|Created by||Jack Cowden|
Andy Devine (1964)
Ulla Strömstedt (1965)
Flipper (various dolphins)
|Country of origin||United States of America|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||88 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||approx. 25 minutes|
|Production||MGM Television in association with Ivan Tors Films, Inc.|
|Original release||September 19, 1964 -|
April 15, 1967
Flipper's New Adventure
|Followed by||Flipper - The New Adventures|
Flipper is an American television program first broadcast on NBC from September 19, 1964, until April 15, 1967. Flipper, a bottlenose dolphin, is the pet of Porter Ricks, Chief Warden at Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve (a fictional version of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, Florida), and his two young sons, Sandy and Bud. The show has been dubbed an "aquatic Lassie", and a considerable amount of children's merchandise inspired by the show was produced during its first run.
The television show is an extension of the 1963 film Flipper starring Chuck Connors and Luke Halpin as Porter and Sandy Ricks, and of its 1964 sequel, Flipper's New Adventure. For the second film, the producers scripted that Mrs. Ricks had died, making Porter now a single parent, with Brian Kelly taking over the role as Porter Ricks but now as a trainee Park Ranger rather than a fisherman. In adapting the films to a television series, the producers gave Porter a second, younger son, Bud, portrayed by Tommy Norden, and the TV series sees Porter returning permanently to the Florida Keys as the Park Ranger of the Coral Key Marine Preserve. The producers also departed from the films in endowing Flipper with an unnatural degree of intelligence and an extraordinary understanding of human motives, behavior, and vocabulary.
The show was created, by way of the creation of the first film, by Jack Cowden and Ricou Browning, the latter of whom had experience in underwater filming and underwater performance, notably as the monster in Creature from the Black Lagoon. In Browning's second filmed portrayal of the Creature, Revenge of the Creature, a scene showcases one of the film's shooting locations, Marineland of Florida (depicted with a fictionalized name), presenting several stunts performed by "Flippy, the Educated Porpoise", in a form of product placement. Browning also wrote the book Flipper based on the ancient legend of Taras, a mythical founder of the Spartan City State of the same name (on the coast of Italy where modern day Taranto is located) who was rescued from shipwreck by a dolphin sent by Poseidon, which was picked up and adapted by famous producer Ivan Tors into the first Flipper movie.
Flipper was filmed in Miami at Greenwich Studios (at the time called Ivan Tors Studios) at 12100 Ivan Tors Boulevard in Miami, Florida, USA and at Key Biscayne, Florida. Nassau was an occasional location, especially for underwater footage. The show was produced in cooperation with the Miami Seaquarium, an aquarium also located on Key Biscayne in Miami.
Miami Seaquarium still presents the Flipper Show; a dolphin show in the lagoon that served as the film location for the show.
The Miami Seaquarium set where Flipper was filmed also served as the set of another Ivan Tors production, Gentle Ben; the house where the Ricks family lived was the same house used for the Wedloe family on Gentle Ben. Flipper was moved to Jimbo's Shrimp (also known as Jimbo's Place), located across from Miami Seaquarium, into the care and exercise of James "Jimbo" Luznar, Sr. Flipper lived in a pen in the cove behind Jimbo's Shrimp.
Flipper was portrayed at first by a female dolphin named Susie, though primarily by another female, Kathy, and occasionally by other females named Patty, Scotty and Squirt. Female dolphins were chosen because they are less aggressive than males and their skins (unlike the skins of male dolphins) are usually free from scars and other disfigurations acquired in altercations with other dolphins, making it easier to have them pass for the identical "Flipper". The five dolphins performed all of Flipper's scenes except the famous tail walk, a trick they were unable to master completely. A male dolphin named Clown was brought in for scenes involving the tail walk. The famous "voice" of Flipper was actually the doctored song of a kookaburra bird.
The show's theme tune was credited to Henry Vars with lyrics by By Dunham. In France the melody was known as "La Romance de Paris" ("The Love Song of Paris"). The first five episodes of the second season featured a different version of the theme, with Frankie Randall singing new lyrics. After those episodes, the original style of the theme was brought back. The background music of the long underwater sequences was inspired by Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe.
Filming began in the early summer of 1964, and the first episode of Season 1 was broadcast on September 19, 1964, with the series ending with the 28th episode of Season 3 being broadcast on April 15, 1967; showing on NBC Saturday nights 7:30-8:00 pm, making 88 episodes in total. NBC continued broadcasts with repeats from season 3 until September 1967. One episode (episode 3 in Season 1 called "SOS Dolphin") was filmed earlier in 1964 as a pilot immediately after the filming of Flipper's New Adventure was completed. Brian Kelly appeared in all 88 episodes, Luke Halpin in 85 and Tommy Norden in 84 episodes. Later, reruns of the first two seasons aired January 1968 - June 1968, NBC, Sunday 6:30-7:00 pm and June 1968 - September 1968, NBC, Sunday 7:00-7:30 pm.
In its debut season in the 1964-65 United States network television schedule, Flipper was a considerable ratings success, rating in the Top 25 especially going up against the long-standing and popular The Jackie Gleason Show on CBS. Ratings declined only slightly in Season 2 1965-66 United States network television schedule buoyed by its proximity to NBC's popular new Saturday night shows I Dream of Jeannie and Get Smart. Ratings fell sharply in Season 3 against the strong rise in ratings for Gleason's show.
Flipper was notable for the casting of a number of guest actors, a good portion of whom went on to stardom in later years or had already had a stellar acting career.
The series follows a Bottlenose Dolphin named Flipper who is the wild pet of Porter Ricks, a park warden, and his sons Sandy (15) and Bud (10). Flipper lives in a lagoon near the Ricks cottage at Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve. With the Ricks family, Flipper helps protect the park and preserve and its wild inhabitants. He is also instrumental in apprehending criminals and thugs in the park. Flipper is generally recognized by the characters in the show (and the theme song) as being a particularly intelligent and capable dolphin. Flipper is the special companion of the youngest member of the Ricks family, Bud, and several episodes feature Flipper rescuing Bud from dangerous situations. Flipper is able to somehow communicate through different chatter like tones, head nods and shakes and others attention seeking antics with Sandy and Bud and draw their (and Porter's) attention to danger or in the direction of people needing help. There are few women in the lives of the Ricks males but in the first season, Porter does have a date while Sandy falls for the girl operator of a floating zoo who appears in four episodes. A female oceanographer enters the series in the second season to add a feminine touch to the proceedings but little more than mild flirtations and fondness between her and Porter ensues. Promotional material for the third season announced a new girlfriend for Sandy, although she only appeared in one episode and he has an innocently flirtatious scene with another girl in a separate episode. The series is distinguished for its lush photography of subtropical Florida and its colorful underwater sequences.
The last first-run episode of Flipper aired April 15, 1967. In the conclusion of a two-part episode, the characters of Sandy and Bud are written out of the show (by that time both actors Luke Halpin and Tommy Norden had grown out of their roles), as it is detailed how each plans to leave Coral Key -- Sandy has been accepted to the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut, and Bud will be attending a private school remedially in Massachusetts, as arranged by their Aunt Martha. At the same time, a new family (the Whitmans) moves to the area: a widowed mother (portrayed by Karen Steele) and her young son and daughter (portrayed by Stuart Getz and Chris Charney). The two new children are depicted as unfamiliar with maritime life, but they promptly befriend Flipper, and promise to be his new companions after Sandy and Bud leave. Plans were made for a fourth season; revolving around the Whitman children taking the role of Flipper's guardians/playmates and their mother becoming involved in a serious relationship with Porter. It would be assumed that Sandy and Bud would make a cameo visit in an episode or two. All this was for naught, however, as Ivan Tors chose not to continue to make a fourth season in this new format, so NBC cancelled it.
Flipper has seen periodic syndication since its NBC cancellation. The show has aired on cable's Family Channel, Nickelodeon, Animal Planet, Discovery Kids, in high-definition on satellite provider Voom's Family Room channel, and on digital subchannel Antenna TV. Most of the images of Flipper jumping against a skyline were not in the originally aired version, as the filming took place in an enclosed lagoon. They were filmed at the end of the series and added for syndication.
The rights to Flipper were later acquired by The Samuel Goldwyn Company, and in turn acquired by MGM Television (the company that originally produced the series). MGM owns full rights to the series; the series copyright is held by MGM's subsidiary Orion Pictures (whose own holdings include the Goldwyn library).
As of November 2016, Flipper airs as one of a handful of classic TV series (alongside Ivan Tors' earlier series Sea Hunt) on the primarily movie-oriented digital subchannel This TV. In 2017, Flipper and Sea Hunt began airing together on Light TV.
The series was broadcast in the early 1970s in the USSR and the show was well received by the Soviet people, both old and young alike. Also broadcast in Romania.
Flipper merchandise generated for the juvenile market during the show's first run is now scarce and collectible. Flipper vintage collectibles include: lunch boxes, song books, comic books, coloring books, a Whitman novel, Big Little Books, souvenir spoons, Whitman frame tray puzzles, a board game, Viewmaster reels (based on the two-part episode "Dolphin Love"), a battery-operated "spouting dolphin" water toy, children's swim trunks with the Flipper logo, and a 1966 Bradley glow-in-the-dark watch. Dolphin Paradise is a Hangame app based on the Flipper television series.
Flipper received an incomplete VHS release during the 1990s under the title "Flipper-Original Series". MGM Home Entertainment (distributed by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) released the first season on DVD on April 24, 2007. They subsequently released season 2 as an 8 disc set on June 3, 2010. This is a Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) release, available exclusively from Amazon.com.
On August 29, 2017, Olive Films re-released the first two seasons on DVD in Region 1. They also released seasons 1 and 2 on Blu-ray for the very first time. Season 3 was released on October 31, 2017 on DVD and Blu-ray.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date|
|The Complete Season 1||30||April 24, 2007|
August 29, 2017 (re-release)
|The Complete Season 2||30||June 3, 2010|
August 29, 2017 (re-release)
|The Complete Season 3||28||October 31, 2017|
The Miami Seaquarium celebrated the 50th Anniversary of "Flipper" in late 2013 with Tommy Norden and Ricou Browning participating along with a series of commemorative events through 2014. A previous event celebrating the 40th anniversary of Flipper in 2004 was also held with Luke Halpin and Tommy Norden. Flipper was nominated for two TV Land awards: in 2004 for the TV Land Favorite Fauna Award and, in 2003, for the TV Land Favorite Pet-Human Relationship Award. Flipper appeared twice on TV Guide covers.
While the TV show itself was not controversial, several controversies have spun off of it. Ric O'Barry, the head trainer of the Flipper dolphins (and also Luke Halpin's occasional stunt double), became a world-renowned animal activist after the death of the dolphin who portrayed Flipper most often. O'Barry stars in the Oscar award-winning documentary The Cove, which features dolphin capture and captivity. He also wrote of his time with the Flipper films and TV series and subsequent animal rights activism in a book entitled Behind the Dolphin Smile.