back to article RIP Peter Firmin: Clangers creator dies aged 89

Peter Firmin, co-creator of The Clangers, has died aged 89. Firmin also designed the puppet Basil Brush and Bagpuss. A generation of Register readers was educated on space through the popular stop-motion British children's TV show [are you sure? – ed] which was broadcast between 1969 and 1972 (with a one-off in 1974). Firmin …

  1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    I dimly remembered that Clangers was also aired on our local SABC back yonkers ago when I was a wee tyke...

  2. Tom Paine Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    educational

    Seek out the episodie of the Clangers where a robotic rover with a manipulator arm arrives...40 years before Curiosity arrived on Mars!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HArUmqqiL0s

  3. Chris Leeson

    Politically Insightful

    Amongst other things, the Clangers' take on the General Election ("Vote for Froglet") was enough to set my political views for a lifetime.

    One of the best bits of my childhood.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If it wasn't for the clangers there would be no button moon. That's how important and revolutionary it was.

    1. Anonymous Blowhard

      "If it wasn't for the clangers there would be no button moon. That's how important and revolutionary it was."

      And also "Stargate SG1"; the wormhole in SG1 works in exactly the same way as the Clangers' magic top-hat...

  5. hopkinse

    What about noggin the nog and ivor the engine and Basil Brush, to mention but a few. They were the first TV I remembered seeing

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      You forgot Parsley The Lion

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
        Happy

        And a little while later I discovered other herbs

      2. Rich 2

        Ah, The Herbs was quality! I loved it when I was little.

        They, quite literally, don't make them like that any more; these creations were made with love - I don't see that in any modern CGI wham-bam garish animation

        1. Handel was a crank

          Anyone else for Pogle's Wood?

          It probably wasn't, but I remember it being rather creepy

          1. Jonathan Richards 1

            Pogle's Wood

            Ah, yes. In which a family of society drop-outs rely on a plant for mind-altering experiences. Definitely a backstory there!

    2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Basil B had a delicious wit. I enjoyed watching him far more than the earlier Muffin the Mule, or the Flowerpot Men.

      I wonder how some of these comedians would have been if mixed together. BB and Tony Hancock, Popeye and Sid James, Yogi and Dick Emery, ...

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      In that weird way of following links online, I watched an episode of Ivor the Engine on Youtube last week. And it was excellent nostalgia.

      Psssssshhh-t-ccchh

      Psssssshhh-t-ccchh

      Bagpuss was probably my favourite, when I was very young.

      Mentally drifts off happily. ...Nostalgia ain't what it used to be...

  6. Alister Silver badge

    I learnt a lot of swear words from the Clangers, impressive really since it was all done on the swanee-whistle, but there's no mistaking "Oh Fuck" even in the Clangers language...

    1. Thoguht Silver badge

      The Swanee whistle parts were fully scripted in English and sent to the BBC for approval before filming. It was only Major Clanger who swore, and the worst thing he ever uttered was "Sod it, the bloody thing's stuck again", which Oliver Postgate managed to get the Beeb to agree to on the grounds that people wouldn't actually think he was saying that.

      Strange really, because I had a Tiny Clanger plush that played that exact phrase when you squeezed it.

      1. Alister Silver badge

        sent to the BBC for approval before filming.

        That doesn't necessarily mean that what they filmed was quite as scripted...

        :)

      2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        "Strange really, because I had a Tiny Clanger plush that played that exact phrase when you squeezed it."

        I've still got that somewhere - unless the dog ate it

  7. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

    The clangers was a documentry series

    Surely they didn't make it up

    Next you'll be telling Ivor doesn't live in the top left hand corner of Wales.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The clangers was a documentry series

      aka the armpit

      1. Dazed and Confused Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: The clangers was a documentry series

        aka the armpit

        That would be the top right hand corner where it joined to the rest of the body.

  8. ArrZarr Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Personally, I always found the stop motion creations of this ilk terrifying; Bagpuss, The Magic Roundabout, Parsley the Lion and Postman Pat gave me nightmares. When it came to Noddy, I would refuse to watch it because (in a state of toddler-minded clarity) "Something always went wrong".

    Maybe that's why I've grown up into the sweet-natured tolerant person I have done.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Professor Yaffle was a personal favourite - although I can see why someone might have nightmares over Hartley the Hare

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Postman Pat and his black and white c*t...

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Devil

      Postman Pat.

      Postman Pat.

      Postman Pat ran over his cat!

      All the guts went flying,

      Postman Pat was crying,

      You've never seen a cat as flat as that.

      Sorry, childhood memories again.

  10. John 104

    Similar

    "One of Firmin's last interviews finds him criticising the soulless quality of modern CGI animations."

    Here in the States, we lost Ray Harryhausen a few years ago. He had a similar take on CGI.

    Ray almost singlehadedly filmed the stop motion action in all the Charles Schneer produced moivies, along with Jason and the Argonauts, and many others.

    It is a painstaking art that really is underrated by today's film goers.

    1. Andrew Moore Silver badge

      Re: Similar

      Thankfully Aardman; and Laika Studios have taken up the mantle.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Similar

        Although Aardman now have a foot in both camps...

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: Similar

          There is a new games creation tool coming out on ps4 called Dreams that will hopefully revive stop-motion animation to some degree - I for one will certainly be creating a Clangers tribute!

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Similar

      It is a painstaking art that really is underrated by today's film goers.

      Dunno. My offspring rate Coraline, The Night Before Christmas and Small Soldiers higher than nearly all CGI based animation.

  11. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Anyone who hasn't seen Noggin The Nog recently needs a trip to...

    ... Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubomF32rh0w

    1. tony2heads

      Re: Anyone who hasn't seen Noggin The Nog recently needs a trip to...

      Personally I think Olaf the Lofty was a somebody I could identify with

  12. MCMLXV

    Oops

    Really sorry, @John104: your only vote (at the time of my writing this) is a mistaken downvote from me. I meant to upvote you but my brain doesn't work on Monday afternoons :(

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Oops

      "a mistaken downvote from me"

      You can just go back and change it to an upvote.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oops

        "You can just go back and change it to an upvote."

        What you can't do is toggle the same icon to remove your vote completely. Not often needed - but sometimes a closer reading of a text makes one undecided.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oops

          Not often needed - but sometimes a closer reading of a text makes one undecided.

          Errrmm, our pleasingly Asperberger-ish world of the Reg forums isn't that world shatteringly important, surely people can make a simple binary choice?

          C'mon, for fuck's sake, YES, or NO.

          Round up the dithererers, and cart them off in cattle trucks I say (in my utterly reasonable mode).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Oops

            "[...] surely people can make a simple binary choice?"

            Only if they have all the facts on which to make the decision. Sometimes the second reading shows an ambiguous slant - or another comment gives extra information. Disrespectful to mark them down - but an uptick may give the wrong impression of support for a view.

            El Reg comments are a valuable source of both informed and uninformed opinion on many subjects. Comments probably won't change people with extreme views - but they undoubtedly are valuable input for those willing to think about the pros and cons of a subject. Those subjects may be in the remit of their work or more general life.

            PS cancel my down vote - it wasn't warranted.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Oops

            Sorry ledswinger, I accidentally upvoted while scrolling and had to downvote because I couldn't undo it.

            I'm glad you understand.

  13. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Attention to detail

    The stories were great and well-told but it was the meticulous attention to sometimes baffling detail that made things stick in the mind and the wires and the screen melt away. I've been showing my Jorman missus some of the series and she is just as entranced as I was. For those who speak German, die Augsburger Puppenkiste made equally magical shows.

    Similar for Gerry Anderson's work, Aardman and for much of Pixar's work. The sort of pixie dust that the beancounters hate.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Attention to detail

      It's why good animation takes bloody ages.

      I liked the admission from the guys behind Dangermouse (a work of true genius), that they did all those bits in dark rooms where all you can see is the eyes, because it was so much quicker and cheaper to animate.

      Cosgrove Hall also did Chorlton and the Wheelies, which I loved as a kid, but nobody else seems to remember. And I think they also did Jamie and his Magic Torch - which is equally bonkers.

      1. TchmilFan

        Re: Attention to detail

        ‘Ullo little old lady

        I was a long time Chortlon and Jamie fan. I was a little older than target, but still at school. Always hoped that ITV (remember when we only had 3/4/5 channels?) were showing either of them on days when I was “ill”.

        Thought Fenella the Witch was brilliant. REGIONAL ACCENTS!!

        Jamie! (Wordsworth)

        Jamie! (Wordsworth)

        A great theme tune.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Attention to detail

          Why was Wordsworth the dog doing a pirate voice? Come to think of it, why did he name his dog after a poet?

  14. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Space Education

    A generation of Register readers was educated on space through the popular stop-motion children's TV show

    True for me - well mainly the Clangers but also watching the Apollo missions live on TV. Somewhere I still have the three large scrapbooks of newspaper clippings I gathered about Apollo 11.

    I wonder if that influenced my decision to study Astronomy at Uni?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Space Education

      "I wonder if that influenced my decision to study Astronomy at Uni?"

      And so was lost the greatest marketing talent the world never knew.

      On my part, the world's loss was music.

      1. Symon Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Space Education

        Yep, I think space education for those of us of a certain age was piqued by the Clangers and Thunderbirds, further fuelled by U.F.O, Space:1999 and Blake's 7 and maybe fixed forever by Carl Sagan. Because "We are a way for the cosmos to know itself."

      2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: Space Education

        I had all the makings of a fine serial killer until I got lost in a nest of ethernet cables.

        1. Jonathan Richards 1
          Coat

          Re: Space Education

          > all the makings of a fine serial killer until I got lost in a nest of ethernet cables

          Well, ethernet ain't exactly parallel so you could just take scissors and pursue both careers.

  15. Andrew Moore Silver badge

    Doctor Who connection...

    I always remember the part in the first episode of The Sea Devils where the Master is watching The Clangers and remarking that they are "interesting extra-terrestrial lifeforms"

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Doctor Who connection...

      And thirty-five years later, the Master was watching the Teletubbies. How the mighty are fallen!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Doctor Who connection...

        And then Barney the Purple Dinosaur was watching the Master.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Doctor Who connection...

          And then Barney the Purple Dinosaur ...

          Be gone, you foul and unnatural beast!

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: Doctor Who connection...

            A purple dinosaur? That's just silly

  16. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    A few years ago the Barnsley municipal art gallery had a show of props from SmallFilms. Apart from cocktail sticks & so on you can add cycle wheel spokes to the ingredients.

    I'm too old to have watched it at the proper age, so to speak, but that's why you have children...

  17. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    Lovely chap, great series

    Saw him as part of an animation festival a couple of years ago, and met one of the Bagpuss hand puppets. Nice chap.

    Ivor The Engine was one of my favourites, but it's well worth checking out the original black and white series as it includes about four episodes missed in the colour remake. It would scar modern children. Ivor is depressed because he can't sing in the choir, so Jones the Steam takes him to be auditioned. The choir leader is very nice but explains that as Ivor at the time only has one horn which creates one (not very good) note, he'd maybe be able to join in once a year(!).

    Cue end of episode, sad Ivor sitting in a grim Welsh valley in black and white, children needing to wait an entire week to see what happens. Suicides probably tripled.

    (Seeing out what happens is definitely worth it. It can be found on Youtube)

    1. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

      Re: Lovely chap, great series

      but it's well worth checking out the original black and white series

      When the time came for little confused to arrive I sort out the "complete" set of Ivor the Engine and was applauded that some of the ones from my dim and distant memory of times yonder were missing. Still I persevered and was able to find that those too had been released on a separate VHS tape. So my children were brought up to the sounds of Ivor singing with the choir.

      The first of the stories from the black and white series is essential to understanding the rest, it's where the story comes from. It took a while hunting through eBay to find the original story book.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Lovely chap, great series

        It was Christmas & I recall a episode of Ivor where Jones the steam has somehow fallen out of of Ivor & is in the supporting braces of the bridge, quite traumatic as a 3 year old, also in my recall of the same day is a episode of Sooty with Harry (not Matthew) Corbett around a Christmas tree as opposed to the usual scaled sets.

  18. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I presume that TAPS was played on a Swanee Whistle to mark the occasion?

    Smaller World again.

  19. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    RIP

    It must be quite satisfying to come to the end of the journey knowing that the main thing you have done in life was to give great pleasure to millions of children over many years.

  20. King Jack
    Boffin

    Soup Dragon

    I loved the Clangers but nobody was able to answer the question of where the soup came from.

    1. DuncanL

      Re: Soup Dragon

      It's the Clangers planet's equivalent of lava - the Soup Dragon has evolved to mine it and bring it up to the sub-surface caves.

  21. BebopWeBop Silver badge

    They were issued as DVDs a while back. My children were so taken by it that the eldest 'borrowed' it when she left gom. Cue additional copies for the others.

  22. SVV Silver badge

    Luckily the Beeb have done a superb job with the new Clangers series

    His involvement obviously meant that the key principle has been "Do NOT screw this up. Has to be VERY good". Highly recommend Oliver Postgate's autobiography "Seeing Things". He and Peter were two interesting people indeed. Mine came with a CD-Rom with video, artwork, and some other bits and bobs, but to be honest it is then just a very necessary small investment to get the DVDs if these shows were as big a part of your childhood as they were for mine.

  23. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Unhappy

    RIP Peter

    Your creations had more soul in a knitted sock than much of the CGI in Hollywood.

  24. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Bagpuss, Clangers, Ivor the engine and Basil Brush

    Not a bad CV and a great deal of happiness brought to many children (and not a few parents)

    RIP Peter.

    May the Soup Dragon never run out of your favorite flavor.

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Bagpuss, Clangers, Ivor the engine and Basil Brush

      It's not often that I get very upset at someone's passing (outside of the family) but I did when I heard this. My childhood was built on watching the entire Smallfilms productions. I raised a glass on Sunday night in your honour. RIP there need to be more people like you in the world.

  25. fluffybunnyuk

    A legend, who knew how to tell a story in a way that captivated people. Changed my wallpaper to Bagpuss for the forseeable.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    hoo hoo hoo! hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo hoo! hoo! hoo-hoo-hoo!

    hoo! hoo... hoooo.

    RIP.

    There are no suitable words to describe how kindly and clever you were and no numbers fit enough to describe how many lives you enriched, both young and old. My condolences to your family. There aren't enough of your sort in the world.

  27. james_smith

    I am read that if you wrote to the BBC back when the Clangers first aired, they'd send you a Xerox of the knitting pattern Peter Firmin's wife used to create the real ones. My Mum actually knitted me a Clanger earlierthus year from a hardback book based on the original patterns. I am 46 years old and not ashamed :-D

    1. Ted Treen

      I am 68 years old and a couple of years ago I found the complete Clangers on DVDs on eBay. Naturally I had to purchase them.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Soppy From Looe - Last Seen In Plessey Siemans.

        I went to college with this chap from Looe in Cornwall - His claim to infamy, the Clangers gave him Nightmares.

        He was supposed to be my Best Man, but the bugger completely failed to show up - Unlike the soon to be ex-Mrs Scorn.

    2. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      I am read that if you wrote to the BBC back when the Clangers first aired, they'd send you a Xerox of the knitting pattern Peter Firmin's wife used to create the real ones. My Mum actually knitted me a Clanger earlierthus year from a hardback book based on the original patterns. I am 46 years old and not ashamed :-D

      I (we - siblings) had a knitted Clanger as a child but I never found out where it came from. Now I wonder if an aunt knitted it!

  28. Winkypop Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Basil Brush et al

    Boom boom!

  29. Jove Bronze badge

    Noggin

    Noggin the Nog (not the later adoption of the term elsewhere) - that is were it really started.

  30. rmason Silver badge

    GNU mate

    *sad slide whistle noise*

    The clangers live on, the new series (done by his son etc) are very faithful to the original. Everything is still wool and tin foil, just in HD! It's actually beautifully made.

    It's the firm favourite of mk2 son, who is almost 2. When those episodes had all been watched, the original series was free on prime too, so on that went. All went down an absolute treat.

  31. Noonoot

    Niet niet niet niet

    The cynical woodpecker - the mice always proved him wrong

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9beAp3TG2E

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: Niet niet niet niet

      Professor Yaffle - one of my favourite characters

      The mice could only prove him wrong because he was bound by science and they were really pan-dimensional beings that could do magic.

  32. Symon Silver badge
    Happy

    The Iron Chicken.

    No-one's mentioned the Iron Chicken so far. I'll put that right.

    1. Mooseman Bronze badge

      Re: The Iron Chicken.

      Do you remember the spoof version with thatcher as the iron chicken? I cant for the life of me recall who did it - I'm torn between Steve Bell and Spitting image!

  33. The_H

    Come see a real Clanger

    Shameless plug: come pay Hull's Ferens Art Gallery a visit, they've got an exhibition of original Clangers, Pogles, Bagpuss (the Mouse Organ!) and a few more (including the sets and original filming equipment). On until 29th July. Free entry.

    https://www.hull2017.co.uk/whatson/events/clangers-bagpuss-co/

  34. MCMLXV

    Oops -> Ta!

    @Doctor Syntax: Ta - didn't know I could change a vote. Sin against @John 104 now expiated.

  35. dajames Silver badge

    The Clangers were pink?

    Who knew?

    The earliest TV I remember watching was Popeye the Sailor -- which I used to watch at my Grandmother's house, because she had a TV set and we didn't, back then.

    Later on, my favourites were Gerry Anderson's Supercar and Fireball XL5 ... and especially Roberta Leigh's excellent Space Patrol.

    [Warning: The DVD box set of Space Patrol contains a 'bonus' episode of the series Sarah and Hoppity which I always hated but which was a favourite of my younger sister and whose theme tune is still an ear-worm. (Don't ask me how I know this)]

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