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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Terry Hall (1926-2007)

Terence (Terry) Hall, the creator of Lenny the Lion, died on 4 April. Lenny was something of a trailblazer in children's entertainment as he was one of the first animals to appear as a ventriloquist's sidekick; prior to Lenny's appearance, ventriloquists had used boy puppets, with Peter Brough and Archie Andrews the most popular act at the time.

Lenny was created in 1954 when Hall visited Blackpool Zoo. The original Lenny had a growly voice and teeth which, unfortunately for the entertainer, used to frighten children; he became hugely popular after Anne Shelton suggested that he should be a gentler character and the new Lenny, shy and speaking with a slight lisp, became a huge star. His first TV show debuted in 1957, as did a comic strip in TV Comic drawn by Bill Mevin and starred on the cover between 1958 and 1960, the year the show came to an end. Lenny was also the star of Lenny's Den (1959-61) and Pops With Lenny (1962-63), notable for an early appearance of The Beatles, and, many years later, appeared in educational storybooks which spun off into their own TV show, Reading With Lenny (1977-80).

Obituaries: BBC News (11 April), Daily Telegraph (12 April), The Independent (12 April), The Times (14 April), The Guardian (30 May).

I mentioned another shy, friendly lion recently -- Leo -- in my piece about Bert Felstead which began appearing in Playhour in January 1960. It would be an obvious thing to connect the strip with the success of Lenny on TV. Leo had made his debut some years previously in Playhour Annual 1958 (published in 1957) and might have been inspired by Lenny's earliest TV appearances.

(I grabbed the header picture from the Oxford Collectables website which has a useful guide to TV Comic. Lenny is presumably still © to his estate; Leo the Friendly Lion is © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)

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