Looking Back At MARY, MUNGO AND MIDGE - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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In the vibrant tapestry of British children's television, one series that holds a unique charm is "Mary, Mungo, and Midge." This animated series, which aired on the BBC in the late 1960s, used simplicity and everyday scenarios to tell stories that engaged young viewers, leaving a lasting legacy that transcends generations.

The series followed the lives of Mary, a young girl living in a high-rise flat in a modern new town, and her two pets, Mungo, the wise old dog, and Midge, a clever but often cheeky mouse. Living on the top floor, Mary and her companions would embark on adventures in their neighbourhood, learning new things about their urban environment. The series was one of the first to portray the changing urban landscape of Britain, a country then transitioning from post-war austerity to a more modern outlook.

The talented voice cast was crucial in bringing these characters to life. Richard Baker, a well-known newsreader at the time, served as the narrator. The decision to have a popular figure like Baker associated with the series was strategic, offering a familiar voice that could guide children through the narrative. The versatile actress, Isabel Ryan, voiced Mary, infusing the character with youthful curiosity and warmth.

A notable feature of "Mary, Mungo, and Midge" was its approach to animation. At a time when animation was still a painstaking, hand-drawn process, the production team chose to use a simplified animation style, with characters drawn in a minimalist line-art style against a plain white background. This design choice accentuated the characters, allowing their personalities to shine through.

Behind the scenes, "Mary, Mungo, and Midge" was the brainchild of John Ryan Studios, already acclaimed for "Captain Pugwash." The innovative production techniques used in the series, like the use of back-lit cut-out figures moved by levers, were a continuation of the techniques refined in "Captain Pugwash."

The series consisted of only 13 episodes, but each left an indelible mark on the audience. "The Crane," for instance, sees Mary, Mungo, and Midge exploring a building site and learning about cranes. In "The Strange Noise," the trio investigates a strange noise and learns about different musical instruments. These episodes were lauded for their ability to combine education with entertainment, a quality that has made them enduring classics.

During its run, "Mary, Mungo, and Midge" consistently garnered high viewing figures. This popularity wasn't confined to the UK; the series was sold to over 40 countries, making it one of the BBC's most successful children's exports at the time.

The legacy of "Mary, Mungo, and Midge" is enduring. Its status as a children's classic in the UK remains undiminished, with repeats shown on the BBC well into the 1980s. The show's format, which blends storytelling with educational content, laid the groundwork for future edutainment series. Additionally, its depiction of life in a modern high-rise flat offered a snapshot of contemporary urban living, a theme later explored in other children's shows like "Pigeon Street."

Moreover, the series marked significant roles in the careers of Richard Baker and Isabel Ryan. For Baker, the series showed his versatility beyond newsreading, a talent he would continue to display in other voice-over roles. As for Ryan, her role as Mary added to her repertoire of children's characters, including her later work in "Noggin the Nog."

In conclusion, "Mary, Mungo, and Midge" stands as an emblem of children's television in a transformative era. Its unique blend of charming characters, innovative animation techniques, and stories grounded in real-world learning resonates even today. Over half a century later, the adventures of Mary, Mungo, and Midge still capture the hearts of those lucky enough to experience them, proving that truly great storytelling stands the test of time.

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