Jim Henson's company had produced a previous pilot in 1962 -- Tales of the Tinkerdee, a fast-paced puppet show with many sets and a complicated narrative. That show wasn't picked up, and the 1964 version was a much simpler and more conventional puppet show. Ten plot outlines were written, and Jerry Juhl wrote several full scripts. The pilot was taped on August 9, 1964.
The Land of Tinkerdee took place on a single set, with minimal props. The show paired a human actor, Darryl Ferreira, with a Muppet dog, Rufus (The human and dog pairing may have been inspired by Rowlf the Dog's successful run on The Jimmy Dean Show, which began in 1963). King Goshposh appeared in this pilot, still the reigning monarch of Tinkerdee. Princess Gwendolinda was mentioned, but doesn't appear.
The complete pilot is housed in the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and can be viewed at the Museum of Television and Radio.
The show opens with the title: "Muppets, Inc. presents The Land of Tinkerdee, featuring Darryl and Rufus".
The scene is a cluttered workroom in Tinkerdee. Darryl is the gatekeeper of Tinkerdee, and Rufus is his watchdog and friend. At the start of the show, Darryl has been told that King Goshposh wants him to repair a watch. Rufus wants to help, so Darryl tells him to go to the store and get some oil. Rufus complains: "What a dirty deal! He always gets to do the good jobs." Darryl promises that he won't start repairing the watch until Rufus comes back.
Rufus prepares to leave, but forgets what he's supposed to bring back: "A tube of glue? A box of nails? A... a bottle of, uh... no..." Darryl shakes his head. "A pound and a half of... a quart of... a yard and a third of..."
"I'll tell you once more," Darryl says. "Oil." Rufus leaves to get the oil.
While Rufus is gone, Darryl gets a magnifying glass. King Goshposh enters, smoking a cigar and holding a small chest. Goshposh is shy and retiring as always: "Your handsome, noble, lovable king -- namely me -- is here to visit you." Goshposh is very protective of the watch -- at first, he doesn't even want Darryl to touch the box, until Darryl explains that he can't fix the watch without touching it.
Darryl opens the box, and he's amazed: "Now, that is really a watch!" Goshposh struts: "That's diamond studded, jewel encrusted, and solid gold. The eye -- yea, verily, the eye -- is truly blinded by its stunning beauty." "What's wrong with it?" Darryl asks. "It runs slow," says Goshposh.
Darryl peers at the watch through his magnifying glass. He moves the hands to 3:00, and a little mechanical marching band appears and plays the Tinkerdee national anthem. "Stand up straight, boy," says Goshposh. "I wrote that." A little door under the 9 opens, and a miniature cannon comes out to mark the hour. It blasts three little puffs of smoke -- three o'clock!
"Wow, that is some watch!" Darryl says, as the air clears. Goshposh brags, "My Granddaddy Whittiner paid 5,000 silver fazots for that. That's a lotta fazots!"
Darryl says that it'll take an hour to fix the watch. "Your lovable king will now depart," Goshposh announces.
When Rufus returns, Darryl shows him the king's watch. Rufus is startled to see the cannon firing, but he's taken with the beautiful object. He asks if he can hold the watch -- "just for a few minutes, and pretend that it's mine?" He promises to be careful, so Darryl allows him to hold it.
Rufus is excited to hold the watch, and talks about the little mechanical men who come out and shoot the cannon, and the cannon goes BLAM! In his excitement, Rufus drops the watch, which falls to the floor with a crunch.
Darryl and Rufus look down at the busted watch. "I think I'm gonna take a walk," Rufus says. "I'm gonna take a long walk. I'm gonna take a long, long walk." "Where are you going?" Darryl asks. "Australia," Rufus says.
Darryl calms the dog down, and examines the watch. He turns the hands to 3:00 again, and they're delighted to see the mechanical band emerge. "Look at that!" Rufus cries. "They built good watches back in those days! I bet it's shockproof!"
But as the Tinkerdee national anthem plays, it slows down... and then sputters... and a spring pops out.
"I broke the king's watch!" Rufus laments. "I'm going to be banished from the kingdom for that!" Rufus doesn't have 5,000 fazots to replace it: "It would take 95 years to earn that!"
Darryl tries to calm the hysterical pooch, and reminds him that he's a watchdog. "Sure! I'm a watchdog!" Rufus says. "I could fix that watch!"
Darryl says, "You know, things like this always happen in Tinkerdee -- but we always find a solution! We'll repair that watch."
Rufus picks up an awl and a hammer, and tries to bang the watch into shape. Darryl tells Rufus to slow down as the credits roll.
- Producer: Jim Henson
- Writer: Jerry Juhl
- Directed by Mel Swope
- with Darryl Ferreira
- Puppets by Jim Henson and Frank Oznowicz
- A presentation of Muppets, Inc.