One of the last surviving Emu puppets (yes, there were more than one) made £8,680 including buyer’s premium at Chippenham Auction Rooms today.
The puppet, which was made in the mid-to-late 1980s for TV production company Endemol, was bought by the man behind CBBC’s Hacker the Dog, puppeteer Phil Fletcher from Wigan, bidding on the phone. He had to go well over the £750-1000 estimate but was delighted with the result.
Fletcher, who also makes and collects puppets, said: “I’m 41 so I vividly remember seeing Emu on television when I was growing up. Rod Hull was one of the best puppeteers, but also criminally under-rated. Because audiences totally bought into the character of Emu, they forgot that Rod was operating him. He was brilliant.”
Emu will now sit on the couch at his home in Wigan alongside George, the pink hippo from ITV’s 1970s and ‘80s children’s show Rainbow.
BAFTA-nominated Fletcher has been operating Hacker the Dog on CBBC since 2009 and has over 30 years’ experience as a professional puppeteer. He says he has ‘hundreds’ of puppets in his collection, most in his attic. These include a version of Keith Harris’s Orville, used in a television advertisement for Surf washing powder, and Sooty and Sweep.
The Emu puppet sold in Wiltshire was made for a pilot TV show and cost £10,000 to construct. However, the TV show’s producer Endemol ultimately decided to use a different version of the puppet, so this one was kept in reserve, hence its excellent condition.
It was sold by a private collector from Radstock, Somerset.
Chat show attacker
English comedian Rod Hull first used Emu on an Australian television show, then returned to the UK and established the act here. The puppet infamously destroyed the Queen Mother’s bouquet of flowers after the 1972 Royal Variety Performance and, most famously, attacked talk show host Michael Parkinson on his BBC1 programme in 1976.
During the late 1970s and ‘80s, Rod Hull and Emu had a series of shows on ITV, but by the late 80s the act was losing its popularity and Hull got into debt. Hull died in 1999 when he fell from the roof of his home while attempting to adjust his television aerial.