Cartoon classics: Mr. Benn

Somehow, in Malarkey world conversations often take an unexpected turn down memory lane. Yesterday I was trying to explain to (a slightly bewildered) person about one of my favourite animated cartoon classics, Mr. Benn. So now you know that I’m sat in a chair with a rug over my knees, dribbling and feeling really old.

As if by magic

The imaginatively titled Mr. Benn followed the adventures of, err, Mr. Benn, a bowler hat wearing businessman (whose occupation still remains a mystery) who over just thirteen short episodes from 1971 had amazing adventures.

What did Mr. Benn keep under his bowler?
Mr. Benn lived at number 52 Festive Road, London (Ed says: Don’t bother trying Google Maps, Festive Road ain’t in London.) and made regular trips to his local costume shop. Once in the shop, as if by magic the shopkeeper would appear and suggest a costume for Mr Benn to try on.

After changing Mr. Benn would walk out of the other door where he would find himself in a different world appropriate to his costume. There Mr. Benn would have an adventure and help solve a problem. Once his adventure was over, the shopkeeper would mysteriously re-appear and show him back to the changing room. Back at number 52 Festive Road, Mr Benn would invariably find that he had a souvenir of his adventure in his pocket.

The shopkeeper appeared

With a fond smile I can remember watching Mr. Benn. The work of his writer and illustrator David McKee was sublime in its charm and naivety and the minimal animation rarely consisted of more than a panning camera across McKee's wonderful drawings. His adventures all centred around helping the people he met after walking through the other door.

What did the costume shopkeeper keep under his fez?

But even today there are some unanswered questions: Where did Mr. Benn keep all the stuff he nicked souvenirs from his adventures? Why didn’t he tell the shopkeeper to @%&@*% off! every time he interrupted an adventure. I suppose we’ll never know, but Mr. Benn remains one of my classic cartoon memories.

Cartoon capers

All this thinking got me thirsty, and all the drinking that followed got me thinking about more cartoon classics that I could well enjoy seeing again: Hong Kong Phooey, Noah and Nelly (the one with two headed animals aboard the Sky Lark) among them.

Ah, happy days. Can I have my nap now please nurse?


Replies

  1. #1 On March 22, 2006 09:19 AM Foamcow said:

    There may not be a Festive Road in London, but apparently there is a Festing Road and David McKee used to live there!

  2. #2 On March 22, 2006 09:22 AM Phil Sherry said:

    Mr. Benn was ACE! and that is a pure and simple fact. Whilst some kids were busy wanting to be astronauts or firemen, I wanted to be Mr. Benn! (NOT to be confused with Mr. Bennett from Take Hart!) Don’t forget some love for the Clangers. Ahh, off to TV Cream with you all!

  3. #3 On March 22, 2006 09:22 AM paul haine said:

    I remember Mr Benn, I used to watch it as a child (though if it was made in 1971 they’d have to have been re-runs). I also bought a giant Mr Benn poster when I got to university, because it seemed like the done thing. Wasn’t there an episode where he became a big game hunter, that was subsequently removed from circulation?

  4. #4 On March 22, 2006 09:28 AM Ian Lloyd said:

    Of course, you can catch up with Mr Benn three days a week now!

  5. #5 On March 22, 2006 09:36 AM Paul said:

    I can’t believe that there were only 13 episodes. I would have sworn that there were many more. You might find this Mr Benn Episode guide useful to look up those stories you vaguely remember.

  6. #6 On March 22, 2006 10:03 AM trovster said:

    I can remember this, even though I wasn't born until 11 years after this show! And it’s amazing how there were only 13 episodes, everyone who says they remember it, mention they thought there were more.

  7. #7 On March 22, 2006 10:16 AM Richard@Home said:

    *paddles in the waves of nostalgia*

    It’s not often I click through from a google ad, but check out the Mr Benn figures here: Mr Benn Figures

    I soooo want a Shopkeeper and Red Knight!

  8. #8 On March 22, 2006 10:51 AM Karl Dawson said:

    Mr Benn was class. I never went to Play School, it was shows like this and the Gerry Anderson stuff for me. Other classics for me include Mary, Mungo and Midge, Poggle Wood and of course, Bagpuss.

  9. #9 On March 22, 2006 04:55 PM Mark Norman Francis said:

    Festive Road was indeed based upon Festing Road in Putney. I walked past it every day on my way to school, and the similarities were quite striking. No shop with magical adventures to be had though.

  10. #10 On March 22, 2006 06:07 PM karmatosed said:

    Now that brings back memories… maybe I need to get me a blanket. Reminds me of Orm and Cheep and the rather peculiar Chorlton and the Wheelies that I managed to get a dvd of a few years ago and confuse the heck out of my old brain… funny how things aren’t always that good when you grow up.

  11. #11 On March 22, 2006 07:57 PM Andy Saxton said:

    No, too young sorry and I'm 26 this year. Of course I have seen Mr.Benn though.

    We got stuck with some cheap imitation called Huxley Pig “At the start of each episode Huxley would be in his bedroom talking to Sam the squawking seagull and wondering about something. He would open his big suitcase of dress-up clothes, try something on and say, “Hmmm, I wonder.” The picture would fade and be taken away into his dreams for the rest of the story." The lazy pig couldn’t even be bothered to go to the costume shop! No wonder there is an obesity problem with the youth of today.

  12. #12 On March 23, 2006 03:50 PM Dave Scriven said:

    I too remember Mr. Benn. Although being born mid ’80s it would have been on TV early ’90s when I was watching it. It was truly amazing. I remember Huxely Pig too but Mr. Benn was the one that stuck in my mind. Wait a minute… damn you! I feel old now :(