Bagpuss

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Bagpuss is a 1974 UK children's television series, made by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate through their company Smallfilms. The title character is "an old, saggy cloth cat, baggy, and a bit loose at the seams".[1] Although only 13 episodes of the show were made, it remains fondly remembered,[2] and has often been repeated in the UK.

Contents

Format

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),[3] 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:[1]

When Emily had left, Bagpuss would wake up. The programme shifted from sepia to colour stop motion film, and various toys in the shop would also come to life: Gabriel the toad (who, unlike most Smallfilms characters, could move by a special device beneath his can without the use of stop motion animation) and a rag doll called Madeleine. The wooden woodpecker bookend became the drily academic Professor Yaffle (based on the philosopher Bertrand Russell, whom Postgate had once met[4]), while the mice carved on the side of the "mouse organ" (a small mechanical pipe organ which played rolls of music) woke up and scurried around, singing in high-pitched voices. Sandra Kerr and 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.

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