One of the last surviving Emu puppets (yes there was more than one) won £8,680 including buyer’s premium at the Chippenham Auction Rooms today.
The puppet, which was made in the mid to late 1980s for television production company Endemol, was bought by the man behind CBBC’s Hacker the Dog, puppeteer Phil Fletcher from Wigan, bidding over the phone. He was expected to go well over the £750-1,000 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 TV when I was growing up. Rod Hull was one of the best puppeteers, but also criminally underrated. Because audiences totally bought into the character of Emu, they forgot that Rod was directing him. He was brilliant.
Emu will now sit on the sofa in his home in Wigan alongside George, the pink hippo from ITV’s 1970s and 1980s children’s show Rainbow.
BAFTA-nominated Fletcher has operated Hacker the Dog on CBBC since 2009 and has over 30 years of experience as a professional puppeteer. He says he has “hundreds” of puppets in his collection, most of them in his attic. These include a version of Orville by Keith Harris, used in a television commercial for Surf laundry detergent, and Sooty and Sweep.
The Emu puppet being sold in Wiltshire was made for a pilot TV show and cost £10,000 to build. However, the show’s producer Endemol eventually decided to use a different version of the puppet, so it was kept in reserve, hence its excellent condition.
It was sold by a private collector from Radstock, Somerset.
English comedian Rod Hull first used Emu on an Australian TV show, then moved back to the UK and established the act here. The puppet sadly 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 program in 1976.
In the late 1970s and 1980s Rod Hull and Emu had a series of shows on ITV, but by the late 1980s the act was losing popularity and Hull ran into debt. Hull died in 1999 when he fell from the roof of his house while trying to adjust his television antenna.