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Postgate and Firmin sell business

October 23rd, 2008 (11:22 am)

The Guardian report that Bagpuss and the Clangers may return to television. The story under this is that Licensing by Design, which I think was the company set up by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin to protect their interests in the characters they created for children's television between the 1950s and the 1980s in the multichannel age, has been sold to another business which may seek to revive interest in the characters. I hope that they are revived sensitively; though it's difficult to envisage how, when so many of the details about the characters are very personal to Oliver Postgate. Having heard a modern BBC children's executive be dismissive of Noggin the Nog as a middle-aged man's fantasy, and questioning the absence of toilet humour from the scripts, Smallfilms admirers could be facing some drastic reinterpretations.

Comments

Posted by: Alice Dryden (huskyteer)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2008 02:15 pm (UTC)

Bagpuss could encourage recycling, like the new Wombles series!

Aww. How I loved Bagpuss.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC)

To someone of Oliver Postgate's background and education, reusing old things was just something one did. I'm a bit wary of messages being rammed down children's throats, and hope it doesn't come to that.

Posted by: brewsternorth (brewsternorth)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2008 02:56 pm (UTC)

I'm a bit wary of messages being rammed down children's throats, and hope it doesn't come to that.

One hopes that children's TV execs will have learned from "Teletubbies" on that count - the Message was very much backgrounded in favour of the fun. Hence its worldwide appeal.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2008 04:24 pm (UTC)

It was still a programme devised by a committee, though, and I think it showed. (Then again, so was Doctor Who, despite fandom's efforts to anoint Sydney Newman as a creator figure.) The joy of Smallfilms is that they are very much Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin's work, with Postgate as writer and Firmin as interpreter of Postgate's ideas (though Bagpuss began as a Firmin solo project, set in an Indian army hospital rather than Emily's shop).

Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2008 02:43 pm (UTC)

Clearly I was a middle aged man when I was four. I loved Noggin the Nog (and also Bagpuss and the Clangers) - though my favourite was always Ivor the Engine...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC)
Boyandbear

I mainly knew Noggin the Nog through the books which were in circulation in the early 1970s, and I think the black and white series still made a couple of appearances back then, and I saw some of the colour series when it went out on BBC 2 in the 1980s. I liked all the Postgate-Firmin series. Ivor the Engine is a great extended narrative, with memorable images such as Idris the dragon living in the engine, and for a long time I'd assumed that Postgate was Welsh, as there's something about his narrating voice which suits that accent.

I realised that I hadn't been to Postgate's website for a long time - www.oliverpostgate.co.uk , though it's being slow today. His autobiography, Seeing Things, is well worth reading too.

Posted by: Gramarye (gramarye1971)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2008 02:58 pm (UTC)

skordh and jane_somebody introduced me to Bagpuss a few years ago when I stayed at their house, and I immediately went out and bought the DVD. ^_^ I also hope that whoever gets it has a sensitive enough touch to avoid some of the more unpleasant revisions I've seen on recent versions of the children's shows of my childhood (which in my case is mostly Sesame Street).

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC)
Boyandbear

As I've mentioned above Postgate's autobiography is very much worth reading, if you haven't seen it already.

Sesame Street was shown during the summer holidays on ITV when I was at school, and later made it to Channel 4, but it never really grew roots here. I remember the ubiquity of the merchandise when I visited Canada when I was six, though. There is now a version made by BBC Northern Ireland under license, called Sesame Tree - it was given a launch party, attended by Martin McGuinness.

What has been happening to Sesame Street anyway? (I understand your ire - I can get very protective about childhood institutions such as Blue Peter, whose current editor commissioned a new arrangement of the theme music while misidentifying the piece it was, causing protests from superannuated viewers.)

Posted by: Gramarye (gramarye1971)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2008 07:31 pm (UTC)

One of the main complaints that many older viewers have about Sesame Street is that it has turned into The Elmo Show (as the Jump the Shark commentators suggest). Much of it has to do with the rampant message-pushing that you mention above -- as was shown elsewhere in the show by the recent revisionism of Cookie Monster to have him talk about balanced diets and how 'A Cookie Is a Sometime Food', in response to the fears of childhood obesity. In addition, the newly released DVDs of very early Sesame Street episodes have been labelled as not suitable for children for various reasons. So the 'leave my childhood ALONE!' cries from many people my age are not entirely without merit.

Edited at 2008-10-23 07:32 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2008 10:50 pm (UTC)

Travelling laterally, reading the NYT piece about Sesame Street reminds me of Alastair Cooke's Letter from America for Radio 4 the week that Jim Henson died, expressing the effect that Sesame Street had had on his life. A small child had once been pushed towards him in an airport clutching an autograph book, which he had signed; the child returned to her parents, and Cooke overheard her saying in confusion that the man who had signed his name didn't look like Alastair Cookie to her...

I'm sure I've linked to this before, but there is an excellent summary of the history of BBC television for pre-school children here, at Off the Telly, by Tim Worthington.

Edited at 2008-10-23 10:52 pm (UTC)

Posted by: philmophlegm (philmophlegm)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2008 07:52 pm (UTC)
dalek

Seems strange that Americans consider scenes of cookie-eating so traumatic for children that they shouldn't watch early Sesame Street, while we are happy for a convicted terrorist bomb supplier and (alleged) murderer to launch the Ulster version. But then in this country, that seems to be an accepted career path for a senior politician.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2008 10:40 pm (UTC)

The road to a form of government for the whole island of Ireland (as one polity or several) which has sufficient consent to exclude political violence is a long one; but yes, I was waiting for someone to make the comparison which you have just made.