Smallfilms for the BBC animation: stop-motion / cut-outs episodes: 13 x 15 mins
dear Bagpuss, old fat furry cat-puss,
Wake up, and look at this thing that I
Wake up, be bright, be golden and light,
Bagpuss, oh hear what I sing..."
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
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
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
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
"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
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"
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...
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
ended up as a stop-motion star, but Gabriel the Toad was
in fact a hand-manipulated
puppet, and his scenes were filmed
For the record, the names of the four main marvellous, mechanical,
organ mice were Charlie,
Lizzie, Millie and Willie Mouse. That's them,
in the form of Golden Bear Toys' delightful singing
beanies, which were on sale
in UK stores, back in 2003.
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!