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Hero image for Wonderful World - TV One Channel ID

Wonderful World - TV One Channel ID

Television (Full Length) – 1991

One Dog, and 50 Hangers-On

There’s an old showbiz saying that you should never work with children or animals. 

But the results can make all the stress worthwhile. Aimed at promoting Television One, TVNZ’s Wonderful World campaign featured a cute dog travelling the byways of New Zealand, and completely stealing the limelight from a large cast of humans. 

The extended shaggy dog tale began with TVNZ staffers Jo Raymond and Bruce Carter. “I do remember coming up with the idea,” says Raymond, who was TVNZ’s Promotions and Publicity Manager at the time. “But then it was very much Bruce [Carter, TVNZ's Graphics Manager] and me together. And then it was John McCready’s baby, because he commissioned it”. 

What the TVNZ executive commissioned was an ambitious campaign, unveiled over six episodes in late 1991. Partly thanks to TV3’s arrival two years earlier, TVNZ was spending heavily on promotions in an effort to carve out a distinct identity for each of its channels. The new soft sell campaign was designed to create goodwill for TV One by celebrating New Zealand, and linking the channel with beautiful landscapes and friendly people. Louis Armstrong classic ‘What a Wonderful World’ provided the feel-good soundtrack (with added strings, courtesy of the NZ Symphony Orchestra).

The promotions relied on a simple but brilliant device: a lovable dog who travels the country by train, car and paw. In each episode, a girl is seen pining after the beloved Toby, who is believed stolen. At least 50 human personalities make fleeting appearances as Toby passes by. The blink or you'll miss it approach was no accident: the idea was to snare viewers for repeat viewings, ”so they could spot someone else”. The first Wonderful World promo debuted in late August; the last first screened on Christmas Day, after the Queen’s annual Christmas message. 

Many of those were names associated with Television One, but there were also sportspeople, local mayors and townspeople, and legends like Sir Edmund Hillary. The plan was to mix the famous names in with everyday Kiwis, helping push a message of unity: “we’re all in this together.”

Jo Raymond remembers the campaign as a career highlight. She also recalls that Saatchi & Saatchi, the advertising agency handling TV One's branding, weren't keen for others to take on the job they normally handled. “They were very upset that Bruce and I were trying to write this”, she says. “So they tried to block it.”  Although Director of Programming John McCready was right behind the idea, Raymond ultimately had to go right to the top in order to win approval: making a presentation to TVNZ Director-General Julian Mounter, alongside a competing idea from Saatchi and Saatchi. 

But the dog had his day. And Saatchi's ended up helping get him on screen.

Bruce Carter said the idea of using a dog came about because he and Raymond were trying to think of a narrative device that provided a reason to travel the length and breadth of New Zealand, reflecting local communities along the way. "And who doesn't love a lost dog story?". The dog offered a “special, appealing quality”. But what type of dog? Carter had a great dane, Raymond a labrador. A sydney silky poodle cross ultimately won the part. 

There were other parts to sort as well — at least 50 personalities needed to be organised. “I had to go around the country,” recalls Raymond. “I personally asked every famous person if they would do it … for nothing. There was one All Black who wanted to get paid for it. The TVNZ presenters had to do it, whether they liked it or not.”

Officially what they were all working on was a station ID (in which the TV station’s logo appears on screen). But this was no ordinary station ID. The job of directing the six-part campaign went to Lee Tamahori, who'd shown his credentials with another soft sell, multi-episode classic: the Fernleaf butter ads, featuring a girl whose parents had separated. The new promos were shot in style by company Flying Fish, over three weeks in mid-winter. The weather playing ball everywhere but Auckland, requiring reshoots for the first episode.

Toby the dog, who hailed from Palmerston North, was discovered at an obedience school. Animal trainer Caroline Girdlestone worked 14-16 hour days, working with the extroverted dog (who'd already done a few commercials) and his back-up. The main challenge was slowing Toby down. “He was absolutely incredible," said Girdlestone. "He did quite difficult things on the first take — like jumping on a moving train.”

The canine’s fame spread. He appeared in numerous newspaper cartoons, a women’s magazine piece, and at least one front-page newspaper story. He also ended up cast in steel and fibreglass, perched atop Auckland's TVNZ building on Victoria Street. 

Raymond’s overriding memory of Wonderful World? “A positive and rewarding experience that everyone seemed happy to be part of”. As for the success of the campaign: “it looks like there was a very high recognition, but whether it was tied closely to TV One, I wouldn’t like to say.”

Spoiler alert: a guide to help find the actors and locations 

Episode one: In Arrowtown, young Danni (Eleanor Denton) puts up a ‘lost dog’ sign in the store. In Auckland, Anita McNaught and producer Claire Logan walk down the street, as does All Black Bryan Williams. Richard Long and kids pass in the Strand Arcade. Judy Bailey has a coffee; John Hawkesby and cricketer Ian Smith jog together at the Domain. In Cambridge, Tom Bradley is talking outside Cambridge Town Hall. Colin Meads and Mark Leishman walk by together, and Cathy Campbell talks to Neil and Tim Finn's mother. Then the dog jumps in a ute heading to Rotorua.

Episode two: starts with a thermal scene in Rotorua, the marae (where Tini Molyneux sits) and Huka Falls. The dog hitches a ride with Gary McCormick. In Napier Penelope Barr is seen cycling, then McCormick joins Paul Holmes and Ngaire Fuata for a drink at Te Aute Hotel.

Episode three: After taking a railway jigger through Manawatu Gorge (see behind the scenes photos), the dog meets Sam Hunt at Paremata Beach (near Porirua). The two head to Wellington, where Selwyn Toogood (in red) and Kathryn Asare (spotted coat) join the waterfront crowds. Lindsay Perigo talks by the blue entrance of Wellington Fish Supply, and Maggie Barry emerges. At the rugby are Steve Parr (in blue) and Lindsay Yeo (red). The dog jumps in the car boot, and Geoff Bryan checks his watch.

Episode four: Jeremy Coney is at the petrol station when the dog leaps from the car. Toby then jumps on a train heading down the Kaikoura Coast. Canoeist Paul MacDonald is among those talking on the wharf; the Wizard gives the dog a ride through North Canterbury. They pass Phillip Leishman on Hagley Park Golf Course, and there are brief glimpses in Christchurch of Jude Dobson, swimmer Anna Simcic and Silver Fern Waimarama Taumaunu (sitting together) and mayor Vicki Buck (walking in red shirt).

Episode five: The dog heads into the Mackenzie Country on a hay bailer, where Ian Johnstone stands on the roadside by a farmer and his sheep. In Fairlie, All Black Mike Brewer watches a rugby match. Philip Alpers walks by some people boarding a Mount Cook Line bus. At Lake Tekapo, Jim Hickey and skier Annelise Coberger stand before the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Episode six: On the helicopter are Sir Edmund Hillary, Rodney Bryant, swimmer Anthony Mosse, and Toby's real-life trainer Caroline Girdlestone, who rescues the dog. After the helicopter lands, Carol Hirschfeld and Sir Howard Morrison are among those leaving the plane, while back at the family farm, John Gordon is one of those who turns his head while sitting on the fence. The farm is located at the head of the Dart Valley, near Lake Wakatipu.

 

Sources include
Jo Raymond
Bruce Carter
Brian Kassler
Renee Kofoed at Flying Fish
‘What a Wonderful World - Christmas Day’ (Press release) December 1991
John Drinnan, ‘A Star in the Making’ - The Dominion Sunday Times, 15 September 1991, page 1
Leigh Elliott, New Idea article on Toby the Dog, October 1991
Rebecca Jackson, ‘Making a Wonderful World’ Publication unknown
Writer unknown, ‘Rooftop rambler’ - The NZ Herald, 12 November 1991, page 14