1 9 7 7 – 1 9 8 3 (UK)
Maidstone-born Tony Hart enrolled in art college after being demobbed in 1947. After graduating he began painting murals on the walls of restaurants until he met a BBC TV producer at a party and demonstrated his cartoon skills.
Within weeks he was working as the resident artist on the children’s television series Saturday Special. He was then promoted through a number of BBC and ITV series until he finally made his mark on Vision On.
When Vision On folded in 1976, Take Hart kept Tony going with his own children’s art show.
Hart flounced around a vast BBC studio decorated to look like a New York loft apartment, filled with piles of messy paint pots, dead tree branches, vases of rushes and crates of tissue paper littering the floor.
Each episode concentrated on a different texture or concept, with shows entitled “Stripes”, “Sand”, “Curves” and “Links and Chains”. Children viewers were inspired to cut, stick, paint and glue any bit of card or scrap they could get their hands on.
With viewing figures regularly topping five million, the show enjoyed a successful run throughout the late 70s. In 1978 it was awarded a BAFTA for best children’s TV series.
A character called Morph also gave a helping hand, keeping the youngsters entertained.
Morph (pictured below) was an orange man (not as in Northern Ireland!) made out of plasticine who lived in a pencil box on Tony’s desk.
The character was created by Nick Park, who also did the animals for the Creature Comforts commercials and of course Wallace and Gromit, and proved so popular he was given increased screen time, and eventually even his own spin-off series, The Amazing Adventures of Morph in 1980.
Another peripheral character was tea-lady Elvira Muckett (Amanda Swift) who wheeled her trolley into Tony’s loft and was astounded to find a TV programme being made there. As well as pouring out the tea, Elvira tried to get in on the act, giving Tony what she thought was helpful advice and having a go herself.
Hart returned again in 1984 with Hartbeat (1984 – 1993), in which a young London copper moves to Yorkshire village and . . . no, that’s Heartbeat – sorry.
This was followed by Tony Hart’s Artbox Bunch (1995 – 1996) and Smart Hart (1999 – 2000).