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30 Kids' Shows of the 1930s

30 Kids' Shows of the 1930s

(NB. For Kids' TV of the 1940s, please click HERE.)

The BBC first became involved in television broadcasting way back in 1929 when John Logie Baird used their London transmitter to send out experimental programming. By March 1930 there was simultaneous transmission of pictures and sound, and by the end of the year there was regular scheduled programming, with 30 minutes on weekday mornings and another 30 minutes at midnight on Tuesdays and Fridays, after radio broadcasts had finished for the day.

Jane Carr for 30 line television
Jane Carr in make up for 30 line TV transmission in 1932.

In 1932 the Beeb took over from Baird with their own service, producing programming in the basement of Broadcasting House for television enthusiasts with 'home brew' 32 line receivers. The service was successful enough for the move to a bigger studio in 1934, and then to progress to experimental broadcasts for a full service in 1936. Although the official transmitting range was limited to the London area, and further transmitters would not be set up until 1949, in practice the signal could sometimes be picked up further afield.

Still, with two competing processes, it was decided that the first six months of the service would alternate between Baird's 240-line intermediate system and Marconi-EMI's 405-line system, with the most successful becoming the BBC standard. In practice Baird's system proved expensive, with footage filmed live then having to be exposed and scanned for transmission. On the other hand, the system did provide a copy of live broadcast which could be used again later.

Marconi Television Sets 1938
1938 brochure for Marconi television sets - 45 guineas is the equivalent of shelling out around £9,000 today, while 200 guineas is an eye watering £36,000.

In the end it was the picture quality that sounded the death knell for the intermediate system. Baird's cameras had limited mobility and, when 1937 saw the development of television tubes more sensitive to light, the differences became noticeable. The BBC broadcast using the 240-line system for the last time on Saturday 13th February 1937.

405-line would live on until January 3rd 1985.

This grainy vid is the only live footage we have of pre-war BBC television, and the story of how it came to exist is film worthy in itself! Sun spot activity in 1938 meant that the BBC signal, typically only able to travel around 30 miles, was bounced across 3,000 miles to New York where some geeky soul filmed the event on a cine camera placed in front of their TV set.

The footage shows BBC continuity announcers Jasmine Bligh and Elizabeth Cowell, along with excerpts from a drama and a cartoon. The latter seems to be Disney's Mother Goose Melodies (1931), though BBC Genome, the Radio Times archive, has no record of it airing.

You can also see a quick glimpse of viewers 'looking in' on Adele Dixon singing Television, the song written for the service's opening ceremony in 1936, in Television Comes To London.

In 1936 children's programming was very much an afterthought, with the few shows that might appeal to children not being specifically aimed at them. On December 4th, for example, H.S. Foxwell of Teddy Tail fame was on the air drawing freehand cartoons - well after children were tucked up in bed. Similarly, circus shows and dramatised fairy tales were meant to appeal to everyone.

By early 1937 programmes begin to be explicitly targeted at children however. On February 6th the Radio Times made a point of telling potential viewers that their 3pm Fairy Story would be narrated by Harcourt Williams, a regular contributor to the London Children's Hour on BBC Radio. On March 13th, George Queen's Pantomime Goose was billed as 'For the Children', and on April 10th Living History saw E. K. Milliken, M.A. (Oxon.), Head-master of Lancing House Preparatory School, Lowestoft, giving some of his lucky boys a lesson on the mediaeval tournament, illustrated with the use of miniature figures.

Coverage of kids was there, if irregular, with such topics as a children's fashion parade (4th December 1936), live outdoor footage of children playing in the grounds of Alexandra Palace (21st July 1937), and part of the the Inter-Schools Spelling Bee (1st September 1938). By 1939 there were 23,000 TV licences issued - about 0.3% of the London population - so the seemingly random mix of content isn't overly surprising. Television was still something of an expensive novelty and, though its potential was fairly clear, it had an awful long way to go before it became a true mass media tool.

Puppets were already a staple of kids TV by mid-1937 just the same, with regular marionette productions and Punch and Judy shows performed by the likes of Bruce McLeod and P.F. Tickner. Then, in July 1937, the BBC showed a cartoon film for the first time: Walt Disney's Mickey's Pal Pluto. This seems to have been something of an experiment, and proved successful enough that when TV scheduling returned after summer close-down cartoon films became a staple - but only for the evening broadcast slot.

It wasn't until December 1937 that cartoons were shown as part of the afternoon broadcast schedule with any regularity. The cartoons were usually Disney, though occasionally other studios like Van Beuren and Pat Sullivan got a look in. Still, it was Mickey Mouse who was the last thing British TV viewers saw before the service was suspended with the outbreak of World War Two. When television broadcast began again in June 1946, the BBC picked up where they left off with everybody's favourite mouse!

Anyway, read on for 30 cartoons aired in daytime slots on 1930s BBC television....

Mickey's Pal Pluto (1933) | 8 min | 18 February 1933 (USA)

Aired 22/07/1937 at 9:15pm and again on 23/07/1937 at 3:15pm. It was then shown on Sunday 26/02/1939 at 3:45pm, Tuesday 28/02/1939 at 3:45pm, and Wednesday 29/02/1939 at 9:10pm.

The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg (1936) | 7 min | 7 February 1936 (USA)

This was the first Felix the Cat short to be produced in colour. It aired on the BBC at 3:55pm on 30/10/1937.

Toonerville Trolley (1936) | 7 min

This colour cartoon from the Van Beuren Studio was part of their Rainbow Parade series. It aired on the BBC at 3:50pm on November 1st 1937, and again at 3:15pm on November 4th. Van Beuren's fortunes took a sharp downturn in '37 when RKO began distributing Disney instead, and in 1938 the studio was shut down after Amadee J. Van Beuren suffered a stroke.

The Mail Pilot (1933) | 8 min | 14 April 1933 (USA)

Mickey Mouse quickly became a BBC staple. The Mail Pilot first aired on the BBC at 3:10 pm on December 4th, 1937, and was then repeated on the 7th at 9:10pm. Its next airing came in 1939 on Wednesday 19th July at 3:25pm, followed by another on Thursday 20th July at 3:40pm

Puppy Love (1933) | 8 min | 2 September 1933 (UK)

There are two contenders for the cartoon film of December 18th. Disney produced a 'Puppy Love' short in 1933, featuring Mickey Mouse and Pluto, but Ub Iwerks had also produced a Flip the Frog 'Puppy Love' short in 1932. Based on previous offerings, it was probably the Disney version.

Either way, Puppy Love aired at 3:10pm on 18/12/1937. It was shown again on Wednesday 9th November 1938 at 9:30pm and Saturday 12th November 1938 at 3:05pm.

Musical Farmer (1932) | 7 min | 11 July 1932 (USA)

This aired at 3:30pm on Christmas Day 1937. It was shown again on 30/12/1937 (9:40pm),

The Hunting Season (1935) | 7 min | 9 August 1935 (USA)

Also known as 'Hunters are Coming', this short was shown on December 27th 1937 at 3pm. It was shown again on 01/01/1938 (9:40pm) and 07/01/1938 (3:50pm).

The Merry Kittens (1935) | 7 min | 15 May 1935 (USA)

This super cute short was shown at 3:40pm on 30th December 1937.

The Steeplechase (1933) | 7 min | 30 September 1933 (USA)

Another Mickey Mouse short that had its first BBC airing on Tuesday 18th January 1938 at 3:10pm. It was shown again on Sunday 5th February 1939 at 3:20pm, Tuesday 7th February 1939 at 3:40pm, Saturday 11th February 1939 at 9:10pm, and Wednesday 24th May 1939 at 3:40pm.

La Joie De Vivre (1934) | 9 min

This frankly weird French cartoon from 1934 was first shown on the BBC on October 14th 1937, in the evening broadcast slot at 9:35pm. It was next shown on Saturday 29th January 1938 at 3:25pm, highlighting the fact that cartoons were a medium meant to entertain both children and adults. Its next airing was on Tuesday 31st March 1939 at 3:25pm, and then again on Saturday 25th March 1939 at 10:10pm.

The Pet Store (1933) | 7 min | 17 October 1933 (USA)

A Disney short featuring Minnie and Mickey Mouse alongside Beppo the Gorilla, it first aired on the BBC on Wednesday 16th February 1938 at 9:15pm. It was shown again on Saturday 19th February 1938 at 3:20pm, and then on Tuesday 21st February 1939 at 3:15pm.

The Moose Hunt (1931) | 7 min | 3 May 1931 (USA)

The BBC first aired this Disney short on Friday 25th February 1938 at 9:15pm. It was repeated on Saturday 26th February at 3:10pm, Monday 3rd October 1938 at 3:35pm,

The Spider and the Fly (1931) | 7 min | 16 October 1931 (USA)

Part of Disney's Silly Symphonies series, this short was first shown on the BBC on Friday 4th March 1938 at 3:45pm. It next aired on Friday 18th March 1938 at 9:20pm, then again on Monday 21st March 1938 at 9:15pm. In 1939 it was shown on Monday 19th June at 9:25pm and Thursday 22nd June at 9:40pm.

Birds of a Feather (1931) | 10 February 1931 (USA)

Silly Symphonies' 16th short, this was first shown on the BBC on Monday March 7th 1938 at 3:15pm. It was next shown in 1939 on Monday 10th July at 10:05pm, Wednesday 12th July at 9:15pm, and Saturday 15th July at 3:30pm.

The Castaway (1931) | 7 min | 6 April 1931 (USA)

3:20pm, Wednesday 30th March 1938 saw the first showing of this Mickey Mouse short on the BBC, billed as 'Cast-away'. It was shown again on Saturday 2nd April 1938 at 9:25pm,

Monkey Melodies (1930) | 7 min | 26 September 1930 (USA)

This Silly Symphonies short was first shown on the BBC on Sunday 3rd April 1938 at 9:20pm. It aired again on Thursday 9th March 1939 at 9:45pm and then on Sunday 12th March 1939 at 3:45pm.

The Ugly Duckling (1931) | 7 min | 16 December 1931 (USA)

BBC first aired this Silly Symphonies short on Sunday 7th August 1938 at 9:35pm. It was shown again on Sunday 4th June 1939 at 3pm, then on Tuesday 6th June 1939 at 9:55pm.

Mickey's Steam Roller (1934) | 7 min | 16 June 1934 (USA)

Billed as 'Steam Roller', this was shown on Sunday 28th August 1938 at 9:15am. It aired again on Thursday 16th March 1939 at 3:10pm, Friday 17th March 1939 at 10pm, and then on Monday 20th March 1939 at 9:45pm.

Shanghaied (1934) | 7 min | 13 January 1934 (USA)

The BBC aired this for the first time on Friday 2nd September 1938 at 9:30pm. Thursday 17th August 1939 at 3:55pm. Saturday 19th August 1939 at 3:45pm.

Blue Rhythm (1931) | 7 min | 7 August 1931 (USA)

This was the 31st short to star Mickey Mouse and first aired on the BBC on Tuesday 4th October 1938 at 9:30pm. It was aired again on Friday 14th April 1939 at 3:15pm, and then on Saturday 15th April 1939 at 10pm.

The China Plate (1931) | 7 min | 25 May 1931 (USA)

It was shown on Wednesday 5th October 1938 at 3:05pm, Friday 11th August 1939 at 3:15pm, and Tuesday 15th August 1939 at 10pm.

Mickey In Arabia (1932) | 7 min | 11 July 1932 (USA)

Tuesday 8th November 1938 at 3:55pm. Tuesday 13th June 1939 at 3:55pm, Thursday 15th June 1939 at 3:20pm, and Saturday 17th June 1939 at 3pm.

Santa's Workshop (1932) | 7 min | 10 December 1932 (USA)

The 33rd offering in Disney's Silly Symphonies series, Santa's Workshop was shown on the BBC on Tuesday 3rd January 1939 at 3:40pm. It was repeated on Saturday 7th January 1939 at 10:05pm.

Playful Pan | 7 min | 27 December 1930 (USA)

This cartoon aired on Tuesday 3rd January 1939 at 9pm, and was then shown again on Sunday 8th January 1939 at 3:30pm.

The Grocery Boy | 7 min | 3 February 1932 (USA)

'Grocery Boy' aired on Tuesday 10th January 1939 at 9:40pm, and was then repeated on Saturday 14th January 1939 at 3:10pm.

The Cat's Out | 7 min | 28 July 1931 (USA)

'Cat's Nightmare' aired on Sunday 15th January 1939 at 3:30pm, and was then repeated on Monday 16th January at 9:50pm.

The Mad Dog | 7 min | 5 March 1932 (USA)

'Mad Dog' was aired on Sunday 15th January at 9:20pm, then repeated on Wednesday 18th January 1939 at 9:35pm and Saturday 21st January at 3:10pm.

Egyptian Melodies | 6 min | 21 August 1931 (USA)

Wednesday 18th January 1939 at 3:25pm.

The Clock Store | 7 min | 28 September 1931 (USA)

'Clock Store' aired on Sunday 22nd January 1939 at 3pm, and was then repeated on Tuesday 24th January 1939 at 3:35pm.

Cartoons were incorporated as a regular feature of BBC TV in 1939 and over the next eight months another 30+ new-to-the-small-screen Disney shorts would be aired:

★ Mickey Plays Papa (24/01, 25/01, 16/08, 18/08)
★ Lullaby Land (28/01, 31/01)
★ Mad Doctor (03/02, 06/02)
★ Pied Piper (04/02, 08/02, 10/02, 23/08, 25/08)
★ Klondike Kid (19/02, 22/02. 24/02)
★ Ladybirds (19/02, 23/02, 25/02)
★ Building a Building (26/02, 04/03)
★ Bird Store (04/03, 06/03)
★ The Grasshopper and the Ant (07/03, 10/03, 11/03, and it was due to be shown 02/09)
★ Bears and Bees (18/03)
★ Flying Mouse (26/03, 31/03, 01/04)
★ Orphan's Benefit (27/03, 28/03, 30/03)
★ Fishing Around (04/04, 06/04, 25/04)
★ Mickey's Orphans (05/04. 08/04, 11/04)
★ Wise Little Hen (09/04, 11/04, 15/04)
★ Birds in Spring (16/04, 19/04)
★ Playful Pluto (18/04, 23/04)
★ Peculiar Penguins (24/04, 26/04, 27/04, 29/04)
★ Two Gun Mickey (30/04, 06/05)
★ Camping Troubles (02/05, 03/05, 07/05)
★ Just Dogs (07/05, 10/05)
★ Man Friday (10/05, 13/05, 14/05)
★ Dog Napper (15/05, 16/05, 19/05)
★ Gulliver Mickey (15/05, 17/05, 19/05)
★ Goddess of Spring (26/05, 27/05, 31/05)
★ Mickey's Good Deed (28/05, 02/06, 03/06)
★ Mickey's Kangaroo (11/06, 14/06, 15/06, 16/06)
★ Flowers and Trees (18/06. 20/06, 23/06)
★ The Three Little Pigs (26/06, 27/06, 30/06, 01/07)
★ Big Bad Wolf (09/07, 11/07, 14/07)
★ Funny Little Bunnies (17/07, 19/07)
★ Babes in the Wood (22/07, 28/07)
★ Father Noah's Ark (24/07, 27/07)
★ Mickey's Mechanical Man (26/07, 29/07)
★ Giantland (02/08, 05/08)
★ Old King Cole (05/08, 10/08)
★ Delivery Boy (08/08, 12/08)
★ King Neptune (09/08, 11/08)
★ Touchdown Mickey (26/08, and was due to be shown on 01/09 at 3:30pm)
★ Wayward Canary (28/08)
★ Fox Hunt (was due to be shown 02/09)

Mickey's Gala Premiere | 8 min | 1 July 1933 (USA)

First shown on November 30th 1937 at 9:10pm, then again on Wednesday 15th March 1939 at 3:30pm, and Friday 17th March 1939 at 3:15pm. Its real claim to BBC fame came on Friday 1st September 1939 when, at 12:35pm, Mickey's Gala Premiere aired in full before a few test signals marked the end of the UK's television broadcasting until 1946.

Neville Chamberlain had spoken to the country via BBC Radio at 11:15am, declaring war on Germany, and worried about the cost, time, and potential security weaknesses of the fledgling TV broadcast service, the BBC decided it would cease when regular programming broke for lunch at 12 noon. The Radio Times' listings for the day reveal that, had war been averted, programming would have resumed at 3pm with Cabaret Interlude, followed by British Movietonews then Disney's Touchdown Mickey.

So why did Mickey's Gala Premiere air? I dunno. Nobody seems to. Maybe the guys in the studio just  really liked it!

Either way, when TV returned on Friday 7th June 1946, after the introduction ceremony at 3pm Mickey's Gala Premiere was the very first thing shown. Click through to find out more about 1940s kids' TV.

For more like this, please click the below image:


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