The man behind children’s TV star Hacker T Dog has fulfilled a long-held dream by voicing, dare we say it, an even more famous screen hound.
For Phil Fletcher temporarily swapped his witty Wigan cairn terrier for the legend that is Sweep for the new Sooty show series that launched on ITVBe this week.
Other news: Shock closure of borough swimming pool
The golden bear is celebrating his 70th birthday and is back on telly after a five-year break for a celebratory six-parter with owner Richard Cadell and sidekicks including Soo, Butch, Ramsbottom the snake and, of course, his dozy but loveable best pal Sweep.
The Wigan Post had contacted Phil, wondering whether he was the mystery buyer of a vintage Sooty puppet dating back from the very early days of the series. Phil has a collection of famous puppets at his home - including a recently bought Emu belonging to the late Rod Hull - but on this occasion it wasn’t his purchase (made for a whopping £14,500).
But he did reveal his own connections with the programme, including this new role which sees him achieve a great ambition of operating the silly spaniel.
Phil said: “I have known Richard for a number of years now after we met at a toy fair and have worked with him since. I make puppets at my home - including all the cast of Hacker Time - and have made several Butches and Ramsbottoms for the Sooty Show. You need several, not least because you need them in different outfits so you can avoid quick costume changes in live shows.
“But then I got a phone call from Richard out of the blue saying that the new series of Sooty was coming out and the guy who has done Sweep’s voice for years was unavailable and could I do it? Remarkably and to our great delight, the shooting fitted in perfectly with my schedule. This is a great honour because I have always loved the show, Sweep is a great star and I long dreamt of voicing him.”
Phil revealed that Sweep gets a proper script and that he uses something similar to a saxophone reed to speak the part, making sure listeners can get a gist of all the syllables.
Shooting was done at Richard’s own studios and Somerset’s Brean Leisure Park where the Sooty family lives.
Phil said: “It was great fun - plenty of water pistols and custard pies as you’d expect - and I wouldn’t say no to further chances to voice Sweep. There’s even talk of a movie.”
Sooty can be seen at 9.15am each Monday on ITVBe’s pre-school children’s slot littleBe.