Home Television Kids TV Crystal Tipps and Alistair

Crystal Tipps and Alistair

1 9 7 2 (UK)
50 x 5 minute episodes

Crystal Tipps and Alistair was a strange post-psychedelic animation with a heroine who looked like a mini-skirted, purple-haired Bette Midler on acid.

Crystal had buggy eyes and an omnipresent inane grin. Alistair was a dog. Neither of them had any knees.

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Hilary Hayton was working for the BBC Children’s Department Graphics Unit – chiefly servicing the story illustration requirements of Play School and Jackanory – when she was invited to contribute to a European Broadcasting Union (EBU) collaborative animation project seeking wholly dialogue-free entries.

Working in her spare time, Hayton drew a girl with a voluminous purple perm in a diagonal-striped dress and pinned the picture to the department noticeboard, inviting further input.

Her Scottish colleague Graham McCallum added the canine companion. The two characters subsequently appeared in an EBU ‘pilot’ called Hide and Seek in 1971.

BBC producer Michael Grafton-Robinson then left the BBC to create independent company Q3 to make this series and Fingerbobs.

Using felt markers and airbrush, Hayton and McCallum drew the artwork pieces subsequently animated and filmed by Q3.

During the course of the groovy, freewheeling, open non-format episodes the dynamic duo interacted with eggs, birds, butterflies, fish, seeds, a yo-yo and the postman.

Odder episodes saw magic seeds sprout a giant beanstalk that stretched into the clouds (‘Sowing Seeds’), with the heroes returning home by sliding down a rainbow, while, in ‘It’s Quicker By Tube’, a tube station appeared out of thin air, transporting Crystal and Alistair to a jungle, a desert and London nightspots.

There was no dialogue or logic, and no narration. Just a funked-up chamber orchestra. This was REAL flower power, man!

TRIVIA

The name ‘Crystal Tipps’ name came from an ice-making machine in a BBC tea bar, with an extra ‘p’ added to avoid litigation.