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Bagpuss

Bagpuss was possibly the most popular UK children's television series of the 1970s, made by Smallfilms. It is fondly and widely remembered, despite the fact that only 13 episodes was ever made.

The program would open with a narrated series of sepia tinted still photos, showing Emily (played by animator Peter Firmin's daughter Emily), a little girl who would find lost and broken things. She would take them home to Bagpuss's shop, and before she went away, she sang a little rhyme to Bagpuss (The most important, the most beautiful, the most magical, saggy old cloth cat in the whole wide world):

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

And she went away. Then Bagpuss would wake up, with a tremendous yawn, and the program shifted from sepia photographs to colour stop motion, revealing Bagpuss' stripes to be a startling fluorescent pink. And when Bagpuss woke up, all his friends woke up too, and various toys in the Shop came to life: Gabriel the Toad and a rag doll[?] called Madeleine. The wooden woodpecker bookend became Professor Yaffle, and the mice carved on the side of the mouse organ scurried around.

The toys would discuss what the new object was; someone (usually Madeleine) would tell a story related to the object (shown in an animated thought bubble over Bagpuss's head), usually with a song, which would be accompanied by Gabriel on the banjo (which often sounded a lot more like a guitar), and then the mice, singing in high pitched squeaky harmony as they worked, would mend the broken object. The new thing would be put in the Shop window, so that whoever had lost it would see it as they went past, and could come in and claim it.

Then Bagpuss would start yawning again, and as he fell asleep the narration returned and all the toys reverted: Professor Yaffle once again became a bookend, the mice turned back to carvings on the Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Organ, and Bagpuss became, once again, just a saggy old cloth cat: baggy, and a bit loose at the seams.

But Emily loved him.

Most of the stories and songs used in the series are based on folk songs and fairy tales from around the world.

Episodes The titles of the thirteen episodes each refer in some way to the object Emily found.

  • The Ship in a Bottle - "Where would it sail to?",
  • The Owls of Athens - A dirty rag that reveals a picture once cleaned,
  • The Frog Princess - later the title of a song by The Divine Comedy,
  • The Ballet Shoe - put to inventive use by the mice,
  • The Hamish - a tartan pin cushion,
  • The Wise Man - a broken figurine of a Chinaman, claimed by Yaffle to be the very wise Ling-Po,
  • The Elephant - missing its ears,
  • The Mouse Mill - demonstrated by the mice to make chocolate biscuits out of breadcrumbs and butterbeans. This turns out to be a fraud,
  • The Giant - a statuette,
  • Old Man's Beard - a tangly plant,
  • The Fiddle - which plays itself,
  • Flying - a basket which the mice attempt to turn into a flying machine,
  • Uncle Feedle - a piece of cloth, decided to be a house for a rag doll.

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