Think Kenneth Williams and you automatically think of the legendary Carry On Film series.
Many people forget that for much of his early career Williams provided the voice to a host of comedy characters. In 1981 he turned his vocal talent to children’s TV by providing the character voices for a popular children’s cartoon series Willo The Wisp.
Originally there were twenty six episodes each five minutes long. The character had originated in an educational animation created by Nick Spargo for British Gas plc in 1975. Creator Nick Spargo delibrately wrote the stories to fit into the BBC1 5.35pm slot between the end of kids TV and the early evening news.
Although the original series was only twenty six episodes long it has enjoyed repeat showings on satellite in 1989 and Channel 4 in the early 1990’s.
In 2005 the series returned for a further twenty six episodes, screened on the Playhouse Disney channel (satellite).
Clearly as Kenneth Williams had passed on in 1988 a new voice had to be found. This time round James Dreyfus provided the voices. Other changes included: Willo no longer being a caricature of Williams, Mavis being slimmer (although still too heavy to fly) and Evil Edna being a widescreen television, with a wheeled stand instead of the original’s metal legs.
In both series the stories are set in Doyley Woods, a small beech wood in Oxfordshire, near the director’s home.
These are the adventures of a group of inhabitants of a forest (Doyley Woods). Willo the Wisp is a sprite formed from gas who narrates each story. Other characters included Evil Edna (a witch shaped like a TV), Mavis (a rather overweight fairy), The Moog, The Argonauts (strange alien things that flew around in a mushroom).
– Willo the Wisp, (the narrator). A blue floating ghost-like creature, Willo had a long pointed nose which caricatured that of Williams. The name refers to the ghostly light will-o’-the-wisp from folklore.
– Arthur the caterpillar (as a gruff cockney).
– Mavis Cruet, a plump clumsy fairy with erratic magical powers.
– Evil Edna, a witch in the form of a walking, talking television set who could zap people with her aerials.
– Carwash, a snooty bespectacled cat with a character based on Noël Coward.
– The Moog, a supposed “dog” who is unable to think for himself.
– Twit, a small bird.
– The Beast, who began life as the dim Prince Humbart The Handsome, who can’t pronounce the letter r correctly; an unfortunate encounter with Edna ended up with his transformation into a hairy shambling creature. In this encounter, he crashed into Edna on his bicycle and called her, “Vewy dangewous. And what a wotten pwogwamme.” Edna replied, “I’ll ‘wotten-progwamme’ him!” and transformed him into The Beast.
Other recurring characters include:
– Gnomes, one of which Mavis takes a liking to.
– The Astrognats, explorers of space with a mushroom-shaped spaceship.
– The Bookworm, a very clever intelligent worm who eats facts from books as a source of knowledge.
– A regiment of toy soldiers.
– A bat.
Channel: BBC1 – (series one), Playhouse Disney – (series two)
Created By: Nick Spargo
Series One – Nick Spargo
Series Two – Bobby Spargo
Nicholas Cartoon Films (series one)
Spargo Films & Double:Take (series two)
Kenneth Williams (series one)
James Dreyfus (series two)
Series One – 1981
Series Two – 2005