paint the whole world with a rainbow




Zippy & George

My Memories

Rainbow was easily my favourite TV show when I was a toddler. I can remember coming home from school for lunch and watching it on the telly. All those bright colours in the Rainbow house, Geoffrey’s story telling from the big Rainbow book, and ofcourse Zippy and George’s endless squabbling and disagreement.  Of course in those days I never even considered questionning George's sexuality, Bungle's nakedness throughout the show before putting on pjamas before bed, and why Zippy never un-zipped his mouth with his hand when Geoffrey zipped it up after he'd been naughty.  Ohhhh Geoffrey! 

The Concept

Rainbow orignially ran twice weekly at 12.10pm on Tuesdays and Fridays on the ITV network, from 1972 to 1992. It was aimed at the under fives and was intended to develop language and number skills for pre-school children, and went on to win the Society of Film and Television Arts Award for Best Children's Programme in 1975. The programme was originally conceived as a British equivalent of long-running American educational puppet series Sesame Street. 

Each episode of Rainbow revolved around a particular activity or situation that would arise in the Rainbow House, where the main characters lived. Usually it would involve some kind of squabble or dispute between the puppet characters of Zippy, George and Bungle, and Geoffrey's attempts to calm them down and keep the peace. The main story would be interspersed with songs, usually from Rod, Jane and Freddy, although guest singers would occasionally take their place. Stories and annimations were read from the Rainbow storybook, usually by Geoffrey. Some episodes would focus on a particular theme, such as sounds or opposites, and would consist mainly of short sketches or exchanges between the main characters, rather than a consistent storyline.

Star Bars

After more than 1000 episodes, the series came to an abrupt end when Thames Television lost its ITV franchise in 1992. But since then, it has gained cult status and continues to get frequent mentions on radio and television.

Generally speaking, George and Zippy represented two 'types' of child, the quiet, shy, and unconfident type, and the hyperactive and destructive type. George was usually vindicated, but Zippy got his comeuppance. While they were apparently young 'children', Bungle was an older 'child', and differed from them in being a costume, rather than a hand puppet. Geoffrey's relationship to them was unclear, other than being a kind of father figure. Apart from Jane and in the early days Sunshine, females rarely appeared on the programme, despite some ambiguity concerning the often effeminate and permanently pink George.

In 1989, Rod, Jane and Freddy left the show to concentrate on touring, pantomime appearances and their own separate TV show. This meant that Dawn Bowden was introduced as a regular female character in place of Jane, while the songs were generally provided by guest singers, notably Christopher Lillicrap. The show would also often include guest stars, to make a change from Geoffrey telling all the lessons - this way, the characters would be told stories and lessons by a fresh face.


The Characters

Rainbow featured several puppet and human characters, each with their own style of character:


The long suffering presenter.  Geoffrey Haynes was the guardian of the Rainbow house and keeper of the peace. He brought order to the house and gave the puppets things to do. Today fame and the spotlight has passed Geoffrey and he is now a taxi driver in London. He has also been rumoured to have a job working in Tesco several years ago. He has also featured in TV adverts for Virgin Money.


A six-foot human size, cross dressing, brown furry bear. Bungle was inquisitive, self-righteous and clumsy. Always the first in the queue to blame someone else (usually Zippy) people found him annoying. He was always when things went wrong. He was played by John Leeson, Stanley Bates, Malcolm Lord, and Paul Cullinan). Bungle is probably most famous for wondering around naked by day, only to pull on a pair of blue and white striped pjamas at bedtime. He also always wrapped a towel around his waist to protect his modesty after a shower, in spite of the fact that he walked around nude for the rest of time!



A fictional character and is officially described as being ‘unique’ as he does not resemble any animal, unlike his fellow puppet friends George the hippo and Bungle the bear.  Zippy is an orange puppet with a huge rugby ball shaped oval head, big blue eyes and a zip for a mouth.  

Zippy has acquired a cult following among those who watched the show as a child. He is probably the most famous character from the show, probably because he was the only one who really spoke his mind and would make for hours of laughter.  He was loud, brash and dominering. Due to his frequently naughty behaviour getting him into all sorts of trouble, other characters in Rainbow would zip his mouth shut, rendering him unable to talk. Oddly, Zippy would never simply un-zip himself, preferring to stay down in the dumps, submissively accepting his punishment.  Why he never un-zipped his mouth with his hand is one of my unanswered life long questions!  His character symbolises the typical 80’s child of the Thatcher Generation, the ‘have it now and pay for the consequences later’ attitude. Unlike George the hippo who would save his pennies for a rainy day.

Zippy was originally voiced and operated by Peter Hawkins, then voiced by Roy Skelton - best known for being the voice of the Daleks in Doctor Who - and operated by Ronnie Le Drew.  Today Zippy is one of the most famous puppets ever. This is quite an achievement consdiering he only hadsone hand.



Was he gay?


A shy, pink, slightly camp hippopotamus.  Sporting an impressive pair of eyelashes, the long-suffering and gentle George often appeared to be initially outwitted by the more extrovert and egotistical Zippy.  However in the manner of The Tortoise and the Hare, George normally won through in the end. He was noted for his fondness of stories from the rainbow book.

George's famous catchphrase was his own delayed and elongated goodbye at the end of the show.  Geoffrey, Zippy, Bungle, Rod, Jane and Freddy would say "goodbye" normally, followed by a one second pause and then George's own "good by-eye". He was voiced by Roy Skelton and operated by Malcolm Lord, Tony Holtham and later Craig Crane.


Sunshine and Moony

Were the original stars of the programme but were phased out by 1973 when George, Zippy and Bungle became the main role.  Sunshine was yellow in colour and she wore a red hat.  She was optimistic in character.  Her more gloomy friend Moony was brown and had a yellow tuft of hair. 


Rod, Jane and Freddy

RJ&F were a group of musicians, actors and presenters.  They  regularly featured in the programme, writing and perfomring songs and sketches. Originally known as Rod, Matt and Jane when they debuted on the show in 1974, Matt's position being held by Matthew Corbett of The Sooty Show, and Roger Walker from 1977-80 before Freddy Marks took over in 1980.  They were hugely popular and were given their own show within a year, which consisted of a series of mini operasall written, produced and performed by themselves.  They then went into theatre were they have had equal success performing across the country.  Their career spans over two decades and they are still going strong performing in pantos  every year. 


Were a six-piece group who provided the music in the early days of the show before Rod, Jane and Freddy took over.



Was Zippy's cousin.  He was identical in appearance to Zippy and would make the occasional guest appearance.  Originally portrayed as an eloquent Frenchman, but a later episode depicted him as an American-accented rapper with loud, flashy clothing.



Was the next-door neighbour. Played by Dawn Bowden and introduced in the show's later years, first appearing in 1986.



Was the aunt of one of the characters, probably Geoffrey. This character was played by several actresses. Aunty would come along roughly once a year and always let herself in. She was mainly a tool for teaching stories or morals, as she was a very boring woman.

A few episodes also include some sort of a Geoffrey-type figure for Zippo. He seems to be some sort of a brother to Geoffrey. 



Revival Attempts

Although the original Rainbow ended with the loss of Thames's broadcasting licence in 1992, Tetra Films (an independent production company spawned by Thames' children's department) revived it for ITV in 1994. The new version of the show departed from the original format and centred on the slightly redesigned puppet characters running a toy shop, but without a presenter.  A new character was introduced, a Scouse-sounding blue rabbit named Cleo, voiced by Gillian Robic. A second revival in 1996 and 1997 reverted closer towards the original format, although it returned as a series of short 10-minute shows entitled Rainbow Days, presented by Dale Superville.  However, neither of the two revivals were as well received as the original shows fronted by Geoffrey Hayes.  There was also no mention of Thames in either of the new series, as both were produced in association with HTV. And so the popularity of the show declined and it was removed from the TV schedule.



The 'Adult’ Episode

In 1979, the cast and crew of Rainbow made a special edition for the Thames TV staff Christmas tape, sometimes referred to as the "Twangers" episode. It was tradition for all Thames programmes to sumbit their outtakes internally at Christmas and the funniest outtake won a prize. However the rude Rainbow episode was no outtake, it was deliberately made and included plenty of sexual innuendo, beginning with Zippy peeling a banana, saying "One skin, two skin, three skin, four..." before being interrupted. Although it was never shown at the time (as it was never intended to air), it has since been aired for the amusement of those who grew up with the show. The clip became famous after being aired on Victor Lewis-Smith's Channel 4 programme TV Offal (1997) and was jokingly referred to as "the pilot episode", which it clearly wasn't as Geoffrey Hayes was presenter at the time.

TV Offal also broadcast some very risque material featuring members of the cast when they were guests on a variety show hosted by comedian Jim Davidson in the 1980s. The sketch in question, which featured former children's TV presenter Tommy Boyd, asking a question about Adam and Eve. Boyd and Davidson used some profanities in the sketch, along with some innuendo from George (presumably again not intended for broadcast like the above), but the most shocking moment was when Zippy exclaimed to Geoffrey: "The fucking Garden of Eden!"

Comedian Bobby Davro also parodied Rainbow as a comedy sketch in his own TV series in the early-1990s, playing the part of Geoffrey alongside exaggerated versions of Bungle and the puppets, which contained some mild sexual innuendo. Davro had appeared in a regular edition of the show, in which he performed amusing impressions of the characters in front of them.

Watch the Adult Episode By Clicking Here!


Did You Know?

Zippy was originally going to be blue but Geoffrey Haynes begged the producers to change his colour as blue was the colour of his neighboroughing rival football team. Geoffrey lived in Dundee for much of the 60s and for some of the 70s. He was a keen Dundee United supporter. So Zippy became tangerine in colour and a Dundee United supporter too!

David Cook originally presented Rainbow before Geoffrey Haynes took the lead role.

Rod, Jane and Freddie’s full names are Rod Burton, Jane Tucker and Freddie Marks

The pilot of Rainbow was unscreened and based around Rainbow the Bear

Pamela Lonsdale was the original brains behind Rainbow  

The first episode aired 16th October 1972


 A Blast from the Past

Theme Song

The theme song for the show was actually only a small part of a larger song. The full version was also called 'Rainbow' and was written by Hugh Portnow, Hugh Fraser and Tim Thomas. This was released by Music For Pleasure in 1973 and is playing right now in the backgoround! The full lyrics to the song are:


Up above the streets and houses,
Rainbow climbing high,
Everyone can see it smiling
Over the sky.
Paint the whole world with a rainbow.

All along the streams and rivers,
Shining in the lakes,
See the colours of the rainbow
As the morning breaks.
Paint the whole world with a rainbow.

Red, the colour of a sunrise,
White clouds floating in a sky of blue,
Green for the rivers,
Gold for the cornfields,
The day is shining new.

Red, the colour of a sunset,
Grey shadows creep across the hills,
The sun is sinking, colours are fading,
The fields are dark and still.

Take some green from a forest,
Blue from the sea,
Find the misty pot of gold,
And mix them for a week.
Paint the whole world with a rainbow.

Red, the colour of a sunrise,
White clouds floating in a sky of blue,
Green for the rivers,
Gold for the cornfields,
The day is shining new.


Unnswered Questions

Zippy, George and Bungle all slept in the same bed together and no-one ever battered an eyelid?

Why didn’t Zippy un-do his zip with his hand when Geoffrey zipped it up?

No-one ever questioned Georges flambouyance or sexuality.

We never found out what relation Geoffrey was to George, Bungle and Zippy.




Famous Phrases

 "Ohhhh Geoffrey"

- George


"It’s not fair"

 - Zippy  


Zippy's Sausage Song

 Click on the play icon above to listen to the sound file 


Cool Videos

Simply click on the links below to watch the show via YouTube


The Adult Version


Rainbow Re-Mix


Shapes Episode


Zippy’s Poem


Zippy Swears


Funny Ending


Freddie’s Furious


Jack & Jill


Rod, Jayne and Freddie – Rod’s Drum Solo


More Rod, Jayne and Freddie




Internet Movie Database

British Film Institute Screen Online

Fan website

BBC News, 28th Feb 2006

Wikipedia – the free online Encyclopedia


Control the music above

LEGAL NOTE - This is a fan page dedicated to capture the spirit of the children's programme Rainbow.  No copywright attempt has been made for the text, images, music and videos contained with this page, and referencing has been made and acknowledged where possible.  The text has been used for information purposes and has been modified into my own words, not directly copied.