Mr Benn

BBC Two (ended 2005)


No Editor

User Score: 0


Mr Benn Fan Reviews (3)

Write A Review
out of 10
29 votes
  • A cult classic where Mr Benn is an ordinary man who goes to an unusual Fancy Dress Shop where he tries on an outfit and as if by magic he enters a world of adventure.

    In these days of mass media childrens television merchandising, it's nice to see that at least some series from our childhood haven't been given the same treatment. Mr Benn is a prime example. Walk into a card shop a a year or so ago, and chances are you'd have seen enough Bagpuss merchandise to sink a battleship; cuddly toys of different sizes, cards, beanies, annuals, magnets, you name it. It's nice to see Bagpuss get all that exposure but it seemed like our dear old friend had been seized by firms eager to squeeze as much cash out of him as possible. Not so Mr Benn! Mr Benn first appeared in book form in 1967 in the Red Knight. The character was created by David McKee. In 1971 the BBC made an animated series, directed and written by McKee, and a legend was born. It was constantly repeated during the 70s and 80s. McKee was also responsible for the likes of King Rollo (1980). At the start of each episode, Mr Benn leaves his house, Number 52 Festive Road (based on McKee's old house on Festing Road in Putney) and visits the costume shop. Then... "As if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared," a funny looking little man wearing a fez. He suggests a costume for Mr Benn to try, who goes to the changing room. Mr Benn admires himself in his new costume in the mirror and when he steps out of a back door he finds himself in another world. If he wears a spacesuit he finds himself in a spaceship. If he's dressed as a cowboy he arrives in the Wild West. Mr Benn is faced with some problem in this new world that he usually has to help fix (for example, winning a balloon race). He always succeeds, and gets a souvenir of his trip to take back. The shopkeeper then appears and takes him back to the shop. The souvenirs provide some significan ce for Mr Benn at the end of the episode. All this made for an entertaining programme but what really raises it above the norm are the stories. McKee never wrote the standard cliches, oh no. For example, in the Red Knight, Mr Benn meets a dragon. Does he have to fight it? Nope. The dragon is the official 'fire lighter' for the King but has fallen out of favour with him because of a devious matchmaker trying to improve his business... brilliant! Then there's The Zoo-Keeper episode. Mr Benn tries to cheer up a zoo full of sad, cramped animals by releasing them from their cages. But they run amuck through the town and the only safe place the townspeople can find is... the animals' cages! Some subtle meaning here? :) Mr Benn was another extremely short series: only 13 episodes! (at 15 minutes each). Which is odd because I'm sure it went on for much longer than that when I was younger. It must have been on a continuous loop. A shame as it really deserved a lot more. The animation is nothing spectacular - a series of quickly moving pictures, but you can't really imagine Mr Benn any other way - it's perfect. The series was briliantly narrated by Ray Brooks, who also voiced all the characters. He is known for his acting appearances in acclaimed 1960s tv drama Cathy Come Home, and series Big Deal, Running Wild and Growing Pains. Brooks narrated King Rollo too. I have to mention the music too by Don Warren, especially his immediately recognisable theme tune. There's bound to be a mobile ringtone for it... There were eight Mr Benn books in total. These are: The Red Knight, Big Game Benn, 123456789 Benn, Big Top Benn, Mr Benn Rides Again, SuperBenn, Mr Benn - Gladiator and Mr Benn's Little Book of Life. Only the latter two are still available from Amazon, for £7.99 and £4.79 respectively. However the main website (see below) also has some copies of Red Knight available signed by the a uthor but at £35! The list of episodes was as follows: The Red Knight (Mr Benn's first visit to the shop. He helps a dragon who has fallen from a King's favour) The Hunter (Mr Benn has a jungle adventure) The Cook (Mr Benn becomes a cook in a palace and helps a young princess regain her appetite) The Caveman (Mr Benn seeks a simpler life) The Balloonist (Mr Benn enters a balloon race) The Zoo-Keeper (Mr Benn cheers up a zoo full of sad animals) The Diver (Mr Benn encounters a sea monster) The Cowboy (Mr Benn ventures into the Wild West) The Wizard (a medieval Queen asks for Mr Benn's help) The Clown (Mr Benn joins a circus) The Magic Carpet (Mr Benn meets a genie) The Spaceman (Mr Benn travels from planet to planet) The Pirate (Mr Benn meets a bunch of pirates who aren't as enthusiastic for plundering as their Captain) Mr Benn never appeared again on television until the BBC bosses in the late 1990s sat down and said, 'let's do a children's tv trailer featuring all the old favourites'. It was a fantastic idea. A young boy would walk through scenes from various series old and new, including spot on recreations of said series. Mr Benn appeared looking the same as ever and Ray Brooks returned to provide his lines. I didn't even mind that Mr Benn s aid 'w elcome to my shop' (isn't it the shopkeeper's?). A wonderful reminder of the past. Mum always looked forward to it's appearance and I suspect many of you did too. It's on my video shelf somewhere :) Since then, Mr Benn's only other appearance in the spotlight has been the much rumoured film. Reputed to star John Hannah as the bowler hatted hero and Ben Kingsley as the shopkeeper, little has been heard about this for a couple of years so perhaps it's dead in the water. But you never know... The official website is quite interesting, mainly for it's interview with creator David McKee. He talks about the new Mr Benn book he has written - The Gladiator - and also states that a tv episode based on this is in the works! Possibly issued with a re-release of the episodes on video or DVD? Fingers crossed. The entire front page is the shop with the shopkeeper waving through the window. Nice. He even pulls the blind down :) There are details on all the episodes, clips from each one, the books... there's even a section on 'personal details': Conceived: Dartmoor, Devon, England. Favourite film star: Stan Laurel (very apt) There is some merchandise available such as ties and badges,but fortunately we haven't had it mass marketed in the UK. A warning though, it's a graphic heavy site.
  • A Personal favourite as a nipper.

    Mr Benn will always go down as a favourite with me, along with Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine, The Clangers and Captain Pugwash, Mr Benn was the mainstay of my younger childhood.

    It centred on Mr Benn who was a an ordinary fellow but had a Walter Mitty type imagination, with this imagination he would sort adventure by visiting a local fancy dress shop to try on a costume, once the costume was on he'd enter a secret portal in the changing room and enter a world relevant to his costume, if he put on a cowboy costume he'd be in the wild west fighting Indians, or be a spaceman, or pirate, and each time in his new world he would solve problems and situations, once done the Shopkeeper of the fancy dress shop mysteriously appears and directs Benn through a magical portal back to the shop.

    Once home Benn would reminisce on his latest adventure and would have always brought a keep-sake back with him.

    It's not something that would appeal to everyone nowadays because the story and animation was so simple, remember back in the 70's there was no computers or CGI effects as we have now.
  • Not my favourite but if it was made nower days I would watch this show.

    Its a shame they only made 14 episodes. The elder people do like this show and I can see why.
    There were plenty of other ideas that could have been used like a doctor,nurse,vet,shopkeeper,pilot,taxi driver,bus driver,engineer,train driver,station master,business manager,singalman,teacher,caretaker,TV presenter,fireman,
    policeman,paramedic,dective,gardener,captin,hairdresser, jewelers,cleaner,pop star,weatherman there were other possibilites.
    This show is OK some fine tuning and it would be on track some better and bolder animation, more ideas more,action in an episode and more types of adventure.
    On the whle I can see how people like this show and thats great! Ray Brooks does a good job of narration and that deserves alot of credit!