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18 June 2014
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Classic TV | Animal Magic
About Johnny
Animal Magic Johnny Morris was born in 1916 and was a farm manager when he was talent spotted. BBC Radio Bristol producer Desmond Hawkins found Johnny in a pub telling stories to the customers.

He was quickly signed up as a storyteller and to cover local events. One of the many radio shows that Johnny presented in the 50's was Pass the Salt in which he tried out different jobs for a day, including that of a zookeeper.

In 1953 Johnny became the Hot Chestnut Man, reading stories on children's television. That job ended in 1961, just as the BBC was setting up its Natural History Unit. Remembering Johnny, Pat Beech, former News Editor of BBC West, hired him to present a new show called Animal Magic. She thought of the name because she thought children love both animals and magic.

Contrary to popular belief, Johnny Morris' Animal Magic outside broadcasts weren't always from Bristol Zoo Gardens. A number of zoos were used.

Johnny also narrated the Watch With Mother animal series Tales of the Riverbank.

During his career, Johnny presented various travel shows for the BBC, including Ticket to Turkey, Johnny Morris in Mexico, Johnny Morris North from Lion City and Oh, to be in England.

BBC bosses eventually axed the programme in 1982 because they considered it not educational enough. It was replaced with The Really Wild Show presented by, amongst others, Terry Nutkins.

Johnny was an awarded an OBE in 1984.

Johnny returned as his zookeeper character one last time for the short silent film The Magic Keeper (broadcast on Channel 4, Christmas Eve 1998).

Terry Nutkins, paid tribute to Johnny shortly after his death on 6th May 1999: "He was just, for want of a better word, a magic person.

"He was very sensitive. He watched people very carefully and that was why he became so successful with the animals, because he watched people and he related people to animals and animals to people."

Just before he was taken ill, Johnny Morris was hired to present Wild Thing for ITV. He had even completed some footage at Hampshire's Marwell Zoo. He was greatly looking forward to his return to TV.

 
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