Well, he’s up there on our banner, so we should definitely write something about Emily’s big fat hairy catpuss. The series may have first appeared on our screens in 1974, but I certainly fondly remember the saggy old cloth cat and all his chums. It was a staple of the BBC’s early afternoon programmes for pre-school children for many years, so I feel it deserves a mention.
Bagpuss was a pink and white striped cat owned by Emily, a little girl who also happened to own a shop, of sorts. As the title sequence said, it was a very unusual kind of shop because it didn’t sell anything. The premise was that Emily would find lost and broken “things” and bring them to Bagpuss to be fixed. It’s kind of debatable who actually did the fixing of these “things”, since the average episode generally involved a discussion of what the object was, followed by some songs and stories. After this, whatever the “thing” was would be miraculously fixed, and dragged into the shops front window to be collected by whoever had lost it in the first place.
Now, it must be said that Bagpuss was of course a toy cat, who came to life when Emily uttered some magic words. When he woke up, all his friends woke up too. There was Madeline, a ragdoll, and Gabriel, a toy toad with a banjo. The mice, who were ornaments on the Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Organ, did most of the actual work, and then there was Professor Yaffle, a carved wooden bookend, in the shape of a woodpecker. Yaffle felt he was the brains of the outfit (he generally wasn’t) but he was by far my favourite character.
Only 13 episodes were made by Smallfilms, who were also responsible for other favourites including The Clangers and Ivor the Engine. I particularly loved “The Mouse Mill”, where the mice tricked Yaffle with their chocolate biscuit making machine, which needed only breadcrumbs and butter beans in order to create tasty choccy biccies. What actually happened was the mice would push a chocolate biscuit through a hole in the machine into a little cart, then wheel it away only to push it back through the hole again.
If you fancy checking out Bagpuss again, tune into Nick Jr Classics on UK satellite and cable TV. Every evening the channel winds down with a selection of older kids TV shows, and Bagpuss often puts in an appearance. Another great resource is the Smallfilms fan website. Their Bagpuss website is full of information on the characters, a full episode guide, and best of all, sound clips from the wonderful title sequence.