In the late 1990s, Jim Freed donated to The State Museum the original Percy Platypus and Wikilou Wombat puppets from the popular children’s program, “Percy Platypus and His Friends.” To celebrate, Freed and Marijane Landis performed a re-creation of an original “Percy Platypus and His Friends” episode at the museum. A recording of that performance has been preserved.
On Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, broadcasting pioneer Marijane Landis passed away at her home in Millersville. She was 87.
A native of Millersville, Landis began her career in broadcasting in 1952 at WGAL. Recruited to host programs geared toward female viewers, she presented several game shows before joining puppeteer Jim Freed on his program, “Percy Platypus and His Friends.” The show debuted on WGAL in 1954 as part of “Slapstick Theater.” The 15-minute program aired on weekdays and, in 1955, WGAL added a half-hour version.
When Landis joined the show, she became the human connection between the viewers and the puppets, freeing Freed to create and use additional puppet companions to populate Percy and Kiwi’s world, Per-Ki Place. These companions included Poky Dingo, Wikilou Wombat (voiced by Landis) and, eventually, a villain named Mr. Rat.
WGAL enjoyed immense success with “Percy Platypus and His Friends,” which remained on the air until Freed relocated to Georgia in 1974, taking Percy and his friends along with him.
Following Freed’s departure, Landis, whose career with WGAL eventually spanned more than 40 years, created a new children’s program, “Sunshine Corners,” that she produced until 1979. During her time at WGAL, Landis served as one of the station’s “Weather Girls.” She also wrote, produced and hosted a variety commercials, promotional spots and public service announcements. In 1978, Landis became WGAL’s community services manager and personnel director. She retired from WGAL in 1993. Landis is the first woman from television to be inducted in the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.