Sonny sits on a rock with Skippy the kangaroo's paws resting on his arm
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/collection/hero_image05-2019/nfsa_0686_skippy_webheader_1.jpg

Skippy

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo – celebrating the hit 1960s TV show

The Bush Kangaroo from Waratah Park

'What's that, Skip? More than 50 years an icon?'.

The adventures of Sonny Hammond and Skippy the bush kangaroo in Waratah National Park in the late 1960s captured the country's imagination and showcased Australia to the world.

At its height, Skippy was screening in 128 countries to an audience of over 300 million people each week, extraordinary figures even by today's standards.

The actors who played Sonny (Garry Pankhurst), Head Ranger Matt Hammond (Ed Devereaux), Mark Hammond (Ken James), Clancy Merrick (Liza Goddard) and Flight Ranger Jerry King (Tony Bonner) were mobbed wherever they went.

This collection takes a fond look back at the original series of 91 episodes, made by Fauna Productions between 1966 and 1969, and spin-off movie Skippy and The Intruders (1969).

It features clips from the show and trailer for the movie, interviews with the cast, merchandise, music, parodies, advertisements, behind-the-scenes production materials and more.

For even more Skippy, visit our More Skippy curated collection and view the Skippy online exhibition.

Skippy's Amazing Skills
Courtesy:
Fauna Productions
Year:
Year

A compilation of clips from Skippy demonstrating the bush kangaroo's incredible skills, especially with her paws. Who knew a kangaroo could open doors, play musical instruments or untie knots?

Also seen in this compilation are regular series cast members Head Ranger Matt Hammond (Ed Devereaux), his sons Sonny (Garry Pankhurst) and Mark (Ken James), Flight Ranger Jerry King (Tony Bonner) and Clancy Merrick (Liza Goddard).

A total of three series and 91 episodes of Skippy (AKA Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) were produced by Fauna Productions between 1966 and 1969. There was also a spin-off feature film, The Intruders (AKA Skippy and the Intruders), directed by Lee Robinson and released in Australia in December 1969.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen

'What's Wrong, Skip?': Speaking Skippy's Language
Courtesy:
Fauna Productions
Year:
Year

A compilation of clips from Skippy showing her legendary ability to communicate with humans.

Skippy's unique 'tch tch tch' sound could mean everything from a simple 'Yes' to 'Sonny's trapped down a well and I need you to fetch the helicopter so we can rescue him right now!'.

Also seen in this compilation are regular series cast members Head Ranger Matt Hammond (Ed Devereaux), his sons Sonny (Garry Pankhurst) and Mark (Ken James), Flight Ranger Jerry King (Tony Bonner) and Clancy Merrick (Liza Goddard).

A total of three series and 91 episodes of Skippy (AKA Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) were produced by Fauna Productions between 1966 and 1969. There was also a spin-off feature film, The Intruders (AKA Skippy and the Intruders), directed by Lee Robinson and released in Australia in December 1969.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen

Skippy Guest Stars
Courtesy:
Fauna Productions
Year:
Year

The Skippy TV series attracted a who's who of Australian actors as guest stars, during its production in the second half of the 1960s.

This compilation of clips from Skippy features many of those actors, from Frank Thring and Jack Thompson to shark expert Valerie Taylor, pop group The Executives (singing a version of the theme song) and members of the Aboriginal Theatre from Yirrkala, Arnhem Land.

Also seen in this compilation are regular series cast members Head Ranger Matt Hammond (Ed Devereaux), his sons Sonny (Garry Pankhurst) and Mark (Ken James), Flight Ranger Jerry King (Tony Bonner) and Clancy Merrick (Liza Goddard).

A total of three series and 91 episodes of Skippy (AKA Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) were produced by Fauna Productions between 1966 and 1969. There was also a spin-off feature film, The Intruders (AKA Skippy and the Intruders), directed by Lee Robinson and released in Australia in December 1969.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Skippy: protecting the environment
Courtesy:
Fauna Productions
Year:
Year

This compilation of clips from Skippy shows the care taken by producers to stress the importance of caring for the environment and its wildlife.

Skippy lived in the bush at Waratah National Park and was never a pet of the Hammond family. Also seen in this compilation are Waratah's Head Ranger, Matt Hammond (Ed Devereaux), and his sons Sonny (Garry Pankhurst) and Mark (Ken James), as well as Flight Ranger Jerry King (Tony Bonner) and Clancy Merrick (Liza Goddard).

A total of three series and 91 episodes of Skippy (AKA Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) were produced by Fauna Productions between 1966 and 1969. There was also a spin-off feature film, The Intruders (AKA Skippy and the Intruders), directed by Lee Robinson and released in Australia in December 1969.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen

Skippy: 'An Eventful Day'
Courtesy:
Fauna Productions
Year:
Year

This compilation of clips from Skippy shows some typical adventures that Sonny (Garry Pankhurst) and Skippy shared in Waratah National Park. 

Seen in this compilation are series regulars Head Ranger Matt Hammond (Ed Devereaux), his sons Sonny (Garry Pankhurst) and Mark (Ken James), Flight Ranger Jerry King (Tony Bonner) and Clancy Merrick (Liza Goddard) – as well as a number of human and animal guest stars!

This clips also includes a short excerpt of the opening credits, with the instantly recognisable – and memorable – theme tune by Eric Jupp.  

A total of three series and 91 episodes of Skippy (AKA Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) were produced by Fauna Productions between 1966 and 1969. There was also a spin-off feature film, The Intruders (AKA Skippy and the Intruders), directed by Lee Robinson and released in Australia in December 1969.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen

The Bushrangers Sing Hippity Hop
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
19711
Courtesy:
Fauna Productions
Year:
Year

Guest stars 'The Bushrangers' (AKA pop group The Executives) sing 'Hippity Hop', a version of the familiar Skippy theme tune, complete with lyrics – and a drum solo from Skippy herself.

The clip also features some enthusiastic dancing from series regulars Mark Hammond (played by Ken James) and Clancy Merrick (Liza Goddard).

This clip is from Series 1, Episode 35 – 'The Bushrangers'. In the episode, Sonny and Skippy come across a group of men wearing Ned Kelly armour entering a cave in Waratah National Park. Sonny suspects they are the burglars who overpowered Jerry at Ranger Headquarters.

Instead, they turn out to be a pop group, The Bushrangers, who are forced to rehearse in the park because their neighbours complained about the noise. The group eventually help catch the real burglars.

Four members of the Australian pop group The Executives appear as The Bushrangers, with actor Fred Sims playing the fifth member of the group. The Executives first formed in 1966 and recorded several Top 40 hit songs.

Revel in more Skippy nostalgia in the Skippy the Bush Kangaroo online exhibition and curated collections part one and two.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

The Skippy cast reflect
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
787311
Year:
Year

In this excerpt from Skippy: Australia's First Superstar (Stephen Oliver, Australia-UK, 2009), members of the cast reflect on the roles they played in the show.

Featured are Garry Pankhurst (Sonny Hammond), Tony Bonner (Jerry King), Ken James (Mark Hammond) and Liza Goddard (Clancy Merrick).

The producers have done well to track down the main stars of the show, except for Ed Deveraux (who passed away in 2003). The interviews are informal and candid, which endears the interviewee to the viewer. Like their characters, the actors come across as unpretentious and human.

These interviews were recorded 40 years after production on Skippy had finished so the excerpts from the show usefully remind us how the actors appeared on TV. This clip allows you to relive some memories as well as satisfy your curiosity about how the young cast members appear now.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

Blue plastic tea set with kangaroo motif in red cardboard box. 'Skippy Tea Set' logo on box.
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/10-2018/771420_0003_007_tea_set.jpg
Skippy tea set
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
771420
Year:
Year

Made by the TV program's production company Fauna Production Pty Ltd, this is 'Skippy's very own tea set'.

The tea set is modelled to look like fine English china, but is made of pastel blue plastic. Each item in the set has a sticker on the front showing a stylised kangaroo and the Skippy logo.

The set consists of a tea pot with lid, milk jug, sugar bowl, four cups and saucers, four side plates and a full set of white plastic cutlery.

The box features line drawings of Sonny and Skippy, Sonny's bicycle, and the park vehicles – such as the helicopter, the Ranger's ute, a boat launch and a car.

The box also has the Waratah National Park Wildlife Reserve logo of a flowering waratah.

Somewhat disappointingly, other text on the box warns not to use with hot liquids: 'Keep away from heat'.

Notes by Adam Blackshaw

Sport of Kings: Skippy places a bet
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
7421
Courtesy:
Fauna Productions
Year:
Year

In Series 2, Episode 35 – 'The Sport of Kings', Skippy and Sonny are at the racetrack to watch Mark Hammond compete. After Sonny explains the process of betting to Skippy, the clever kangaroo places a $1 bet on a horse called Wallaby Bill.

Not surprisingly, Wallaby Bill wins the race and Skippy collects her winnings from the bookmaker.

This is a good example of a scene where Skippy is shown to possess remarkable abilities beyond those of a regular kangaroo. While her exploits may stretch the limits of credulity, they are also one of the ingredients of the show's success and why it was so beloved by audiences worldwide.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

The Skippy Club: Advertisement
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
48545
Year:
Year

In this TV advertisement for the Skippy Club, Ed Devereaux is in character as Head Ranger Matt Hammond, standing in front of the fictitious 'Ranger Headquarters, Waratah National Park'.

At its peak, the Skippy Club boasted nearly 70,000 members. Long before the internet, the club allowed Skippy fans to learn more about the show, order merchandise and be kept updated by the production company that made the program.

This 30-second advertisement consists of a simple, one-camera shot with Ed Devereaux speaking directly to the audience. The only allowance for post production is a cutaway to a close-up of the Skippy badge.

Nevertheless it achieves its intentions – Devereaux's authoritative delivery would make any child want to immediately join the club – and reminds us today what a popular phenomenon Skippy was in the late 1960s.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

Tony Bonner: There were some funny moments
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
657661
Year:
Year

In this excerpt from an oral history recording, Tony Bonner, who played helicopter pilot Jerry King, shares his amusement at the clever skills attributed to kangaroos by the writers of Skippy.

While Skippy was never actually seen composing a Bach sonata on the show, as Bonner jokingly suggests, she did carry all manner of objects in her pouch, deliver the mail, follow instructions and many other tasks.

Bonner also makes reference to the northern Sydney suburbs of Terrey Hills and Duffys Forest, where Waratah Park was located and Skippy was filmed.

Nigel Giles interviewed Tony Bonner for the NFSA Oral History program in 2005.

Prior to making Skippy, Tony Bonner featured as a lifesaver in the film They're A Weird Mob (1966), in which Ed Devereaux (Ranger Matt Hammond in Skippy) also appears.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

Skippy moneybox advertisement
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
120054

The success of Skippy meant that other companies quickly saw an opportunity to promote products and services to the same audience.

This advertisement from the Commercial Banking Company (CBC Bank) is an excellent example. As an incentive to opening a 'Skippy savings account' with CBC, they tempt children with the promise of a 'fur-covered Skippy (and joey) moneybox'.

Interestingly, the animated Skippy that talks to children in this advertisement is a mother kangaroo with a joey. While the TV Skippy had a pouch and was female, Skippy never produced a joey on the series. Nonetheless, the link to the TV show is effectively maintained throughout by having the familiar Skippy theme song playing in the background.

CBC Bank was established in 1834 and based in Sydney. In 1982 it merged with the National Bank of Australasia to form the National Australia Bank (NAB).

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

John McCallum on Skippy's Secret
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1484986
Year:
Year

Shani Wood interviews Skippy co-creator, John McCallum, on Meeting in the Middle.

Meeting in the Middle was an early Sunday evening chat show hosted by Canberra teenagers that ran for 26 weeks. The idea was to have teenagers interview celebrities, asking questions they had devised themselves. The show aimed to bridge the 'generation gap'.

Shani wastes no time candidly asking what her viewers want to hear about – Skippy. Aware of his younger audience, McCallum gives a clear and entertaining explanation of why the series employed more than one kangaroo to play Skippy.

There is general agreement that actor and producer John McCallum, director Lee Robinson and lawyer Bob Austin, who together formed Fauna Productions, were all crucial to the success of Skippy. McCallum was also executive producer on two episodes, Long Way Home and Be Our Guest.

The production values in this clip from Meeting in the Middle are kept simple but the two-camera studio shoot focuses the attention on the interviewer and interviewee and effectively helps us stay engaged with what is being said.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

Skippy Behind-the-scenes test film
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
2591
Courtesy:
Fauna Productions
Year:
Year

This is rare, silent footage of the production of Skippy. The clip shows most of the main actors outside and inside Ranger Headquarters.

It is of interest for its behind-the-scenes glimpse of Liza Goddard, Ken James, Tony Bonner and Ed Devereaux preparing for and performing takes on set and on location.

The clapper board reads, 'Techniscope tests. Menzies'. Peter Menzies was the cinematographer on 63 episodes of Skippy and the feature film Skippy and The Intruders (1969).

This film suggests he was testing the Techniscope film stock, either for the television show or the feature film. The widescreen format suggests it was more likely the latter.

Techniscope was a development of the Italian Technicolor Corporation in 1960 aimed at providing an economical film stock. The Techniscope format used a two film-perforation negative pulldown per frame instead of the more familiar four-perforation frame that is found in 35mm film. It was a very successful system and was used to produce hundreds of films.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

Skippy: worldwide fame
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
787311
Year:
Year

In this excerpt from Skippy: Australia's First Superstar (Stephen Oliver, Australia-UK, 2009), narrated by Magda Szubanski, Tony Bonner and Liza Goddard reflect on how overwhelmed they were at their sudden fame.

All around the world they were shocked to find themselves recognised at airports and swamped by journalists and adoring fans. Even 40 years later, the actors seem genuinely surprised by the level of fame they encountered and they tell these anecdotes with an endearing honesty.

A highlight of this clip is seeing excerpts from Skippy dubbed into non-English languages, which is amusing and unusual if you're used to seeing the program broadcast in English.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

Skippy Corn Flakes: You Can Kangaroo!
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
119867

'You can kangaroo, you can!', runs the jingle for this advertisement for Sanitarium Skippy Corn Flakes.

The catchy lyrics include a rollcall of Australian flora and fauna: kookaburras, eucalyptus, cockatoos and platypus, paired with images of people being active or rising from bed to take on the day.

This is undeniably a very effective advertisement, combining feelings of nationalism with a typically Australian tongue-in-cheek humour and a catchy song.

Skippy Corn Flakes is promoted as the 'Aussie Corn Flake', in competition to the American brand, Kellogg's. The final image is even a pastiche of the Australian coat of arms. Skippy Corn Flakes were hugely popular in Australia for many decades.

Images of a kangaroo, in connection with the name of the product, are enough to bring back memories of the Skippy TV show, even though this ad probably dates from the 1970s or '80s, well after the TV show ceased production in 1969.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

Fast Forward: Skippy Parody
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1302133
Year:
Year

Skippy has become such a touchstone in Australian popular culture that it's open to all kinds of lighthearted parody.

In this segment by the comedy team at Fast Forward (Series 3, Episode 13), a very 'stuffed' Skippy is seen performing voodoo rituals in Waratah National Park – without a permit! – and then has an exorcism performed on her which itself is a parody of a classic scene from The Exorcist (William Friedkin, USA, 1973).

In its day, Fast Forward (1989–92) was Australia's highest-rating television sketch comedy show and winner of numerous Australian television awards. Part of what endeared it to audiences was its lack of pretension, which is very much evident in this clip.

The humour may be unsophisticated but it raises laughs because it's so unexpected to combine a children's show like Skippy with adult horror like The Exorcist.

The performances are grossly exaggerated but the characters were so well known to Australian audiences to still be recognisable, even 20 years after the series first screened, thanks also to broadcast repeats of Skippy in the 1970s and '80s.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

Ed Deveraux on In Melbourne Tonight
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1232991
Year:
Year

On the variety show In Melbourne Tonight, host and performer Mike Preston speaks with Ed Devereaux about his role in Skippy and the international popularity of the show.

Devereaux remarks that Head Ranger Matt Hammond, is not so different to his own personality and has been one of the easiest characters he's played.

They then list the extraordinary number of countries where the series has has been sold. Preston mistakenly includes Sweden, where the broadcaster refused to screen Skippy because of the concerns of psychologists, who thought it would be detrimental for children to grow up believing that an animal could manage the feats that the kangaroo star regularly achieved.

This is a delightful example of 1960s variety television in Australia. It gives an interesting insight into how Devereaux approached the character ('very close to what I am really – pretty dull!') and the growing popularity of the show.

The simple camerawork and live production adds to the intimate feel of a friendly conversation on which we are lucky enough to eavesdrop, rather than a formal interview.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

Jeanie Drynan: meeting Skippy
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1205752
Year:
Year

In this excerpt from an oral history interview with actress Jeanie Drynan, she talks about her first day on the set of Skippy, meeting the star of the show and the challenges they had working with kangaroos on set.

Drynan appeared in two episodes of Skippy as well as the feature film, The Intruders (1969).

Margaret Leask interviewed Jeanie Drynan for the NFSA Oral History program in 2014.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen

The Story of Skippy by Ed Devereaux
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
295598

In this spoken word recording, set to music, Ed Devereaux recites a long poem telling the story of Skippy and Sonny and how they first met.

'The Story of Skippy' is the first track on the record Ed Devereaux Sings and Tells the Story of Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo, released to tie-in with the popularity of the hit TV series. The other three tracks are: Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo and versions of 'Along the Road to Gundagai' and 'Waltzing Matilda'.

'The Story of Skippy' is interesting for offering a backstory to Skippy and Sonny ('the boy') that is largely absent from the television show. Devereaux performs it with gusto, engagingly matching his intonation to the rise and fall in the music.

With Devereaux's soothing tones, and the gentle musical backing, this recording could well have been used to lull young children to sleep.

The orchestra on the recording is conducted by Rocky Thomas.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

Skippy and the Intruders: Movie Trailer
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
48495
Courtesy:
Fauna Productions
Year:
Year

'See death-defying abalone divers!' is an unusual selling point for a movie trailer, but it features in this full-length cinema trailer for The Intruders (also known as Skippy and The Intruders). The film was based on the TV series and released in Australia for the summer holidays in December 1969.

Directed by Lee Robinson, the movie starred Kevin Miles as a villain organising a search for sunken treasure while pretending to dive for abalone. The regular cast reprise their roles: Sonny and Clancy are kidnapped, and Sonny's father, brother and Jerry King search for them. Ultimately it is Skippy who comes to their rescue.

The film didn't match the success of the TV series at the box office, despite promising 'breakneck action and magnificent colour', at a time when the series was being broadcast in black-and-white.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

Lee Robinson: the Skippy formula
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
787311
Year:
Year

In this excerpt from Skippy: Australia's First Superstar (Stephen Oliver, Australia-UK, 2009), Lee Robinson, producer and creator of Skippy, discusses the key ingredients of the show in an interview from 1999.

He was firm on several points: Skippy is not a pet; the police are always our friends; mateship is more important than authority; and Sonny has total freedom in the bush.

The sincerity and authority with which Robinson communicates these rules suggests a key reason for Skippy's success – its consistency and simplicity of concept. 

The use of clips from the show to illustrate how these rules were put into practice supports Robinson's firm opinion as to their importance.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

Skippy at Newcastle shopping mall
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
426357
Year:
Year

Large crowds gather at a Newcastle shopping mall in 1969 to see 'Skippy' with her handler, Scotty Denholm. Skippy's popularity saw huge crowds turn out on this national tour.

This silent clip appears to be footage that would later have been edited into a television news segment. The camera crew have effectively captured the size and enthusiasm of the crowd who turned out to see Skippy.

It gives a good indication of the popularity of the TV show and 'Skippy mania' in Australia at the time. Children perch on shop displays for a better look and crowd in at the end of the clip for a chance to pat the kangaroo.

See also: footage of Skippy at Monaro Mall in Canberra, 1969.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo by Eric Jupp
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
337425
Year:
Year

One of the most recognisable Australian television theme songs, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo was composed by English-born musician and band leader Eric Jupp (1922-2003).

A familiar presence throughout the 1960s and early 1970s in Australia, thanks to popular and long-running ABC-TV variety series The Magic of Music (1961–74), Jupp was also a leading composer for film and TV.

The richness of the score he composed for Skippy is an example of the strength of his work and recognition from the producers of the importance of music in drama.

In addition to screening in Australia, the Skippy series was also translated into multiple languages and broadcast in dozens of countries.

Reruns of the series on the Nine Network ensured the series had a lasting impact on generations of Australian children.