No comeback for Bagpuss: Cloth cat refuses CGI remake

Creator's son holds out against craze for hi-tech makeovers of children's TV classics
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The Independent Online

There is trouble in toyland: scores of classic children's book and TV characters are being dusted down and re-rendered in shiny CGI or state-of-the-art, stop-motion animation. But at least one will have nothing to do with such radical reimagining. Step forward Bagpuss.

The pink stripy cat, his friend, the animated bookend Professor Yaffle, and a small army of carved mice are loved by millions of children the world over, despite only 13 episodes being made. His creator Oliver Postgate – who died last year – along with the animator Peter Firmin, created what is now a multimillion-pound franchise.

The children's television producer Coolabi has bought the rights to produce Bagpuss for television, but Mr Postgate's son, Daniel, has scotched plans to bring the series back. Talking from his home in Kent this weekend, Daniel Postgate, a children's author and illustrator, said he hadn't liked the new proposals at all.

"There's something about CGI on a television level, where they can't spend so much money on it, which means it can feel lightweight and that it can lack presence," he said.

A spate of children's remakes has hit the silver and small screens in recent years: the latest, Where the Wild Things Are, has taken nearly $40m (£24m) in its first week, and Fantastic Mr Fox, which opened this weekend in the UK, looks likely to emulate its success after receiving rave critical reviews.

Remakes of children's classics are not a new phenomenon. Dozens of children's entertainments going back to the 1950s have been retooled: even the Flowerpot Men, Bill and Ben, were brought into Technicolor nine years ago, and The Magic Roundabout was given the CGI treatment in 2005.

Studios executives like CGI because it is relatively cheap and remaking a film or TV series is much less of a gamble than persuading audiences to buy a whole new concept. The director and producer JJ Abrams, whose past successes include Lost and the successful reboot of Star Trek, admitted recently that it was impossible to build the sort of cityscapes that appear – and are frequently destroyed – in his films because the cost would be too high.

But not everyone is happy with the heavy use of CGI in blockbuster films. The Batman director Christopher Nolan said modern blockbusters are "more and more like animation films or videogames", and has adapted to using mostly props and models of sets in his own films.

Mr Postgate also complained that a poor remake of Bagpuss could also damage the existing series. "One has to take a very careful look at exposing it on the TV again, as it could easily have a detrimental effect to the property," he said.

"In the case of my father's stuff, a lot of the quality of the feel of the puppets he made really worked very well because they were puppets.

"I had looked into the possibility of a new Bagpuss," he added, "but I wasn't particularly knocked out by what was proposed. It seemed if Bagpuss was going to be redone I wouldn't want it to be done as a series that's just dropped into CBeebies or something similar. I don't think it would be useful for Bagpuss to be remade."

THE REMAKES...

Noddy

In 2004, 55 years after Enid Blyton's first Noddy tale, technology caught up with Toy Town, and Noddy, was produced using CGI

Thomas the Tank Engine

New feature with full CGI. Makers HIT said: 'Thomas is 65 and makes £750m a year ... we need to update him'

Where the Wild Things Are

The 2009 Spike Jonze film of the children's book uses actors in body suits, with CGI for the creatures' faces only

Scooby-Doo

In 2002 a live-action version was made... apart from Scooby himself, who was nothing more than a computer-generated image

Magic Roundabout

CGI remake in 2005. Starry cast included Judi Dench, Robbie Williams and Joanna Lumley; it was panned in the US but did better in the UK

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