Zippy puppeteer Ronnie Le Drew visits Wolverhampton for launch of art gallery's new TV puppet exhibition
The puppeteer behind children's TV favourite Zippy from Rainbow visited Wolverhampton to celebrate the launch of the art gallery's new puppet exhibition.
Ronnie Le Drew, who has been the puppeteer for Zippy since 1972, kicked off new exhibition 'TV Puppets: Icons From 80 Years of Entertainment' with a talk on his life in TV and theatre. He spoke to a packed crowd in the Wolverhampton Art Gallery's large Georgian room, as tickets completely sold out just before the event began.
Mr Le Drew, who lives in Islington, London, said: "It's fantastic to hear this has been sold out. When I last came to Wolverhampton it was for a puppet thing at the Grand Theatre. It was Dr Doolittle, and I think it was back in 2000, which starred Philip Schofield. I played Polynesia the parrot which was voiced by Julie Andrews. It went on for three weeks and I had a lovely time.
"And now I'm back and it's so delightful to be here. Even more wonderful because there are so many people here, all of different ages too."
Canadian-born Mr Le Drew also became the voice of famous character Zippy in 2012, when the original voice actor Roy Skelton died.
He has worked on the set of Labyrinth, starring the late David Bowie, and The Muppet Christmas Carol, as well as many other films and TV shows.
He added: "I started when I was 15-years-old. I was one of those boys who thought I would not do anything else. I still do all sorts now. I worked with Disney's Beauty and the Beast film. I had to be Lumière and show them how the candle light would look when he made a certain action, so they could do it in CGI.
"And I teach people how to operate puppets too."
Wolverhampton Art Gallery's new TV puppet exhibition will run until April 29. Curated in partnership with the National Puppetry Archive, it features simple hand puppets such as Iver from The Hoobs to elaborate marionettes such as Lady Penelope and Parker from Thunderbirds.
Audience favourites such as Basil Brush, caricatures from ITV’s Spitting Image, and not forgetting Rainbow's Zippy, are also on show.
The exhibition at the gallery, based in Lichfield Street, is free to enter.