Doctor Snuggles, friend of the animal world.
Doctor Snuggles, dreaming of better tomorrows.
Doctor Snuggles, you'd better start working today.
Doctor Snuggles, flying away to the stars.
Doctor Snuggles, finding a path to the rainbow.
Doctor Snuggles, build us a clever machine!
- Original Theme Tune (1979)
Doctor Snuggles is a portly and kind inventor and a total optimist. He is able to talk to anything including animals, trees, rivers and pocket watches and wears an almost permanent smile - and his scholarly glasses propped on his nose. He gets around on his pogo-stick-like umbrella, Jefferson, looking for ways to make the world a better place with the aid of his friends.
A Short History
In 1962 a pet chameleon by the name of Mooney Snuggles was oblivious to all the inspiration that would one day be associated with his name. Owned by Mr Jeffrey O'Kelly, who was sharing a house with the poet Ted Hughes at the time, the creature was unknowingly the beginning of a cartoon classic. In 1966, at the Regent's Palace Hotel in London, O'Kelly was having a cup of tea in the lobby, enjoying the fact he had landed his latest role acting as Witt in the film The Thin Red Line (1964), when an idea for a story came to him. It went something like this:
One Tuesday, not so long ago, Doctor Snuggles awoke with a start...
He wrote reams that afternoon on the backs of envelopes, old theatre pamphlets and even on the hotel stationery - concocting his ideas until midnight. When, in 1969, O'Kelly was approached by a producer at the BBC and asked if he had any material that could be made into a film, book or television series for children, he promptly handed over the first manuscript of 'Doctor Snuggles' - but nothing came of it.
After working in America, Spain and numerous other places all over the world, Jeffrey O'Kelly returned to his beloved Doctor Snuggles. In 1971, his wife, Angela O'Kelly (nee Bloxham), created a Doctor Snuggles doll, and inspired once more, O'Kelly took the doll to a toy manufacturer with his story idea. The initial response was:'Who is it?' The blithe reply came: 'Why, of course, this is Doctor Snuggles1.'
A pause followed, then a series of questions: 'Well, is there a book? Is there a television series?' O'Kelly quickly realised he needed to get Doctor Snuggles noticed. In 1972, he received a telephone call from the president of Disney Productions. Disney Studios wanted to take on the Doctor Snuggles idea, but O'Kelly was unwilling to give him up completely, fearing his vision would be altered beyond recognition. But this did little to discourage him and whilst living in Amsterdam, he sent the Doctor Snuggles manuscript to illustrator Nick Price, then working for the Sunday Times Magazine. He and Angela believed Price had a feel for what they wanted. The work of the artist, reminiscent of that of Heath Robinson, was just what the doctor ordered. Price came up with some black and white line drawings of Doctor Snuggles, inspired by a photograph of his grandmother! Angela, the ever-present art director and creative advisor, remarked later:
All the things that Doctor Snuggles is, he summed up in the first drawing - it was quite incredible.
O'Kelly got his first big break when Dutch TV responded favourably to the script and the line drawings of Doctor Snuggles. The cartoon series was eventually produced by Polyscope and Jeffrey O'Kelly. It was first animated in Japan by a company called Topcraft, then by Depati & Freleng Studios2 and the series was aired for the first time on Avro TV in Holland in October, 1979, and in the United States in 1980. Possibly, because of its non-violent nature, Doctor Snuggles was an overnight success, appealing to children and adults alike. Surprisingly, the cartoon was also one of the first English series to be accepted on American television, as in the past British television productions found it difficult to make it onto American TV as it was thought that the viewers would not understand English accents! The series was later broadcast in the UK, Australia and much of Europe over the next 20 years, creating a huge fan base of impressionable and imaginative children of all ages.
The series inspired books, comics and even t-shirts and in 2006, Sean O'Kelly, Jeffrey's son, was inspired to produce a new, 26-episode series of Doctor Snuggles and a film entitled Doctor Snuggles & Nearly the End of the World. Further plans for even more 'Snuggles' books were also floated, but at present these were only dreams
Doctor Snuggles and his eclectic mix of companions got mixed up in some adventures that were often hilarious, but always had a strong undertone of friendliness and kindness as they looked after the planet.
Doctor Snuggles - With a bright red bow tie (that he often uses in the same way that Indiana Jones uses his whip) and red and white pin-striped trousers, Doctor Snuggles is the lead character. And rightly so - for he is incredibly resourceful, but also wise, kind and generous:
You shouldn't fight anyone. War is a very silly way to behave.
- Doctor Snuggles talking to the Ant General.
Amongst many of the amazing friends and foes of the Doctor, some of the more prominent are:
Miss Nettles - Doctor Snuggles' elderly housekeeper is a tall, thin bespectacled lady, who is never without her apron or broom. Somewhat cantankerous, she spends much of her time chasing naughty mice from her kitchen and tidying up after the Doctor and his friends.
Dennis the Badger - Dennis the Badger is a thoughtful and true companion to the Doctor. He always wears his blue workman's overalls and contributes to the building of new and wonderful machines almost as much as the Doctor does.
Nobby Mouse - This impish mouse can always be found in either one of two places - Miss Nettles' kitchen hunting for cheese or by the Doctor's side. Although cheeky and always getting into scrapes, Nobby is often unwittingly the Doctor's saviour in a tight squeeze.
Uncle Bill - 'Explorer extraordinaire', Uncle Bill, is the classic older English gent. He lives at the bottom of the sea in a mechanical lobster but, behind his large white moustache and pith helmet, is an excitable and resourceful man.
Rickety Rick - When the Doctor needs to invent something he rushes to his shed, Rickety Rick. Sometimes, if feeling grumpy, the shed won't always open his door to the Doctor and often takes a little convincing before he lets the Doctor inside!
Coot Boot - This delivery bird wears a cap and postman's jacket and carries his post satchel over his wing. He is the first to bring the Doctor his mail - sometimes a little late.
Grannie Toots and the Cosmic Cat - Grannie Toots is a kind old woman who runs a cat hospital. Her good nature attracted the Cosmic Cat, a creature from a weird psychic region in space whose amazing eyes and radar-like ears can conjure up images from the deepest realms of space and imagination.
Madame Dumpitoo and Lord Louis - The elegant pipe-smoking Madame Dumpitoo is Miss Nettles' consort. Her greyhound, Lord Louis, named after an eccentric duck, sits beside her when the ladies regularly take tea together.
Woogie the Freckled Camel and the Lavender Sheep - Woogie3 is a wise, tea-drinking, freckled camel that lives in the clouds with his friends, the Lavender Sheep, who sing lullabies to get children to sleep.
Winnie Vinegar-Bottle - Doctor Snuggles and his friends are a little nervous around this witch who lives in a giant vinegar bottle in the Salt & Pepper Mountains, but ever since he fixed her jet-powered broomstick, things are getting better.
Willy the Fox and Charlie Rat - Willy and Charlie are two nasty pieces of work, always trying to put a spanner in Doctor Snuggles' work. The evil pair of schemers will do anything naughty, from trying to wreck inventions through to stealing diamonds.
Professor Erasmus Emerald and Horner - Professor Emerald is a megalomaniac magician and Doctor Snuggles' arch-nemesis. Tall and thin, he appears in a puff of smoke and can transform into a large vulture. With the assistance of his lackey Horner, they do their level best to foil the Doctor's plans and create disaster and mischief wherever they go.
Doctor Snuggles is, by trade, an inventor. He gets inspiration from everyday objects and when his ingenuity strikes, he races into his shed, Rickety Rick, to begin his next project. With the help of Dennis who draws up the plans for the incredible inventions on the 'Badger-Graph' and his other animal friends, some extremely weird and wonderful machines are constructed! These include;
Mathilda Junkbottom - Mathilda is a robot who was constructed by Doctor Snuggles to help Miss Nettles with her housework, made of left-over tin cans, sewing bobbles and whatever else the Doctor found lying around in Rickety Rick. After a few initial hiccups, including the search for a heart and making a mess of the house, the Doctor and Miss Nettles couldn't do without her loveable robot ways - and she is an excellent dancer.
The Multi-Whereabouts Machine - This invention appears through a trap door on Rickety Rick's floor when Doctor Snuggles wants to find something. Part periscope, part television and part steam organ, the Doctor simply has to insert a small object related to whatever he is looking for into a slot in the Multi-Whereabouts Machine. If he was searching for Miss Nettles, for example, he might put her handkerchief into the machine, and then using a pair of pedals like those found on a piano, the Doctor waits for the machine to tune into what he is looking for, which appears on a small screen.
Dreamy Boom-Boom - A strange name for an even stranger invention, Dreamy Boom Boom is Doctor Snuggles' rocket ship. Resembling a wooden barrel with wings with a black cauldron rocket at its base, Dreamy Boom Boom transports the Doctor and his friends (usually Dennis and Nobby) into space and even over the rainbow.
The Snuggletruck - This an amazing vehicle, resembling a 1920s tray-truck in some parts. Its engine manifold contains a number of wonderful gizmos.such as a grasping claw and helicopter propellers. The Swiss Army Knife of trucks, the Snuggletruck has got the Doctor out of a few jams (and treacles) many a time.
Doctor Snuggles ran for a total of 13 half-hour episodes. The show had an almost immediate cult following due in part to the casting of the actor, Sir Peter Ustinov, as the voice of Doctor Snuggles for countries that spoke English. The writer, Richard Carpenter, of Catweazle fame was also involved and budding writers Douglas Adams and John Lloyd assisted on two episodes. At the time, they were reeling from the success of the radio show The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Adams later said of his time working for the Doctor Snuggles team:
My recollection is pretty dim...we came up with one episode about a river that was hiding in a cave because someone was stealing chunks of the ocean. It was just a job for a couple of wannabes, but I do recall we had a lot of fun doing it.
Other contributions included the voice talents of Olwen Griffiths (who worked on Ivor the Engine) and John Challis ('Boycie' in Only Fools and Horses), music from Ken Leray4 and storyboards by Bjõrn Jensen and the Japanese animators Hidekazu Ohara and Tsuguyuki Kubo5.
All of the episodes, often co-scripted from concepts by O'Kelly, have dream-like qualities and a sense of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland strongly pervading them. As with many other imaginative concepts written for children, it has been suggested that the creators and writers behind Doctor Snuggles were perhaps taking illicit substances, but it is more likely those that alluded to this were simply cynical and jealous of such magnificent creativity. O'Kelly's ideas and dreams were sometimes lost, but more often than not, Doctor Snuggles somehow brought them to life.
Note: * indicates episodes written by Douglas Adams & John Lloyd.
'The Fabulous Mechanical Mathilda Junkbottom' - Dr Snuggles designs a home-help robot to assist Miss Nettles his housekeeper. When the robot is finally finished, her first dish-washing efforts result in a messy water fight!
'The Astounding Treacle Tree' - The Treacle Tree is bored with standing still, so Dr Snuggles invents it a pair of wings. The tree promptly vanishes and whilst looking for it in the sky, Dr Snuggles and his friends meet Woogie the Freckled Camel and have a pillow fight with pirate Skybed Fred.
'The Spectacular Rescue of Miss Nettles' - Professor Emerald sells Miss Nettles a flying carpet, intending to kidnap her to use her as his own housekeeper, but Dr Snuggles needn't rescue her as the Professor is only to happy to return the bossy Miss Nettles.
'The Unbelievable Wormmobile' - A parakeet arrives and tells Dr Snuggles that every creature in Brazil has been turned into a butterfly. The Doctor decides to visit and after crashing Dreamy Boom Boom, journeys by Wormmobile to the centre of the Earth.
'The Sensational Balloon Race' - Dr Snuggles and his friends enter a hot-air balloon race, but Willy the Fox and Charlie Rat also want the prize.
'The Magical Multi-Coloured Diamond' - The rainbow has turned pale and Dr Snuggles must return it to its former glory! Woogie advises him on building a Diamond Making Machine, but Willy the Fox and Charlie Rat have their eyes on the diamonds too.
'The Remarkable Fidgety River'* - Dr Snuggles is warned that the Earth is running out of water. Discovering that someone has been stealing blocks of ocean water, he sets out to retrieve them.
'The Fearful Miscast Spell of Winnie the Witch' - Firelets have escaped from Winnie the Witch's cauldron and it is up to Dr Snuggles and his friends to round up the fire-making creatures before they cause too much damage.
'The Extraordinary Odd Dilemma Of Dennis the Badger' - Dennis has turned nasty after an accident and the Cosmic Cat suggests to Dr Snuggles that he needs to be sprinkled with gold dust from Sun Mountain to return him to his former self.
'The Wondrous Powers of the Magic Casket' - Uncle Bill the explorer shows Dr Snuggles a mysterious scroll holding information about a casket containing a rare element, which if opened could cause disaster on Earth. Professor Emerald finds the casket first and it's up to Dr Snuggles and his friends to save the Earth once again!
'The Turn of Events with the Unwelcome Invaders' - Miss Nettles is in a comatose state caused by an odd food, while a horrible smog drifts over the Earth. Dr Snuggles and the gang set out to break the spell and find the cause of all the pollution.
'The Great Disappearing Mystery'* - Miss Nettles, Madame Dumpitoo and Winnie the Witch are kidnapped by a strange creature. Dr Snuggles follows the clues to an even stranger planet with the aid of his 'Get Lost Machine'.
'The Amazing Reflective Myth' - Dr Snuggles discovers a legend of an extinct mouse tribe and their all powerful king. Nobby becomes embroiled in an adventure, and out of his depth it is up to the Doctor and his friends to save the mouse!
Happy Days and Happy Landings!
- Doctor Snuggles
This Entry would not have been possible without the kind assistance of the wonderful creator of Doctor Snuggles, Mr Jeffrey O'Kelly.