|First appearance||Talent Night (1952)|
|Created by||Harry Corbett|
Sooty is a glove puppet television, stage, comic book and film character, who is a small yellow, magical male bear with black ears and nose who likes to perform magic tricks and play practical jokes. Although mute to the audience, he is said to be able to communicate by 'whispering' in the ear of his handler. He was created by Harry Corbett in 1948. Sooty debuted on local television in 1952, and the children's television shows that bear his name have continued in various forms since 1955.
According to Guinness World Records, together they are the longest-running "non-consecutive" children's programme in the UK, with 857 episodes being aired as of 30 October 2018. Blue Peter holds the record for the world's longest running children's programme.
History and development
Creator: Harry Corbett
Sooty was originally devised for media by magician and puppeteer Harry Corbett (nephew of English fish and chip shop chain owner and company namesake Harry Ramsden (as Harry Ramsden's)), who had bought the puppet as a present for his son, Matthew Corbett, from a stall when he was on holiday in Blackpool in 1948. He first appeared on screen on the BBC in 1952 on the BBC's Talent Night. This particular show came from the TV Theatre at the annual British Radio Show held on this occasion at Belle Vue, Manchester. For ten days there had been nightly heats of hopefuls in the theatre culminating in each of the winners performing live on the Saturday night variety show transmitted nationally. Harry Corbett won his heat and then, by public vote, the overall winner on the live TV show. Sooty and Harry then became regulars on the BBC children's show Saturday Special from 1952–1955.
The original bear was completely yellow, and Harry covered his ears and nose with 'soot' so that he would show up better on black and white television - hence the puppet's name. He would later be joined by other puppet glove characters, including Sweep (a dog who communicates by a saxophone reed type squeak), Soo (a shy and sweetly spoken panda), Kipper (a cat), Butch (another dog who occasionally plays the part of a villain), Ramsbottom (a snake), 'Enry the Robot (a robot with light up eyes who keeps breaking down), Algernon Fortesqueue (a posh Green Parrot with a top hat and monocle), Cousin Scampi (another bear, who is Sooty's cousin), Miki (another cat - this time Brazilian) and Maggie Mouse. Like Sooty, Scampi appears to talk only in a very light whisper which can be heard only when someone puts their ear close to his mouth.
Television and stage hosts
Matthew Corbett, the son of Harry Corbett, took over the character after Harry's retirement in 1976. Sooty then enjoyed a new wave of popularity on stage and TV. The Sooty Show continued on television until 1992, evolving into a sitcom format. Like his father, Matthew took on a paternal role to the puppets, sharing a house with Sooty, Sweep, Soo (and latterly little cousin Scampi) and becoming the butt of many practical jokes. Matthew developed a well-meaning but slightly conceited screen character, whose boasting and pomposity was frequently punctured by the mayhem caused by Sooty and Sweep.
Connie Creighton, who with her husband John had worked with Harry Corbett and Sooty for many years, continued to work on the programme, and co-starred in several episodes as well as touring with the stage show.
In 1993 Sooty, Sweep, Soo, Little Cousin Scampi and Matthew all moved to Manchester for Sooty & Co., with the gang running a shop that "sells almost everything". Brenda Longman, the voice of Soo since the early 1980s, co-starred as neighbour Mo.
In May 1996, Matthew Corbett sold the rights to Sooty to the Global Rights Development Fund for £1.4 million. Corbett commented: "I have worked hand in glove with Sooty for the past 20 years, but now it is time for him to stand on his own two feet. The plan is to use my 50th birthday in two years' time as a springboard to shoot Sooty to true international stardom." The deal included Corbett staying until 1998.
Matthew Corbett retired in December 1998, bequeathing Sooty to then co-star Richard Cadell.
Sooty came back to screens in 1999 at first under the name Sooty Heights, which featured Cadell, Liana Bridges (who worked in Sooty & Co. in the same period he did), and the puppets all running the titular Sooty Heights hotel.
In March 2000, the rights to Sooty were sold on to The Britt Allcroft Company who later renamed themselves Gullane Entertainment. Under the ownership of Gullane, Sooty Heights was replaced with Sooty, which was similar to the former, but set in a refurbished hotel (now named Hotel Sooty) and Vicki Lee Taylor replaced Liana Bridges. Repeats of Sooty Heights and Sooty were shown on the CITV channel between 2006 and 2010.
In October 2002, Gullane Entertainment was bought by rival company HiT Entertainment, giving them the rights to Sooty. The property suffered from cutbacks under HiT's ownership, with many of the puppeteers and Soo's voice actor Brenda Longman leaving. Sooty was cancelled in 2004 due to this, making 2005 the first year when no new Sooty series was shown.
In October 2007, Hit Entertainment put the rights to Sooty up for sale and in June 2008 it was announced that Cadell had bought the rights. Plans for three new TV shows were under way, plus a reworking of one of Matthew Corbett's stage shows. A brand new Sooty adventure, Sooty's Big Day Out, was released on DVD and was made available via the official Sooty Show website.
Since 2011 he has starred in Sooty on ITV, set in a holiday camp with Richard Cadell as the caretaker working under the orders of his boss "Mr Slater" who is never actually seen but whose annoyed muffled voice is heard on the end of Richard's phone. It is filmed at Brean Leisure Park which Richard owned in real life with his brother David until 2014, at which time they sold it to outside interests; Richard Cadell has said that they sold the park as it was difficult to run.
Sooty's personality fluctuates between kindness, cheekiness and naughtiness, very often misinterpreting things said or suggested by Harry, Matthew, Richard or Soo (possibly intentionally). He plays an instrument described in the show as a xylophone which is in fact a toy glockenspiel, and keeps a wand with which he performs magic. This is accompanied by the catchphrase "Izzy wizzy, let's get busy!", and then Sooty tapping the magic wand to "Shave and a Haircut". Sooty also possesses a magic powder known as oofle dust which he scatters around to perform magic.
His water pistol is also iconic, with Matthew and Richard usually on the receiving end of a soaking, although even celebrities such as Jonathan Ross on "An Audience with Sooty", and a royal family member, Prince Philip, at the Honours ceremony which Harry Corbett and Sooty attended to get Harry's OBE, (A miniature OBE medal was made for Sooty) have fallen foul of the water. Sooty has also hit both Matthew and Richard with a hammer in some episodes, to which they have always shouted, "Don't do that for goodness sake!". Sooty also occasionally makes use of other messy items such as shaving foam and paint.
Matthew and subsequently Richard have carried on Harry's tradition of ending every show with the line "Bye bye everybody, bye bye", and in Matthew's last ever episode, his final scene was a collection of clips of him saying the immortal words over the preceding years.
- The Sooty Show (1955–1992)
- Sooty & Co. (1993–1998)
- Sooty Heights (1999–2000)
- Sooty (2001–2004)
- Sooty (2011–)
The Sooty Show was aired on the BBC from 1955 until 1967 when it was cancelled by the BBC and was then signed up to Thames Television where it aired on ITV from then until 1992. In 1957, Sooty was joined by Sweep, and in 1964, Soo was introduced as Sooty's girlfriend. The latest series, simply titled Sooty, began on 5 September 2011 on the CITV channel. On 3 September 2018, the series moved over to ITVBe as part of the channel's new morning preschool slot, beginning with the showing of the third series of the show.
There were also three spin-off series.
Sooty's Amazing Adventures was an animated cartoon series that aired from 1997–1998. It featured Sooty, Sweep, Soo and Scampi living in an old run-down theatre by the coast. It was produced by award-winning animation company/studio Cosgrove Hall Films. The show gave Sweep and Scampi actual voices, but kept Sooty mute. When Richard Cadell acquired the rights to Sooty, he claimed in numerous interviews that he destroyed the master tapes to this series as he really despised any form of Sooty done in animation form. However, the entire series still exists in the ITV Archives, but won't be released on any form of physical media.
Learn with Sooty was a straight-to-video series developed to make learning fun and introduce the basic skills that children really need to understand. There were eight videos produced; Start to Read, Have Fun with Numbers, Simple Science, Be Safe, Start to Read 2, A to Z of Animals, Down on the Farm and Have Fun with Numbers 2. In 1994, four of the videos (Start to Read, Have Fun with Numbers, How Things Work (aka Simple Science), and Be Safe) were re-released with new packaging.
Sooty's Magic was also a straight-to-video series that taught basic magic tricks for children to learn and practice themselves, with each release ending with a magic show presented by Sooty and Richard Cadell. The videos were supported by a range of Sooty's Magic toys. Three videos were released between 2000 and 2002; Sooty's Magic Show, Sooty's Magic Club and Sooty's Magic Birthday Party. Due to Hit Entertainment's takeover of Gullane Entertainment at the time, the final video, Sooty's Magic Birthday Party, never received a wide release, with only those who pre-ordered the video receiving their copy.
Sooty also had a successful number of (mainly Christmas) stage shows across the UK.
During Matthew Corbett's reign, seven stage shows were performed repetitively. For the first half of the tours, Matthew and Connie Creighton would present, and during the second half, while Matthew was busy writing and filming the TV shows, Connie and Spencer K. Gibbens would present.
- Sooty's Creepy Castle (1984/1985 - 1991/1992)
- Sooty's Picnic (1985/1986 - 1992/1993)
- Sooty's World Cruise (1986/1987 - 1993/1994)
- Sooty's Wild West Show (1987/1988 - 1994/1995)
- Sooty in Space (1988/1989 - 1995/1996)
- Sooty's Circus (1989/1990 - 1996/1997)
- The House That Sooty Built (1990/1991 - 1997/1998)
After Matthew retired, six stage shows toured the country. All starred Richard Cadell; three of them also featured Richard's Sooty Heights co-star, Liana Bridges, with the fourth starring Amanda Howard in Liana's place.
- Sooty's Magical Mystery Tour (1998/1999)
- Sooty's Treasure Hunt (1999/2000)
- Sooty's Magic Farm (2000/2001)
- The Magic and Mayhem Tour (2001/2002)
- The Izzy Wizzy Tour (2002/2003)
- The Comedy and Chaos Tour (2003/2004)
From 2005 to 2008, annual shows, featuring the puppet characters and various different presenters, toured around the UK.
- The Wet and Wild Show (2005)
- The Izzy Wizzy Holiday Show (2006)
- Sooty's Magic Castle (2007)
- Sooty's Magic Wand Factory (2008)
From 2009, stage shows again featured Richard Cadell. The first, Sooty in Space, was a reworking of one of Matthew Corbett's scripts, and toured the country throughout the year.
- Sooty in Space (2009)
- The Sooty Christmas Show (2011) - Garrick Theatre, London, and 2016–7 at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland.
- The Sooty Show (2012) - Butlins at Bognor Regis, Minehead and Skegness
- Sooty in Space (2012) - Duchess Theatre, London
- The Sooty Show (2014/15)
- Wizard of Oz (2016) - Easter tour
- The Sooty Show (2017)
- Sooty’s Magic Show (2019 - scheduled to carry on in 2020)
Wink Taylor, Alex Skerratt and Richard Cadell are writing the film. Matthew Corbett will appear in the movie, Cadell has confirmed.
It is planned for release sometime in the near future.
For most years from 1957 to 1998, there was a Sooty Annual; no annual was published in 1987, 1988, or 1990. The early annuals were published by the London Daily Mirror. Later annuals were published by Purnell and Sons.
The annuals feature an expanded cast of characters including:
- Sooty, who is shown as white not yellow and wears red trousers.
- Sweep, also white not grey, who walks on all fours like a normal dog, but can stand as a biped to play the bugle and so on.
- Cokey the Clown, another close friend of Sooty's.
- Mr Fusspot, Mayor of TV Town where the action takes place.
- PC Nab, one of the police of TV Town.
- Calico Joe, a fully clothed cat who smokes, always stands erect as a biped, and is a con man.
In 1973 a single and album were released. The single was "Super Sonic Sooty Spug" with "My Friend and I" on the B-side. The album was Around the World with Sooty...Harry Corbett and Sweep. This comprised eight songs with a linking story. The songs included both the A and B-sides of the single. These were released on the Music for Pleasure label.
In 2016 a major documentary looking at the life of Harry Corbett and the creation of Sooty was produced by independent film-maker and Sooty fan, Jeff Smart. Entitled "Sooty Ungloved" the documentary consists of two one-hour segments and features contributions from David Corbett, Matthew Corbett, Richard Cadell, Brenda Longman and original Sooty Show producer, Trevor Hill. The documentary premiered in the town of Guiseley on 1 October 2016 with David Corbett, Matthew Corbett, Richard Cadell and Brenda Longman in attendance. A future television broadcast of the documentary is currently being negotiated.
- Sooty and Sweep had appeared on a Rubber News sketch with Alastair Burnet on a Series 2 episode of Spitting Image.
- The Sooty show had a number of celebrities from all walks of life making appearances on the show. Most notable was Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain who is a self-confessed Sooty fan and always has the puppet as a mascot on the front of his drumkit, and has occasionally donned a full size Sooty costume at shows as an entrance.
- Sooty and Sweep had appeared as the Prime Minister and Home Secretary, respectively of the Puppet Government in The Goodies episode The Goodies Rule – O.K.?. Soo and Kipper the Cat also make cameo appearances.
- A number of famous faces made cameo appearances - usually as themselves - in Sooty and Co, including Gareth Hunt, Matthew Kelly, William Roache, Jack Dee, Paul Merton, Shane Ritchie, Frank Bruno, Jim Bowen, Rod, Jane and Freddy, Harry Hill, Barbie Wilde and Brian Blessed.
- Sooty and Matthew Corbett had appeared on a Christmas episode of They Think It's All Over, attacking Nick Hancock with Sooty's water pistol after Hancock ruled against them in one game. Hancock exacted revenge by emptying a bottle of water over Corbett's head.
- Sooty and Matthew Corbett appeared on a Christmas edition of Noel Edmonds' comedy show Telly Addicts in 1993 when they put questions to the team which consisted of Craig Charles, Philippa Forrester, Diane Bull and Gary Olsen.
- Bobby Davro hosted a Sooty parody sketch called "Sooty in Soho" on his sketch show in 1989, which saw him doing an impression of Matthew and depicting Sooty and Sweep owning a brothel. The sketch was interrupted by the real Matthew Corbett showing up and assuring the audience that the Sooty which Davro had was an imposter. He then produced the real Sooty, who promptly squirted both Davro and Matthew with his water pistol.
- Sooty and Matthew Corbett appeared in a special episode of Thames Television's other mainstay of children's programming, Rainbow. The episode, "The VIP" was broadcast in 1990 and saw them performing a magic show for Zippy, George, Bungle and Geoffrey.
- Sooty also appeared in the video for "Is This the Way to Amarillo" 2005 remake mimed by Peter Kay. Sooty and his co star Sweep appeared on the shoulders of Peter Kay as he ran down a corridor.
- Sooty and Sweep appeared alongside Richard Cadell in June 2008, for a special 90th Birthday message for Nelson Mandela. It is available to view on YouTube.
- Sooty and Sweep have made cameo appearances in the video for the Coronation Street version of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life".
- Sweep made his first appearance on Channel Four as himself in the 8th episode of the 2nd series of The Harry Hill Show.
- Product placement was occasionally featured on the Sooty Show and Sooty & Co in the 1990s. Examples of this includes the episode where Sooty, Sweep et al. go to Camelot Theme Park, at the time owned by the Granada TV company, and featuring a daily Sooty show in its theatre. This was featured as one of the four pictures from the Odd One Out round on an episode of Have I Got News for You on the subject of product placement. Richard Cadell is the owner of the holiday camp featured in Sooty's Big Day Out.
- Sooty, along with Sweep & Soo made an appearance in the music video for the official Children in Need charity single with the 'All-star Animated Band' produced by Peter Kay in November 2009.
- Sooty and Sweep appeared as surprise guests on The Chris Moyles Show in his "Birthday Show" for BBC Radio 1 on 18 February 2011.
- Sooty, Sweep and Soo were the guest judges on the fifth episode of the second series of The Matt Lucas Awards, a TV programme originally shown on BBC One on Tuesday, 9 April 2013.
- Sooty and Sweep made guest appearances on a special variety show ('We Are Most Amused and Amazed') in November 2018. The show was recorded live at the London Palladium (and later shown on prime-time ITV) in honour of the 70th birthday of the Prince of Wales in his presence and that of the Duchess of Cornwall. Sooty was introduced from the main stage by Jim Carter - the actor who plays the butler Carson in 'Downton Abbey' - who mentioned that Sooty was also celebrating his 70th birthday! Carter inter-acted with the two puppets who appeared over the ledge of the Royal Box, which on this occasion did not contain the royal guests. The puppets were afterwards introduced to TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall in an artistes' line-up backstage.
- A fake version of Sooty, a human-being dressed as the bear himself, participated in a mock-up of the BBC Gameshow "The Weakest Link" on Harry Hill's TV Burp in 2009, with four contestants rather than the usual nine in the real series.
- In 2014, UK Voiceover artist Peter Dickson gave Sooty a Voice on a famous episode of The Sooty Show on TV, after remaining silent since 1948.
- Richard Cadell and Sooty appeared on the BBC games show "Pointless Celebrities" in 2017, where they read out a selection of questions on children's television, including, "Which member of the Royal Family did Sooty squirt in 1955?" (Prince Philip). After this, Sooty squirted the host, Alexander Armstrong, with his water pistol.
This article contains a list of miscellaneous information. (September 2019)
- In Sooty's late-1960s' and early-1970s' shows, a musical act featured were The Sooty Braden Showband. This featured Sooty and friends on various instruments playing alongside Musical Director Alan Braden and his band. The Sooty Show would close with a rousing performance from the band.
- Richard Cadell actually made a guest appearance in The Sooty Show Christmas Special in the 1980s - 10 years before taking over from Matthew Corbett.
- A large number of shows ended with or contained a song relating in some way to the episode, although over the years a number of songs were repeated and quickly became classics - the most famous being "Battle of the Drums" and "Home Is Where the Heart Is."
- Twice during the Sooty Heights era, television channel ITV2 declared Christmas Day as being "Sooty Day" - and dedicated its schedule to episodes and documentaries about Sooty.
- Sooty appeared on Kellogg's "Puffa Sugar Stars" cereal boxes in the 1960s, then on "Puffa Puffa Rice" cereal boxes starting in 1973.
- "Puffa Puffa Rice" was actually Sooty's favourite breakfast.
- Sooty appeared on promotional packets of Nestle Milkybar in 2005 to promote the Wet & Wild show.
- The Doug Anthony Allstars wrote a song describing Sooty as a skinhead.
- There used to be an extremely popular 'World of Sooty' museum in Shipley, West Yorkshire open in the early 1990s, but this was later replaced by an animatronic cat exhibition, which was in turn replaced by a marketing agency. There were also Sooty-related attractions at the now defunct Granada Studios Tour in Manchester, the Camelot Theme Park in Lancashire, and also at The American Adventure Theme Park in Derbyshire until the late 1990s. The park has since closed.
- The original Sooty now resides in the northern UK village of Brancepeth near Durham, with Charlotte Lonsdale who also owns a more recent version of the puppet.
- In the television series "The Final Cut", one of Francis Urquhart's junior ministers, Geoffrey Booza Pitt (played by Nickolas Grace) is referred to disparagingly by the Opposition MPs as Sooty in reference to his being a sock puppet for Urquhart.
- The action of many episodes of Sooty and Co. takes place on a street that appears to be the Coronation Street set at Granada Studios, although none of the famous landmarks, such as The Rovers Return nor The Kabin are visible. The set was possibly used as an exterior location because Sooty and Co. was filmed in the same studio complex.
- Sooty appears in Bring Me the Horizon's music video "The Comedown."
- The Magic Circle contains a showcase in their museum room to commemorate Sooty's magical exploits.
- In 1996 Sooty featured on the 26p postage stamp issued by Royal Mail as part of the "Big Stars from the Small Screen - Children's TV Characters." set.
- Since the 1950s/60s Sooty features on the charity collecting boxes for the Royal National Institute of Blind People.
- In 2017, Sooty was officially inducted into The Magic Circle. He is 'the first non-human to join the group of 1,000 illusionists.'
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