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TV: W is for...

Words and Pictures

BASIC ALPHABET and sentence tuition, featuring floating spongelike cartoon CHARLIE, and scary stop-motion stories with the words lighting up on the screen as they were spoken. Set in a public library; the “We’ve got a new book in” introduction set up the theme of the show. Funny how this herd of unsupervised kids just turned up out of nowhere, though. HENRY WOOLF was nominally in charge, later replaced by VICKI IRELAND. Stuck in our minds are animations like Lazy Lion, Cool Cat (who played a double bass with such gusto that in true cartoon style he drove the spike through the ground which gave way below him, causing him to fall down the “Acme Bottomless pit type 1 UK issue”) and various other alliterative animals. The format was always the same – a basic loop of the animal in question, with that jazzy, laid back tune, pause – “Cool! Cat!”, ba-dum, bum, bom – and round it went again. And again. Plus the magic pencil, displaying in great detail how to write a particular letter: “Top to bottom, over…and down”. Those scary model ones (the central ‘story’ of each show) included various folktales; the butcher and his wife whose every wish comes true – ‘I wish your nose was a sausage!’ – cue rather alarming visual representation of same; the Jack O’Lantern pumpkin that came alive and hobbled to people’s doorsteps on a staff-and-boot combo; that one about a mouse/man thing who walked for hundreds of miles and met various ‘travelling tinkers’ (their expression) who offered him a new pair of shoes, a new pair of socks, and, hideously, a NEW PAIR OF FEET (he just unscrewed the old ones); and the infamous Frog and Toad animations, which we think also turned up on Play School from time to time. They were scary, though – it was the way the eyes rolled around and the long pauses between sentences. The kids meanwhile got on with making things and doing stuff, all under the watchful eye of Charlie, although he inevitably got a bit carried away with whatever activity they were doing and ending up covered in paint/glue etc – cue presenter and kids en masse: “Chaaaaarlie!” And it was always Halloween – much apple-bobbing, and so on: “We’re witches of Halloween, wooo-oo/Our faces are yellow and green, wooo-ooo.” Words and Pictures also turned up in, of all places, [cref 3512 THREADS], educating post-bomb survivors in basic literacy. A chilling thought, in more ways than one.

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Paul Gatenby

    December 27, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Was there a Christmas-themed animation where a chocolate watch observes the fairy on top of the tree fall into a coal scuttle? Or is that a combination of old stop-motion nightmares?

  2. SleazyMartinez

    December 29, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    One of the great omissions from the recent Radiophonic Workshop retrospective CD was the full version of Paddy Kingsland’s excellent W&P theme. I recall an odd film on the programme that was something to do with images on a fruit machine – the music was a fantastic “dub” version of the theme, that rocked like a bastard. Used to have this on audio cassette, taped live off the telly. Damn.

  3. SundayGirl

    December 31, 2009 at 1:33 am

    The joyful nostalgia of watching W & P clips on You Tube was unfortunately marred for me when in early spring 2008 I watched the drama ‘Threads’. The bouncy, happy, clunky theme tune which once made me smile whilst sitting on a dusty assembly school floor aged 6, now makes me wince…. Damn that fictional apocalyptic premonition of the mid 80’s : – ( However, it was a bloody good well made drama never the less…

  4. Miles

    December 31, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Letti sans wheelchair, where is she now …

  5. Applemask

    January 1, 2010 at 2:31 am

    My era was the end of the eighties and start of the nineties, transitioning from some rubbery fuck with dark hair into the Sophie Aldred era which for me is the definitive W&P. Favourite letter on the magic pencil: L. Because it was so simple. “Top to bottom and flick!” “Top to bottom and flick!” “Top to bottom and flick!” over and over. “Top to bottom and flick!” “Top to bottom and flick!” “HeadEx: apply directly to the forehead!”

  6. Brian Rowland

    January 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Credits fact: Film editor Eric Mival had previously worked on The Prisoner.

  7. Tom Farrell

    January 3, 2010 at 12:10 am

    Just think…someday Henry Woolf bantering with a floating and talking blob could be humanity’s last chance at preserving basic linguistic skills before the last of the pre-holocaust generation succumbs to cancer and packs of feral mutants roam the land…..Skeletons and SKULLS

  8. barclay

    January 13, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Does anyone have an image/screen shot of the old, white, cartoon like wordy?

  9. Laura

    March 22, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Does anyone remember the witchfrom words and pictures and where I could see it ????

  10. Lee James Turnock

    May 5, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Henry Woolf is God.

  11. Matt P

    July 26, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Oh my god that pumpkin.

  12. Scott McPhee

    April 30, 2012 at 1:53 am

    I recall watching Words and Pictures during my first year of primary school. I liked CHARLIE.

    I don’t think that I found the stop motion animation scary, though.

  13. Gareth P

    November 14, 2012 at 11:41 am

    I use to love watching words and pictures when it was Henry Woolfe and Charlie. When they use to present the program also the one episode, which all ways sticks out in my mind is the halloween one and I would love to watch that one again if anybody knows how to hold of it!

  14. Julian W

    October 3, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Yes the Henry Woolf ones were the best. As it was October half term or off school in bed with a temperature I remember seeing those Halloween ones-the witches ‘fly around at night and give you such a fright woo-oo’. The mad pumpkin was also one of my favourites. I have got a little audio of Henry W doing the wooaaar voices as the pumpkin rocked back and forth on a stick, but I don’t have the full episode.

  15. Nic Robinson

    October 28, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    I have a dvd of the pumpkin episode if you would like a copy. Get in touch if you would like one Julian.

  16. Helen J

    November 14, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    The Hallowe’en one was definitely the episode that everyone remembers: the pumpkin that said ‘Ha ha ha, that was fun!’ after its mischief-making as well as the Witches of Hallowe’en song. Henry Woolf was ace too – friendly but just a little bit sinister. It was a great show. Surprised more of it hasn’t made it to YouTube.

  17. Ian A

    December 9, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Oh how I remember the Hallowe’en episode with the jack O lantern!! Would dearly love to see that and the witches episode again but have searched high and low across the net to no avail.
    I saw that episode whilst at home as a really young boy – ahhh…the memories!!

  18. Ian A

    December 9, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Oh how I remember the Hallowe’en episode, that Jack O Lantern scared me to death as a young lad!! Would really love to view it again (and the witch episode!) but have scoured the net looking for it to no avail

    If I have any luck I’ll be sure to post it here….

  19. Ange

    March 29, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Just discovered this thread after spending ages looking for any available episodes of Henry Woolf, W&P – in particular the pumpkin episode! So Nic Robinson, if you do have a copy of this available I would be delighted to see this again 🙂

  20. Rehannah Mian

    April 18, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I have just uploaded the Words and Pictures Halloween episode. It has the witches song in it but not the pumpkin unfortunately.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNP7GqZz3h4

  21. Halloween Pumpkin

    July 9, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Someone kindly uploaded the episode to youtube from a videotape. This always comes to my mind in Autumn. Although I used to get mixed up with words and pictures and you and me. Hop, hop, hop….
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uzb1l2smEhk

  22. ange

    December 19, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Thank you so much Halloween Pumpkin! I thought I would check on this site, not really expecting for someone to have uploaded the pumpkin story after searching for it for so long. And for half an hour today I returned to 1975, a kid again. Thanks x

  23. Graham Pearson

    March 22, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Watch the episode of Words and Pictures in which Henry tells the story of a pumpkin scaring members of the public until a pig thwarted him. Initially Henry shows us pictures from the book but when the story is told properly using animated film courtesy of Bob Burra and John Hardwick. Once Henry has read the story he’s joined by Charlie for reading and writing practice. The episode ends with the reprise of the song we heard earlier in the programme.

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