Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Hart, Tony (1925-2009)

Presenter, Designer

Main image of Hart, Tony (1925-2009)

This avuncular artist brought art and creative ideas to generations of British children over five decades. Perennially in slacks and neckerchief, he cut a gentlemanly figure from another age, but Hart's timeless, effusive creativity saw him through passing fashions and fads. The large scale of his end product - some pictures were drawn on airfields - and his lightning speed were his trademarks.

Born 15 October 1925 in Maidstone, Norman Anthony Hart served in India with the 1st Gurkha Rifles between 1944 and 1947. On returning to Britain he studied at Maidstone Art College. Briefly a store display artist in London's Oxford Street, he also painted café murals in return for free meals.

In 1952 he met a BBC producer at a party and, invited to interview, instantaneously drew a fish on a napkin. Hart became resident artist on Saturday Special (BBC, 1952-54), contributed cartoons to Eamonn Andrews' quiz Playbox (BBC, 1954-59) and drew 'televised strip cartoon' Packi the little elephant for Studio E (BBC, 1957-58).

Packi subsequently transferred to Studio E replacement Blue Peter (BBC, 1958-), where Hart fronted items from 1959. In 1963 he designed the Blue Peter ship logo - although he had hoped for royalties, he finally settled for a £100 flat fee.

He operated Ray Alan's puppet duck Quackers in series including Time For Tich (BBC, 1963-64), but his real break came in 1966 showcasing innovative art ideas on Vision On (BBC, 1964-77). Hart rarely spoke on this programme aimed primarily at deaf children (co-host Pat Keysell spoke and signed), so his energetic artwork did the talking. Large-scale artworks and collages made from old junk appeared in seconds as if from nowhere. Hart demonstrated, despite outward appearances, that he was no square and seemed hip to the hippie-ish anarchy springing from the likes of eccentrics Wilf Lunn and Sylvester McCoy.

When Vision On came to a close, Hart fronted his own series demonstrating simple but often dazzling art tricks and techniques in a very successful bid to foster creativity among his young viewers. On Take Hart (BBC, 1977-83) and its similar successor Hart Beat (BBC, 1984-93) he formed a comic partnership with the bumbling 'caretaker' Colin Bennett and mischievous plasticine figure Morph, an early creation of Aardman Animations. Later lower profile series including SMArt Hart (BBC, 1999-2000) re-packaged archive footage and were fronted by younger, trendier presenters.

In 1998 he received a Lifetime Achievement BAFTA. He died on 18 January 2009, having already been rendered unable to draw by two strokes. This he called "the greatest cross I have to bear".

Alistair McGown

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Take Hart (1977-83)Take Hart (1977-83)

Children's art series with Tony Hart, best known for introducing Morph

Thumbnail image of Vision On (1964-76)Vision On (1964-76)

Children's series aimed at the deaf, but which attracted a much wider audience

Related collections

Related people and organisations