Saturday 17 January 2015

Ragdolly Anna

Genre: Children's
Channel: ITV
Transmission: 26/07/1982 - 13/07/1987

The life of a doll can be a varied profession.

Certain dolls - particularly hideous and creepy ones - find themselves trapped within the confines of display cabinets in the garish front rooms of fifty-something women. Other dolls - usually with names such as Blinking Belle (we're a marketing genius, oh yes!) - spend their days being cared for and chewed on by little girls.

One doll, though, by the name of Ragdolly Anna had a much more interesting career.

It's a Doll's Life

Ragdolly Anna lives on the first, second and third floor (God knows what the rent's like) of a flat with the little dressmaker (Pat Coombs). They're not alone to bicker about who's turn it is to make a cup of tea, although the dressmaker is the only one physically capable of such a task, as they're joined by the dressmaker's dummy and the wise white cat.

Together the four of them embark on adventures which are simultaneously gentle and surreal. Take, for example, the second episode of series 1. It all starts off quite delightfully with the little dressmaker (she's not that little) and Ragdolly Anna renting an allotment patch. Before you know it, though, Ragdolly Anna is making friends with a talking scarecrow. Soon enough, she's only gone and make a cape and tin hat for the old straw stuffed idiot.

The Story of a Doll

Based on the stories written by Jean Kenward, Ragdolly Anna was produced by Yorkshire Television between 1982 - 1987 and clocked up a total of 30 episodes.

Interestingly, the show used chromakey technology to provide more animated action from Ragdolly Anna. For the majority of the show, she was nothing more than a handpuppet but certain sections used chromakey to shrink a real life person (played by Michele Davidson/Caroline Berry) in a Ragdolly Anna suit into the action.

When they weren't indulging in bluescreen magic, the producers used a mixture of live action and static photos to tell the stories.

The series was directed by Doug Wilcox and John Allen.

Interestingly, the series was sold overseas and appeared on Malaysian TV under the Channel 5 umbrella in 1988.

Dolls Aren't Just for Girls!

Yes, that's right! We loved Ragdolly Anna as a young boy and we're not ashamed to admit it!

We can justify this as we feel any child - male or female - can relate to the show. Ragdolly Anna is the child of the piece, the little dressmaker is the mother and the white cat is, for all intents and purposes, the grandmother.

Look at the very first episode of the series where Ragdolly Anna is sent out to get some bacon. Like a good child, wanting to please their mother, Ragdolly Anna sets out, but soon becomes lost. It's every child's fear that they'll get lost and seperated from their parents, so it's easy to see how this could engage them.

Admittedly, Ragdolly Anna gets trapped down a drain and then rescued by a frog, but the main thrust of the story is something that a child could relate to!

Watching it back now - the BFI Archive is the only present option - we were still enthralled by it as there's a captivating mix of simplicity and wild adventure at play. The one thing that did disturb us slightly, though, was the chromakey doll sections which reminded us of the evil doll from Terror of the Autons too much.

Finally, the Ragdolly Anna theme tune is an amazing piece of music hall piano which rolls along with horns beefing it up. It's like a lost slice of Ray Davies or Syd Barrett at their British storytelling best.



TV Times - Volume 122 no.2 - 04/01/1986 - Sue Fox


  1. Thank you for highlighting this series - I always found it utterly charming (despite being totally out of it's demographic), and really who doesn't love Pat Coombs?

  2. No worries, Matthew!

    I really enjoyed revisiting it and would love to see even more!

  3. I loved watching it as a young child. I've been trying to find the program and its name for months, thought I was imagining it !

    1. Worry not, squire, for you ain't going all cloud cuckoo land as this tremendous show is unequivocally real!

  4. This really needs releasing on DVD!!

  5. Does anyone know an online link to this show, or if on DVD? I loved Rag Dolly Anna, and of course Pat Coombs!

  6. The theme tune or more likely my faded memories of it troubled me did it really go
    Ragdolly Anna is short and fat
    With a bunch of paper roses in her big straw hat

    Nice way to fat shame a poor rag doll!