Four Decades of Warm Fuzzies
While new animation mega-franchises emerge from slick studio productions each year, most people keep a tender place in their heart for those old classics with rough edges for their timeless charm and loving hand-craftsmanship. One of the U.K.’s most treasured characters, in fact, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year: Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate’s Bagpuss. The pink and white, somewhat ragged stuffed cat starred in a short-lived but well remembered series on BBC in 1974, in which he and his stop-motion pals came to life in a shop run by a little girl named Emily to ponder over whatever interesting object she had left in their display window.
Firmin and Postgate’s studio Smallfilms, founded in 1959, also produced British kids classics The Clangers, Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine— all of which, along with Bagpuss, are now under the stewardship of Londonbased Coolabi. The studios’ current leadership—Smallfilms’ Daniel Postgate and Coolabi’s Jeremy Banks—say that Bagpuss remains their most famous character. Years after it went off air, Bagpuss has topped a BBC poll of favorite kids’ shows (1999), inspired a musical stage show (2002 and 2005), amassed over 50 licensees and even influenced a Radiohead album. But Bagpuss’ new owners believe his greatest contribution is his honorary wing at the Hospice of Hope in Brasov, Romania, which was paid for by Oliver Postgate out of royalties.
With many years of memorable history behind them—from the inventive Oliver’s development of a solar heating system in the ‘70s to a chaotic Clangers set event involving a rocket launch scene, the Clangers planet and some unanticipated flammability—the Coolabi crew show no signs of slowing down. In addition to new properties like Poppy Cat, the studio is busy reinventing Postgate’s classics for a new generation, with a fresh take on Clangers for CBeebies and Sprout set for 2015. Though his airtime was short, Bagpuss lives on with fans young and old: “...just an old, saggy cloth cat, baggy and a bit loose at the seams. But Emily loved him.” www.coolabi.com | www.smallfilms.co.uk