Flipper (1964 TV series)

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Flipper Title Screen.JPG
Title screen
GenreChildren's television programs
FormatColor, full-screen
Created byJack Cowden
Ricou Browning
StarringBrian Kelly
Luke Halpin
Tommy Norden
Andy Devine, (1964)
Ulla Strömstedt, (1965)
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes88 (List of episodes)
Running timeapprox. 25 minutes
Original channelNBC
Original runSeptember 19, 1964 – April 15, 1967
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Flipper Title Screen.JPG
Title screen
GenreChildren's television programs
FormatColor, full-screen
Created byJack Cowden
Ricou Browning
StarringBrian Kelly
Luke Halpin
Tommy Norden
Andy Devine, (1964)
Ulla Strömstedt, (1965)
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes88 (List of episodes)
Running timeapprox. 25 minutes
Original channelNBC
Original runSeptember 19, 1964 – April 15, 1967

Flipper, from Ivan Tors Films in association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Television, is an American television program first broadcast on NBC from September 19, 1964, until April 15, 1967. Flipper, a bottlenose dolphin, is the companion animal of Porter Ricks, Chief Warden at fictional Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve in southern Florida, and his two young sons Sandy and Bud. The show has been dubbed an "aquatic Lassie", and a considerable amount of juvenile merchandise inspired by the show was produced during its first-run.



The television show is an adaptation of the 1963 film Flipper starring Chuck Connors and Luke Halpin as Porter and Sandy Ricks, and its 1964 sequel, Flipper's New Adventure, where Brian Kelly took over the role of Porter. In adapting the films to a television series, the producers made Porter a single parent and gave him a second son named Bud, played by Tommy Norden. The producers departed yet again from the films in endowing Flipper with an unnatural degree of intelligence and an extraordinary understanding of human motives, behavior, and vocabulary.[1]

The show was created by Jack Cowden and Ricou Browning, a man with extensive experience in underwater filming and underwater performance, notably as the monster in The 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 Intelligent Porpoise", in a form of "product placement".

Filming locations

Flipper was filmed in Miami at Greenwich Studios, (as Ivan Tors Studios), 12100 Ivan Tors Boulevard, Miami, Florida, USA. Nassau was an occasional location. The show was produced in cooperation with Miami Seaquarium, an aquarium located on Key Biscayne in Biscayne Bay, Miami, Florida. Miami Seaquarium has the Flipper Show; a dolphin show in the lagoon that served as the film location for the show.[2] Note: The Miami Seaquarium set where Flipper was filmed also served as the set of the television show Gentle Ben. In fact 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/aka Jimbo's Place located across from Miami Seaquarium into the care and exercise of Jimbo aka James Luznar Sr. Flipper lived in a pen in the cove behind Jimbo's shrimp.

Role of Flipper

Flipper was played 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. The five dolphins performed all of Flipper's thespian chores 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.[3] The famous "voice" of Flipper was actually the doctored song of a kookaburra.

The show had two dolphin trainers, Robert Corbin and Ric O'Barry (who was also Luke Halpin's stunt double[4]). Ric O'Barry, who later turned marine activist, stated that after production ended, he watched Kathy the dolphin take her own life away, as he explained on Oprah Winfrey's Earth Day Special. He stated, "She was really depressed... You have to understand dolphins and whales are not [involuntary] air breathers like we are. Every breath they take is a conscious effort. They can end their life whenever. She swam into my arms and looked me right in the eye, took a breath and didn't take another one. I let her go and she sank straight down on her belly to the bottom of the tank."[5]


The show's theme tune was credited to Henry Vars with lyrics by William "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.

Broadcast history

Initially the show was broadcast September 1964 – September 1967, NBC, Saturday 7:30–8:00 pm. 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.

Characters and cast

Animal cast

Flipper, the dolphin.

Human cast

Clockwise: Brian Kelly, Luke Halpin and Tommy Norden.


The Ricks cottage at Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve

The series follows a Bottlenose Dolphin named Flipper who is the wild pet of Porter Ricks, a park warden, and his sons Sandy and Bud. 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. There are few women in the lives of the Ricks males but Porter does have a date in the first season while Sandy meets the girl operator of a floating zoo. A female oceanographer enters the series in the second season to add a feminine touch to the proceedings. Promotional material for the third season announced a new girlfriend for Sandy, although she only appeared in one episode. The series is distinguished for its lush photography of subtropical Florida and its colorful underwater sequences.

Cancellation and subsequent history

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 boys 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, and Bud will be attending a private school remedially, out-of-state, as arranged by their Aunt Martha. At the same time, a new family (the Whitmans) moves to the area: a widowed mother (played by Karen Steele) and her young son and daughter (played 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. All this was for naught, however, as the NBC network declined to renew the series in this new format.

Flipper has seen periodic syndication since its NBC cancellation. The show has aired on cable's Family Channel, Nickelodeon, Animal Planet, Discovery Kids, and satellite provider Voom's Family Room channel in high-definition. 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.[4]

The rights to Flipper were later acquired by Turner Entertainment, with distribution rights being 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 in-name-only unit Orion Pictures (whose own holdings include the Goldwyn library).


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, and a battery-operated "spouting dolphin" water toy. Flipper's brew, an American pilsner beer from Florida.

Home Media

Flipper received an incomplete VHS release during 1990's under the title "Flipper-Original Series". MGM/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released the first season on DVD on April 24, 2007. MGM has also issued Season 2 as an 8 disc set in June 2010. Amazon.com is selling the set exclusively, on a "manufacture on demand" basis. The "DVD-R" discs do not play on some computer DVD drives.

Awards and recognition

The Miami Seaquarium celebrated the 40th anniversary of Flipper in 2004 with Luke Halpin and Tommy Norden participating. 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, became a world-renowned animal activist after the death of the dolphin who played Flipper most often. O'Barry stars in the Oscar award winning documentary The Cove, which features dolphin capture and captivity. Miami Seaquarium, the set of the Flipper show, has also received decades of bad publicity due to their controversial animal care, and their lone orca Lolita is currently the center of the "Free Lolita" campaign.

List of episodes

First season (1964–1965)Second season (1965–1966)Third season (1966–1967)
  1. 300 Feet Below
  2. The Red Hot Car
  3. SOS Dolphin (pilot episode)
  4. The Gulf Between
  5. City Boy
  6. Dolphin for Sale
  7. Not Necessarily Gospel
  8. Countdown for Flipper
  9. Mr. Marvello
  10. My Brother Flipper
  11. The Second Time Around
  12. Lady and the Dolphin (1)
  13. Lady and the Dolphin (2)
  14. Danger
  15. The Misanthrope
  16. Flipper's Bank Account
  17. The Lifeguard
  18. The Day of the Shark
  19. Love and Sandy
  20. Money to Blow
  21. Flipper's Treasure
  22. The White Dolphin
  23. Teamwork
  24. Flipper and the Elephant (1)
  25. Flipper and the Elephant (2)
  26. Flipper and the Elephant (3)
  27. Bud Minds Baby
  28. Sailor Bud
  29. The Call of the Dolphin
  30. Flipper's Monster
  1. Flipper and the Mermaid
  2. Dolphin in Pursuit (1)
  3. Dolphin in Pursuit (2)
  4. Flipper's Hour of Peril
  5. Coral Fever
  6. Junior Ranger
  7. The Ditching (1)
  8. The Ditching (2)
  9. Flipper and the Spy
  10. Dolphin Patrol
  11. A Job for Sandy
  12. Flipper and the Horse Thieves
  13. Flipper and the Bounty
  14. Shark Hunt
  15. Flipper, the Detective
  16. Flipper's Odyssey (1)
  17. Flipper's Odyssey (2)
  18. Flipper's Odyssey (3)
  19. Slingshot
  20. Flipper and the Shark Cage
  21. The Lobster Trap
  22. Air Power
  23. Gift Dolphin
  24. The Raccoon Who Came to Dinner
  25. Flipper Joins the Navy (1)
  26. Flipper Joins the Navy (2)
  27. Flipper's Underwater Museum
  28. Deep Waters
  29. Dolphin Love (1)
  30. Dolphin Love (2)
  1. Agent Bud
  2. Disaster in the Everglades (1)
  3. Disaster in the Everglades (2)
  4. Lost Dolphin
  5. The Warning
  6. Cupid Flipper
  7. An Errand for Flipper
  8. A Whale Ahoy
  9. Explosion
  10. Executive Bud
  11. Flipper and the Puppy
  12. Flipper's Island
  13. Alligator Duel
  14. Flipper and the Fugitive (1)
  15. Flipper and the Fugitive (2)
  16. The Most Expensive Sardine in the World
  17. Flipper and the Seal
  18. Dolphins Don't Sleep
  19. Aunt Martha
  20. Dolphin for Ransom
  21. A Dolphin in Time
  22. Decision for Bud
  23. The Firing Line (1)
  24. The Firing Line (2)
  25. Devil Ray
  26. Cap'n Flint
  27. Flipper's New Friends (1)
  28. Flipper's New Friends (2)


  1. ^ "Flipper - The Original Series: Season One". DVD Talk. http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/27578/flipper-the-original-series-season-one/. Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  2. ^ Miami Seaquarium: Tickets Prices Coupons Discounts
  3. ^ Ric O' Barry and Keith Coulbourn, "Behind the Dolphin Smile" Renaissance Books, 2000, ISBN 978-1-58063-101-3
  4. ^ a b Ric O' Barry and Keith Coulbourn, "Behind the Dolphin Smile" Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1988, ISBN 0-912697-79-2
  5. ^ "Interview with Richard O'Barry". PBS Frontline. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/whales/interviews/obarry2.html. Retrieved 2012-01-24. 

External links