How I helped make Jason Gunn's Thingee

OPINION: The alien puppet Thingee has become a legendary figure in New Zealand children's television history - his most iconic moment surely being when his eye popped out on Jason Gunn's Son of a Gunn Show.

Thingee first appeared on the Saturday morning show What Now? in the late 1980s, but little is known about his true origin - what planet did he hail from and how did he get to Earth?

Well, I can tell you first hand that Thingee was actually created in the art room of Hornby High School in Christchurch - and I was the one who glued on its eyes.

Christchurch in the 1980s was a hotbed of children's television. What Now?, Danny Watson's Danny's Café and Son of a Gunn were all made in the Garden City, plus a myriad of other kid-themed content.

My art school teacher, Mr Sutherland, had been given a brief by his twin brother Eddie who was arts and craft presenter on What Now?

Mr Sutherland was instructed to create an alien puppet for the show, and enlisted his keen art students to help (getting high school kids to make Thingee would also be very cheap).

One of my jobs was to paint Thingee and glue in its eyes. At that point we didn't know if it was a male or female; perhaps we still don't. I used the strongest glue I could find - several dollops of superglue later and Thingee was able to see.

When I saw Thingee finally appear on What Now? I was very proud indeed but he drifted away from my life as I left high school and got on with trying to be a young adult.

I seldom saw him on TV, especially after he became co-host of the Son of A Gunn Show. 

Was my sub-standard gluing to blame for Thingee's eye popping out? 

I doubt it. Thingee worked hard in children's television for many years and I'm sure all his frenzied activity took its toll in the end. There were perhaps several sets of eyes glued in, and I've heard reports of several Thingees being created through the years as past incarnations wore out.

In essence, they cloned Thingee.

There is a sad endnote to the Thingee story - the man whose idea it was to create him, Eddie Sutherland, died of cancer soon after.

Eddie left many legacies - but a cheaply made puppet called Thingee may have just been his most special.

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