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Musical Box, The

1 9 5 9 – 1 9 6 6 (UK)

Best known as half of the prolific Smallfilms production company, producing classic children’s television programmes with Oliver Postgate, Peter Firmin devised this programme of nursery rhymes for Associated-Rediffusion with his wife, Joan to appear on Small Time.

“They asked me to think of a fifteen-minute programme which could be made for £50,” said Firmin, “and I came up with the idea of animating nursery rhymes”.

The show used live hand-operated cardboard animation and was presented on Wednesdays – initially by (a then relatively unknown) Rolf Harris and then by Wally Whyton.

Firmin and Whyton later introduced talking puppets into the programme, including Joe Crow, Simon Scarecrow and Muskit (a large water rat).

Peter Firmin remembered; “We never really had a script. It’s hard to believe . . . but the `links’ in which the puppets chatted were all impromptu. Wally would phone me on Sunday. “Well, what shall we do tomorrow, Pete?” We would decide on which of the Rhymes to do and the songs to go with it. We did two rehearsals and then the live programme. It was all done by lunchtime! We did that programme weekly for eight years.”

Peter Firmin passed away in 2018. He was 89 years old.

Rolf Harris
Wally Whyton