January 24, 2005

NEWS: Teenager wins revival of 'Fraggle Rock' after his global campaign

By Terry Kirby

24 January 2005

When teenage Fraggle Rock fan Warrick Brownlow set out to persuade the bosses of international corporations to re-release his favourite programme his chances of success looked slim.

But two years later and with the backing of an unprecedented 33,000 people across the world, the 19-year-old aspiring puppeteer who lives with his parents in east London has won his battle.

Later this year, the first batch of episodes from the 1980s children's television series will be available on DVD in this country and some have already been released in the US.

Mr Brownlow lobbied the companies that control the empire of Jim Henson, creator of Fraggle Rock and The Muppet Show, through an online petition begun when he was 17. His tribute website is now also a source of Fraggle Rock information and trivia.

"I'm really excited about it," Mr Brownlow said. He said he knew that HIT Entertainment in Britain, which controls licensing for many of the programmes from the Jim Henson Company, which is based in the US, had been aware of the petition, but did not know how it would respond. He is now hoping that his ultimate aim of a boxed set of all 96 episodes will be realised.

A spokeswoman for HIT in London said the programmes were being released again in response to consumer pressure. "It is certainly a very popular programme," she said. In Denmark last year, she added, a radio station asked listeners which programme they would most like to see return to their screens, and 20,000 e-mails asked for Fraggle Rock. The programme began running again in December.

Quite what it is about Fraggle Rock that inspires such devotion remains unclear. The Fraggles are a group of Muppet-like creatures, who inhabit caves and speak, and sometimes sing, in squeaky voices. Other characters include the ant-like Doozers and a family of giants called Gorgs, who have an oracle-like talking rubbish heap. Henson said the show was intended to create strong moral themes which would promote ideas of world peace among children. Although created in Britain, it was made in Canada and aired in Britain and the US between 1983 and 1986.

Mr Brownlow said: "I watched these programmes as a kid and the memories just stayed with me. It was the hidden message about peace that appeals to me and that is why I wanted them to be re-released. Children's programmes these days don't have that kind of message and I think it is very important that they do, particularly at this time." The series also inspired Mr Brownlow in his ambition to become a puppeteer. He makes his own puppets and puts on shows for his family.

Chris Schuepp
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