Ernie Coombs was the host of this simple show (1967–96) as Mr. Dressup on the CBC television network. With his puppet friends, originally Casey and his dog Finnegan, he taught pre-school subjects with games, music and simple activities. To add to the fun, Mr. Dressup would always open up his tickle trunk, which contained any costume for any role he wanted.
Although it was a show for children, Coombs never had children on the show, only puppets and occasionally teenagers. In show business, young children have a long history of doing unpredictable things.
Mr. Dressup is a Canadian icon as much as Mister Rogers' Neighborhood is in the US, which is logical enough considering Coombs was Fred Rogers' understudy when the former worked on the CBC. Seriously, show some aspect of the program to any Canadian who grew up with a television set in the time period of its airing, and you'll get a boatload of heartfelt memories of watching it.
This show provides examples of:
- Ambiguous Gender: Casey. When Ernie Coombs was asked about Casey's gender, he would ask the questioner their guess, and when the questioner responded with their guess, he'd say "You're right!"
- Christmas Special: One year after the show ended, CBC aired Mr. Dressup's Holiday Special, a two & a half hours long (and commercial free) Christmas morning special where Mr. Dressup, Chester, and Truffles went to the SickKids hospital in Toronto to entertain the kids and bring Christmas cheer, while showing them Christmas specials and short cartoons (largely Canadian ones), with cameos from other then-CBC Kids personalities.
- The Dreaded: The Terrible Tootle Troll strikes fear into everyone's hearts... but it's just Mr. Dressup.
- Infinite Supplies: The tickle trunk never ran out of costumes and props even if they were never put back in.
- Long-Runners: Nearly 30 years!
- Once an Episode: Mr. Dressup would put a costume to match with the theme of the day's episode, and the puppet characters would pretend to be fooled.
- Pink Means Feminine: The girliest puppet, Truffles, is bright pink all over, resembling cotton candy.
- The Owl-Knowing One: The picture of an owl on Mr. Dressup's wall had a mind of its own. The Wise Old Owl provided wisdom and advice.
- The Voiceless: Finnegan, yet he had a moving mouth. Ironically, Casey (who talked regularly) did not!
- Transatlantic Equivalent: Or "South of the Border Equivalent". Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Justified as Coombs worked with Fred Rogers at CBC in an early precursor to both shows.
- The Trickster: Chester the Crow is often cooking up some sort of prank.