The Clangers, 1969
Clangers was the popular (now classed as cult tv) British stop-motion animated children’s television series.
The series was made up of short stories about a family of mouse-like creatures who live on, and in, a small blue planet (quite similar to, but not intended to be, the Moon). Speaking in whistles, they eat green soup supplied by the Soup Dragon. The programmes were originally broadcast by the BBC over two series from 1969–1972. A total of twenty six episodes and one special were made.
The series was made by Smallfilms, the company set up by Oliver Postgate (writer, animator and narrator) and Peter Firmin (modelmaker and illustrator). Firmin designed the characters, and his wife knitted and “dressed” the Clangers. Music – that was quite often part of the story – was by Vernon Elliott.
The creatures themselves first appeared in a 1967 published story entitled Noggin and the Moonmouse, the synopsis of which was: a new horse-trough was put up in the middle of the town in the North-Lands. A spacecraft hurtled down and splashed into it. The top unscrewed, and out came a largish, mouse-like character in a duffel coat, who wanted fuel for his spacecraft.
He showed Nooka and the children that what he needed was vinegar and soap-flakes. So, they filled up the various tanks in this little spherical ship, which then “took off in a dreadful cloud smelling of vinegar and soap-flakes, covering the town with bubbles”
The story had come from a set of children’s books that had originated from another Smallfilms production, Noggin the Nog (it’s in our archives). In 1969 the BBC asked Smallfilms to produce a new series for the latest thing in TV – colour. Around this time space exploration was very much in the news, so Postgate decided to set the new series in space.
The clangers were an adapation of the 1967 story, Noggin and the Moonmouse, but with the tail removed.
In 2015, a special episode – Eclipse of the Sun, proved popular and so a a new series was commissioned for the summer of 2015. As original narrator Oliver Postgate was no longer with us, narration duties were taken up by Michael Palin, of Monty Python fame.
The new series features all the original characters in eight new episodes. The new series will also be produced using stop go animation in the same way the original was.
Meet The Clangers, small creatures living in peace and harmony on – and inside – a small, hollow planet, far, far away, nourished by Blue String Pudding, and Green Soup harvested from the planet’s volcanic soup wells by the Soup Dragon. The word “Clanger” is said to derive from the sound made by opening the metal cover of one of the creatures’ crater-like burrows, each of which was covered with a door made from an old metal dustbin lid, to protect against meteorite impacts.
With each episode, would come some problem to solve, something invented or discovered, or perhaps some new visitor to meet. Music Trees, with note-shaped fruit, grew on the planet’s surface, and music would often be an integral feature in the simple but amusing plots.
Oliver Postgate (original series)
Michael Palin (new series)
Channel: BBC1 (original series), CBeebies (new series)
Created And Written By: Oliver Postgate
New Series Written By: Various
Original Transmission Dates:
16th November 1969 – 10th October 1974 (original series)
15th June 2015 – Present (new series)