Ivor The Engine – 1959
This little kids’ gem is fifty years old this year !
Many people who remember this kids TV classic will remember the colour episodes from the 1970’s, but there’s more to this story.
Having produced the live Alexander the Mouse, and filmed The Adventures of Ho for his employers Associated Rediffusion/ITV. Oliver Postgate in partnership with animator Peter Firmin, set-up Smallfilms in a disused cow shed at Firmin’s home in Blean near Canterbury, Kent.
Ivor the Engine was the new company’s first production. The animated short drew inspiration from Postgate’s World War II encounter with Welshman: Denzyl Ellis, a former railway locomotive fireman with the Royal Scot train, who described how steam engines came to life when you spent time steaming them up in the morning.
Between 1959 and 1977 there were 66 episodes produced.
Postgate decided to locate the story to North Wales, as it was more inspirational than the flat terrain of the English Midlands. The story lines are said to have drew heavily on and been influenced by the works of South Wales poet Dylan Thomas.
The series was originally made for black and white television by Smallfilms for Associated Rediffusion in 1958, but was later revived in 1975 when new episodes in colour were produced for the BBC.
The series was written, animated and narrated by Oliver Postgate. Peter Firmin provided the artwork. The sound effects were endearingly low-tech, with the sound of Ivor’s puffing made vocally by Postgate himself. The music was composed by Vernon Elliott and predominantly featured a solo bassoon, to reflect the three notes of Ivor’s whistle.
Ivor The Engine tells the story of the adventures of a small green locomotive, named Ivor, who lived in the “top left-hand corner of Wales” and worked for The Merioneth and Llantisilly Railway Traction Company Limited. His friends included Jones the Steam, Evans the Song and Dai Station, among many other characters.
The original series, in black and white comprised six episodes, telling the story of how Ivor wanted to sing in the choir, and how his whistle was replaced with steam organ pipes from the fairground organ on Mr Morgan’s roundabout. There then followed two thirteen-episode series, also in black and white. Black and white episodes were 10 minutes each.
In the 1970s, the two longer black and white series were re-made in colour, with some alterations to the stories, but they did not remake, or re-tell, the content of the original six.
Anthony Jackson who was one of the show’s voice artists, is the same Anthony Jackson that later appeared in Rentaghost and Bless This House.
ITV/Associated-Rediffusion – 1959
BBC1 – 1975 – 1977
Written By: Oliver Postgate
Animated By: Peter Firmin
Produced By: Smallfilms
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