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Winky Dink

The early television kids show, Winky Dink (CBS, 1953-57), was less an animated cartoon and more a two-dimensional puppet show (Mae Questel provides Winky’s voice live in the studio). A photoblog called Showbiz Imagery and Chicanery has just posted several great photographs taken on set of host Jack Barry and of kids demonstrating the draw-on-screen process that made the show so famous. It was a bit before my time, but no less interesting as a early interactive television experiment. These newly discovered photos are fascinating flashback to one of TV’s earliest kid’s shows.

For the record, Fred Calvert and Al Kouzel supervised a cheap, Tom Terrific-derivative, animated version in 1969, about which, the less said the better.

(Thanks, Devlin Thompson)

  • FleischerFan

    Jerry –

    You make me feel very old by saying “Winky Dink” was slightly before your time because it was not before mine!

    Winky Dink may have been one of the most hated shows by parents because of the large number of small children (myself included) who drew directly on their TV screens when their parents did not buy the aforementioned “magic screen.”

    That was matched only by the number of us just a few years later who would be writing “Z” on the walls of our homes when Walt Disney introduced their “Zorro sword” with a piece of chalk on the end of it.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    One of my mom’s earliest memories of television was this show. She wanted to order the kit and play along, except that the TV in her parents house was some projection system of sorts than a cathode ray tube, so she had to wait until she could go to someone’s house that had one to do it on. It is quite an interesting time in early TV to see what kind of creativity they could get out of limited resources.

  • Jonah Sidhom

    Jerry Beck and Jack Barry… The same person?

    Seriously though, these photos are great! Looks like simpler times, wish I could have been there.

  • joecab

    I liked that cartoon as a kid. But seriously NO ONE ever bought that schmate with the crayons: we all just used regular crayons and rubbed everything off with toilet paper or paper towels.

  • Paul Penna

    The plastic screen had a light blue-green tint and a distinctive aroma; every so often I’ll come across some plastic product with a similar odor and it’ll take me back to Winky Dink days. The screen picked up a pretty good static charge from all that rubbing, and could stick to your shirt after you peeled it off the tube. The crayons were big thick thinks, much larger than your standard Crayola. I had a tendency to come up with my own designs in addition to or instead of what you were supposed to do.

  • Greg Ehrbar

    Sorry, Jerry, but I can’t let less be said about the 1969 version because it’s such a sentimental part of my childhood and that of many of my friends.

    When I was a kid they ran the five-minute cartoons twice a day (in a generic cartoon mix hour and during Bozo’s Big Top). I sent away for my first SUPER MAGIC TV KIT (complete with Magic Cloth, Magic Crayons, a pinkish Magic Screen and a set of Plasticons (the same off brand Colorforms as Willie the Weather Man from Captain Kangaroo). Before my kit arrived, I used Saran Wrap (Handi-Wrap was too thin). Frankly, the Saran Wrap worked better, but I actually ended up buying a second kit at a department store.

    There was an attempt to revive Winky Dink in the late ’80s, perhaps on the Disney Channel, and I’ve seen the pilot, which combined live segments (produced by the same people who did the “Hey Vern” show) with the 1969 cartoons. I don’t know why it never aired but I suspect that TV sets had become so huge by that time, there may have been some concerns — plus the Magic Screens would have to be in so many sizes!

    Anyway, the 1969 cartoon was not Fantasia but it was charming in its way and had a hand made look about it using very basic magic marker backgrounds, plus it clearly had a budget that made Tom Terrific look like Gone with the Wind. The late Lionel Wilson did every voice, just as he had done with Tom Terrific.

    Some of the 1969 cartoons are still available on DVD and my kids, even though there’s the Wii and all the other high-tech stuff, get a kick out of drawing something on the Magic Screen and seeing Winky Dink and Woofer use it as part of the action, cheesy as it might be. There’s something special about it.

    Trivia note: Jack Barry himself sang the Winky Dink theme song that was used on the 1969 cartoon; it was from a Decca single and was speeded up a bit and edited for the title sequences.

  • I still have a Winky Dink kit, though the envelope is deteriorating away in the air.

    The show wasn’t horrible. Better animation than most shows on tv today.

  • That’s a new angle on Jack Barry for me. He’s most often noted as the host of “21” at the center of the big quiz show scandal.

  • I love this idea WAY more the 3D TV. Thanks for bringing an old show to the younger audience.

  • Stephen DeStefano

    Yeah Jerry—you take that back, what you said about the ’69 version. I loved that show!
    And for the record, I actually owned the draw-on-tv-kit.
    I’m not saying I used it—why would you, when you could just draw right on the tv screen? But I definitely had it.

  • James E. Parten

    I don’t know about the availability of the 1969 cartoons, but at least one of the original series is available on public-domain DVDs, from an original black-and-white kinescope.

    At the time that “Winky Dink and You” was on Saturday mornings (at least in the East and Midwest), Barry was also doing “Juvenile Jury” in prime time for the greater glory of Geritol. Later he would host (briefly) “The Big Surprise”, as well as “Twenty One”. With Dan Enright, he produced the latter show, as well as “Tic Tac Dough”.

    The Quiz Show Scandals put a quietus to his career, both on air and behind the scenes. He is supposed to have spent some time in Canada hosting game shows. (Research!) Television took both him and Enright back unto its bosom in the 1970’s, with such shows as “The Joker’s Wild” and a revived “Tic Tac Dough”. (There was also a pilot for a revival of “Twenty One”, but it did not sell–it is on Another Website, however!)

  • Doodyville 101

    Bummer! Another sweet and cute character from the 1950’s that I missed out on! One of my three favorite “sweet and cute” ’50’s characters, the other two being Dilly Dally (from “Howdy Doody”) and Rootie Kazootie.

    I was 9 years old back in ’69 and I don’t remember seeing a revival Winky Dink cartoon. Maybe it wasn’t shown in Chicago. I would LOVE to see it, however, and check it out to see how he looked and how he sounded. That would be cool.

  • Doodyville 101

    One of my favorite “sweet and cute” characters from the 1950’s! (the others being Dily Dally from “Howdy Doody” and Rootie Kazootie.)

    I was 9 years old back in 1969, and I don’t recall ever seeing a revival “Winky Dink” cartoon. Maybe they didn’t play them in Chicago back then. I would love to check one out, though, just to see how it looked!

  • Steve Menke

    I’m also guilty as charged for participating in the 1969 revival (Miami chapter, with deep pink “magic screen” courtesy of Woolworth’s), and letting my crayon stray too far off screen once to parental indignation.

    Gabriel Kaplan’s album “Holes and Mello-Rolls” has a routine about the 50s Winky Dink.

  • Pedro Nakama

    I bought a Winky Dink kit with a DVD a few years ago at Fry’s Electronics.

  • David Breneman

    Didn’t erstwhile “Tic-Tac-Dough” host Wink Martindale get his start on that show? I well remember “Tic-Tac-Dough” from my adolescent years as “Jeopardy for Imbeciles”.

    Not that I’d blame The Ol’ Winker for that; he was just collecting a paycheck from an almost-prime-time syndication gig, but the questions did seem to be aimed at contestants with a typical American third grade education.