There are few personalities that unite Canadians quite like Mr. Dressup.
For 29 years, spanning an impressive 4,000 episodes, the beloved children’s show host appeared on television screens across the country, inviting kids to explore his iconic Tickle Trunk alongside a legion of puppet sidekicks, including the cherished duo of Casey and Finnegan.
And although many are familiar with the character portrayed by Ernie Coombs, far fewer know the endearing story of how Mr. Dressup came to be a mainstay on Canadian TV.
Now, a new documentary is set to explore that, taking a deep dive into the Mr. Dressup’s legacy as well as his profound impact on children’s programming.
“There’s not enough time to discuss the things that I learned (while making the documentary),” Rob McCallum, the director of Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe, told Global News.
“What really strikes me, if we want to get real for a second, was that as much as this was a kids’ show on the surface – made for kids to feel safe and feel loved by everybody – watching it with my kids it became much more about ‘Wow, I’m still learning from Mr. Dressup’. And, boy, I wish I was more patient like Ernie. I wish I was more in the moment and not distracted with everything that’s going on outside my home…how come we can’t be a little bit more like Mr. Dressup?”
Weaving together interviews from Canadian celebrities like Michael J. Fox, the Barenaked Ladies and Bif Naked, with archival footage from the show and stories from the late Coombs’ personal life, Mr. Dressup: The World of Make-Believe takes a closer look into the life of a man known for his kindness, inclusiveness and creativity.
“Ernie’s programming, and the programming around that timeframe, really focused on creativity from its simplicity,” Jani Lauzon, a puppeteer on the show, told Global News. “You can really create something out of nothing, and that was the incredible beauty of the show. All you needed was a piece of paper and some scissors and some glue or tape and you could create something.”
Global News sat down with McCallum, Lauzon and fellow puppeteer Jim Parker to discuss all things Mr. Dressup, the documentary, and the endearing and lasting relationship Coombs maintained with fellow children’s show host, Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers Neighbourhood fame. Watch the interview above.
Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Oct. 10.
Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe screening at AIFF
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