Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe – TIFF 2023

TIFF 2023 Review Mr. Dressup The Magic of Make-Believe
A major tearjerker of a documentary about arguably one of Canada’s most beloved children’s entertainers.

Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe – TIFF 2023

Release Date: October 10, 2023
Runtime: 01:30
Take a detailed look about at famed, iconic television show from Canada that impacted multiple generations across its 39 year presence on television and its on-going legacy.

The life and career of Ernie “Mr. Dressup” Combs are revisited in . Born in Maine, Ernie Combs moved to Toronto in 1962 to work with Fred Rogers on the original CBC version of MisteRogers. After Rogers returned to the United States, CBC built a new show around Ernie Combs, first called Butternut Square in 1964, and later redeveloped as Mr. Dressup in 1967. The show would run for three decades, during which time Ernie Combs would become beloved by generations of Canadians.

Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe Synopsis

Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe is a documentary directed by Robert McCallum about Ernie “Mr. Dressup” Combs, arguably one of Canada's most beloved children's entertainers. The film opens with an introduction by the beloved puppets Casey and Finnegan, played by the original puppeteer Judith Lawrence, who left the show in the late 1980s, resulting in Casey and Finnegan being replaced by a new cast of puppets. The film tells the story of Ernie Combs' entire life from working as a puppeteer for Fred Rogers to his death from a stroke in 2001. This is supported by interviews with the cast members, Combs' children, and various celebrities influenced by Dr. Dressup such as , Eric McCormack, Bif Naked, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Andrew Phung, Fred Penner, Barenaked Ladies, , Bruce McCulloch, and .

My Thoughts on Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe

With the show running for three decades between 1967 and 1996, multiple generations of Canadians grew up watching Mr. Dressup, including myself. As such, Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe ends up being a major tearjerker of a documentary, particularly in later segments discussing the tragic death of Ernie Combs' wife Marlene in 1992 and then Combs own death 9 years later at the age of 73. As the two were good friends, Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe would make a great companion with the 2018 Mr. Rogers documentary Won't You Be My Neighbour and on its own, the documentary is a very nostalgic look back at an era of children's television than can no longer be repeated.

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.