17/08/2011

Forgotten tv- The Enchanted House

5. THE ENCHANTED HOUSE (ITV 1970-72)

Words:Tim Worthington


For some reason, ITV's lunchtime children's shows tend to be less well remembered than their BBC counterparts. For every Rainbow or Chorlton & The Wheelies, there are dozens that ran for years yet have seemingly since been almost entirely forgotten. One such show is The Enchanted House, an animated oddity that was repeated endlessly during the seventies.

The Enchanted House of the title was a wonky affair with Tardis-like 'bigger on the inside' qualities, home to Tiny the Giraffe and his many friends - Nellyphant the Elephant, Joe the Kangaroo, Leo the Lion, Sammy the Seal, Bob the Robin, Jock the Dog, and Worm the, erm, Worm. Their adventures were not exactly cut from the same post-Yellow Submarine paisley-patterned cloth as certain of their peers, tending to revolve around such exciting antics as visits from relatives, impromptu picnics and the inevitable 'birthday wishes', but the series was certainly popular with its target audience as its lengthy run will attest.

Produced for Thames by the independent Limar Films, The Enchanted House was shot in an unusual style, wherein two-dimensional illustrations of the characters were animated within a three-dimensional set. More unusual still, the bonkers theme music (which kept playing pretty much throughout) was provided by leading British jazzman Johnny Dankworth. Narrator Mary Malcolm was already well known as the BBC's first ever female television announcer, and writer Mary Plumby was a veteran of ITV children's shows; indeed, some stories about Nellyphant had already featured in the late fifties lunchtime show Small Time.

Plumbly also wrote a tie-in comic strip for Jack And Jill, which ran to 1985 (quite some time after repeats of the show had stopped airing), while Dinky produced a model of Tiny's car, marking the hapless giraffe's only three-dimensional appearance. The also-included Nellyphant, Leo and indeed The Enchanted House itself, however, were still relegated to cardboard cutout status. This did not sell quite as well as their toys based on The Prisoner and Gerry Anderson's shows, and Tiny's protruding neck had a habit of being snapped off during over-exhuberant play, and as a result it is now something of an unlikely holy grail for Dinky collectors and fetches ridiculous prices at auction.

Two episodes of The Enchanted House were released on a video back at the dawn of home entertainment, and for the moment that's all that's even likely to be available, as the last time that anyone looked, the film prints were apparently nowhere to be found. Unless they're all stuffed inside The Enchanted House, that is.

Next Time: Globe-straddling stalking and a Bostonian barfly...

13 comments:

  1. This was one of my favourite programmes on TV as a child, alongside The Herbs and (japanese import) Marine Boy.

    It's so sad to hear that all the episodes have been lost, especially that even the music is unavailable and I think the music was a big part of why this series seemed magical to me (like the Marine Boy opening sequence which would have me transfixed).

    It made a deep impression on me as a child but it seemed so long ago and there was so little information that I was beginning to think that a show called the The Enchanted House never actually existed and I had somehow dreamt it up.

    Thanks for the info and bring back the memories.

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  2. I remember the theme tune very well & the Giraffe with his head sticking out the roof

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  3. Thought there was nothing that couldn't be unearthed on You Tube, but apparently there is. I often have the theme tune in my head. Would like to hear it again.

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  4. So wish that Youtube could find some footage from this lovely program, what a nostalgic trip down memory lane that would be. I especially loved that cheerful theme tune.

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  5. Loved it. Quirky, idiosyncratic and brilliant for kids. That theme tune is burned into my internal jukebox to this day. Please someone - find these films in some long forgotten back room.

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  7. My wife, Angela Ailes, wrote most of the stories for The Enchanted House and created many of the characters. I think there were 39 episodes and my wife wrote 35 of them. She joined Limar Productions (Lilian Davidson and Mary Plumbley) as Assistant Artist. She had been Chief Technical Illustrator for Marconi until we were married.
    Each episode was filmed on one very long day at the cameraman’s attic near Hanger Lane. My wife, often with a baby in a carrycot, usually had to reverse or slightly alter Oscar’s original drawings, or create suitable trees and bushes to hide scenes that could not be quickly produced. Money was very tight. My wife was paid £5 for a filming day and £10 for a script with the promise of more if the series were sold in the USA. The filming became very much faster when Angela was writing the scripts because she understood the artistic limitations. One episode featured a greyhound which she hated, because she had drawn it and didn’t think it was good enough!
    The series ran for much longer in Australia where friends who became £10 Poms would report watching Angela’s name in the cloud. In the eighties I spent quite a lot of time at Australian television stations, but never managed to find a copy.
    Andrew Ailes
    Each episode was filmed on one very long day at the cameraman’s attic near Hanger Lane. My uife, ioften with a baby uin a carrycot, usually had to reverse or slightly alter Oscr’s original drawings, or create suitable trees and bushes to hide scenes that could not be quickly produced. Money was very tight. My wife was paid £5 for a filming day and £10 for a script with the promise of more if the series were sold in the USA. The filming became very much faster when Angela was writing the scripts because she understood the artistic limitations. One episode featured a greyhound which she hated, because she had drawn it and didn’t think it was good enough!
    The series ran for much longer in Australia where friends who became £10 Poms would report watching Angela’s name in the cloud. In the eighties I spent quite a lot of time at Australian television stations, but never managed to find a copy.
    Andrew Ailes

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  8. I remember this series fondly and my memory is that it was on between 1971 and 1973, although that might not be strictly accurate. I was not the target audience as I was already 12 or 13 when I saw it but I was in secondary school and my life had become a dreary round of getting to and from school, 7-8 hours at school and homework EVERY BLOODY EVENING, so I was already nostalgic for my primary school days and this show helped me get back in touch with them. Sad to hear that they have all been lost.

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  9. I loved the Enchanted House when I was a small child.Brings back memories.

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  10. Just so happens that i have unearthed a few 16mm films entitled the enchanted house.... Dont know how many episodes as not gone through them yet. Anyone interested ? ...

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    1. think it would be very cool to get those converted.....yes very interested....

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