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Kukla, Fran and Ollie - Exclusive Online DVD Release for the 60th Anniversary Premiere Collector's Edition

5-DVD set with 5 of the 39 color episodes from the 1969 PBS version available next Tuesday, August 11th

Posted by David Lambert
Kukla, Fran and Ollie - 60th Anniversary Premiere Collector's Edition


One of Television's Classics to be Immortalized
In U.S. Postage stamp and a Premiere Collector's Edition DVD


"One of television's most fondly remembered programs
is again available to charm new generations."
- Don Liebenson, Los Angeles Times

Each of the five DVD's run 30 minutes and can be
purchased for $44.50 at

One of the most beloved shows in televison history, Kukla, Fran and Ollie is turning 60 and will be available for the first time on DVD just as their images are to become immortalized in a U.S. Postage stamp. When Kukla, Fran and Ollie debuted on televison, it captivated entire families five days a week for 10 years. Burr Tillstrom (who manipulated and gave voice to all 12 puppets by himself) teamed with Fran Allison to produce the live shows which are still remembered fondly by the millions of people who watched...their kids and now their grandchildren.

Martin Tahse Productions will present the first Kukla, Fran and Ollie DVD's, which will be available to purchase at for $44.50 and will include a color poster. The episode BUELAH vs. THE OPERA will also be released on a single DVD for $14.95, perfect for a stocking stuffer. The Premiere Collector's Edition will include the first five episodes of 39 to be released on DVD. All of the shows were shot in color for a PBS series and are digitally re-mastered. This is the only color library of Kukla, Fran and Ollie in existence.

On August 11th, 2009, coinciding with the 60th Anniversary of Kukla, Fran and Ollie on network television and the DVD release, a ceremony at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences will introduce Commemorative Stamps of Iconic Images from the 1950's, including Kukla, Fran and Ollie, issued by the United States Postal Service.

Kukla, Fran and Ollie debuted on NBC January 12, 1949. Airing at 7:00 PM, Kukla, Fran and Ollie were watched by entire families. The baby boomers, the first kids to be raised with television, loved the shows as much as their parents did. This ability to entertain both kids and adults was a major part of Kukla, Fran and Ollie's success. They became so popular that many neighborhood bars in Chicago stopped serving liquor at 7:00 so people without television sets could bring their kids into the bar and watch as a family. It was the kind of experience that generation never forgot.

Burr was a remarkable puppeteer. Unlike puppeteers today, who manipulate just one puppet, Burr was the talking, singing voice, and the action for every puppet. He was Kukla, Ollie, Buelah Witch, Madame Ooglepuss, Colonel Crackie, Fletcher Rabbit and all the others. Twelve characters made up what became known as the Kuklapolitans. Fran, the only live performer, manipulated herself and also sang, beautifully.

How Burr and Fran worked together was unusual by today's standards of performing. Every program, five times a week, was extemporaneous. Burr and Fran would meet at three every afternoon, discuss ideas for the show and rehearse two or three songs they planned to use. At 7:00 PM they were on the air for an entire hour. Hugh Downs, who went on to become a famous television commentator, was the original announcer.

Fran was the link between the audience and the puppets. She believed in the puppets, she loved them, and she talked to them. The at-home audience followed her lead. The humor was genuine. When one of the puppets (always Burr) said something funny, Fran was hearing it for the first time and would laugh. And so did the folks at home. It was also a one-camera show. If they flubbed something, there was no second camera to cut to. They would ad-lib and laugh about it. The puppets would also perform many of the commercials. Burr and Fran never abandoned their extemporaneous, one-camera approach to television.

When Jim Henson, of Muppets fame, was inducted into the Radio and Television Hall of Fame, he said in his speech, "We all owe everything to Burr Tillstrom and Kukla, Fran and Ollie." Burr was inducted posthumously into the Radio and Television Hall of Fame.

Kukla, Fran and Ollie's popularity flourished, and they became part of the fabric of America. NBC chose their celebrated operatta, "St. George and The Gragon," to include in its first coast-to-coast color television special. The orchestra was none other than the Boston Pops, conducted by Arthur Fiedler.

Oliver J. Dragon made an impressive concert debut at Town Hall in New York. The sold-out event won raves from Time, Newsweek, New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and Variety.

The famous "Ford's 50th Anniversary Show," the first two-hour television show ever to run on two networks at the same time - CBS and NBC - included every major talent in the entertainment world from Ethel Merman to Mary Martin. Kukla, Fran and Ollie were there.

Kukla, Fran and Ollie had a following of celebrities. When Fran became ill one time, Tallulah Bankhead stepped in and replaced her for two weeks. Margaret Truman hadn't married yet but was dating and would never go out until Kukla, Fran and Ollie finished their program. Carol Channing loved Ollie so much she sent him a silver stickpin, which he wore and bragged about In "Madame O's Merry Musicale."

Among other celebrity fans, who sent letters of adoration, were John Steinbeck, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Burnett, Hal Prince, Bette Davis, Steven Sondheim, Helen Hayes, Adlai Stevenson, Marlon Brando, Thornton Wilder, James Thurber, Jerry Lewis, Tab Hunter, Jack Carter, Hedda Hopper, and Orson Welles.

Kukla, Fran and Ollie chalked up a remarkable twenty-one years on television between 1947 and 1998. Seldom were they out of the public eye. Over the years, they appeared on NBC, ABC, CBS, and PBS. In 1996 they made their cable debut on Starz and ran for three years, through 1998.

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