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Toonhound presents...






British TV series

  Saggy old Bagpuss... from SmallFilms


Bagpuss        (1974)
producers: Smallfilms for the BBC
    animation: stop-motion / cut-outs
      episodes: 13 x 15 mins

   "Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss, old fat furry cat-puss,
    Wake up, and look at this thing that I bring,
    Wake up, be bright, be golden and light,
    Bagpuss, oh hear what I sing..."
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   Does this series need a synopsis? - There can't be a houshold in Britain which
   hasn't seen or heard of this timeless "Watch With Mother" classic from the
   SmallFilms stable. But just in case you've been sleeping all these years
   and are so very late to the party, here's the lowdown:

   This is Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin's classic tv series featuring a saggy
   cloth cat called Bagpuss, a wooden bookend called Professor Yaffle, Madeleine
   the rag doll, Gabriel the banjo-playing toad and a troupe of singing Mouse
   Organ Mice. These friends dwell inside Emily's shop, called "Bagpuss & Co.",
   although it isn't actually a shop at all. Instead, young Emily brings back things
   for her associates to investigate, repair and restore and place in the window,
   in case the rightful owner happens to be passing and seeks to reclaim it.

   Emily finds thirteen different "things" in the course of the series, and each is
   carefully patched up and put on display. Now, to you and I, these items might
   appear quite ordinary. Just a ship in a bottle, or a ballet shoe, or an old scrap
   of tartan. But our small friends know better. Each one is very special. There
   are stories to be told about them, and songs sung in their name. And once
   they have been heard, and each "thing" properly displayed in the shop
   window, the mice, the Professor, the toad, the ragdoll and the saggy,
   baggy cloth cat can once more settle down to their contented sleep...

   Professor Yaffle in SmallFilms' "Bagpuss"   Madeleine the rag-doll in SmallFilms' "Bagpuss"

   Just one season of the show was made for the BBC's "Watch With Mother"
   schedule, though it was repeated ad-infinitum through the seventies and
   eighties. Initially, Peter Firmin had conceived saggy Bagpuss as being a
   pukka retired old Indian Army Cat who spent his days at a children's hospital
   in the hills of the Raj. He would recount a series of extraordinary stories to
   the bed-ridden youngsters. There was even thought given to constructing him
   as a hand-puppet, like Basil Brush (another Firmin creation). In the end we
   got a stop-motion Olde English moggy, well-travelled, well-worn and loved
   by all, forever dozing in the window of Emily's Shop-That-Wasn't-Really-A-Shop.
   The original puppet was actually stitched together by Peter Firmin's wife Joan,
   and shop-owner Emily who features in the sepia-tone photographs which
   open each episode was portrayed by their own daughter, Emily. And a
   window in the Firmin's house doubled for Emily's shop front, in those
   same photos. Oh yes, this was a homespun series in every sense of
   the word.

    Uncle Feedle in SmallFilms' "Bagpuss"   Gabriel the toad in SmallFilms' "Bagpuss"

   "There was a man made all of rags,
    His name was Uncle Feedle..."

   A large part of the Bagpuss appeal is down to the music. John Faulkner and
   Sandra Kerr wrote and performed a series of splendid, melancholic, folk songs
   concerning the objects that were brought in to the shop, like the tale of
   The Boney King of Nowhere or Uncle Feedle and indeed, it was a
   sequence of chords in this latter song that inspired the Bagpuss theme.
   Most famous of all were those marvellous musical mice on the Mouse Organ
   who sang numerous variations of their high-voiced theme. To achieve their unique
   floating tones the recording was cleverly manipulated. First the accompaniement
   was recorded. It was then played back at slow speed whilst the singers did their
   singing at a matching pace, in very high voices. Oliver Postgate joined John
   and Sandra during these sessions. In his inciteful autobiography "Seeing Things"
   (Panmacmillan), Oliver claims to be the one singing out of tune!

   So what is the show's enduring appeal? - It just has that sense of indefinable
   magic. It's cosseting and nostalgic, and it's tinged with a wonderful longing
   for Things Past. We've all seen sleepy little shops just like this one. And we've 
   all wondered about the secret histories of the things we've unearthed in our
   travels. Where have they come from? Who owned them before, and what role
   did they play in their lives?

   Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss, is more popular today than he ever was, and he's
   now gone on to woo British High Streets with an ongoing series of popular
   collectables of every conceivable design...

   The Mice from the Mouse organ, presented here as musical beanies from Golden Bear Toys

» Our cuddlesome yawning feline was granted an MA by the Unviersity
       Of Kent in 1987.

» In August 2001, a channel 4 poll placed "Bagpuss" at the top of a list
       of all-time favourite children's television programmes.

» So Bagpuss ended up as a stop-motion star, but Gabriel the Toad was
       in fact a hand-manipulated puppet, and his scenes were filmed
       in real-time.

» For the record, the names of the four main marvellous, mechanical, mouse
       organ mice were Charlie, Lizzie, Millie and Willie Mouse. That's them,
       left-to-right, above, in the form of Golden Bear Toys' delightful singing
       beanies, which were on sale in UK stores, back in 2003.

» In the episode called Flying, the Mouse Organ Mice wheel out a model
       of a red London bus, with an advertisement for '"Watch With Mother"
       emblazoned on the side!

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      In the news

      The Hound - February 2004
      Saggy, baggy and thirty years old!...

      The Hound - December 2001
      News about SmallFilms/Bagpuss CD-ROMs... 

      The Hound: July 2000
      TV Quotes from Oliver Postgate...

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     Those 13 Episodes

 Ship in a Bottle          The Hamish       The Giant
    The Owls of Athens    The Wise Man    The Old Man's Beard
    The Frog Princess       The Elephant     The Fiddle
    The Ballet Shoe          The Mouse Mill    Flying
    Uncle Feedle

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     Bagpuss on DVD

     UK DVD
The Complete Bagpuss
                Region 2 / all thirteen eps. / Universal / November 2007

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      written and produced by Oliver Postgate
      pictures and puppets by Peter & Joan Firmin
      with help from
Linda Birch, Babette Cole and Charlotte Firmin

John Faulkner, Sandra Kerr
told by:   
  Oliver Postgate (Narrator, Bagpuss, Yaffle)
                    John Faulkner (Gabriel)
                    Sandra Kerr (Madeleine)  

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     On the web

      The official site

      They now own the rights to the characters...

      index »    previous »   next »        

© SmallFilms / Oliver Postgate & Peter Firmin / F2009