April 13, 1962: Animal Magic

Animal_Magic-1962Animal Magic was a BBC children’s television series which ran from 1962 to 1983 from BBC Bristol. It began fortnightly and was transmitted weekly from 1964.  Many editions of the show were junked by the BBC in the early 1990s when they were assumed to be of no further use. The signature tune, “Las Vegas” [link to Spotify], performed by Group Forty Orchestra, was written by Laurie Johnson for KPM in 1960.

The presenter was the avuncular Johnny Morris. His charismatic style and genuine Celebrity-06-20-1916fondness for animals made the show an instant hit with children and adults alike. The show combined jovial voiceovers applied to various animals from Bristol Zoo with some basic educational features.

Morris’ co-presenters over the years included: Gerald Durrell, Tony Soper, David Taylor and Terry Nutkins. When Nutkins joined the show in the early 1980s, the producers tried to update it, using new video effects technology. This allowed them to do such things as “shrink” the presenters to allow them to see life from an ant’s viewpoint, or to swim in a riverbed for example. Joe Henson and Desmond Morris also appeared on the show. Dotty the ring-tailed lemur appeared as a regular guest for eight years in the 1970s. Much to Morris’ anger, the show was discontinued in 1983 when the programme’s anthropomorphic treatment of animals fell out of fashion.

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