Play School is one of my all time favourite television show for kids. It has been around for more than forty-five years and has reached up to three generations of family members over the years. I was lucky enough to visit the Play School set recently to see a show being filmed, meet some of the cast and crew and talk to the art department. I’ve always been fascinated with the amazing art projects they create for little ones that are simple to copy at home.
First, let me tell you a little about watching the filming. The cast were having so much fun and I watched a clothes pegging scene over and over again where they were either one peg short, stealing each other’s pegs or the clothes just wouldn’t cooperate. They had a great time.
One show takes about four hours to rehearse and another four hours to shoot on a different day. The Art Department gets the scripts at least one week before rehearsal to find all the bits and pieces and make the various props required for each program. They have about three days between rehearsal and recording to fine-tune the props.
The art department is actually a lot smaller than you would imagine. Depending on what’s going on there are usually only between one and three people in there at any one time. I went downstairs for a visit and was overwhelmed with the number of toilet rolls and paper towel rolls they had on hand.
We talked about the process for coming up with the art projects on the show. It all starts with a brainstorming meeting with the early childhood specialists and the producer to discuss a series theme and some of the key props needed. Each episode’s outline is put together with suggestions for things to make which are then modified in discussion with the producer, script writer and art department. The art department then works hard to successfully translate the original ideas into working props.
One amazing fact I learnt is that there have been eighty-six regular presenters over the forty-five years Play School has been on air. I was surprised to hear how many have been involved. The longest serving past presenters include Benita Collings and John Hamblin, while some of the current presenters have been with the show for more than ten years – Andrew McFarlane, Justine Clarke, Jay Laga’aia, Leah Vandenberg, Karen Pang, Sofya Gollan and Simon Burke to name a few.
What was the highlight for me? Of course, it was giving Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima and Humpty a great big cuddle!
I want to leave you with a few shots of Trisha, Colin, Betina and John to bring back some childhood memories.