* Commissioned by the BBC,both were devised & written by "Paddington Bear" author Michael Bond. ( "author-pre herbs" page )
* They were shot by the Filmfair production company under the auspices of legendary animator Ivor Woods.
And both used stop motion animation,with actual 3D models & sets. ( "making of" page ) * Both series are set in the same,ostensibly normal,Victorian walled garden.But it's a surreal world co-inhabited by some classic British human caricatures and some animals with distinctly human characteristics.And all named after garden herbs,whose traits they were supposed to share.Although,names aside,the botanical connection was always somewhat tenuous and had disappeared completely by the time of the sequel -amongst some other significant changes (all outlined on the "characters" page) (note:- the stills above come from the original,and the ones below,the sequel)
* The series were contemporaries of other BBC animated kids classics like The Clangers (first shown 1969),Camberwick Green (1966),Trumpton (1967),The Pogles (1968),and Mary Mungo & Midge (1969).But despite being just as popular at the time they struggle to get similar recognition now for some reason.
* Most widely remembered bit ? Probably "Herbidacious" -the magic word used by the narrator at the start of every Herbs episode to open the garden gate.Although it wasn't used at all in the sequel. And here it is as an
* Current exposure ?
Abbey Home Media secured the rights to bring out the entire Filmfair back-catalogue on dvd (from main rights holder Cookie Jar Entertainment) And various piecemeal releases were finally capped off with a full boxset in 2008. ( "dvd" page )
* UK TV exposure is currently courtesy of NickleOdeon. Details at nickjr.co.uk under "classics"
* Spin-off toys,books etc ? There hasn't been any for years -reflecting it's absence from mainstream terrestial tv. But there was a fair bit produced from 1968 to the early 70s ( "memorabilia" page )
The Herbs and The Adventures of Parsley Classic BBC kid's animation by Michael Bond
On this page ..... A brief introduction to the series,and how they differ. Plus some site information,and your input
If you have any questions or anything you'd like to add to the site then please do.
There's an email link at the bottom of the home page menu (where you might also like to take pity on the under-used Guestbook)
All friendly correspondance is guaranteed a friendly reply.And I look forward to hearing from you.
I've put all this together purely to help anyone in search of a bit of Herbal enlightenment.
Why The Herbs ?
Well,you know what it's like.
You reach 'a certain age',whistful nostalgia kicks in and rational thought goes out the window !
I was looking to build a site and chose a kids' tv programme because I was practically weened on all those classic Watch With Mother animated series.
And I enjoyed too many of them to honestly say The Herbs were "my all-time favourites".But they ultimately got the nod simply because they had the poorest online presence,despite being one of the most popular.So there seemed to be the most point in doing it.
Which really isn't the under-whelming endorsement it sounds.But just a realisation that if you're asked to choose your favourite sweet of all time,then you're going to need something more than the taste to seperate them.
So here we are. And I'm still adding and tweeking all the time.
Hopefully most visitors get at least something out of it,no matter how small. And thanks for taking the time to find out. Jay
"The Herbs" (the original series) 12 x 15 minute episodes.
First episode broadcast on BBC 1,February 1968,in the lunchtime "Watch With Mother" slot.
"The Adventures of Parsley" (the sequel) 32 x 5 minute episodes.
First episode broadcast on BBC1,April 1970,in the slot previously occupied by The Magic Roundabout just before the early evening news
The Herbs v The Adventure of Parsley - Spot the differences
The Adventures of Parsley sequel was different in quite a few ways.Most of them prompted by the reduction in episode length from 15 minutes to 5.
But its move from a lunchtime Watch With Mother slot to a teatime one also meant it had to cater for the Herbs fans,as well as all the mums and dads who'd previously enjoyed The Magic Roundabout,whilst ostensibly waiting for the early evening news that followed.
The main changes concerned Parsley and Dill,who were transformed into a fully fledged double act around which the entire 2nd series was based,with their Herbs co-stars largely reduced to cameos and walk-ons.
And this was only made possible by giving them a voice.Because,in the original,only the humans "spoke" with the 3 animals (Dill,Parsley & Sage) being restricted to nods in response to questions from the narrator,accompanied by the odd roar,woof or squawk.And all based on the pretense that only the animals knew we were out there watching them.
Not that their new-found voices came as too much of a shock,because the narrator had used them in the Herbs by singing their little signature songs in character.So it was all pretty logical and seamless really.And it didn't involve any more work for the animators either,because none of the characters ever opened their mouths to "speak" in either series- except briefly,to reinforce an exclamation like "ouch !" or a "woof !".And for no other reason than it was just too time-consuming and expensive to do.Which was fine,because kid's simply took it as read that the words came from the person concerned anyway.
The voices also meant they could develop much stronger personalities of course.And even Sage blossomed,despite being a bird of few words even when blessed with the means to speak them.
Dill still did lots of aimless running around & retained his love of bones,but with a voice came evidence of a brain (of sorts ) And he was sometimes capable of slowing down long enough to engage it,revealing flashes of inspiration and insight along the way.Although his child-like exuberance usually meant they were rarely fully thought through,which endeared him to many of those watching of course.But definitely a "glass half full" kind of dog though.
Parsley on the other hand was the complete opposite and an even more radical departure from his Herb's persona.
Gone was the rather timid apology for a lion and in came an urbane,laidback kind of figure with a rather world-weary outlook on life.More of a "glass half empty",thinking person's kind of lion,and given a deeper,more avuncular voice than his canine companion to emphasize his slightly more grown-up approach to life.A sort of cross between Noel Coward and Tony Hancock.
In short,2 inseperable friends but 2 completely different personalities and plenty of comedic possibilities as a result -which Michael Bond wasn't slow to exploit.
And it's probably fair to say that their place in animated kids' tv history owes far more to their appearances in the sequel than the original.
Other changes ?
Well,all the action still took place within the confines of the same walled garden.Although the flora took on much more of the brightly-coloured psychadelic look that was so familiar from The Magic Roundabout,which animator and designer Ivor Woods had also worked on.
Most of the original Herbs' cast still put in at least one appearance,with Knapweed and Bayleaf featuring the most and forming quite a strong double act in their own right.Although mainly as fall guys for the 2 stars.
Perhaps surprisingly,there were no new characters introduced at all.
But 2 things were sacrificed completely :-
1) Out went any references about the character's Herb plant origins -which,to be honest,always seemed like rather a half-hearted attempt to fulfill the BBC remit to educate as well as entertain.And most of them were pretty tenuous anyway.
2) Out went all the character's signature tunes.
As with kids' contemporaries like Trumpton and Camberwick Green,they were seen as a useful narrative device-a quick and cheerful way to introduce characters,with lyrics often being tweeked to fit certain storylines.All of which was fine when you had 15 minutes to play with,but an expendable luxury when you had just 5.And frankly unecessary,when it was presumed that most viewers were either Herbs veterans or just happy to enjoy the gags and slapstick,irrespective of who was delivering them.
In a nutshell
The Herbs was a Watch With Mother lunchtime series tasked solely with providing entertainment for pre-schoolers with some morality tales and a bit of botanical knowledge thrown in.
Whereas the sequel could forget the "worthy" undertones and go for all-out comedy due to the shorter runtime and more grown-up time slot.