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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

Set in the fictional Waratah National Park (NSW), the Skippy series focuses largely on the adventures of a young boy, Sonny Hammond, and his intelligent pet kangaroo, Skippy. Sonny is the youngest child of Head Ranger Matt Hammond. Matt was left a widower in his early forties when his wife Mary died not long after Sonny was born. Other principal characters are Sonny's older brother Mark, Flight Ranger Jerry King (the park's helicopter pilot), and Ranger Clancy Merrick, the teenage daughter of another park ranger.

Notes

  • Skippy was very successful both in Australia and overseas (being sold to 128 countries overall). Its popularity led to a number of illustrated children's books about Skippy, along with a large array of merchandising products. Two separate televison series based on Skippy were produced in the 1990s: The Adventures of Skippy (1992) and an animated series produced by Yoram Gross.

    The Intruders, a feature film starring Skippy and the regular television cast, was released in 1969.

  • The popularity of the film They're a Weird Mob saw producer John McCallum and production supervisor Lee Robinson join forces with Sydney lawyer Bob Austin to set up Fauna Productions, to produce Australian television series that had a strong local flavour but would also suit the international market. McCallum's interest in such a venture dated back to the 1950s, when he tried unsuccessfully to get English producers to base a television series on Ben Hall. The company's initial idea was to follow the success of They're A Weird Mob with a spin-off series, but they cancelled this idea due to its limited overseas appeal. On the advice of a London agent, they eventually decide to produce a children's series, and came up with the concept of a kangaroo as the focal point of a half-hour series. In this respect, the idea was to replicate the Hollywood-type series based around an animal, but with a uniquely Australian animal. To that time, the most popular shows had been Flipper (a dolphin) and Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and The Littlest Hobo (dogs). In his biography Life with Googie, John McCallum credits Lee Robinson for coming up with the kangaroo idea and the name Skippy, and indeed gives him most of the credit for the series (p. 232).

    A pilot episode, titled 'Man from Space,' was made in 1966, and this was then taken by Lee Robinson and Bob Austin to England, Europe, and the USA to gauge the response, which was overwhelmingly positive (even from the NBC network in America). Australia's Nine Network, headed by Frank Packer, had been offered first refusal of the show by John McCallum. Packer was sufficiently impressed, however, to pay the $6,000 per episode price, reportedly the highest price the network had then paid for any series.

    Considerable preparatory work was required before filming could commence (May 1967). 'Production offices had to be set up in Sydney, and permission was required from the NSW State Government to occupy land in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park north of Sydney. Co-operation was received from the NSW National Parks And Wildlife Service and the Ku-ring-gai Chase Trust, who set aside 24 acres of land for use as a film set, and granted access to a further 500 acres of surrounding park. A house was built in the park to function as Ranger Headquarters and residence in the series, both for exterior and interior scenes. Power and water supply had to be connected and roads had to be constructed, together with a helipad and servicing area for the helicopter. A number of expensive 'props' were used in the series: a helicopter, a speedboat, an elaborate two-way radio set-up, and several motor vehicles. All of which added up to quite a sizable investment' (Classic Australian Television).

  • A documentary on the series, Skippy: Australia's First Superstar, was broadcast on ABC television 17 September 2009.

  • While Skippy is generally regarded as one of Australia's best-known and most successful television exports and Skippy himself as perhaps the country's first international animal star, Skippy was not the first fictional kangaroo to find widespread popularity and generate an extensive merchandising program. The film Orphan of the Wilderness (q.v., 1936) is based around a kangaroo called Chut. Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper (1980) note that that film's popularity, and the popularity of Chut the kangaroo in particular, saw it become a favourite of children's matinees for many years. 'Chut dolls were sold in chain stores, the story was serialised in children's magazines, and Chut made numerous public appearances in theatres and shopping centres' (p. 231). Orphan of the Wilderness was also voted Best Film by the newly formed Film Critics' Circle of Australia.

  • Award-winning and individually published episodes in this series are included on AustLit.

Includes

1.1/4
form y separately published work icon The Poachers Michael Wright , 1968 Z1624879 1968 single work film/TV Sonny, Mark, and Jerry investigate an expensive game-fishing cruiser with three men aboard, after Skippy and Sonny come across men trapping animals in the bush at night. Swimming out to the cruiser, Jerry overhears a conversation that indicates the men are stealing koalas for Dr Stark's private zoo. 1968
2.43/5
form y separately published work icon Follow My Leader Ross Napier , Australia : Fauna Productions , 1970 Z1625026 1970 single work film/TV
— Appears in: In Focus : Scripts from Commercial Television's Second Decade 1972; (p. 62-82)
When Norman L'acudnac Dupree, a spoiled young violin prodigy and old friend of Clancy's family, comes to visit, he insists on acquiring a baby koala. Skippy comes to the rescue, however, when Norman almost loses his life in the attempt.
Australia : Fauna Productions , 1970
3.91
form y separately published work icon Fred Joy Cavill , 1969 Z1625048 1969 single work film/TV
— Appears in: In Focus : Scripts from Commercial Television's Second Decade 1972; (p. 159-188)
Sir Adrian Gillespie is enraged when a florist offers to sell him flowers that she proudly boasts are freshly picked from Waratah National Park. Sir Adrian, Matt Hammond, and Matt's son Mark, with the help of Skippy, set out to catch the mystery flower thief whom they know only as Fred.
1969

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

First known date: 1966

Works about this Work

The Slow Death of Australian Children’s TV Drama Anna Potter , Huw Walmsley-Evans , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: The Conversation , 27 April 2017;

'Australian children’s TV may have recently picked up an Emmy Kids award for the ABCME animation Doodles, but otherwise kids’ TV in this country is in a dire state.

'Free-to-air TV networks have to commission certain amounts of children’s programs each year. But in recent years there’s been a dismaying lack of new live action shows, or recognisably Australian content. Instead, local children’s TV has become dominated by animation with little sense of place.'

Foreign Cartoons Threaten Aussie Kids’ TV Linda Morris , 2015 single work column
— Appears in: The Sun-Herald , 29 March 2015; (p. 19)
Tchk, Tchk, Tchk: Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and the Question of Australian Seriousness Mark Gibson , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: Continuum : Journal of Media & Cultural Studies , vol. 28 no. 5 2014; (p. 574-582)
'Skippy the Bush Kangaroo is one of Australia's all-time most successful cultural exports. Sold to 128 countries and dubbed into 25 languages, it had a global audience in the early 1970s of more than 300 million. Yet Skippy has always has received remarkably little critical attention. A significant reason for this is that it has always resisted being taken seriously...'
Caught : Sentimental, Decorative Kangaroo Identities in Popular Culture Peta Tait , 2013 single work criticism
— Appears in: Captured : The Animal within Culture 2013; (p. 175-194)
TV Nation or TV City? Albert Moran , 2010 single work criticism
— Appears in: Continuum : Journal of Media & Cultural Studies , vol. 24 no. 3 2010; (p. 343 - 356)
'For much of its history in the twentieth century, television was conceived mostly in national terms. American television, British television, Australian television and so on were thought of as distinct systems, even if they frequently displayed significant degrees of overlap. Such a notion has always been a convenient simplification. Television exists at a series of different spatial levels and the nationwide tier is only one of these. Recent interest in the notion of media capital draws attention to the role played by broadcasting hubs in larger television formations, not only in the industrial sense of resource accumulation and density but also in terms of colonizing larger media environments. This paper addresses this matter in terms of the role that a Sydney metropolitan television service has played in the life of the Australian nation. It surveys the material and ideological dimension of this service as a means of further problematizing the connection of television and nation' (Author's abstract)
The Emperor's New Clothes : The Logie Awards, Australian National Identity, TV and Popular Culture J. McConchie , K. O. Vered , 2003 single work criticism
— Appears in: Continuum : Journal of Media and Cultural Studies , vol. 17 no. 2 2003; (p. 119-134)
Experimenting with the Local and the Transnational : Television Drama Production on the Gold Coast Tom O'Regan , Susan Ward , 2006 single work criticism
— Appears in: Continuum : Journal of Media & Cultural Studies , vol. 20 no. 1 2006; (p. 17-31)
TV Nation or TV City? Albert Moran , 2010 single work criticism
— Appears in: Continuum : Journal of Media & Cultural Studies , vol. 24 no. 3 2010; (p. 343 - 356)
'For much of its history in the twentieth century, television was conceived mostly in national terms. American television, British television, Australian television and so on were thought of as distinct systems, even if they frequently displayed significant degrees of overlap. Such a notion has always been a convenient simplification. Television exists at a series of different spatial levels and the nationwide tier is only one of these. Recent interest in the notion of media capital draws attention to the role played by broadcasting hubs in larger television formations, not only in the industrial sense of resource accumulation and density but also in terms of colonizing larger media environments. This paper addresses this matter in terms of the role that a Sydney metropolitan television service has played in the life of the Australian nation. It surveys the material and ideological dimension of this service as a means of further problematizing the connection of television and nation' (Author's abstract)
Caught : Sentimental, Decorative Kangaroo Identities in Popular Culture Peta Tait , 2013 single work criticism
— Appears in: Captured : The Animal within Culture 2013; (p. 175-194)
Tchk, Tchk, Tchk: Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and the Question of Australian Seriousness Mark Gibson , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: Continuum : Journal of Media & Cultural Studies , vol. 28 no. 5 2014; (p. 574-582)
'Skippy the Bush Kangaroo is one of Australia's all-time most successful cultural exports. Sold to 128 countries and dubbed into 25 languages, it had a global audience in the early 1970s of more than 300 million. Yet Skippy has always has received remarkably little critical attention. A significant reason for this is that it has always resisted being taken seriously...'
Settings:
  • Kuring-Gai Chase area, Sydney Northeastern Suburbs, Sydney, New South Wales,
  • ca. 1960s
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