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Pingwings (1961-65)

Courtesy of The Dragon's Friendly Society

Main image of Pingwings (1961-65)
Smallfilms for Rediffusion/ITV, tx. 7/2/1961-23/8/1965
18 x 10 minute episodes in three series, colour
DirectorOliver Postgate
Written byOliver Postgate
MusicVernon Elliott
Told byOliver Postgate
 Olwen Griffiths

The escapades of the tiny Pingwing family, who live peacefully among the animals of Berrydown Farm.

Show full synopsis

Pingwings (ITV, 1961) was Smallfilms' first children's series to use 3D, stop-motion animation. Where previously the team of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin had used cut-out drawings to bring to life Ivor the Engine (ITV, 1959; BBC, 1976), for the new venture Postgate created miniature figures of the characters and placed them squarely in the real world.

The 18 black and white episodes featured a family of tiny penguin-like creatures, who lived in an old barn on Berrydown Farm. There was Mr Pingwing, Mrs Pingwing, Penny, Paul and Baby Pingwing, who all managed to live alongside people while rarely interacting - mostly invisible to all but the audience at home. The knitted characters, with their long beaks, bear a passing resemblance to Postgate and Firmin's more celebrated creations, The Clangers (BBC, 1969-74). In typically understated style, Postgate's narration invites viewers to join him as he watches the Pingwings going about their everyday lives.

The farm where the Pingwings lived was owned by the Firmins, and the old barn also housed the studio where Firmin and Postgate worked. Not only did this save money, the setting actually provided the basic idea for the series.

During one visit, Postgate spotted a homemade knitted penguin hanging from a clothes-line - it had just been washed. "I didn't actually think of something for our next series, I happened to walk past it in the Firmins' back garden," Postgate explained in his autobiography, Seeing Things. The image appeared in the very first episode of the series. The name for the little creatures was just as fortuitous - Postgate remembered that there was a type of French wool called pingouin, which was transformed into Pingwing, the name of the tiny flightless birds that lived quietly among the livestock on the Firmins' smallholding.

Anthony Clark

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete episode: A Happy Event (9:43)
Complete episode: Mrs Pingwing's Entertainment (9:27)
Smallfilms studio tour
Clangers (1969-74)
Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin