Muffin was operated by Ann Hogarth and fronted by Annette Mills

Illustrations from THE ANNETTE MILLS GIFT BOOK , The Heirloom Library, London undated c1955.

Muffin was a puppet who'd made it big as a TV character. Annette played the piano while the badly jointed wooden figure jerked spasmodically on the piano lid. Something of the ineptitude of the performance can be glimpsed in the way Muffin had to be drawn in the Muffin Annuals.

The illustrator ( usually the great professional, Molly Blake), had to draw the restrictions of the puppet rather than make the character come alive. That was what viewers wanted to see - the recreation of the TV image - the odd articulations of the rattling limbs, the bamboo like joints. Even as a child, used to the papery thin qualities of children's TV - patronising, sentimental with a strong class bias - I thought Muffin was distinctly awful. Here Muffin had shrunk to a tiny size and meets a fairy called Seedy who scours the landscape for.... seeds.

UPPER RIGHT - Every living thing in Muffin smiles (perhaps out of embarassment). Look, even the worm has developed a smiling appendage. No fault of Molly who had a really strong sense of composition and a sophisticated control of atmospherics. Her depiction of Nature was particularly adept and always beautifully drawn. Note the painterly control of butterfly wing and dragonfly wing.

In 1996 the Conservative Government decided that it would not allow the British Post Office to issue a commemorative stamp on the occasion of the centenary of the death of that great Socialist writer and designer William Morris. Instead, it was decided to honour Muffin the Mule. This will for ever remain in my mind as pure essence of the vindictive. Molly Blake cannot be held responsible. See how well she did - given the rattling characterisation of the Shaking Mule.
This screen is dedicated to Molly Blake

Ann Hogarth and Jan Bussell December 1937

Ann Hogarth and Annette Mills c1950 The Penguin

The Television Annual, 1952, behind the scenes 01

The Television Annual, 1952, behind the scenes 02