Friday, 12 February 2016

Bagpuss

Once upon a time
Not so long ago
There was a little girl and her name was Emily
And she had a shop


42 years ago today on the 12th February 1974 national treasures (illustrator / animator) Peter Firmin and (writer / narrator) Oliver Postgate via their Smallfilms company presented to the world the newest in a long line of meticulously crafted and beloved animations.  It's central character was a rotund, lazy, fairly dim, pink and white striped cat named Bagpuss who lived in a shop.

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.

Sharing the shop with Bagpuss is Madeleine the rag doll, an imperious wooden owl named Professor Yaffle (Postgate's note perfect impersonation of the philosopher Bertrand Russell), Gabriel the banjo playing toad and the carved mice on the Mouse Organ. 

Over the 13 episodes the cast would investigate various unusual objects brought to the shop by a young girl named Emily (Firmin, daughter of Peter) which included a ballet shoe, a broken figurine, a fiddle and an old rag.  These objects were investigated and made the subject of both a story (animated in Bagpuss' thoughts) based on folk tales from around the world and a song (in an English folk song style) sung by one or more of the characters.

As was always the case with Smallfilms, Bagpuss was both beautifully realised and filled with imagination and wonder and as such, even with such a limited run of episodes, that it is still so beloved is testament to the skills of it's creators.

photo by Jonny Trunk
So, we say happy birthday Bagpuss, old, fat, furry, catpuss.

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

And to celebrate we'd like to raise a chocolate biscuit in salute and share with you our most well remembered of the episodes, 'The Mouse Mill'.

13 episodes and 41 years later it's not just Emily who loves him (although she obviously still does).

Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss
Old Fat Furry Catpuss
Wake up and look at this thing that I bring
Wake up, be bright, be golden and light
Bagpuss, oh hear what I sing


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