Nor does Postgate believe there was anything weird about The Clangers. ‘Certainly not in any sort of Gormenghast way. It is incongruous perhaps, but we tried to treat things as prosaically as possible. Something might be unlikely in itself but within its parameters it behaves normally. The Iron Chicken behaves as an iron chicken would.’

Er, right. In fact, once you get past the initial precepts, The Clangers does have a son of internal logic. The Clangers have a rich language. a collection of hoots and squeaks, all perfectly inflected, created by recording whistles which follow the rhythm of English speech.

‘I originally suggested that there shouldn’t be any voice-over,’ says Postgate. ‘All the way through it you hear me crackling away and people said, “Why do you keep talking, we can understand what the Clangers are saying without your help.” When I brought the films to Germany a few years ago for a festival 1 took it without the English voice-over. I said, “This is a wildlife programme and showed it without the narration and asked them afterwards, “Could you understand what they were

saying?” They said, “Yes, they were Speaking perfect German.”

Postgate maintains a discreet silence on the subject of current children’s programmes, most of which appear to be solely intended as marketing devices for expensive merchandise. ‘I suspect that our programmes have something they don’t,’ he says, ‘which may be that it wasn’t‘done by a committee, we didn’t work to any sort of formula and we did things which we actually enjoyed ourselves. We were not constrained by commerce. We always hoped we would have something that would be a huge world success like these ruddy turtles, but to do that you have to aim for the lowest common denominator. In fact we rather rejected the idea of becoming gross, simply because it would mean not being able to do things we wanted to do. The chap who sold our films in America was a tycoon and he said, “Oh you can stop making these crappy little films and make a big family entertainment film and I’ll make you rich.” I said, “You’ll give me ulcers, get stuffed.” As a matter of fact he came back seven or eight years ago and said, “You were dead right about the ulcers.” He’s got a huge

Disneyish empire and it hasn’t done him any good.’

He may not be a millionaire mogul, but with the videos, TV rights and the books The Clangers look like ensuring a healthy retirement fund for Postgate, and that’s before the Bagpuss phenomenon takes off in earnest. The video rights have been signed with Polygram and this time next year everybody but everybody will be squeaking, ‘We will

mend it, mend it, mend it’. By that time the Clangers will be truly cosmic.

‘When the programme first came out in the heyday of space exploration,’ Postgate remembers, ‘NASA or one of the persons involved said that The Clangers was an attempt to bring a note of realism to the fantasy of the space race, which I thought was rather nice.’ A giant step for woolly puppets indeed.

The C langers: The Sky Moos, The Top Hat and The Tablecloth are published by Little Brown price £4.99 hardback. The BBC video The Very Best Of The Clangers is released in April price £7.99. Channel 4 have purchased a second series and will be screening it in the autumn.


A bluffer’s guide to who‘s who on the Clangers planet.

I‘l'lny Clanger A kind of woollen Jeanette Winterson heroine, sensitive, intuitive and courageous. If a puzzle needs to be solved or a problem faced, Tiny is the gel.

I Major Clanger Benevolent military dictator of the C Ianger planet, spends most of the time consoling Mother Clanger and bemoaning the absence of his dinner.

I Mother Clanger Harassed housewife whose domestic chores seem to consist of sending Tiny to the soup wells to fill

up the soup buckets. Moans constantly when her household goods are purloined for assorted Clanger schemes.

I Small Clanger Oppressed and gorrnless Clanger who’s given all the menial tasks to perform. Who’s sent out in the music-boat to do a spot of space- fishing? Small. Who’s sent down into the very depths of the planet to seek out soup for Froglets? Small again. One day the worm will turn.

I Other Clangers A kind of chorus in early episodes before budget restrictions trimmed the cast. One of them seems t? wear a leather jacket and

is presumably The Clanger From The Wrong Side Of The Tracks.

I Iron chicken A temperamental bird with an appetite and a half. lron’s limitations are more than compensated for by her ability to lay eggs from which hatch the music notes. Also, in emergencies she can be contacted via the radio hat and sends flocks of sky- moos (don’t ask) to the Clangers’ aid.

I Soup Dragon The series’s most complex and appealing character, Soupie is a female but speaks with an

accent reminiscent of a retired colonel.

She is the guardian of the soup wells and likes nothing better than a good

feed of blue-string pudding.

I Baby soup dragon Soupie’s delinquent offspring with a penchant for knocking over freshly-poured SOUp buckets and running amok through the caves. It’s just a phase she‘s going through.

I Froglots Tacitum hopping creatures who feel the cold. lf Tiny’s around she’ll usually oblige by making them sweaters out of blue-string pudding.

I Hoots A rather militaristic, but not unfriendly, bunch of animated trumpets who show up any time a syncopated brass section is called for.

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The List 26 March—8 April I993 9