 1st July 1959. Two generations of Australian youngsters have watched Mr Squiggle, The Man from the Moon, visit his earth friends and transform squiggles into drawings. And, despite the years, Mr Squiggle has hardly changed. A funny little fellow with a shock of blue hair, he is the same gently, unassuming character who needs someone to help him out of his rocket, hold his hand, and solve his problems. The occasional coat of paint and new smock have kept him eternally youthful.
"Mr Squiggle stays the same age," his creator Norman Hetherington said. A former "Bulletin" cartoonist who has a collection of more than 400 marionettes, he handcrafted Mr Squiggle in 1958. He is the voice, hands and artist behind the puppet, as well as the show's other characters - Bill Steamshovel, Gus Snail and Blackboard. Norman's wife, Margaret, who has scripted the show from episode one, is responsible for their personalities and adventures.
The Hetherington's have been married only a little longer than Mr Squiggle has been on TV. One could say, they joked, the marriage and the puppet came together. "A marriage of true minds," Norman quipped. They attribute Mr Squiggle's amazing success to his gentle personality. Norman explained that Mr Squiggle was originally created as a reaction to the "ungentle, smart-alec ventriloquist dolls" that dominated early television. But even Margaret and Norman are surprised by Mr Squiggle's longevity - especially as he was only meant to visit Earth from his home at 93 Crater Crescent, the Moon, for six weeks as a fill-in for another children's show. "Did you know he has clocked up more interplanetary travel, with his backwards and forwards, than the American and the Russians together?" Norman asked proudly.
Mr Squiggle may not have changed much, but the script and format of "Mr Squiggle and Friends" has kept up with the times. These days, he drops in on his Earth friends in a place called Bandywallop, somewhere in the Australian bush. The show's hostess, Roxanne Kimmorley, has lived in an old caravan for the past three years, while waiting for Merv Wallop (Paul Chubb) to fix her broken-down car. Another live character is Wayne Wallop (Russell Taylor). Former hostesses have included Gina Curtis, Pat Lovell (who later produced the movie "Picnic at Hanging Rock"), Sue Lloyd and Jane Fennell.
As hostess, Roxanne helps Mr Squiggle solve his day-to-day problems and, in return, he draws a picture from one of the thousands of squiggles sent in by children from all over Australia. Though some of his problems involve real issues - he's extremely concerned about the little left by astronauts who visit the moon - most are the imaginative kind. "We never push ideas - I don't believe in that. We always try not to bring a world of too many real problems into it," Margaret said.
|1921||Norman born at Lilyfield, Sydney on May 29th.|
|1927-1933||Attended Burwood Public School, Sydney|
|1934-1937||Attended Fort Street Boys High School, Sydney|
|1937-1938||Studied art at East Sydney Technical College.
Freelance cartoonist for the Bulletin magazine.
|1939-1941||Employed at Lintas Advertising while studying art at night school at East Sydney Technical College.|
|1941-1945||Army service as a lightning sketch artist
and entertainer with the No. 4 Detachment, 1st Australian Army Entertainment
Continued as freelance cartoonist for the Bulletin and other magazines.
|1946-1961||Full time cartoonist at Bulletin magazine with Norman Lindsay, Percy Lindsay and Ted Scorfield.|
|1949||Made first puppet, following directions in an American magazine, Popular Science Monthly, dated 1935.|
|1955-1958||Created and performed puppet shows for various department stores in Sydney including Anthony Horderns, Farmers, Grace Bros and David Jones. Shows included The Magic Tinderbox, Enchanted Scarecrow, The Moon for Supper and Nickys Christmas Snowman. Norman continued to present Christmas shows at department stores up to 1985.|
|1955-1956||Attended ABC TV training school, Darlinghurst. Performed Nicky & Noddel puppet show for the launch of ABC television in Australia on November 5, 1956. Nicky & Noodle continued until 1959.|
|1958||Norman married Margaret Purnell.|
|1959||Created and performed Mr Squiggle
show on the ABC TV. Show included characters, Blackboard, Rocket and Doormat.
Normans wife, Margaret began writing scripts for the show, Miss Gina
(Gina Curtis) was first presenter. Characters Bill Steamshovel
and Gus the Snail introduced later.
Norman and Margaret;s son, Stephen, born.
|1960||Pat Lovel (Miss Pat) began as presenter of Mr Squiggle.|
|1962||Norman and Margarets daughter, Rebecca, born.|
|1968-1985||With Margaret, created and performed Smileys Good Teeth Puppet Theatre at schools in NSW on behalf of the Dental Health Foundation.|
|1972||Created and performed Aladdins Magic Lamp at Nutshell Theatre, Perth, and various venues in Sydney.|
|1973||Created and performed St. George & the Dragon . Show performed at the first Australian Puppetry Festival in 1975 andSydney Opera House in 1978.|
|1975||Colour television began in Australia.
Jane Fennell (Miss Jane) began as presenter of Mr Squiggle.
|1985-1995||Performed Mr Squiggle shows at various venues around Australia including Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Newcastleand Wollongong.|
|1986||Miss jane left the show and was replaced by Roxanne Kimmorley.|
|1989||Roxanne left the show and was replaced by Normans daughter, Rebecca.|
|2001||Mr Squiggle contract concluded with the ABC after 42 years.|
|2002||Exhibition of Normans puppets at One
Van International Puppet Festival, Blackheath, NSW.
Mr Squiggle & Friends exhibition at Victorias Performing Arts Centre, Melbourne.
|2005||Exhibition Mr Squiggle Whos pulling the strings? : the art and life of Norman Hetherington at the Mosnam Art Gallery, 3rdSeptember-9th October.|
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