Book, television prop, 'Adventure Island', leather / card / metal / felt / wood, made and used by Australian Broadcasting Commission, ABC-TV, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1967-1973
'Adventure Island' was an Australian popular television program aimed at three to nine year old children. It screened on ABC television on weekday afternoons from 11 December 1967 until 1973. It had its origins in 'The Magic Circle Club', a children's program hosted by Nancy Cato and produced by Melbourne's ATV0 from February 1965 to March 1967. When ATV0 cancelled 'The Magic Circle Club' in 1967, the ABC offered to purchase the series' concept, which ATV0 refused to sell. As a result, most of the 'Magic Circle Club' team, including Nancy Cato, went to the ABC and used a similar formula to create 'Adventure Island'.
Created by Godfrey Phillip and John Michael Howson, 'Adventure Island' followed the adventures of a group of characters who lived on an island in the village of Diddle Dum in the kingdom of Diddley-Dum-Diddley. It was written by Howson who also played the role of the clown. Howson's scripts drew on the pantomime tradition, with animal characters and men dressed as dames. Even the evil characters, with huge noses and long hats, had grotesquely endearing qualities. Each episode typically featured a self-contained story, although sometimes there would be a pantomime with all the cast taking on different roles for a whole week. Nancy Cato starred as the original narrator and was succeeded by Sue McIntosh (later known as Sue Donovan, wife of Terence and mother of Jason). The show's characters included Lisa (played by Liz Harris), Howson's clown, Percy Panda (played by Jack Manuel), Wanda Wise (played by Mike Hardy), Fester Fumbles (played by Ernie Bourne), Sailor, Penny Panda, Mrs Flower Potts, Betty Bruin and Samson the cat. The cast also included Colin McEwan and Jim Smillie. The producer Godfrey Phillip later produced the Grundy soap 'Prisoner'.
In a 2004 television interview with Mark Trevorrow on ABC-TV's 'The Way We Were', when asked about this book, Nancy Cato replied 'That was the book of life. That was the book of magic. It was the book of secrets. It was the book of all the stories that have always been told and all the stories that were about to be told.'
The music for 'Adventure Island' was composed by Bruce Rowland, and the theme song introduced the show with these lyrics:
'Ho ho, ho ho, it's far away we go
To a land that's far across the sea
Hey hey, hey hey, for a little while we'll stay
And be home in time for tea.
Set sail, set sail, in sunshine or in gale
The fun we have will be really grand
Hoorah, hoorah, follow the guiding star
And come with us to Adventure Island.
Bing bong, bing bong, sound that sailing gong
For now we're leaving for Adventure Island'.
Made in Melbourne by the ABC television Props department. It is not known if more than one such book was used during the six year run of 'Adventure Island'.
This book would be familiar to many television viewers, as it was used as a prop on the ABC children's program 'Adventure Island', which ran from 1967 to 1973. The host or narrator (originally Nancy Cato and later Sue McIntosh) would open the book during the show's introductory segment to evoke a world of fairy tales and fantasy. Cato would introduce each week's series of episodes with a greeting such as 'Hello and welcome to Adventure Island. It's just wonderful to be back with you once again. It's wonderful to be able to welcome you to Adventure Island. Well actually we're not in Adventure Island yet. We get there through this book. Every time I open this book it transports me right to Adventure Island and I can take you there too. You wish with me every Monday and we'll get there. Ready? Close your eyes and wish just for a second.' The donor was working as an action props man at the ABC's Ripponlea studios in 1988, when he rescued the book from a dumpmaster in which it had been discarded.