|Tapping into one of the most universal childhood fantasies, The Whistling Wizard featured an ordinary boy, J.P, who suddenly found himself whisked away to an extraordinary world. Surrounded by enchanted fireflies and talking horses instead of parents and homework, J.P. happily explored the "Land of Beyond" to find the Whistling Wizard.
The Wizard, Dooley, acted as the boy's guardian as J.P., Ting-a-Ling the firefly, Heathcliffe the horse experienced adventures based on a wide range of sources. History, mythology, comic books, literature, and fairy tales all served as sources for the plots of the show.
Of course, no group of adventurers would be complete without an enemy trying to foil them. On Whistling Wizard, the evil Spider Lady was tapped for the task. She would thwart the progress of J.P. and the gang by casting black magic on the crew.
Her spell of choice? The words "Elia Kazan," a perfect example of the type of in-jokes that permeated the series. The creators, Bil and Cora Baird, strove to pepper the "Land of Beyond" with such jokes, subtly mocking the mundane world.
The Whistling Wizard was acclaimed for being a groundbreaking series. Not only did the Bairds refuse to stay within the physical boundaries of a normal puppet stage, but they also experimented with imaginative lighting and camera work.
The show was also the first of its kind to be broadcast in color, which, like the Technicolor scenes in The Wizard of Oz, made the world all the more magical as a setting for fantasy.
The Bairds were premiere puppeteers of the 50's, appearing with their host of characters on The Bill Baird Show as well as Your Show of Shows and The Morning Show with Walter Cronkite. Unfortunately, their techniques were too expensive for CBS's tastes, leading to the premature demise of The Whistling Wizard after a single season.