Wednesday 28th September 2011
The Munch Bunch
Books and Yoghurts
The late 1970s was a time when the success of the Mr Men series of books spawned a host of similar creations. The simplicity of the Mr Men and the amount of wealth accumulated by their creator Roger Hargreaves inspired writers to develop simple eye-catching characters with names based on their characteristics.
The Munch Bunch was one such idea and could be considered one of the more successful. The Munch Bunch series of books was written by Denis Bond, a British author, under the pen name Giles Reed and illustrated by Angela Mitson, a teenager who had created the characters. Published in the UK by Studio Publications (Ipswich) Ltd. Between 1979 and 1984. Interestingly at the same time Ladybird books was publishing the similar ‘The Garden Gang’ also created by a teen author (Jayne fisher) between 1979 and 1983.
The Munch Bunch characters were a series of vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes swept into the corner of a shop and forgotten, who then escaped into a shed where they set up home.
The Munch Bunch Club badge (shown below) is a 55mm design with a metal ring and ‘D’ pin fitting. It bears no copyrights but is believed to have been a club related to the series of books more than the yoghurts-hopefully someone reading this can tell us a little more about the club (please!)
The original characters are all represented on a very large set of button badges issued in 1983 (shown below). The set of 45 badges are 38mm with metal ring and ‘D’ pin fitting as assembled by Universal Button Co London. Universal had not long introduced the 38mm size to their range when these were made. They bear the copyrights around the curl’1983 Studio Publications (Ipswich) Ltd’ The set includes 36 with individual characters plus 9 with sayings such as ‘Munch Bunch Rule OK’ and three which are related . These three are not strictly Munch Bunch badges and are for ‘Badger Books, Dagon and Cobweb’ they were sold alongside the others and Studio publications were selling them to happy collectors for 10 pence each in 1987.
The three badges shown below are not strictly Munch Bunch badges and are for ‘Badger Books, Dagon and Cobweb’ they were sold alongside the others and Studio publications were selling them to happy collectors for 10 pence each in 1987.
In 1980 their initial success led to a puppet based television series. The series ran for 52 ten minute episodes and was produced by Mary Turner and John Read (old Gerry Anderson associates). The stories on the TV show differed from the books but were also written by Denis bond, this time under his real name.
A series of yoghurts was launched in 1981 to coincide with the launch of the television series, with Mitson's characters as well as a few non-book characters such as Jenny Cherry and Charlie Chocolate. A seemingly 'one-off' (unless you can tell us differently!) early period issue badge features Billy Blackberry and bears the Studio Publications copyrights around the curl for 1979-80. This is 45mm across (Universal Button Company) with metal ring and 'D' pin fitting.
In 1982 Trust House Forte hotels gave out a free promotional ‘Badge Kit’ to children at their restaurants. The kit consisted of two blank badges (plastic ringed ‘D’ pins made by Sanders) plus some letraset type transfers and image transfers. It is not uncommon when sifting through assortments of old button badges for these ‘home made’ badges to turn up. Examples are shown below and the personal nature of these adds some appeal to counter the sometimes ‘iffy’ quality of design!
A fire at Studio Publications in the mid 1980s destroyed all the original artwork, and the brand name only survived as a range of yoghurts (the books went out of print).
In 1986 a set of 5 badges was issued to promote the yoghurts. These are 38mm across with plastic rings and ‘D’ pin fittings and bear the copyrights around the curl’Studio Publications (Ipswich) Ltd 1986’
The brand did enjoy something of a resurgence in the UK during the mid-1990s, largely thanks to a popular TV commercial in the mid-1990s for the "pot shots" range. Pot Shots were a petits-filous type yoghurt aimed at the young, the TV advert was set in a pool hall and ran from May 1994 until February 1996, although this renewal in popularity proved short-lived, and only three of the Munch Bunch characters were featured in the "pot shots" range.
Ladybird books produced a completely different series of Munch Bunch books in 1998 to tie in with the yoghurts following the resurgence brought about by the TV commercials of 1994-96. Denis Bond and Angela Mitson had nothing to do with these and the characters were different although a few were similarly named e.g. Sally Strawberry.
A set of three badges believed for the 'Pot shot' yoghurts is shown below--these have metal solid backs with safety pin fittings and no copyrights.Below them is a further set of four badges these are also 38mm and have plastic solid back with hook under pin fittings -also with no copyrights. The lack of copyrights probably indicates that these characters were not those of Stuio Publications and were the re-designed newer versions --notice the different version of Sally Strawberry to the previous badges
The Munch Bunch yoghurt brand name remains in use at the time of writing (2011) under the Nestle food company range. The old characters have gone completely and replaced by a cow called 'Munch' --Sacrilege!