Sunday, 17 April 2011

Bagpuss: Emily's saggy cloth cat - 1974


Arrrhhhh, yes. The memories do indeed come flooding back. This enchanting kids series from days long gone holds so many special & wonderful memories for me.

Bagpuss came in to being back in 1974. It was the brainchild of Peter Firmin & Oliver Postgate and made through their company, 'Smalfilms.'

The title character is an old saggy cloth cat, baggy and a bit loose at the seams. 13 episodes of this wonderful series were ever made, however, it remains fondly remembered and has often been repeated.

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 Folkestone dyeing the material made a mistake and it turned out pink and cream. It was the best thing that ever happened," said Firmin.

Madeleine the rag doll was made by Firmin's wife, Joan, with an extra long dress to hold their children's nightdresses, but Postgate decided it would serve better as one of the characters.

Gabriel the Toad was the only character in the series who could move freely without the use of stop-frame animation. Scenes featuring him playing the banjo and singing would have taken quite a bit of time, so Peter Firmin created a mechanism that helped him control Gabriel through a hole in his can.

Bagpuss has now retired to the Rupert Bear Museum in Canterbury (part of the Museum of Canterbury), together with other characters and 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 "Summer is I cumen in", dating from the Middle Ages.

Bagpuss - The Story

Bagpuss began with the words,

“Once upon a time,

not so long ago,

there was a little girl and her name was Emily and she had a shop,

there it is.

It was rather an unusual shop, because it didn't sell anything.

You see,

everything in that shop window was a thing that somebody had once lost

and Emily had found and brought home to Bagpuss.

Emily's cat Bagpuss,

The most important, the most beautiful, the most magical, saggy old cloth cat in the whole wide world

Well now,

one day Emily found a thing and she brought it back to the shop,

and put it down in front of Bagpuss,

who was in the shop window fast asleep as usual.

But then Emily said some magic words:

Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss,Old fat furry cat-puss,

Wake up,

and look at this thing that I bring,Wake up, be bright, be golden and light,


oh, hear what I sing."

And Bagpuss was wide awake,

and when Bagpuss wakes up all his friends wake up too.

The mice on the mouse-organ woke up and stretched.

Madeleine the rag doll.

Gabriel the toad,

and last of all Professor Yaffle,

who was a very distinguished old woodpecker.

He climbed down off his bookend,

To see what Emily had brought.”

Bagpuss - Emily Emily was a little girl who owned and loved Bagpuss. They lived in a shop which didn't sell anything. It was a shop that displayed items that were either lost or in dire need of repair, waiting for their owners to reclaim them. These items were subsequently repaired by Bagpuss and his friends. Not to mention a certain bit of magic!

BagpussBagpuss was a big, fat, furry cat puss. A cuddly toy that was covered in Pink & White stripes. Bagpuss only came alive when Emily wasn't around and she'd left something. After one big, gigantic yawn, Bagpuss woke and after Bagpuss was awake, all his friends woke too. Let's face it, this is one smart cat!

Bagpuss - Professor YaffleProfessor Yaffle was a carved, wooden book-end in the shape of a Woodpecker. He lived high up, looking down on the others. Once Emily had been and Bagpuss had woken, Professor Yaffle would descend from his home down a pile of books, arranged like a staircase, to see what Emily had left.

Bagpuss - The MiceThe Mice on the Mouse Organ did most of the work repairing the item that Emily had left. They sang a song as they were working, "We will fix it, we will fix it!" They had a real talent and fooled Bagpuss and the others a few times, like making chocolate biscuits out of butter beans! They also powred the marvellous, mechanical Mouse Organ which showed a story on the screen that was related to the item Emily had left. Occasionally, after the story had finished, the item had miraculously been repaired.

Bagpuss - MadeleneMadeline was a Rag Doll who lived next to Gabriel the Toad. Madeline was the Mother figure over the rest of them.

Bagpuss - GabrielGabriel the Toad wasn't an ordinary Toad, oh, no! Gabriel was a musical Toad who carried a banjo everywhere that he went. As the stories were being told he would provide some of the music and sing songs to accompany them.

At the end of each episode Bagpuss would start yawning again and as he fell asleep he and the others all became toys again.

"And of course,

When Bagpuss goes to sleep,

All his friends go to sleep as well.

The Mice were ornaments on the Mouse Organ,

Gabriel and Madeline were just dolls,

Professor Yaffle was a carved, wooden bookend,

In the shape of a Woodpecker.

Even Bagpuss himself,

Once he was asleep,

Was just an old saggy cloth cat,

Baggy and a bit loose at the seams.

But Emily loved him."

And so say all of us!

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