"Bagpuss" is a popular 1974 UK
children's television series, made by Peter Firminand Oliver Postgatethrough their company Smallfilms. The title character is "an old, saggy cloth cat, baggy, and a bit loose at the seams"cite web |url= http://www.smallfilms.co.uk/bagpuss/intro.htm|title= Bagpuss - The intro|accessdate=2007-11-11 |work= The Smallfilms Treasury] The series is fondly and widely remembered, although only 13 episodes were made.
Each programme would begin the same way: through a series of sepia photographs, the viewer is told of a little girl named Emily (played by Emily Firmin, the daughter of illustrator Peter Firmin), who owned a shop. However, it did not sell anything; instead, Emily would find lost and broken things and display them in the window of the shop, so their owners could one day come and collect them. She would leave the object in front of her favourite stuffed toy — the large, saggy, pink and white striped cat named Bagpuss. She would then recite a verse:
When Emily had left, Bagpuss would wake up. The programme shifted from sepia to colour
stop motionfilm, and various toys in the shop would also come to life: Gabriel the toadand a rag dollcalled Madeleine. The wooden woodpecker bookend became the drily academic Professor Yaffle(distantly based, it is said, on the philosopher Bertrand Russell), while the mice carved on the side of the "mouse organ" (a small mechanical pipe organwhich played rolls of music) woke up and scurried around, singing in high-pitched voices. Sandra Kerrand John Faulkner provided the voices of Madeleine and Gabriel respectively, and put together and performed all the proper songs. All the other voices (including the narrator and one out-of-tune mouse) were provided by Oliver Postgate, who also wrote the stories.
The toys would discuss what the new object was; someone (usually Madeleine) would tell a story related to the object (shown in an animated thought-bubble over Bagpuss's head), often with a song, which would be accompanied by Gabriel on the
banjo(which often sounded a lot more like a guitar), and then the mice, singing in high pitched squeaky harmony as they worked, would mend the broken object. The newly mended thing would then be put in the shop window, so that whoever had lost it would see it as they went past, and could come in and claim it. Then Bagpuss would start yawning again, and as he fell asleep the colour faded to sepia and they all became toys again.
The titles of the thirteen episodes each refer in some way to the object Emily found.
The programmes were made using stop-frame animation. Bagpuss is an actual cloth cat, but was not intended to be such an electric pink. "It should have been a ginger marmalade cat but the company in
Folkestonedyeing the material made a mistake and it turned out pink and cream. It was the best thing that ever happened", said Firmin.cite news |title= Saggy old cloth cat pulls in the crowds|work= Canterbury Adscene|publisher= Kent Regional News and Media|pages= 4–5|date= 2007-11-09] Bagpuss has now retired to the Rupert BearMuseum in Canterbury, UK (part of the Museum of Canterbury), together with Emily's shop window.
Most of the stories and songs used in the series are based on folk songs and
fairy tales from around the world. The round sung by the mice (starting with the words "We will fix it...") is to the tune of "Sumer is icumin in", dating from the Middle Ages.
In 1987 the University of Kent at Canterbury awarded an
honorary degreeto Oliver Postgate. He stated that the degree was really intended for Bagpuss, who was subsequently displayed in academic dress.cite web |url=http://www.kent.ac.uk/arts/campus/chronicle.html |title="A Canterbury Chronicle" |work=Arts, leisure and public events |publisher=University of Kent |accessdate=2006-11-29]
In 1999 the series came first place in a BBC poll selecting the nation's favourite children's show.cite news | title = Entertainment: Bagpuss cream of television| publisher =
BBC News| date = 1999-01-01| url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/246080.stm | accessdate = 2007-09-21] It also came fourth in the 2001 Channel 4poll The 100 Greatest Kids' TV shows.cite news | title = Simpsons tops kids' TV poll | publisher = BBC News| date = 2001-09-28| url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/1512890.stm | accessdate = 2007-09-21]
In 2002 a stage show of "Bagpuss" songs toured UK
folk festivals and theatres with original singers Sandra Kerrand John Faulkner, along with Kerr's daughter Nancy and her husband, James Fagan.
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/ilove/tv/bagpuss/index.shtml "Bagpuss"] at
* [http://www.smallfilms.co.uk/bagpuss The Smallfilms Treasury's Bagpuss site]
* [http://www.anorakzone.com/bagpuss Anorak Zone's Bagpuss site]
* [http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/562331/index.html British Film Institute Screen Online]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/2964273.stm BBC News reports on the Rupert Bear Museum]
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