One of the most successful series of children’s books I remember from my childhood was the Mr. Men books, which are still around today. The Mr. Men set up a pattern for others to follow, which was to produce a series of books based around a range of characters based on a particular theme. One of the better series to employ this idea was the Munch Bunch.
The Munch Bunch were a group of walking, talking fruit and vegetables, mostly with suitably alliterative names like Sally Strawberry, Aubrey Aubergine or Pippa Pear. Alternatively they had names relating to the type of vegetable they were, for example Spud, who was obviously a potato, and Bounce, who was a spring onion (spring, bounce, geddit?). However, my favourite has to be Dick Turnip, who was a highwayman root vegetable, based on the legendary Dick Turpin. I wonder if kids today know who Dick Turpin is, as I’ve not heard his name mentioned in many a year.
Sorry, went a bit off track there. Enough of highwaymen and back to the Munch Bunch. There were more than 30 Munch Bunch characters created for the first series of books, which went on sale between 1979 and 1982, with each character getting their own book. In the years that followed additional books were released for the more popular characters, and larger format books featuring multiple characters were also produced.
The Munch Bunch were so popular that they were also taken overseas, which required the odd name change. For example, Aubrey Aubergine became Eddie Eggplant in the US. New characters were also created when the book landed in New Zealand, including Kiri Kiwifruit and Ted Tamarillo (no, I’d never heard of a Tamarillo before now either).
The inevitable TV show also came along, although rather than being a cartoon as you might expect it was actually a puppet series. The characters were the same as in the books, but they had new stories and were given an origin backstory, which was that they were old fruit and veg swept into the corner of the greengrocers shop, whereupon they magically came alive, escaped and went to live in a garden in a variety of overturned plant pots, wellington boots and watering cans.
Since so many of the characters were varieties of fruit it became a no-brainer for the characters to appear on pots of yoghurt to represent the different flavours. Some new characters were developed for flavours of yoghurt that didn’t already have a Munch Bunch representative (e.g. Jenny Cherry and Charlie Chocolate, the latter being somewhat of an odd one out since he is neither fruit nor vegetable). Initially these yoghurts were sold individually and all was well, but unfortunately this is where the story starts to go sour.
The books sadly went out of print after a fire at the publishers offices lost all the originally artwork, so when the TV series went off air and the books disappeared from the shops only the yoghurts were left. NÃ©stle eventually ended up owning the rights to the Munch Bunch name, and in 1998 after reducing the line up of flavours dramatically we ended up with just six Munch Bunch characters. All were redesigned, although Sally Strawberry and Rozzy Raspberry were kept for two of the names, and a new set of books were produced for these new characters.
Eventually the available flavours were reduced to just three, apricot, strawberry and raspberry, and now NÃ©stle have ditched the anthropomorphised fruit completely, keeping the Munch Bunch name with a new character, a cartoon cow named Munch…
What a sad ending to a great collection of characters. Never mind, to whisk you back here are the opening credits to the TV show, which had a really easy to learn theme tune (some bananas even provide you with the words to the chorus!).