Mr Benn, 1971
My 6 year old son has been devouring these as bedtime stories, proving the old ones are the best.
Mr Benn was the popular children’s character who had fantastic adventures that would start with a visit to a fancy dress shop.
The character was created by David Mc Kee and began life as a series of children’s books. In 1971 the BBC picked up the character transmitting an animated TV series, that has enjoyed regular repeats ever since. Creator Mc Kee was responsible for both adapting the books for TV and in partnership with Ian Lawless animating the series.
Despite the regular repeat runs there were only 13 episodes of the original series were ever made, although there were 14 books. The episode that was not adapted was the book 123456789 Benn was published in 1970. It told the story of of Mr Benn as a convict (hence the number) inspiring his jail-mates to brighten up their cells.
The reasoning for the missing adaptation was down to the BBC – who screened the television series – they felt that the story was too controversial.
In 2001 the first new Mr Benn story in 30 years was published: Mr Benn – Gladiator. This was screened the same year on UK channel Noggin. The same year, a Channel 4 poll to find the most popular children’s television program rated Mr Benn as number 6.
Mr Benn, is a man who wears a black suit and bowler hat, he leaves his house at 52 Festive Road and visits a fancy-dress costume shop where he is invited by the moustachioed, fez-wearing shopkeeper to try on a particular outfit.
Leaving the shop through a magic door at the back of the changing room he enters a world appropriate to his costume, where he has an adventure (which usually contains a moral) before the shopkeeper reappears to lead him back to the changing room, and the story comes to an end.
Mr Benn returns to his normal life, but is left with a small souvenir of his magical adventure. Quite often, scenes before and after his adventure usually have some connection to it, such as the games the children are playing in the street as he passes.
Written and Created By: David Mc Kee
Narrated By: Ray Brooks
Originally Transmitted: 13 episodes 1971 – 1972, Gladiator – 2001