Cult classic The Clangers returns to BBC in £5m reinvention
Adam Sherwin is Media Correspondent at The Independent and an award-winning writer who specialises in covering the entertainment, broadcasting, music and popular culture industries. Previously Media writer and diarist at The Times, he was a co-founder of the Beehive City media and entertainment website. As regular contributor to BBC London 94.9 Radio station, he was named Music Business writer of the year at the awards of influential music industry site Record of the Day in 2006.
Tuesday 15 October 2013
The Clangers, the mice-like moon-dwellers who communicated via a melancholy whistle, will be the latest children’s television classic to make a comeback, after the BBC announced a £5 million reinvention of the fondly-remembered series.
Launched in 1969, to coincide with the arrival of colour television and the moon landing, The Clangers were the creation of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, who birthed animated children’s favourites including Bagpuss from a converted cowshed near Canterbury.
The Clangers, a gentle race of small, pink, long-snouted, mouse-like creatures who inhabited a small hollow planet, dotted with metal bin lids and communicated in high-pitched whistles, originally ran on the BBC from 1969 to 1972.
A new run of 52 episodes will be screened by CBeebies from 2015. But the producers, entertainment rights company Coolabi, promised that the rebooted Clangers will remain faithful to the original episodes. Peter Firmin, 84, is to return as executive producer and Daniel Postgate, children’s author and son of Oliver, who died in 2008, will oversee the storylines.
Jeremy Banks, Coolabi CEO, said: “It’s absolutely vital we retain the charm of the original series. You can’t do that with CGI animation so we are going to use the original stop-frame motion technique.”
He added: “Peter Firmin is the most energetic 80-something you will ever meet. He is working on the puppet models and with Daniel Postgate supervising the script, that’s a pretty good start.”
A cult series since its original screening, the new Clangers will not tamper with the formula. “The Clangers will still whistle,” Mr Banks promised. “They will communicate in much the same way as before. The Soup Dragon will be there. We’re going to be faithful to the original but we’ll have higher quality of stop-motion animation.”
The £5 million Clangers has been made possible by a new tax credit for the UK animation industry and funding by Edge Investments, a venture capital firm which specialises in backing creative industry ventures. Edge expects to make a return on The Clangers, which has been bought by US channel PBS Sprout, through merchandising and DVD sales.
The Clangers will go head-to-head against another revived classic children’s brand. A new series of The Wombles, using computer-generated animation, will be screened on Channel 5 in 2015. Mr Banks said it was “very important” that the Clangers returned to its BBC home.
Clangers fans have debated whether the series harboured a political message. Postgate, a lifelong socialist, made a one-off episode for the 1974 General Election, called Vote for Froglet!, inspired by discontent with the Heath government.
A NASA engineer is reputed to have said that the Clangers represented “a valiant attempt to bring a note of realism to the fantasy of the Space Programme”.
Coolabi also represents other well-known brands including Bagpuss and Ivor the Engine on behalf of Firmin and Postgate’s company, Smallfilms.
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