Muffin the Mule was a puppet character on the British children’s television show For the Children that first aired on the BBC in 1946. The show featured a wooden puppet mule who would interact and dance along with human characters. Although the show was very popular with children, it also had an appeal for adults. The humour and wit of the show made it entertaining for all ages. Over the years, Muffin the Mule has become an iconic figure in British culture. He is often referenced in popular culture and has been featured in commercials, movies, and books. For many people, Muffin the Mule is a reminder of their childhood and a symbol of British culture. We take a brief look how Muffin the Mule was created and look at some of the Muffin the Mule collectables and Muffin the Mule merchandise over the years in this Collecting Muffin the Mule feature. (Click for current Muffin the Mule collectibles on ebay).
The original Muffin the Mule puppet was created in 1933 by puppet maker Fred Tickner for puppeteers Jan Bussell and Ann Hogarth. Although we know him as Muffin, the puppet was originally unnamed. The puppet was part of a puppet circus made for the Hogarth Puppet Theatre. The couple had met while they were both working as puppeteers in London. They married in 1932 and decided to open their own puppet theatre. The original Muffin the Mule puppet was made from papier-mâché and had a wooden head. It was operated by two strings, one attached to each side of the head.
Muffin was used for a short while but as Jan Bussell and Ann Hogarth moved on to more experimental and dramatic puppetry he was put away, re-appearing some 12 years later 1946. Bussell and Hogarth were working with presenter Annette Mills (sister of actor John Mills). Annette Mills named the puppet mule “Muffin”, and it first appeared on television in an edition of For the Children broadcast on 20 October 1946, where she performed as a singer, pianist and story teller. She wrote the songs and the music, including Muffin’s popular signature theme song “We Want Muffin! (Muffin The Mule)”, some of which appeared Muffin the Mule songbooks, as well as making records. Ann Hogarth wrote the scripts for the series. The show ran on the BBC until 1955 when Annette Mills died.
During the show Muffin the Mule used to clip-clop and dance around on top of a piano which was being played by Annette Mills. Annette and Muffin would interact and the show appealed to not only children but to adults as well. Other characters were later added to the show including Prudence the Kitten (who went on to have her own show), Mr Peregrine the Penguin, Sally the Sea-Lion, Louise the Lamb, Oswald the Ostrich, and Morris and Doris the field mice.
As Muffin the Mule’s popularity grew a range of merchandising, toys and comics were created mainly on Muffin but a few products were created featuring other characters. Lesney created a die-cast movable puppet which according the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh was “the first toy to be marketed under licence as a result of a successful TV appearances“.
Other items include Toy Television Sets, a Muffin the Mule Pelham Puppet, games, Metal figures by Argosy Toys, licensed pottery, tins and much more.