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King Rollo

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Little Gems - King Rollo

King Rollo was created by the brilliantly talented David McKee (both artist and author) who produced a variety of children's material from the late 1970s and 1980s (most of which I was brought up with). David McKee was the script editor for the brilliant but often underrated Towser series which was made in a similar style to King Rollo and Mr Benn. King Rollo was made around the late 1970s and consisted of thirteen (yes - I know it seems there were more - a bit like Mr Benn, now I come to think about it) five minute animations for young children (although who hasn't been watching it recently on Sky?). Hang on, only 13 Mr Benns, that can't be right - well there was: The Red Knight, The Caveman, The Hunter, The Wizard, The Diver, The Cowboy, The Spaceman, The Clown, The Cook, The Zoo-Keeper, The Pirate, The Balloonist and The Magic Carpet.

The books were actually released in the late 1970s (first one around 1979, I believe). His first book was actually published in 1964 but this was not concerned with King Rollo. David McKee's most famous series of books is concerned with Elmer the Patchwork Elephant. These books as indeed the King Rollo books can still be purchased today. Even now my kids love watching and reading about the little King and his faithful cat Hamlet. Hamlet in some way reminded me of the Owl in Towser - says nothing but is always on hand to watch and help. A recent car boot sale purchase of King Roll's Autumn provided me with the idea for placing King Rollo in the Little Gems list as this is a fantastic little animation. The seller though, did not want to part with the book for a penny less than 35 pence. Other great books by David McKee for all ages include: Charlotte's Piggy Bank (1996), Prince Peter and The Teddy Bear (1997) and Mary's Secret (1999). After a period of relative quiet for King Rollo and indeed Mr Benn, two new books came out in 2001. These were titled, "King Rollo And The New Stockings," a brand new adventure for King Rollo and the other was titled "Mr Benn - Gladiator," the first new Mr Benn story for over 20 years. From time to time there have been rumours of a Mr Benn film but as yet, I have no definite news about this and it very much appears to be a case of wishful thinking.

The name Rollo was then used for the production company King Rollo Films Ltd. formed by David McKee and his associates Clive Juster and Leo Nielsen. King Rollo Films Ltd. have gone from strength to strength and reached a new height with their BAFTA award winning children's series Maisy winning the British Animation Award in the pre-school category and a BAFTA award for best pre school animation (my kids adore this program and they have worn out the heads of two VCRs to prove it).

King Rollo concerned the adventures of a little King called Rollo, Queen Gwen and the court subjects - namely the Cook, the Magician and Hamlet the cat. King Rollo was a young free spirited sort of King who had to learn many a lesson from those around him who generally knew better. Whatever he did right or wrong, he always did it with a smile on his face. He was very quick to try something without thinking about the consequences. Queen Gwen lived next door in a palace and was often round at the castle with King Rollo. I'm not sure as to her relationship with Rollo although he did get a kiss from her in one episode. The Cook as the name suggests took care of the catering, although she was also responsible for maintaining order in the Castle and making the King tidy up his toys and bedroom. Hamlet the cat was a very faithful and charming cat but more often than not, was there shadowing the King, picking up after or recovering items as King Rollo went out on one of his adventures. There were very few other characters in the series which was typical for this series and others such as Towser and Mr Benn.

Anyone with memories, comments, suggestions etc. then please email me at the usual address.

Characters from some of the episodes

King Rollo

Queen Gwen

Hamlet the Cat

The Cook

The Magician

The Farmer

King Frank's dog
(coming soon)

Shop owner

King Frank
(coming soon)

Click links below to go to detailed episode guide
with images (no known order)
Below is quick episode synopsis
King Rollo and The Playroom King Rollo is making a mess in the playroom and he learns an important lesson that you must always clear away your things once you've finished playing with them (my kids could do with taking a lesson from this episode).
King Rollo and The New Shoes King Rollo gets some new shoes and is proudly showing them off. He soon runs into trouble though when it comes to tieing the laces. At first, the Magician helps, but he later refuses to do up the laces (off with his head).
King Rollo and The Tree King Rollo is out in the Royal garden with all the others. Cook is knitting and having trouble with Hamlet & the wool. King Rollo ignores the warnings from all his friends at Court and decides to go tree climbing. He climbs the largest tree in the Castle garden. Oh dear, a big mistake by the King which ends with a large bump.
King Rollo and The Birthday The Cook reminds King Rollo that tomorrow is Queen Gwen's birthday. King Rollo wants to get her a very special card. What should he do about it though? Buy her the best card from the local shop. Cook does not agree that it is the best card and that he should make her one himself..
King Rollo and The Balloons King Rollo is looking through a drawer for a pack of balloons. He asks the Magician to blow one up but the Magician is too busy. King Rollo and Hamlet persevere though.
King Rollo and The Bread The Magician and King Rollo encounter a farmer, who is sitting down to a lunch of just bread. King Rollo offers to get his magician to change the bread into roast chicken or cake or spaghetti or ice cream. The farmer, though, only wants to eat the bread his wife made him.
King Rollo And The Bath The King is in need of a good bath but he is not too keen on the idea. Too much to do and so many other distractions, he has no time for a bath. The Cook takes the matter in hand and tries to get King Rollo to have the bath. Eventually the magician comes up with a spell or two to help everyone.
King Rollo And The Search The magician is very busy looking for a certain something. Everyone wants to help but he can't remember what he's lost! How will the King and his subjects solve this one.
King Rollo And The Dog King Rollo meets a dog and decides to keep him. All is fun and games until King Rollo learns that keeping a pet is a job that requires a lot of responsibility.
King Rollo And The Dishes The Cook is away and so King Rollo and the Magician are doing the washing up. This is a very long & boring job, perhaps a little magic could help. Perhaps they should just do the work.
King Rollo And The Breakfast The Cook is ill and cannot make breakfast as she is laid up in bed. King Rollo realises that he will have to make his own breakfast but how will he cope without the sensible Cook to watch over him. As per usual, Hamlet is ever watchful.
King Rollo And King Frank King Frank is coming around for tea. King Rollo should be looking forward to it but instead is worried that Frank will boss him around. This is made even more apparent when we see King Frank as he is bigger than King Rollo. King Frank has a dog with him which makes things interesting for Hamlet the cat.
King Rollo And The Comic When King Rollo's comic arrives with the post, he ignores everything and everyone around him. He is becoming obsessed with the comic and must be taught a lesson or two.

And so would end a charming short animation. Beautifully made but simple in its filming and scripting. We will certainly not see the like of this gem again. To those who say that young children require fancy special effects with huge budgets and silly comedy routines in today's children's programs should take note. King Rollo & Mr Benn are the programs my children choose to watch instead of the material currently presented on television.

King Rollo's Autumn
King Rollo Main Page Episode guide King Rollo Books King Rollo's Autumn


The Film Makers:
Stories and Drawings by David McKee
Animation by Leo Beltoft.
Voice by Ray Brooks
Music by Duncan Lamont.
Editor by Clive Juster.
© King Rollo Films Ltd MCMLXXIX