1 9 7 3 – 1 9 7 5 (UK)
60 x 5 minute episodes
Underground, overground, wombling free . . .
Debuting on 5 February 1973 with the episode ‘Orinoco and the Big Black Umbrella’, the furry, long-nosed Wombles of Wimbledon Common were England’s foremost ecologists in the 1970s, “making good use of the things that they find – things that the everyday folk leave behind”.
The incredibly devious Wombles turned trash into useful items – well, useful to a Womble, at least. Their burrow was wallpapered in discarded newspapers, and there was always some new contraption being conjured up and constructed from discarded garbage.
Headed by Great Uncle Bulgaria, the Wombles were Tomsk, Orinoco, Tobermory, Wellington, Bungo and their French housemaid (ahem!) Mme. Cholet.
Great Uncle Bulgaria was very old indeed, with fur that had turned snow white with age. He could be rather strict at times but had a kind heart and was very wise. The young Wombles thought he knew absolutely everything, and sometimes, he thought he did as well.
Tobermory was Mr Fixit Womble. He made all kinds of remarkable and useful gadgets out of the rubbish that the working Wombles brought to him. Orinoco was certainly the fattest Womble in the burrow and frequently needed forty winks before he could get up the energy to begin work.
Tomsk was the largest Womble and a keep-fit freak who tried to get Orinoco to take more exercise but without success.
Wellington was the smallest and shyest Womble. He wore spectacles and was rather absent-minded (despite having invented the Womble telephone).
Based on the stories by Elisabeth Beresford, the five-minute Wombles tales were animated by Ivor Wood and whimsically narrated by Bernard Cribbins, who also provided the voices of all the characters.
Mike Batt performed the theme music, which became a hit in 1974 and led to a spate of other Wombling pop pieces – including the glam rock style Remember You’re A Womble (#3) and Wombling Merry Christmas (#2) – with Mike joined by Chris Spedding on guitar and Clem Cattini on drums.
Batt had initially surprised the FilmFare animation studio by declining the offered £200 fee for the song and asking for the musical rights to the Wombles instead. At the time, nobody thought the musical rights to a children’s TV show would be worth anything – but it proved to be a shrewd move on Batt’s part.
A feature film called Wombling Free was released in 1977, and the busy little creatures were resurrected by ITV in 1990/1991 for two one-off stories.
In 1998 the Wombles were back again, with four new members to the clan; Stepney (a cockney Womble), Obidos (a pan piper from Brazil), Shanshi (from China) and the skateboarding Alderney.
New technology (such as the Internet and Wom-faxes) now made life much easier for the fluffy ecologists.
Great Uncle Bulgaria