Ernie Coombs and Fred Rogers | CBC Still Photo Collection/Robert Ragsdale

Mr. Dressup Set to Receive Documentary Treatment

Prime Video announces doc about beloved TV icon

4 mins read

A beloved Canadian icon gets his due as Mr. Dressup is set to receive the documentary treatment. Prime Video announced that production would begin on an untitled Canadian Amazon Original documentary about beloved children’s television star Ernie Coombs and his series that delighted generations of Canadian audiences. The feature-length documentary will be directed by Rob McCallum (Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man) and will be produced by Mark Bishop (Blown Away) and Aeschylus Poulos (My Tree).

The film will chronicle the history and legacy of Mr. Dressup, which ran for 4000 episodes over 29 years at the CBC. The series was noted for its progressive attitude and groundbreaking inclusivity as Coombes pulled out various garments from his “Tickle Trunk” to transform into new personas and teach children valuable life lessons.

Coombes worked with fellow children’s TV icon Fred Rogers during his early days at the CBC where he learned to model educational programming around simple, slow, play-based delivery. Although Fred Rogers received the documentary treatment in the multi-award-winning documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? in 2018, Coombes didn’t even receive a mention in the film despite being a key part of Rogers’ foundational years.

Following Rogers’ departure from the CBC, Coombes’ developed his own show, which hit 500,000 viewers in its peak. In 2017, Mr. Dressup was declared the most beloved Canadian TV show of all time in a popular online showdown known as the #CanadianTVBracket where it toppled series like Degrassi and The Kids in the Hall. As a result of the recognition, a campaign successfully lobbied to get Mr. Dressup a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2019.

“Mr. Dressup was, and continues to be, a fun, creative, kind, and safe show for viewers of all ages,” said McCallum in a statement from Prime Video. “It’s a great honour to share the rich history, cultural significance, and unlimited imagination of the show and its key creators with all of Canada and the entire world.”

“Mr. Dressup holds a special place in the memories of millions, and Ernie, along with his puppet friends Casey and Finnegan, are the cornerstones of childhood entertainment for generations of Canadians,” added Nav Saini, head of content, Canada, Prime Video in a statement. “We are thrilled to work with our partners at marblemedia and the CBC to bring Canadian audiences a documentary that serves as a reminder of the power of creativity, the need for compassion, and the importance of playtime, from one of our most important entertainment icons.”

The Mr. Dressup documentary will offer footage unearthed from the archives along with interview with Coombes’ collaborators and Canadians he inspired. The Mr. Dressup doc will be produced by Bishop’s marblemedia in association with Poulos’ Hawkeye Pictures and McCallum’s Pyre Productions with participation from the Shaw Rocket Fund, the Rogers Documentary Fund, and Ontario Creates. McCallum, Bishop, and Poulos serve as executive producer with Matt Hornburg and Justin Schoenrock, and Donna Luke as co-executive producer.

The documentary will film in fall 2022 and with an eye for 2023 on Prime Video in 240 countries and territories worldwide. The film will also air on the CBC. Distribution360 (D360) is handling international sales.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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