Mr. Dressup

September 18, 2012 by  

Mr. Dressup, Mr. Dressup is a Canadian children’s television series. It originally ran on CBC from 1967 to 1996. The series starred Ernie Coombs as Mr. Dressup. The show aired every weekday morning, and each day Mr. Dressup would lead children through a series of songs, stories, arts, crafts, and imagination games, with the help of his friends Casey and Finnegan, a child and a dog who lived in a treehouse in the back yard.

The series was seen as almost a Canadian version of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Judith Lawrence was the puppeteer who brought Casey and Finnegan, along with other occasional puppet visitors like Alligator Al and Aunt Bird, to life. The set for the show included the inside of Mr. Dressup’s house, with scenes shot in the living room, kitchen, and a kind of play room that included the Tickle Trunk (where costumes used in make-believe skits were stored) and a long counter where Casey and Finnegan often appeared.

Sometimes, the action moved outside to Casey and Finnegan’s treehouse. One of Mr. Dressup’s segments featured his Tickle Trunk, from which he would get a costume. It might be an animal costume, or a policeman’s or fireman’s uniform, or some other outfit in which he could dress up and play whatever role was suggested by the costume. Occasionally, the Tickle Trunk would not open, in which case Mr. Dressup sang a song which ended in him tickling the lock, hence its name.

The trunk appeared to be magic as it always had the right costumes, in the right sizes, neatly folded at the top of the piles of costumes. Occasionally Mr. Dressup would need to make an accessory for his costume, such as a hat, which would lead to a craft. Mr. Dressup would usually create some kind of drawing or craft and sing a song with the puppets, such as “Down by the Bay”. On occasion, Mr. Dressup would also read a book or show a short documentary to the audience.

The films were usually silent and Mr. Dressup would narrate in order to explain events. He often drew pictures on his drawing board to either tell a short story or to play a game with one of his visitors. He would frequently encourage children to try the craft at home or to sing along with the songs. In later years, Judith Lawrence chose to retire from the show.

Rather than cast a new puppeteer in the roles of Casey and Finnegan a team of new puppeteers were brought in, including Karen Valleau (Chester the Crow), Nina Keogh (Truffles), Jani Lauzon (Granny), Cheryl Wagner, and later, Ruth Danziger (Annie), Jim Parker (Alex), and Bob Dermer (Lorenzo the Raccoon). The new characters would visit Mr. Dressup, and over time, became the lead characters, as Casey and Finnegan appeared less and less in the show until they quit appearing altogether.

This was done gradually so children wouldn’t notice the absence of Lawrence’s beloved Casey and Finnegan characters upon her retirement. When Casey and Finnegan stopped appearing on the show it was explained on screen that Casey and Finnegan were now attending kindergarten. With the addition of new characters, new sets were also added including the community centre.

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