How Agro missed out on $17 million
The man behind Agro has revealed how he missed out on $17 million after a movie starring the puppet fell through.
Jamie Dunn, who took over as the voice of Agro in 1982, is set to spill his showbiz secrets on stage in Agro Up Late With Jamie Dunn which kicks off at the Perth Comedy Festival in April before heading to Sydney.
Speaking to news.com.au to promote the tour, The Sunshine Coast entertainer told us that there was once a plan for Agro to star in a movie, a movie that would have made him very, very rich.
"I had an idea for a movie for Agro," Dunn said. "I made arrangements to meet with John Kirby (from Village Roadshow) who owned Sea World, Movie World, all that. The idea was that the movie would be shot at Movie World, so there were some pluses for him."
Before the meeting, Dunn wrote a rough script and paid for "a treatment" to have it made into the first draft of a screenplay.
"It came back and the guy who did the treatment had written 'copyright' and his name on the script," Dunn told news.com.au. "I rang him and said, 'I paid $10,000 for this treatment, what do you mean it's copyright?' He said, 'Oh well, there are a lot of my ideas in there.'
"I knew I was going to have a problem," he said.
Dunn was so worried about a potential legal battle with the writer that he ditched the script and decided to write a new one on his own.
When he met with Kirby, he described a couple of elaborate scenes he had in mind, including one where "Agro runs across a clearing and nonchalantly picks up a rock that he throws at a mechanism that's lowering some bad guys into a flooded mine, thus saving the baddies".
The scene sounded expensive.
"John Kirby said, 'This isn't going to cost any more than $19 million, is it?'" Dunn recalled. "I thought to myself, I can make this for $2 million easily. I could pocket $17 million!"
Dunn told news.com.au that Kirby was keen, so he went back to the drawing board and worked on a new script, but unfortunately it just didn't work out.
"I just didn't get there (with the script) and in the meantime things change," Dunn said. "So my $17 million profit just disappeared," he laughed.
Dunn might have missed out on a big payday with the failed film, but being the voice of Agro has certainly paid off for him during his career.
He revealed to news.com.au that he made some big bucks when he was given the merchandising rights to Agro.
"Christopher Skase (who was running Channel 7 at the time) didn't have any money to renew my TV contract, so he just gave me the rights to the merchandise," Dunn said.
Not long after, Dunn was approached by a man who wanted to team up to sell Agro showbags at the various Royal Shows around Australia.
"As it turned out, this guy knew showbags back to front so we started making the Agro showbags," Dunn said. "We would sell 50,000 at the Brisbane Ekka every year, no problem.
"It was a nice earner," he said.
After eight years as the voice of Agro, Dunn himself had become a star and he hit the bigtime when he received an offer to co-host a radio show.
"Austereo rang up and they didn't even know my name," he recalled. "They said, 'Can we speak to the man who does Agro?'
"They asked if I could do breakfast radio and I said, 'Absolutely!' And then I had to work out how to do breakfast radio. In my business you say 'yes' first and then work out how to do it later.
"When I did radio, I earned well over $1 million each year for three years," he said.
Dunn is set to spill even juicer details about his life as the voice of Agro during the Agro Up Late With Jamie Dunn shows.
He'll be joined on stage by former Big Brother contestant Ben Zabel who, Dunn said, knows more about TV than anyone he's ever met.
"The first half of the show is a conversation between myself and Ben," he said. "Then we run a few Agro goof tapes and then Agro comes out for the second half and we build to a climax and everyone goes home."
Agro Up Late with Jamie Dunn tour dates:
Perth Comedy Festival on April 24
Sydney Comedy Festival on April 25/26