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Clangers (1969-74)

Courtesy of Smallfilms

Main image of Clangers (1969-74)
Smallfilms for BBC
27 episodes (colour)
Narration & written byOliver Postgate
DesignPeter Firmin
ProducerOliver Postgate
MusicVernon Elliott

Beneath the craggy surface of a small moon, somewhere in outer space, live a band of gentle mouse-like creatures. There's all kinds of debris floating around in space these days and some of it lands on the planet of the Clangers to arouse their curiosity.

Show full synopsis

This series for the space-race generation was inspired by a Noggin the Nog book Noggin and the Moonmouse, in which a mouse from space landed in Noggin's court.

The similar Clangers (BBC, 1969-72, 1974) were pink and woolly mouse-like creatures that had retreated beneath their moon's surface, hiding under metal lids (the lids' clanging sound inspired the series' name) to avoid the debris floating around their orbit as a result of the Earth space programmes.

The Clanger family - Major Clanger, Mother Clanger, son Small Clanger and daughter Tiny Clanger - communicate in echoey whistles. Postgate scripted English dialogue for them, then rendered by swannee whistles. Though unintelligible on-screen, the BBC objected to Major Clanger's line, "Oh sod it! The bloody thing's stuck again."

The Clangers live a simple existence, happily eating blue string pudding and green soup, which the Soup Dragon fetches from the soup well. Distractions come from the odd piece of space junk landing on their moon. One day an astronaut lands - Mother Clanger merely uses his planted flag as a nice new tablecloth.

Very rarely do Clangers demonstrate less noble human traits - the episode 'Pride' sees Small Clanger selfishly covet an elegant mirror he's found. Postgate's narration makes clear the differences between Clanger life and that of ours on Earth. The episode 'The Intruder' makes them most plain - spying a city of ugly skyscrapers with their telescope, the Clangers call off a planned rocket expedition to Earth and keep the rocket for "something more useful".

Clangers is perhaps Smallfilms' most fully realised production as regards animation and design, with pleasingly whimsical if pointed storylines.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
1. Chicken (9:29)
Noggin and the Moonmouse
Smallfilms studio tour
Pingwings (1961-65)
Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin