UK animated tv series (1969-1970; 1971-1972; 1974). BBC/Smallfilms. Created, produced, written and narrated by Oliver Postgate (1925-2008). Sets and puppets by Peter Firmin (1928-2018). 27 9-minute episodes (first series 1-13; second series 14-26; plus 1974 special). Colour.
Several generations still whistle and coo in memory of this stop-motion animated series, whose episodes were repeated over and over again in the early evening, at a time when both adults and children – not necessarily together – might be watching. The Clangers (posable pink knitted puppets with internal metal frames) were the curious little inhabitants of a tiny blue planet which was under frequent meteoric bombardment; the burrows in which they sheltered in its Hollow Earth interior from the meteors were capped by dustbin-lids, the noise of whose hurried replacement gave the species its name; they communicated via often strangely comprehensible whistling. Among the Clangers' various fantasticated associates was the Soup Dragon. More science-fictional intruders from Earth included a Moon rover in "The Intruder" (28 December 1969) and an astronaut in "The Rock Collector" (25 April 1971).
The Postgate/Firmin team – trading as Smallfilms – for some years more or less cornered the market with this sort of whimsical fare, first made popular in the UK by The Magic Roundabout (1963-1971 France; screened 1965-1977 UK). Other Postgate/Firmin collaborations included The Saga of Noggin the Nog (1959-1965), Ivor the Engine (1962-1964, 1976-1977), The Pogles or Pogles' Wood (1966-1967) and Bagpuss (1974), but with the possible exception of Bagpuss, The Clangers was almost certainly the greatest success and the best remembered.
A revival series (2015-2016; 2018-current), narrated by Michael Palin of Monty Python's Flying Circus fame and still using stop-motion animation, continues the tradition. [JG/DRL]