“So they went with the whole thing of Mr Squiggle arriving and he’d seen this strange thing in space but, once again, he wouldn’t have understood the details because Mr Squiggle’s not connected to the world, he was otherworldly in a way.”
A exhibition Mr Squiggle the Man from the Moon: Celebrating 60 years of Mr Squiggle and his creator Norman Hetherington is on display at the Royal Australian Mint, Deakin, until July 28.
The exhibition features a display of puppets of Mr Squiggle and his friends, Blackboard — “Hurry up!” — Gus the Snail, Bill the Steam Shovel, drawings from the show, old scripts and a fabulous portrait of Norman and Mr Squiggle by Kate Rae, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.
Mr Squiggle first aired on July 1, 1959, and was initially meant to be a six-week adventure. It proved so popular, it ran for 40 years. The final episode aired on July 9, 1999 with Rebecca holding Mr Squiggle’s hand for the last time.
“My father wanted to draw, he wanted to be a puppeteer, and he came up with the idea of Mr Squiggle,” she says.
“He had to think what sort of character will he have, who will he be, he went through various thoughts, will he naughty and cheeky, and then he decided there was a lot of naughty and cheeky around and he wanted something different.
“I think the fact Mr Squiggle was gentle and full of whimsy and not connected with the hard facts of life, I think that’s why he lasted and engaged people and people enjoyed him.
“It was a little moment of escape, he was never mean or unkind or naughty in any way and people liked that. He became a part of our family.”
Rebecca says her father, who died in 2010, would have been overwhelmed by the exhibit and the launch of the collectable coins, through a collaboration with Woolworths, to commemorate the 60 years.
“Dad was a very humble person and because his career was driven by a love of what he was doing. He didn’t necessarily look outside that and think it would have any reach,” she says.
“He always said puppetry was the perfect craft because you got to design and make and then you got to perform and play with it.”
She said there was a little bit of her father in all of the puppets, but especially in Mr Squiggle.
“There’s the hair and the eyes,” she laughs, “and Dad was a kind man, kind of otherworldly himself, he did see things a bit differently.”
A limited release of a collectable coin album is available and in addition to the four $2 coins, it includes two $1 coins and a special 1 cent coin, for $15.
Mr Squiggle the Man from the Moon: Celebrating 60 years of Mr Squiggle and his creator Norman Hetherington runs at the Royal Australian Mint until July 28, 2019.
Karen Hardy is a reporter at The Canberra Times.