'Ivor the Engine' chugs again - on video

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The Independent Culture

When it comes to children's television everyone, except perhaps those who actually watch it, agree that the old shows were the best.

Now the author of Ivor the Engine, one of the classics of the 1970s, is hoping that a whole new generation of fans will be won over when it is released on video today.

Oliver Postgate, who created the distinctive Welsh tones of the locomotive and his friends, is expecting renewed interest in the stories from the Merioneth and Llantisilly Railway Traction Company "in the top left hand corner of Wales".

All 26 colour episodes will be published, giving fans old and new the chance to see Mr Postgate and his partner Peter Firmin's unique animation technique. "The animation consisted of cut out cardboard, with 10 different sizes of cotton wool for Ivor's steam." said Mr Postgate yesterday.

The first episode was shot in black and white in 1959 for £100 in Mr Firmin's cow shed. It was remade in colour in the mid-Seventies. The pair also created several other children's TV classics, including The Clangers, Noggin the Nog, Pogle's Wood and Bagpuss.

Nick Park, the Oscar-winning creator of Wallace and Gromit, has admitted he was inspired in his choice of career by The Clangers, which was also released on video last year. Such is the popularity of these old series that, after Bagpuss was voted the most popular BBC's children's TV programme ever in 1998, a company that started selling velvet $45 replicas of the pink and white stripped cat could barely keep up with demand.

Ivor's chief rival, Thomas the Tank Engine, still has the edge over his Welsh cousin however. A £12m Hollywood film of the train and his locomotive friends is currently in production, starring Peter Fonda and Alec Baldwin.

But Mr Postgate is not upset by Thomas's success. He was just delighted by the renewed interest in his work. "And so is my bank balance," he said.