Trent University was prominent at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) - with footage of the University featured in the much-anticipated Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make Believe documentary.
The documentary examines the career and cultural influence of beloved Canadian children’s television entertainer Ernie Coombs, otherwise known as Mr. Dressup. Coombs received an honorary doctorate from Trent University in June 2001. Excerpts from his memorable convocation address were utilized early in the film in establishing the character and influence of Coombs.
In the Trent address to the graduating students, with that Mr. Dressup twinkle in his eye, he said, “Keep your crayons sharp, your sticky tape untangled, and always put the top back on your markers.”
Coombs was honoured by Trent for his work with children and the arts, and was heralded at the time by English professor, Dr. Stephen Brown, who noted that Coombs and his television persona are both “mild-mannered, humorous, self-effacing and gentle; both exude love, concern, and caring; both know intuitively that the child is born wise and that laughter is the source of what is good in human nature."
More Trent connections
In addition to footage from Trent University’s Convocation, the film also included excerpts of an interview with Dr. Scott Henderson ‘84, dean and head of Trent University Durham GTA, and resident pop culture expert, who provided insights on Coombs’ impact and legacy.
The film included cameos from numerous renowned Canadian actors and celebrities, including Michael J. Fox, Graham Greene, Andrew Fung, members of the Barenaked Ladies, and many others.
When asked to comment on his contribution, Henderson joked, “I am thrilled that I can boast about appearing in a film with Michael J. Fox!”
Reflecting on his participation in the film, he said, “It was a genuine joy to be part of this project. Mr. Dressup was an important part of my own childhood, and an inspiration for myself and generations of Canadians in terms of finding our own creative spark. It was clear that everyone involved in the project shared these positive feelings for Coombs and his legacy. The characteristics that led to his honorary degree from Trent were abundant in the film.”
There was another Trent connection in the form of musician and entertainer Jim Parker, who frequently appeared on the Mr. Dressup television series and accompanied Coombs on his many live appearances across Canada.
Parker is the partner of Trent alumni and emeritus Board member, Sue Graham Parker ‘73, who was also present to enjoy the TIFF premiere.
Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make Believe will premiere on October 10, 2023 on Prime Video.