Fabulous Films will release a new collection of Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate’s Ivor the Engine next month.
Inspired by Dylan Thomas‘ poetry and created by hand, initially in a tumbledown cow shed, Ivor the Engine, first broadcast on ITV in 1959, was the show that led to the creation of some of Britain’s most popular children’s television programmes – Bagpuss, The Clangers, Noggin the Nog, Pingwings and Pogles’ Wood.
Made with cutouts using stop-motion animation, Ivor the Engine centres on an ordinarily extraordinary railway, where the engine sings in the choir and there is a dragon in his firebox.
The Merioneth and Llantisilly Rail Traction Company, located in the top left-hand corner of Wales, was invented, or perhaps discovered, by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin over 60 years ago, and has delighted children and adults for more that three generations.
Subsequently immortalised in song by The Who and Bad Manners, Ivor the Engine was inspired by Postgate’s friendship with a Welsh railway fireman, who fondly described how steam engines came to life when you spent time with them.
Postgate chose north Wales – of course, famed for its little steam railways – as the setting due to the “inspirational” terrain for stories made up of movable cardboard cut-outs painted with watercolours.
Originally made in black and white, the stories and some new ones were filmed again by Smallfilms in colour and broadcast by the BBC from 1975, but were still animated by the simple, direct method that gave the series its original charm.
In all, 40 five minute colour films were shown on mainstream TV throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. The series again proved a hit with children and down the years has spun off into books, CDs and a board game.
Last year, Oliver‘s son Daniel Postgate told the BBC Wales he’d love to make a live action version of Ivor the Engine, and revealed he’d written some film ideas that could work as a live action and family film.
“There have been plays and musicals and it’d be good to bring back Ivor in a different way,” he commented, “not as an animation as that has already been done.
“And something to showcase the beautiful Welsh countryside and wealth of acting talent Wales has to offer.
“There’s every chance it will happen – I’m on the case.”
Universal have previously released The Complete Ivor video and, last year, a DVD, which features all the original episodes that were made in colour.
The new Ivor the Engine collection is another release from Fabulous Films Group of Companies, a UK-based independent media distribution company whose catalogue features many classic children shows, cult television series and top box office films, including Eerie Indiana, HR Pufnstuf, Mysterious Cities of Gold, The Raccoons, The Six Million Dollar Man, Star Fleet X-Bomber, The Equalizer, The Smurfs, Tales of the Gold Monkey, and The Water Margin.
The company’s aim is to deliver high-end quality products that will appeal to the collector, with the onus on attention to detail and when possible the production of extensive DVD extras.
• Coolabi represents the licensing and distribution rights for Ivor the Engine on behalf of Smallfilms.
• Wikipedia: Ivor the Engine