Mr. Dressup (Ernie Coombs) with puppeteer Judith Lawrence and puppets Casey (left) and Finnegen. - Contributed

Fundraiser started by Kelowna man to create Mr. Dressup documentary

Keith Hoffart remembers the children’s TV show fondly and started a Kickstarter

A Kelowna man wants to show the world the impact popular children’s TV show character Mr. Dressup had on Canadians after seeing the USA’s passion for Mister Rogers.

Keith Hoffart, who has more than 20 years of experience in software and web design, said he was on a hunt for a garage sale with his brother one weekend, talking about the new Mister Rogers movie featuring actor Tom Hanks.

“I love movies and I loved statistics and the box office… I thought somebody should tell the story of Mr. Dressup, that’s our Mister Rogers,” he said. “I grew up with Mr. Dressup, I loved him, he was the best.”

Mr. Dressup, played by Ernie Coombs, was part of a popular children’s show that went by the character’s name. It revolved around songs, arts and crafts, the imagination and originally ran on CBC from 1967 to 1996.

RELATED: Fred Rogers, America’s favourite neighbour, celebrated in 2018

Hoffart started a Kickstarter, an online fundraiser, for the documentary project. All the filming and production will be done by himself, he said, with the help of a college student for post-production.

He has already been talking to the important people in Mr. Dressup’s life, like his daughter Cathie and puppeteer Judith Lawrence, as well as interviewing fans to discuss their fondest memories of the show, he said.

“The first part is kind of going to be historical, this is the story of Mr. Dressup and almost a Wikipedia aspect of the documentary, then there’s going to be interviews of people close to him and then the fan favourite area where it’s going to be people telling stories,” he said.

He interviewed a woman in Toronto already who named her child after Casey, after on of Mr. Dressup’s puppet friends.

Through his research for the documentary, Hoffart learned the puppet Casey was gender neutral, an important topic that is prominent in today’s society, he said.

“Not to mention Mr. Dressup back then advocated for him and Judith to get equal pay at work. He didn’t want to get paid more than Judith, he thought they were doing an equal amount of work for the show,” he said.

The arts and crafts segment of the show still holds a place in Hoffart’s heart.

“(It) spawned creativity as a kid myself. You couldn’t pause the TV back then so it was tough, because he’d say you have to get a paper towel roll and I’m running around trying to make it in real time with Mr. Dressup,” he said.

His initial goal is to reach $50,000, which will cover his travel costs for interviews and licensing footage from CBC. If more than $50,000 is raised, money will go towards more interviews, higher quality video equipment and advertising, according to the Kickstarter.

The 40-year-old plans to start filming in January and February of 2019 and hopes for it to be completed in May 2019. He said he’s been in talks with CBC and Netflix discussing where it will air.

To contribute, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/654726770/mr-dressup-documentary-movie/.

@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

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