Tidy Bag

The Wombles 1985 US TV pilot

In the mid-1980s, a pilot episode was filmed in the United States for a potential live-action television series, with full-size Wombles interacting with Human Beings.

The episode included a storyline with actors Frank Gorshin and Abe Vigoda as littering baddies, and a score by composer Irwin Fisch, as well as original music by songwriter Paul Williams, La Toya Jackson singing with a Wombles pop group, and comedian Henny Youngman.

It appears that the pilot was unsuccessful and was never broadcast, and the proposed series was abandoned.

Information is scarce, but there’s a glimpse of these American Wombles on a promo sheet from 1985.

The images show five Wombles in a burrow with newspapered walls, a map of the world, a blackboard with scientific formulas, and a door with a neon ‘Lab’ sign.

In the background there’s a poster with the headline ‘How to talk dirty’, which may have been amusing innuendo for the grown-ups but surely wouldn’t have gone down well with author Elisabeth Beresford, who upheld strict standards for her characters.

Two older Wombles wearing glasses are sitting at a wooden table, with a fruit bowl, mugs and a coffee pot. Another picture shows a female Womble with a pink checked apron and pince-nez glasses.

One of the younger Wombles is wearing a baseball/shellsuit jacket and dark glasses, and has a mohawk hairstyle. Another wears dungarees, a baseball cap and a neckerchief; he’s also seen playing guitar in the band with La Toya Jackson.

The back of the promo sheet reads:

It’s musical! It’s magical! It’s wombleful! Wombles are funny, furry, and friendly live-action characters who spend most of their time cleaning up after messy humans. ‘The Wombles’ is an exciting new half-hour series featuring original music videos and fast-paced fun for the whole family.

The introductory episode stars Frank Gorshin as the detestable villain Dr Edmund Gomaniac (better known as ‘E. Gomaniac’) and Abe Vigoda as his goofy sidekick stooge. Dr Gomanic is littering the world with indestructable candy bar wrappers, but the sanitation snafu is only part of evil E. Gomaniac’s master plan. Will the Wombles succeed in stopping him? . . . stay tuned.

With special guest stars Paul Williams, La Toya Jackson, and Henny Youngman.

Join the Wombles and clean up your act!

The New York Daily News reported on 2 November 1984:

What are Wombles? They’re nature-loving, garbage-hating characters who have spent years cleaning up after Londoners and are now turning their attentions to New York. ‘The Wombles’, meanwhile, is a new syndicated TV series with original music by Paul Williams and slated to air sometime in 1985.

Actor Frank Gorshin will stop here to tape the show before he checks into Atlantic City’s Claridge Hotel for his January run in ‘I Do, I Do’. The former ‘Batman’ star (he was the Riddler) will play key villain Dr. Edmund Gomaniac a.k.a. ‘E. Gomaniac’ and he’ll have an evil sidekick too, the newly signed Abe Vigoda (late of ‘Barney Miller’).

Funnily enough, two decades later the Wombles did appear in New York for a noisy, fast-moving spoof clip as part of a campaign for more British-made children’s television.