End of the line for Mr Squiggle animator The man behind the legendary Mr Squiggle, Norman Hetherington, has died at the age of 89.
Mr Squiggle was the cheery pencil-nosed puppet who lived on the moon, turned scribbles into masterpieces and had a pet rocket.
On air for more than 40 years, Mr Squiggle was Australia's longest-running children's television series. It featured a marionette who visited his friends -- Grumpy the blackboard, Gus the Snail and Bill the Steam Shovel -- from his home at 93 Crater Crescent on the moon.
Hetherington, who both created the show and operated the puppet, died in the early hours of yesterday morning after a long battle with prostate and bone cancer.
His wife, Peggy -- who wrote scripts for the series -- was "far too upset" to talk with The Australian yesterday. However, former Mr Squiggle producer and long-time family friend Beverley Gledhill said Hetherington had a "magical gift". "Anyone who had anything to do with Mr Squiggle just loved him. It was just fantastic; he became a real person," Gledhill said.
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"So many people have had Mr Squiggle in their lives . . . Norman brought a whole new age of puppeteering to a generation."
First appearing on July 1, 1959, Mr Squiggle would create pictures with his pencil nose from "squiggles" sent in by viewers.
Often Mr Squiggle drew his pictures upside-down. He was always helped by his human female assistant, the most famous of whom was Jane Fennell, known as Miss Jane. His female counterpart would often have to calm the puppet down, with his frequent distractions.
Peggy and Norman's daughter, Rebecca Hetherington, featured as Miss Rebecca in the final years of Mr Squiggle before the last episode was shot on July 9, 1999.
Hetherington began his career as a cartoonist at The Bulletin before appearing in the first television broadcast on the ABC in 1956 with his puppets Nicky and Noodle. He then went on to pen Jolly Gene & His Fun Machine for the Seven Network in 1957 before beginning a lifetime journey with Mr Squiggle.
Hetherington was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 1990 "for services to children's programs and puppetry".
Last year he was presented with the coveted Jim Russell Award by the Australian Cartoonists Association for "outstanding contribution to Australian cartooning".
Pat Lovell, who played Miss Pat between 1960 and 1975, said she was "very sad" to hear of Hetherington's passing.
"Norman was an incredibly competent puppeteer; he was one of the best I have ever met," Ms Lovell told The Australian.
"He was the most dedicated man and I think really loved children -- that's why he did it for so long. He can't be replaced -- he is irreplaceable."
Hetherington is survived by his wife, Peggy, children Rebecca and Simon, and several grandchildren.