The Wombles (BBC1, 1973-1975, CITV, 1997-1998)
I thought that it was time to take a look back at one of the more popular children’s TV shows of its era. The Wombles was based on a series of books by Elisabeth Beresford. In the late-60s some of the stories were told in the TV series Jackanory, and by the mid-70s it had got a show of its own, which for a while was a big success with viewers, and it was yet another one to use stop-motion animation.
The Wombles starred a rather bizarre bunch of furry characters. Again, they never spoke, the stories were told by Bernard Cribbins. They all lived underground in Wimbledon, but they were very tidy, and they liked to collect the rubbish that they found lying around and make good use of it. I think the message that they are telling us is that recycling is a good idea, and also environmentally friendly, hoorah!
There were lots of great characters. These included Great Uncle Bulgaria, Orinoco, and Bungo. A couple of things I noticed when watching again recently were that all of their walls had newspaper on them, and when they went out to collect the rubbish left lying around by those pesky humans. Their bags had a “W” on them, probably in an early attempt at branding. The theme music was rather great too.
And it seems that the music gave someone an idea, as alongside the original run of the TV series in the mid-70s, several hit singles were also released that were performed by The Wombles, including the rather catchy “Remember You’re A Womble”. There were 60 episodes made, most of them were barely five minutes long, and they were usually shown before the news, although they were regularly repeated until the late-80s in the CBBC daytime strand which is where I saw some of them.
And well, they were still fairly popular even by this point, and there were also longer special episodes including Wombling Free and World Womble Day. And it was determined that the idea was still good enough for there to be the inevitable revival series in the late-90s, where The Wombles returned to the screen for 52 new stories, although these were shown on CITV. They included some new characters, and a much larger cast provided the voices.
I’m sure that they were happy to return and have a second wave of success, and I remember that the revival did rather well too. The good news is that a lot of episodes have been released on VHS and DVD, along with lots of other merchandise, such as toys, and even becoming the mascot of a football club, and you can’t say that about most other children’s TV shows.