Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Animal Magic (1962-83)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Animal Magic (1962-83)
BBC Bristol
454 editions in 42 seasons (Colour from series 16)
ProducersWinwood Reade,
 Douglas Thomas
 George Inger
 Mike Beynon
 Robin Hellier

Presenters: Johnny Morris; Tony Soper; Keith Shackleton; David Taylor; Terry Nutkins

Show full cast and credits

Johnny Morris uses amusing approaches to introduce children to the animal world.

Show full synopsis

Johnny Morris had been a voices man on children's radio and was well-known as television storyteller the Hot Chestnut Man (seen in Playbox, BBC, 1955-64) when approached by Desmond Hawkins, then setting up the Natural History Unit at BBC Bristol and looking to create a programme for children.

The first programme aired 13 April 1962, featuring zoo vet Gerald Durrell and reporter Tony Soper out in the field with a film from Pembrokeshire. Morris meanwhile had a run in with a woolly monkey called Darkie - it climbed over Morris' head as the presenter tried to do his piece to camera but Johnny took it all in good humour, setting the tone for the next twenty-odd years.

The series was a mix of animals brought into the studio, film location reports and bought-in animal footage. the anthropomorphic antics of 'Keeper' Morris, always finding humorous ways of explaining animal facts, were its best remembered aspect. Morris dressed up as a zookeeper for a succession of films (most shot at Bristol Zoo), encountering every kind of animal and post-dubbing them with a variety of silly voices and personalities.

The programme tried to keep up with modern techniques, for instance quickly and successfully aping the special effects-heavy approach of Bellamy's Backyard Safari (BBC, 1981) in a special programme Animal Magic Goes Down To Earth (tx 8/9/81). Johnny and co-host Terry Nutkins were shrunk to a few inches high to explore a farmyard now full of dangerous giant creatures.

The whimsical eccentricity for which Animal Magic was most loved led to its demise when in 1983 new BBC bosses judged it too 'unscientific'. Tony Soper pioneered more scientific approaches in Wildtrack (BBC, 1978-85) and Terry Nutkins headed Animal Magic's award-winning successor The Really Wild Show from 1986.

Alistair McGown

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete 1980 edition (25:04)
Really Wild Show, The (1986-2006)
Zoo Time (1956-68)
Morris, Johnny (1916-99)
Children's TV in the 1960s
Factual Children's Television