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Picture Box

NO-NONSENSE BRAN TUB of films from around the world selected to “stimulate the creative imagination of children” initially produced by BRIAN COSGROVE and presented by DOROTHY SMITH (first outing: “A Calm Country River in Holland”). In 1969, the friendly-but-dull ALAN ROTHWELL (catchphrase: “Hello!”) took over, kicking off with hardy perennial THE RED BALLOON, and remained in the driving seat for the duration. Shortly after that, the trademark opening blurred footage of a rotating jewelled casket was installed, accompanied by those timeless off-kilter strains of ‘Manege’ by Structures Sonores’ Lasry-Baschet. The Little Match Girl, The Forth Road Bridge, Amelia and the Angel and Czech animator Karel Zeman’s Mr Prokouk films (a sort of sub-Prof off of VISION ON pork pie hatted inventor) were regular visitors to the hypnotic world of Rothers. Alan took a breather in the spring of ’72 as BARRY SMITH and his theatre of puppets – then also doing sterling work with Al’s other kids’ show, HICKORY HOUSE – took over. In ’74 came activity pack back-up and programme advisers, as the education got serious. Marcel Marceau cropped up a lot, as did cartoon opera The Bricklayers Built a Crooked Chimney, Niko: Boy of Greece, that Canadian cartoon wherein one Dr. Philip Square tunnelling into the Earth’s core and propelling himself back again via the evaporated piss of his pet dog, and “a close, unusual look at the cow”. Survived into the late ’80s, though the move to Channel Four with the rest of the ITV schools’ output brought a new, brasher title sequence and a significant reduction in that queasy wonder quotient.



  1. compound eye

    June 11, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Does anyone have the full length theme tune for this?

    It was called ‘Manege’ by Lasry/Baschet from their Structures Sonore No4 lp.

    Cannot find it anywhere… [except YT where the quality is not up to much]


  2. fl3m

    March 28, 2010 at 2:23 am

    There’s a short version of it on a DJ mix album I’ve got, ‘The Trip’, by Tom Middleton.

    It’s hidden as a bonus track after Don’t Leave Me This Way by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. The Bod theme tune and the Newsround end theme are on it as well.

  3. Box Clever

    March 28, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    The clip from this which had our class rolling around helpless with laughter wasn’t from a cartoon, it was a film about skipping. In particular the shot from below of a hairy bloke jumping on a sheet of clear glass or plastic, with the exaggerated size of his bare feet provoking howls of mirth.

    Made a change from the girls getting scared and feeling sick because of the theme tune. Every time.

  4. Mar Morb

    March 3, 2012 at 9:14 am

  5. Droogie

    July 1, 2013 at 1:19 am

    The 2 short films I remember seeing on Picture Box featured a silent film showing someone carving a small wooden native american sat in a canoe, They take it to the beach where it floats out to sea. You then see it’s epic voyage as floats across the ocean past various big ships. It ends up washed up on a beach looking rather battered. A small boy finds it and takes it to his dad , who ends up giving it a new lick of paint and setting it off for another epic journey.

    The other film was another silent one opening with a boy and his dog rowing up a lake. The film suddenly stops and the camera zooms in without stopping until you can see a microscopic close-up of a mosquito on the boys arm, Then the camera zooms out again right out into into the universe. It keeps zooming out until the stars and the cosmos become the close-up of the mosquito on the boy’s arm again,pulling out until we’re back to the original shot of the boy and his dog. The film resumes, and they row out of shot. Damn peculiar stuff.

  6. Richard16378

    July 1, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    I remember seeing the canoe one.

  7. Smiling

    August 19, 2013 at 12:34 am{30e2395aaf6397fd02d2c79d91a1fe7cbb73158454674890018aee9c53a0cb96}2Fwatch{30e2395aaf6397fd02d2c79d91a1fe7cbb73158454674890018aee9c53a0cb96}3Fv{30e2395aaf6397fd02d2c79d91a1fe7cbb73158454674890018aee9c53a0cb96}3DlI3ZfHBgmCw

    Link courtesy of YouTube where this can be heard in full 🙂

    I searched it on a mobile device so if the link does not work go to YouTube and search ”
    Structures Sonores Lasry-Baschet – Manège

    I was told years ago that this piece dates back to 1924, and the sounds were made using glass bottles and drinking glasses amongst other things (info courtesy of a chap in HMV)


  8. Smiling

    August 19, 2013 at 12:40 am

    …hahah.. Correction that should read 1974…

  9. Officer Dibble

    October 11, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    I don’t remember any of the short films, only the really creepy music and revolving glass coffin-box. Oh yeah, and that possessed fella sitting in the dark. Carefree childhood days.

  10. Palimpsest

    January 4, 2015 at 12:22 am

  11. Rhodri Marsden

    March 8, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    This is disturbing “extended footage”:

  12. Graham Pearson

    July 14, 2015 at 5:17 am

    Picture Box was the most memorable ITV schools programme particularly at the time Alan Rothwell presented. He became available for presenting duties when his character in ‘Coronation Street’ David Barlow was written out. Alan remained presenter of ‘Picture Box’ until the 1990s.

  13. Ian Gregson

    September 3, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Does anyone know where I can find a episode list for this programme. Cheers

  14. Pete

    October 21, 2015 at 5:36 am

    Help!! A 2 part film shown on picture box about an old guy dragging a canoe up a mountain, for some reason, there was something about him pulling his teeth out with pliars?? Yes, this was on Picture Box with Alan Rothwell. Anyone know what the short film was called.

  15. George White

    September 25, 2023 at 10:49 am

    Looked at what films were shown in Picture Box

    Ray Bolger in Peter and the Wolf (1981), John Carradine in Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1974), Richard Chamberlain et all in Legend of the Christmas Messenger (1975), Ken Russell’s Angela and the Angel (1958), The Red Balloon (1956), Karel Zeman’s Mr. Prokouk films, NFB shorts such as The Man who Stole Dreams, the Owl and the Lemming, Tuktu and his Animal Friends, the Great Toy Robbery (1963), Balablok (1971), Nahanni (1963), Beautiful Lennard Island (1977), Of Lives Uprooted (1988), Paddle to the Sea (1966) AND Cesar’s Bark Canoe (1971)), Claudius, Boy of Ancient Rome (1960s Encyclopedia BRITANNIA FILM), and from the leading US short film distributor Pyramid films – Peter and the Wolf (1981 with Ray Bolger), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1972 with John Carradine), the Selfish Giant (1971 – some months before it got shown on BBC2), the Huntsman (1972, with John Wildman) Ballet Robotique (1982 Oscar short nominee), The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1969 short with Vincent Price, shown in 1989 and previously on the BBC in 1982) and, Solo (1972), and from elsewhere the PBS version of All Summer in a Day (1982 – split in two parts, starring Keith ‘grandson of Jackie’ Coogan), Sound of Sunshine, Sound of Rain (1982, with the voices of Lisa Bonet, Janet Maclachlan and Ron Glass) and the Finnish short The Man who Thought with his Hat, the Home-Made Car, Anglia’s Land of the Loon,Captain Noah and his Floating Ark by Cosgrove Hall and Michael Flanders, YTV’s Children of Eskdale…, British Transport Films’ Journey into Spring (1958), BFI short Oliver Kite’s Fawley, the Iron Mule (1925, with Fatty Arbuckle), the Italian short the Thieving Magpie (1965), the Deryck Guyler narrated Arthur Wooster short A Very Tall Animal (1965), Hiroko Ikoko (1970), ABC Australia’s Stranding at Crowdey and an edit of Louisiana Story (1951)

    Lord of the Flies, Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Dark Enemy (1985), the RailwayChildren, Storm Boy, Gulliver’s Travels, It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet, Courage Mountain – seem to be excerpts or cutdowns

    Also, Madi, Kiwi Lost its Wings, Deaf Like Me, Bicycle Symphony, Grizedale, the Iron Mule, Edge of the Barrens, Tayarra, It Wasn’t Me, Stranding at Crowdey, Wings of Wood, the Squeaker Ensemble, Rotations and Notations, Balet Robotique, Of Lives Uprooted, the Man who Stole Dreams, the Summer Visitor, A Sign of the Times, 1789, Wheel of Time, Ben Rosie and the Bear, Pierrot at the Fair, Pierrot’s Book of Animals, Puppets, People and Things, Oliver Kite’s Fawley, Journey into Spring, Nahanni, the Thieving Magpie, House on Wheels, A Very Tall Animal, Fishing is Fun, Hiroko Ikoko, the Wild Stallion, Balablok, the Mute Swan, the Bricklayers Built a Crooked Chimney, Children of Eskdale.

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