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NMA celebrates Mr Squiggle turning 65

Alastair Craig, Celebrating Mr Squiggle on his 65th birthday, Starts at 60,  1 July 2024

On this day in 1959, Mr Squiggle first aired on the ABC.

The creation of puppeteer Norman Hetherington, ‘The Man from the Moon’ would remain a beloved staple of Australian children’s television for an incredible 40 years, charming multiple generations through to 1999.

The premise was a simple and ingenious one: viewers at home would send in abstract squiggles. Mr Squiggle would use his pencil nose to transform them into surprise doodles.

The below clip from 1960 is among the earliest surviving episodes. (In the tradition of many shows from the era, such as British staples Doctor Who and The Avengers, many early episodes were taped over and lost to time.)

Looking back, it’s remarkable how little the show’s look or format changed over the decades. It was all in place from the start: Mr Squiggle would land his rocket on the counter, exchange some light banter with his human co-host, bring in his talking blackboard — even then sporting his trademark frown and grumpy demeanour — and get started.

Even supporting characters such as Bill the Steam Shovel and Gus the Snail arrived largely fully formed. As the years went on, this broader ensemble would get more screentime and subplots.

Here’s another classic episode recorded and uploaded by an enthusiastic fan — this one from 1987:

After the show wrapped up, the beloved puppets were returned to creator Norman Hetherington, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 89.

His collection is now in the care of the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, where the Mr Squiggle and Rocket puppets were proudly displayed earlier this year.

According to ABC News, the museum plans to have a larger collection of puppets and memorabilia available to view by mid-2025.