Celebrations begin early for the 50th anniversary of Bagpuss with new high definition Blu-ray and DVD release this week

Bagpuss - The Complete Series (2023)

Bagpuss made his television debut on 12th February 1974, and ahead of his 50th anniversary next year, this week sees the release of the hugely popular animated series in high definition, fully restored from the original film negatives, on DVD and Blu-ray. There are other celebrations, too.

Extras on the new Blu-ray and DVD release, available to order here, include “Peter Firmin – At Home with Bagpuss” and “The Story of Smallfilms”.

Bagpuss was first seen on British television on 12th February 1974. The charming children’s stop motion animation was made by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, through their company Smallfilms, offering charming stories starring the “saggy old cloth cat”, Bagpuss. He lived in a strange shop, owned by a little girl called Emily, which didn’t actually sell anything, but he and his friends mended lost property left out for them by shop owner.

Only 13 episodes were ever made, but the programme has remained popular down the generations and was voted the all-time favourite children’s programme in 1999. Largely made using stop-frame animation, the show has now delighted viewers of children’s television for 50 years, and has left a lasting legacy.

Bagpuss was an actual cloth cat, but was not intended to be such an electric pink. Interviewed by Canterbury Adscene in 2007, Peter Firmin noted: “It should have been a ginger marmalade cat, but the company in Folkestone dyeing the material made a mistake, and it turned out pink and cream. It was the best thing that ever happened”.

Bagpuss is still consistently considered one the top ten best British children’s television programmes ever, and down the years there has been plenty of the tie-in merchandise connected with the show, not least several Bagpuss books and annuals, some written by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin themselves.

Bagpuss also featured in the young children’s magazine, Pippin (later, Pippin in Playland, after a merger), at least some of the stories illustrated by Peter Firmin, and two Pippin annuals.

 And  Neptune - Art work for Pippin comic by Peter Firmin held by Falmouth Art Gallery
Bagpuss and Neptune – artwork for Pippin comic by Peter Firmin held by Falmouth Art Gallery

Although there have been suggestions of a return, in 2009 it was reported Bagpuss would not return to television after Daniel Postgate, the son of co-creator Oliver Postgate, said he did not want a “lightweight” remake using CGI animation.

However, many Bagpuss fans will already know Emily Firmin and Daniel, surviving children of the series creators, have created the account @OfficialBagpuss on Twitter to share archive footage not widely available, such as several short stories narrated by Oliver Postgate.

Dan is also working with Unbound to secure publication of Bagpuss: The Complete Scripts, a joyful and detailed compendium of the iconic animation series, including the filming scripts and never-before-seen images from its original creators.

Bagpuss: The Complete Scripts by Oliver and Daniel Postgate

The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury is currently hosting “The Smallfilms Gallery” exhibition, running until 24th July 2024, a temporary gallery space celebrating work by the award winning Smallfilms duo. See old favourites such as Bagpuss, Clangers, Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine alongside brand new items on display. Peter Firmin generously loaned many of the original film props from Bagpuss for long-term display at The Beaney.

Steiff - Bagpuss - The 50th Anniversary Edition (2023)

In addition to the new Blu-ray and DVD releases, Steiff – inventors of the teddy bear – are giving the popular character a special birthday accolade, available through Danbury Mint.

Be warned, at £235, the 7” (18cm) tall plush isn’t cheap – but the Bagpuss – The 50th Anniversary Edition is carefully hand-made and, befitting of such a special edition, Bagpuss will even come to you in his very own vivid pink, branded drawstring bag.

Issued as a Danbury Mint Special Edition, in his ear you’ll see the world-famous Steiff golden button and label – your guarantee that Bagpuss is a genuine Steiff creation.

Buy Bagpuss – The Complete Series (2023 Release) from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

Bagpuss books from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link) | Bookshop.org (Affiliate Link)

Bagpuss – The 50th Anniversary Edition at Danbury Mint

• Check out @OfficialBagpuss on Twitter

• Beaney House of Art and Knowledge is at 18 High Street, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2RA | Web: canterburymuseums.co.uk/the-beaney/

Kent Online: See you later Oliver: Peter Firmin’s personal memories of Postgate (5th January 2009)

The death of Oliver Postgate left his fans around the world in mourning. Here, Peter Firmin, recalled some personal memories

Recommended Listening and Reading…

Seeing Things by Oliver Postgate (Hardback)

Seeing Things by Oliver Postgate | Hardback | Paperback

In this wonderful, highly recommended memoir, Oliver Postgate, widely regarded as the greatest children’s storyteller of the modern era, described how he came to create his stories and characters, developing innovative techniques of animation and puppetry alongside his friend and co-producer Peter Firmin.

Amazingly, almost all of Oliver’s films were made in a cowshed in Kent on a budget of next to nothing.

The story of Oliver Postgate’s extraordinary and adventurous life, and the wonderful characters who populated it – both real and imagined – is witty, charming, beautifully remembered and exquisitely told.

The Music from Bagpuss by Sandra Kerr and John Faulkner

The Music from Bagpuss by Sandra Kerr and John Faulkner | AmazonUK | Bandcamp

The 32 tracks that make up the main body of the compositions are – like all good folk music – a patchwork of traditional pieces, half-remembered tunes and pure improvisation. It’s testament to Sandra Kerr and John Faulkner’s musicianship that the recordings work so well, not only within the context of the television episodes, but as an album in its own right.

Of the recording, Oliver Postgate (in his exquisite autobiography Seeing Things) says: “Between them Sandra and John could play every sort of instrument from a mountain dulcimer to an Irish fiddle. They knew and could sing every tune in the world and didn’t bother with written music, except as a last resort. They were exactly suited to Gabriel the Toad and Madeleine the Rag Doll and in those roles were happy to play whatever music and sing whatever songs would be needed.” 

Beyond Bagpuss: A History of Smallfilms Animation Studio by Chris Pallant

Beyond Bagpuss: A History of Smallfilms Animation Studio by Chris Pallant

Ivor the Engine, Noggin the Nog, Pingwings, Pogles Wood, Clangers, and Bagpuss – the iconic animations produced by the Canterbury-based Smallfilms studio between 1958 and 1984 – constitute a significant thread of British cultural history. The lasting appeal of the imagined worlds created by Smallfilms is evident in the highly-successful BBC reboot of Clangers (2015 – present), which has introduced a whole new audience to the pink moon mice. As well as the shows likely to be famiilar to readers, this history expands the Smallfilms story to include those less well-known animated shows that nonetheless played an important part in the studio’s history.

Through extensive studio access, interviews with many key Smallfilms collaborators, press and audience analysis, Chris Pallant provides a comprehensive and definitive historical record of the studio’s work. Beyond Bagpuss, released in 2022, is illustrated with 100 images from the Smallfilms archive, including those that have not previously been published.

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