Mr. Men & Little Miss stamps
On a recent day out in the Capital, I was walking along the South Bank when I was suddenly accosted by a huge Mr Tickle.
This was quite a surprise I can tell you! The larger than life character was waving at me with great enthusiasm and I wondered what the hell he was doing prancing around outside the Oxo Tower! For a moment I wondered if he had escaped from an art installation at the nearby Tate Modern. I feared that he might actually be about to tickle me but the area was packed with much more obvious targets. There was a lengthy queue of parents and their children forming outside the building and they all seemed rather excited.
My powers of deduction wouldn’t exactly frighten Sherlock Holmes but even I quickly realised Mr Tickle’s presence must have something to do with that queue.
It transpired that Gallery@Oxo was hosting a temporary exhibition featuring none other than the Mr Men. Clearly these characters were far more culturally significant than I had realised!
45 Years of the Mr Men
I eventually had the opportunity to research the Mr Men. I discovered that it is now 45 years since kids were first introduced to these iconic characters. Indeed, 2016 is proving to be a big year for the Mr Men. Several new characters have been introduced and some of the original Mr Men have been redesigned to reflect the social trends of the past five decades. I really rather like the idea of Mr Grumpy as a Punk Rocker!
The Mr Men first tickled and bumped their way into our lives in 1971. They had been created by Roger Hargreaves, a copywriter who had harboured an ambition to write children’s books. His lightbulb moment occurred when his son Adam asked him what a tickle looked like.
Hargreaves’ first collection of six books was rejected by all of the major publishers but finally made its way into the shops and proved to be extremely popular. Each book featured a different Mr Men hero who was named for his dominant character trait. With the exception of Mr Tickle, the stories all featured a moral lesson. They were the Aesop’s Fables of the twentieth century.
The Little Misses and A new Generation of Mr Men
In 1981 the Mr Men were joined by the Little Misses. To date, an incredible 250 million Mr Men and Little Misses books have been sold. The characters have inspired a television series and have even featured in a Google doodle.
Roger Hargreaves sadly died in 1988. He was just 53 years old. The family business passed into the hands of his son Adam and in 2003, Adam decided to continue the Mr Men Series himself. He introduced new characters which gave kids everywhere more great stories to enjoy. Roger would have been proud of his son’s creations which were a resounding success. 2016 has been an especially good year for Mr Men fans as have been treated to yet more new stars including Little Miss Sparkle, Mr Marvellous, Little Miss Fabulous and Mr Adventure.
I found myself feeling rather pleased about all this. It was nice to discover that something so simple and charming could endure for so long. These days most popular trends manage to last all of five minutes before they fall out of favour. Unfortunately my bonhomie regarding the Mr Men has not been shared by everyone.
The Mr Men Controversy
I was shocked to hear that the new Mr Men have sparked a great deal of controversy and have provided definitive proof that some people will find offence in anything! Evidently the new characters reinforce gender stereotypes. Oh please! If such stereotypes were to be avoided we would have been reading about Miss Adventure! Mr Sparkle would have been an even worse idea and sounds rather like a furniture polish to me.
Clearly some people missed the moral of the story when they read Mr Grumpy!
The Stamp Issue
I should mention at this juncture that the Mr Men are being celebrated in a new stamp issue. But you have probably guessed that by now. 2016 really is the year of the Mr Men! Kids will surely love the new stamps. Unless, of course, they are not permitted to see these insidious, stereotype reinforcing images.
The Mr Men Challenge
In the meantime I would like to set you all a challenge. I would love to hear about your ideas for a new Mr Men character or the next Little Misses heroine. As the grumpy brigade have really annoyed me I would like to propose a new character myself – Miss Guided.
Post your ideas up on Positively Postal’s Facebook page or simply add as a comment at the end of this feature. Everybody who leaves a genuine comment will be entered into a competition to win a Mr. Men Little Miss stamp presentation pack. Closing date is 18th November 2016.
Incidentally, a recent survey revealed that the most popular Mr Men character is Mr Happy with good old Mr Tickle coming in a close second. It turns out that cheerful Mr Men are the most popular. Take note grumpy brigade, nobody likes a moaner.