Back in the 80s, we were routinely dressed up in some truly terrible jumpers. Distressingly, these jumpers now appear to be back in fashion. Some people never learn, eh? Anyway, these jumpers would certainly be more appealing if a simple needle and thread could convert them into animated beings. This, unfortunately, is not the case, so for now we'll just have to bear them being matched with equally distasteful chinos. However, 1982 saw one particular jumper making this transformation in Pullover.
The first production from Pullover Productions (who later made Fox Tales), Pullover was a 1982 show created by Rosta Cerny and Susan Kodicek and broadcast by ITV. The show was backed by ITC entertainment and made at Kadek Vision - a long defunct company based at Shepperton Studios. The lively music score was composed by Eugen Illin, who also composed music for German TV's translation of the 'fuzzy felt' Moomins series. The one human star of the show was the child (Danny Kodicek), who just happened to be the son of Susan Kodicek. There was one series of 13 episodes produced and they utilised Cerny and Kodicek's trademark black light theatre approach.
Pullover examined that terrible ordeal where children have to go to bed. Sure, you've got the escapism of dreams to look forward to, but there's also the feeling of injustice. Why should the adults get to stay up and have all the fun watching fledgling police dramas such as The Bill? Children need to learn about limits, though, so they'll just have to go to bed when they're told. Once they become adults they can flout the rules all they want and turn up to work after 3 hours sleep and unshaven. Thankfully, for the child in Pullover, his mother has attempted to reduce his ire by taking his pullover and making a few changes to produce Pullover - a cute little animal who is part bear, part something else. Oh and he's yellow. Pullover magically comes to life each night, when the child is asleep. Creeping down from the bedpost, Pullover tends to find something intriguing in the child's bedroom which leads to an adventure - be it a balloon which transports Pullover up into the clouds or a toy penguin which takes him to the Antarctic.
Pullover was a little before our television viewing period started, so we weren't even aware of the show until we started researching for Fox Tales. As that particular show was something which had kept our interest, despite not viewing it for 25 years, we thought that another Cerny/Kodicek show was definitely worth a peek. And we weren't disappointed.
Pullover performs a neat trick by taking its viewers into a wonder filled world which taps deep into the core of children's imaginations. When Pullover is seen floating up into the sky and perching upon a cloud, he's performing one of those dreams which every small child has. Equally enthralling is Pullover's descent from the cloud-world which sees him sliding down a rainbow. I don't know about you, but seeing a rainbow as a child always stopped us dead in our tracks. It's little tricks like this that captivate your attention and leave you waiting for Pullover's next curious adventure in his fantastical world.
The puppetry on display is excellent and feels more polished than that on offer in Fox Tales. The black light theatre aspect breathes life into the puppets, whilst the control and choreography of the puppets is really special - see the scene set at sea in the 'China' episode for the fantastic heights Cerny/Kodicek could reach. Being aimed at the preschoolers means that the characters all have a cutesy look to them. Some time and effort has gone into creating them and they help to make their little universe quite mesmerising. As a result of the series, there was an official knitting pattern released by the company Robin so that a Pullover toy could be created.
Another mesmerising aspect is the music provided by Eugen Illin. It's a sprightly, jazzy affair involving xylophones, wind instruments, a glockenspiel (perhaps) and several other instruments in the mix. As there's very little speech in the programme - apart from the child at the start - the music is utilised to help reflect the mood of the story. It does this effectively and creates a dreamy soundscape for the characters to inhabit.
All in all, the rather simple stories blend together great aspects to make a very watchable children's show. We're at a loss as to why the show wasn't repeated more often or ever granted a commercial release. Eight of the episodes have been uploaded to Danny Kodicek's YouTube page and we can't recommend heading over there enough to investigate this curious show.
We've got hold of a copy of the official knitting pattern to 'make' a Pullover - see below! If you want scans of the full instructions, then get in touch and we'll email over the rest!