Theodore Tugboat

Theodore Tugboat
Genre Children's television series
Presented by Denny Doherty as the "Harbourmaster" (Canada & US)
Voices of Denny Doherty
Narrated by Denny Doherty
Country of origin Canada
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 130 (list of episodes)
Producer(s) Andrew Cochran
Running time 15 minutes
Distributor NBCUniversal Television Distribution (currently)
Original network CBC (Canada)
Original release July 5, 1993 – October 12, 2001
Related shows Tugs
Salty's Lighthouse
Theodore Too, a fullsize replica of Theodore Tugboat, titular star of the children's show, docked at Murphys Cable Wharf provides tours of Halifax Harbour in the summer.

Theodore Tugboat is a Canadian children's television series about a tugboat named Theodore who lives in the Big Harbour with all of his friends. The show originated (and is set) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada as a co-production between the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation),[1] and the now defunct Cochran Entertainment,[2][3][4][5] and was filmed on a model set using radio controlled tugboats,[6] ships, and machinery.[1][7] Production of the show ended in 2001, and its distribution rights were later sold to Classic Media (now DreamWorks Classics).[8] The show premiered in Canada on CBC Television, then went to PBS (Public Broadcasting Service),[1][6][9] was on Qubo in the US,[8] and at one time had appeared in eighty different countries.[1][3]

The show deals with life learning issues portrayed by the tugs or other ships in the harbour.[1][10][11] Most often, the tugs have a problem, or get involved in a struggle with each other or another ship, but they always manage to help one another resolve these problems and see them through. Their main focus however, is to always make the Big Harbour the friendliest harbour in the world, and to always do a good job with their work related tasks.

Qubo broadcast the series from 2007 - 2009.


The original idea for the series came to Halifax native Andrew Cochran, as he tried to explain the unique characteristics and work of Halifax Harbour vessels to his three-year-old son while walking along the Halifax waterfront. According to Cochran, "When you are with kids, you tend to give human characteristics to buildings, cars and boats."[12] Cochran and his production company, Cochran Entertainment, went on to lead the development of the series with the CBC in Canada, starting in 1989. Production commenced in 1992 with the first broadcasts aired on CBC in 1993. Cochran Entertainment produced all 130 original episodes with Cochran as the executive producer. Jeff Rosen served as the Executive Story Editor and Principal Writer of the series. The designs and faces for most of the characters were created by art director and master model maker Fred Allen.[13] CBC Art Director Tom Anthes designed the set, which featured buildings and structures of Halifax Harbour. More than 60 of the 130 episodes were directed by Robert Cardona,[4] the co-creator of the television show Tugs and producer of Thomas & Friends. These series employed techniques later used in Theodore Tugboat such as humanized vehicles, life lessons and the use of a 1960s pop culture figure as narrator.


The show has one human character, The Harbourmaster, and six central tugboat characters, led by the show's namesake, Theodore Tugboat. Other ships, of all sizes, provide a large number of regular and occasional characters along with a few talking structures.

The Harbourmaster

Along with all the duties of a real-life harbourmaster, The Harbourmaster is the narrator of the series,[1] and provides voices for the entire cast of characters.[1][9][14] He is the only human on the show,[1][15] and is portrayed in the Canadian and US versions by Denny Doherty,[4][6][16] formerly of The Mamas & the Papas,[1][3][6] and by other performers internationally. The Harbourmaster introduces the theme at the beginning of every episode by addressing an issue that he has in common with the tugs.[15] He also loves to play the tuba and is a good friend of a man named "Rodney" (who is never seen). The role, and the person playing the role, is similar to that of Shining Time Station,[1] the American series that featured Thomas the Tank Engine; like Theodore Tugboat, that series initially starred (and was narrated by) an entertainment figure associated with the 1960s. Ringo Starr (of The Beatles),[1][9] and later, comedian George Carlin, both played the role of "Mr. Conductor". He also, like the narrator of Tugs, but unlike the narrators of Thomas The Tank Engine (Starr & Carlin at least) - can communicate on screen with the Tugboats.


This life-size version of Theodore Tugboat, Theodore Too plies the waters of Halifax Harbour.

Regular characters

A number of ships based in the Big Harbour appear as recurring characters. They include Phillip and Philmore the Ferry Twins, Pearl and Petra, the Pilot Boats, as well as Northumberland Submarine, Rebecca the Research Vessel, and Bluenose the Sailing Ship. A number of barges appear frequently, most notably the grumpy Guysborough the Garbage Barge and Barrington Barge as well as a few regular talking structures such as Benjamin Bridge and Donald Dock.

Visiting characters

Many visiting ships such as Kingston the Cargo Ship, Queen Stephanie the cruise ship, and Canso Colossus the supertanker appear in several episodes along with a large number of named visiting cargo ships and some rare special visitors such as Snorri the Viking Ship and Kulu the Canoe.


There are one hundred-thirty episodes in the series. They were produced in five seasons:

Air dates

The program's formula

Each episode always follows the same format within the series.

Opening sequence

The show always opens with the theme song, and the opening title dissolves into the Harbourmaster's office. The Harbourmaster is normally doing something or thinking about something, which prompts him to remember when one of the tugboats was involved in a similar scenario.[15]

Main sequence

As the Harbourmaster starts telling the story, the camera shot dissolves into a shot of the tugs working somewhere, or getting their orders from the Dispatcher. In the first few minutes of the episode, the tugs encounter a problem, and they use their heads to solve it. "It is the classic three-act structure," said series creator Andrew Cochran, "Theodore encounters a problem, the problem gets worse, he solves the problem."[12] Other times, the tugs have to conquer an emotional problem, such as not feeling good enough, or having to say goodbye to a friend.[11] As each episode continues, the tugs resolve their problems, and life returns to normal in the Big Harbour.

Closing sequence

The scene again dissolves into a shot of the Harbourmaster's office, with the Harbourmaster deciding to pay attention to the lesson learned by the tugs.[15] During this time, he sometimes communicates with the tugs through his office window (they reply with the sound of their whistles), plays his tuba, or listens to his friend Rodney playing bagpipes. The Harbourmaster finally says "Thanks for visiting us here in the Big Harbour, and we'll see you all again next time.", and the credits roll.[1]

On the half-hour PBS series, following the first story, the Harbourmaster's goodbye is instead followed by a voice-over, reminding viewers to stay tuned for the next story, and prompting them to visit the PBS website.

View of the Theodore Tugboat studio models used for filming the children's television series. They were photographed on permanent display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Virtually all of the buildings are based on actual buildings on the Halifax waterfront.


The series was filmed in the former Alexander McKay School[17] on Russell Street in Halifax's North End,[18] which Doherty (the Harbourmaster) had attended as a child.[1][9] At the peak of production, the show employed forty people. The characters, including Theodore, were designed and built by Fred Allen,[19] a Halifax artist and set designer who strove to balance expressive human faces with realistic and weathered industrial details.[13] Allen and three model assistants built the models in a workshop adjacent to the large set located in a water-filled gymnasium.[1] The radio controlled models were driven by propellers and used underwater wheels to provide guidance and avoid drifting out of shots.[1] Blue food colour was used to give an ocean look to the water. While Allen built the vessel models, the background set, inspired by the cityscape of Halifax and Dartmouth buildings, was built by the art department at CBC Halifax.[12] Many of the original models used to film the series can now be seen at Halifax's Maritime Museum of the Atlantic,[7] while a few others were sold on eBay in 2010.

Real names and locations

The characters are loaded with references to Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia, the Maritimes, and Atlantic Canada in general. Many of the references are obvious (such as Bedford buoy) while others are more obscure. The following is a list of other references:


Theodore Tugboat VHS tapes

Canadian VHS tapes

The Canadian Theodore VHS tapes were made by Children's Group and PolyGram Video. They contained stickers of all the tugboats and two episodes. These tapes have become rare, and almost always sell in the double digits on eBay and

The list
  1. Theodore to the Rescue "Theodore to the Rescue" and "Theodore and the Northern Lights"
  2. Theodore's Whistle "Theodore's Whistle" and "George's Ghost"
  3. Theodore's Big Adventures "Theodore and the Oil Rig" and "Hank and the Hug"
  4. Whale of a Tug "Whale of a Tug" and "Carla the Cool Cabin Cruiser"
  5. Hank and the Nightlight "Hank and the Nightlight" and "Theodore Hugs the Coast"
  6. Theodore and the Harbour Crane "Theodore and the Harbour Crane" and "Hank's Wheezy Whistle"
  7. Theodore and the Treasure Team "Northumberland is Missing" and "All Quiet in the Big Harbour"
  8. Emily Goes Overboard "Emily Goes Overboard" and "Dartmouth Says Goodbye"

US tapes

The US Theodore Tugboat tapes were released through PBS Home Video and Warner Home Video. Most of these tapes are common on online sites. They usually contain three episodes, with the exception of "Theodore's Big Adventure" with two, and "Theodore's Exceptional Friends" which has five, also containing a special handbook.

The list
  1. Theodore's Friendly Adventures (July 14, 1998) "Theodore and the Unsafe Ship", "A Joke too Far", and "Hank and the Sunken Ship"[39]
  2. Theodore Helps a Friend (July 14, 1998) "Theodore and the Hunt for Northumberland", "Bedford's Big Move", and Guysborough Makes a Friend"[40]
  3. Big Harbour Bedtime (July 14, 1998) "Emily and the Sleep Over", "Theodore's Bright Night", and "Foduck and the Shy Ship"[41]
  4. Theodore's Exceptional Friends (October 26, 1999) "Snorri the Viking Ship", "Guysborough's Garbage", "Hank Hurts a Ship", Theodore and the Ice Ship", and "Dartmouth Says Goodbye"[42]
  5. Nighttime Adventures (April 4, 2000) "Night Shift", "Rebeca and the Big Snore", and "Hank Stays Up Late"[43]
  6. Underwater Mysteries (April 4, 2000) "Theodore's Big Decision", "George and the Underwater Mystery", and "Pugwash is Gone!"[44]
  7. Theodore's Big Adventure (July 29, 1997) (PBS version) "Theodore and the Big Oil Rig", and "Hank and the Hug"

Theodore Tugboat DVDs

The Theodore Tugboat Gift Shop in Halifax has copies of some US releases on DVD. These include; Big Harbour Bedtime, Nighttime Adventures, and Theodore's Friendly Adventures.

Theodore Tugboat books

In a deal Cochran did with Random House in 1998,[45] the following Theodore Tugboat books were published

In the late 2000s Nimbus Publishing released a series of books featuring Theodore Too.[55]


"Theodore Too".

There were several tie-ins linked with the series. Notably, the producers, Cochran Entertainment, worked out a marketing deal with European toy manufacturer BRIO to produce wooden toy replicas of some of the main characters,[60] as well as a line of scale die-cast models and bathtub toys manufactured by Ertl.[61] The characters were retired in 2000. A set of squeezy toys were made by Alpi. Puzzles and games were made by International Playthings.

A life-sized replica of Theodore Tugboat (called Theodore Too)[62] was constructed by the series producers in the late 1990s,[2] that went on a fifty-city tour of harbours from Tampa, Florida,[63] through the Great Lakes to Chicago, Illinois, and back again to Halifax.[64] It still resides in Halifax Harbour where it was purchased by a touring company, and is used for sight seeing tours of the harbour.

Theodore Tugboat merchandise can still be purchased from many on-line auction and shopping websites. Retail merchandise can also be purchased from the Theodore Tugboat Gift Shop, on the waterfront in downtown Halifax, near Theodore Too and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Theodore Tugboat toys/games


Ertl released a number of Theodore Tugboat toys, including die-cast boats,[61] a set of rubber boats that float, a "Press'n Roll" series of plastic boats (where pressing the smokestack then releasing it makes the boat move), and sets of glow in the dark wall decorations.

  1. Theodore
  2. Emily
  3. Foduck
  4. Hank
  5. George
  6. Carla
  7. Brunswick
  8. The Great Ocean Docks playset
  9. Constance
  10. Rebecca
  11. Northumberland
  12. Owan the oil rig playset
Bath Tub Toys
  1. Theodore
  2. Hank
  3. Emily
  4. George
  5. Foduck
  6. Northumberland
  7. Guysborough
  8. Pugwash
  9. Digby
Changing Faces
  1. Hank
  2. Theodore
Press and Roll
  1. Emily
  2. Foduck
  1. The Great Ocean Dock Playset (with Donald Dock and Brunswick)
  2. Owan The Oil Rig Playset
  1. Phillip
  2. Sigrid


BRIO released many Theodore Tugboat toys for interaction with its toy trains.[60] Other than the tugboats, Brio released Benjamin Bridge, Clayton the Crane, Chester the Container Ship, Barrington, Bonavista, and the Dispatcher.[60] The tugs and the Dispatcher feature moving eyes.

Characters Made
  1. Theodore
  2. Hank
  3. Emily
  4. George
  5. Foduck
  6. The Dispatcher
  7. Barrington
  8. Benjamin Bridge
  9. Clayton
  10. Chester
  1. The Great Ocean Dock and Dispatcher
  2. Cargo Docks Play Set

International Playthings

International Playthings released the Theodore Tugboat Cargo Game.

See also


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  2. 1 2 "Theodore Tugboat comes to life in N.S. - (May 8, 2000)". 2000-05-08. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  3. 1 2 3 Sisario, Ben (2007-01-20). "Denny Doherty, 66, Mamas and Papas Singer, Dies". Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  4. 1 2 3 "Theodore Tugboat - TV series (19932000)". Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  5. "L.M. Montgomery Institute's CD-ROM wins three awards in international competition". Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  6. 1 2 3 4 " - Denny Doherty jacket fetches $250 at auction - (Feb. 4, 2007)". Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  7. 1 2 "Exhibits of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic - Theodore Tugboat". Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  8. 1 2 "qubo Launches as 24-Hour Digital Broadcast Channel on ION - (Jan. 8, 2007)". Business Wire. 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  9. 1 2 3 4 "New York Daily News - Papa's Brand-new Bag - Kids' TV (Oct. 24, 1997)". 1997-10-24. Retrieved 2011-11-09.
  10. Maslin, Janet. "Theodore Tugboat - TV Series - Cast & Credits - Listings -". Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  11. 1 2 3 " - History of Nova Scotia, 2000 March 1–19 - Theodore Tugboat". Retrieved 2011-11-09.
  12. 1 2 3 Ian Johnston, "Talking Boats in a Mini-Metro: Theodore Tugboat Series personfied Halifax Harbour", Seven Days magazine Sept. 18, 1992
  13. 1 2 Andy Pederson, "Master Mariner: Fred Allen's Theodore Tugboat Models are Enthralling Kids in 70 Countries", Atlantic Progress Magazine Vol. 6, No. 4 (May 1999) p. 71
  14. "'Dream A Little Dream', The Musical - CBS News (Apr. 24, 2003)". 2003-04-24. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 " - Boats - Barges & Tugboats - Theodore Tugboat". Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  16. " - Singer Doherty's voice, humour remembered - (Jan. 27, 2007)". Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  17. "Alexander McKay School 1955 Class Photo "Misc Photos", Halifax History". Retrieved 2010-04-17.
  18. "The Other Papa - The Atlantic (April 2007)". Retrieved 2010-03-16.
  19. 1 2 "ALLEN - Obit from Halifax's Chronicle Herald - Monday, December 10, 2008". Retrieved 2009-08-02.
  20. "Government of Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada - New Brunswick". Archived from the original on June 13, 2011. Retrieved 2009-04-18.
  21. "Central Quebec School Board - Places & Origin of Names". Retrieved 2009-04-18.
  22. " - Transportation - Public Works - New highway named Cobequid Pass". Government of Nova Scotia. Retrieved 2009-04-14.
  23. "Acadian-Cajun, Genealogy & History - Exile Destination - Cobequid". Retrieved 2009-04-14.
  24. " - Everything you wanted to know about Canada - Highest Tides". Archived from the original on April 7, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  25. 1 2 " - History of Pictou - By historian Ron Wallis". Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  26. 1 2 "Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library, County place names". Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  27. " - Welcome to the Village of Pugwash - History". Retrieved 2009-04-08.
  28. " - Local Histories - Pugwash". Retrieved 2009-04-08.
  29. "The A to Z of Maritime Place Names - East Coast Kin, Nov. 17, 1998 Vol. II, #15". 1998-11-17. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
  30. "Pugwash Nova Scotia hotels, motels, resorts, campgrounds". 2006-11-21. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
  31. " - Shediac, New Brunswick is the Lobster Capital of the World". Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  32. "Communications New Brunswick - Lobster festival named as Top 100 Event for 2008". Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  33. "Midway from the Equator to the North Pole - Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada". Retrieved 2009-04-08.
  34. "The Burnside News - Burnside entrepreneur to develop Stewiacke industrial park". Retrieved 2009-04-08.
  35. "The Truro Daily News - Columns - Falle, McCallum, Allen enjoyed roles as vikings". Retrieved 2010-03-16.
  36. Giddins, Gary. "Fred Allen - Trailer - Showtimes - Cast - Movies & TV Credits -". Retrieved 2009-04-10.
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  38. " - History of Truro, The Hub of Nova Scotia". Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  39. "Theodore Tugboat: Theodore's Friendly Adventures - Cast - Showtimes -". Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  40. "Theodore Tugboat: Theodore Helps a Friend - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes -". Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  41. "Theodore Tugboat: Big Harbour Bedtime - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes -". Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  42. "Theodore Tugboat: Exceptional Friends - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes -". Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  43. "Theodore Tugboat: Nighttime Adventures - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes -". Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  44. "Theodore Tugboat: Underwater Mysteries - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes -". Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  45. Kimber, Stephen. "Theodore's struggles". The Coast. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  46. Man-Kong, Mary; Serrat, Bernat; Stutt, Bob (1999-01-01). Theodore and the whale. New York: Random House. ISBN 0679894217.
  47. Man-Kong, Mary; Cardona Studio (2000-01-01). Theodore and the scary cove. New York: Random House. ISBN 0375805087.
  48. Man-Kong, Mary; Mateu, Francese (1999-01-01). Theodore and the treasure hunt. New York: Random House. ISBN 0375800867.
  49. Man-Kong, Mary; Edwards, Ken; Cochran, Andrew; Rosen, Jeff (2000-01-01). Theodore to the rescue. New York: Random House. ISBN 0375803254.
  50. Man-Kong, Mary; Edwards, Ken; MacLellan, Kathy (1999-01-01). Theodore's best friend. New York: Random House. ISBN 0679994092.
  51. Man-Kong, Mary; Edwards, Ken (1999-01-01). Theodore's splash!. New York: Random House. ISBN 0679894101.
  52. Man-Kong, Mary; Mateu, Francese; Cochran, Andrew; Rosen, Jeff (1998-01-01). Theodore's whistle. New York: Random House. ISBN 0679894195.
  53. Robertson, Ivan; Edwards, Ken (1999-01-01). Theodore and the stormy day. New York: Random House. ISBN 037580076X.
  54. Robertson, Ivan; Gleaves, Phil; Cochran, Andrew; Rosen, Jeff (2000-01-01). Theodore's birthday surprise. New York: Random House. ISBN 0375802495.
  55. Cochran entertainment had gone into receivership in 2002 and had sold the rights for Theodore to Classic Media. Murphy's Sailing Tours Limited licensed the right to operate Theodore Too from Classic Media. It is unclear from the metadata in the Nimbus books if they are a merchandising tie-in with the TV show or the boat.
  56. Mulder, Michelle; Poplawska, Yolanda (2006-01-01). Theodore Too and the too-long nap. Halifax, N.S.: Nimbus Pub. ISBN 1551095718.
  57. Mulder, Michelle; Poplawska, Yolanda (2007-01-01). Theodore Too and the shipwreck school. Halifax, N.S.: Nimbus Pub. ISBN 9781551096094.
  58. Mulder, Michelle; Poplawska, Yolanda (2008-01-01). Theodore Too and the mystery guest. Halifax, NS: Nimbus Pub. ISBN 9781551096599.
  59. Mulder, Michelle; Poplawska, Yolanda (2011-01-01). Theodore Too and the excuse-me monster. Halifax, N.S.: Nimbus Pub. ISBN 9781551098074.
  60. 1 2 3 "The Canadian Toy Testing Council - 2000 Toy Report (TOYS-3+)". Archived from the original on April 19, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  61. 1 2 " - A display of die-cast Theodore Tugboat toys". Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  62. "Lengkeek Vessel Engineering - Miscellaneous projects, Theodore Too". Retrieved 2010-03-16.
  63. "St. Petersburg Times, Online - Tampa Bay - Hillsborough Bulletin board (Dec. 31, 2000)". Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  64. " - Theodore Tugboat leads seasonal parade - (12-17-2001)". Retrieved 2009-04-05.
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