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Sooty is a British glove puppet and TV character popular in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and other countries. The children's television show which bears his name has continued in various forms since the 1950s and, according to the Guinness Book of Records, is the longest-running children's programme in the UK. He was 60 years old on 19 July 2008 and, as this was close to Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday, Sooty sent him a birthday message.
Sooty was originally devised by Harry Corbett (nephew of fish and chip shop chain owner Harry Ramsden), who bought the puppet as a present for his son, Matthew Corbett, from a stall when he was on holiday in Blackpool in 1948. Sooty, a small yellow bear with black ears, is mute to the audience but can communicate with his operator by apparently whispering in his ear. He was featured on BBC TV from 1952.
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 characters 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), Cousin Scampi (another bear), Miki (another cat - this time, novelly, Brazilian) and Maggie Mouse (a mouse). Following Harry Corbett's retirement, Sooty was operated by his son Matthew, and enjoyed a new wave of popularity.
Sooty's personality fluctuates between kindness, cheekiness, and downright naughtiness, very often misinterpreting things said or suggested by Harry, Matthew or Soo (possibly intentionally). He plays the xylophone and keeps a wand with which he performs magic. This is accompanied by the catchphrase "Izzy wizzy, let's get busy!" His water pistol is also an icon - Matthew usually on the end of a soaking, although even royalty have fallen foul of the water. Matthew 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 him saying the immortal words over the preceding years.
In the late nineties, Matthew Corbett retired, marking the end of Sooty and Co. (based around the idea of the Sooty gang running a shop that "sells almost everything") and essentially gifted Sooty to then co-star Richard Cadell, who presented the show through another five series, at first under the name Sooty Heights, then under the name, Sooty, both set at a hotel. He was joined in these by two female co-hosts, starting with Liana Bridges from 1999-2000 who worked in Sooty and Co. in the same period he did, and then Vicki Lee Taylor from 2001-2003, who had previously worked on The Queen's Nose.
Sooty is frequently shown on the CITV Channel in the UK, usually weekdays at 3pm.
In June 2008, it was announced that Richard Cadell had bought the rights to Sooty, having been put up for sale by HIT Entertainment in October 2007. Plans for three new TV show formats are underway, with a reworking of one of Matthew Corbett's stage shows due to tour early next year.
Sooty also had a one-off animated cartoon series in the mid-'90s titled Sooty's Amazing Adventures. It featured Sooty, Sweep, Soo & Little Cousin Scampi living in an old theatre by the coast. It was produced by Cosgrove Hall Films (the producers of Count Duckula and DangerMouse); they gave Sweep & Scampi actual voices and kept Sooty the same, having to nod his head to say "yes" or "no" or miming what his ideas are.
Plans for three new TV series; a sitcom-style show similar to previous series, featuring the gang working at a handyman agency, a live variety show and a pre-school game show, are underway.
There was also an animated cartoon series, Sooty's Amazing Adventures, aired from 1996–1997. Sooty appeared on US television on The Mickey Mouse Club, each Tuesday during the first two seasons.
In 1973 a single and album was released. The single was "Super Sonic Sooty Spug" with "My Friend and I" on the B-side. Harry Corbett regretted this greatly. 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.
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 starring 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 Snow (2005)
- The Izzy Wizzy Holiday Snow (2006)
- Sooty's Magic Castle (2007)
- Sooty's Magic Wand Factory (2008)
From 2009, stage shows will again feature Richard Cadell, as he tours the country with Sooty and the gang. The first, Sooty in Space, is a reworking of one of Matthew Corbett's scripts.
- Sooty in Space (2009)
- Snow White and the seven dwarfs (2009)
- Sooty's Creepy Castle (2010)
It stated on www.thesootyshow.com on the message boards that Richard Cadell hopes to reuse more of Matthew Corbett's scripts.
- Sooty, who was shown as white not yellow and wore red trousers.
- Sweep, also white not grey, who walked on all fours like a normal dog, but could stand as a biped to play the bugle and so on.
- Cokey the clown, another close friend of Sooty.
- 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.
- Ali Artful, a black man who wears a fez and everyone knows is a thief.
A Sooty annual also appeared in 1991-92.
- The Sooty show had a number of celebrities from all walks of life making an appearance 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.
- 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, Neil Buchanan, Jim Bowen, Harry Hill, Barbie Wilde, Brian Blessed and Father Christmas!
- 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 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 (puppet) appeared on the shoulders of Peter Kay as he ran down a corridor.
- Sweep (albeit with his face blurred) appeared in an episode of the BBC sketch show Goodness Gracious Me
- 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 a cameo appearance 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.
- 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.
- In Sooty's late-sixties' and early-seventies' 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 someway 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, 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 in the 1960s, then on "Puffa Puffa Rice" cereal starting in 1973.
- 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, 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 owner Charlotte Lonsdale also possessing a more recent version of the famous puppet.
- In the television series "The Final Cut", one of Francis Urquart's junior ministers, Jeffrey Boozer-Pitt is referred to disparagingly by the Opposition MPs as Sooty in reference to his being a sock puppet for Urquart
- During many of the episodes of Sooty & Co, action can be seen on a street set. Eagle eyed viewers will spot this is the Coronation Street set at Granada Studios, although none of Corries famous landmarks (The Rovers Return, The Kabin etc)are visible. This was more than likely used as an exterior location because Sooty and Co was filmed in the same studio complex.
- ^ Oh no, Sooty, I can't believe it...what, you're 60 today? - Times Online
- ^ http://www.thesootyshow.com/history.php, third page
- ^ "Sooty celebrates his 60th year with a new owner and live tour". The Stage. 2008-06-26. http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/21109/sooty-celebrates-his-60th-year-with-a-new. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
- ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1226722/
- ^ List of comedy/TV tie-in records - Corbett, Harry
- ^ Album sleeve and tracks
- The Official Sooty Website
- Reaching Brand New Sooty Heights - fansite
- Sooty Online - fansite, with screencap galleries and forum