Ivor the Engine

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Ivor the Engine
Ivor the engine.jpg
Ivor the Engine (1959). Ivor and Jones the Steam on footplate.
Format Children's television
Created by Oliver Postgate
Narrated by Oliver Postgate
Country of origin UK
No. of episodes 32 (1959 b/w)
40 (1975-1977 colour)
Production
Running time 10 minutes per episode (b/w)
5 mins per episode (colour)
Broadcast
Original channel ITV/Associated-Rediffusion
BBC
Original run 1959
29 March 1975 – 16 December 1977

Ivor the Engine is a British children's animation by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin's Smallfilms company. It is a children's television series relating the adventures of a small green locomotive who lived in the "top left-hand corner of Wales" and worked for The Merioneth and Llantisilly Railway Traction Company Limited. His friends included Jones the Steam, Evans the Song and Dai Station, among many other characters.

Background[edit]

Having produced the live Alexander the Mouse, and the filmed The Adventures of Ho for his employers Associated Rediffusion/ITV in partnership with Firmin, Oliver Postgate and his partner set up Smallfilms in a disused cow shed at Firmin's home in Blean near Canterbury, Kent.[1]

Ivor the Engine was Smallfilms' first production, and drew inspiration from Postgate's World War II encounter with Welshman Denzyl Ellis, a former railway locomotive fireman with the Royal Scot train,[1] who described how steam engines came to life when you spent time steaming them up in the morning. Postgate decided to locate the story to North Wales, as it was more inspirational than the flat terrain of the English Midlands.[1] The story lines drew heavily on, and were influenced by, the works of South Wales poet Dylan Thomas.[2]

Production[edit]

Ivor the Engine was filmed using stop motion techniques, animation using cardboard cut-outs painted with watercolours.

The series was originally made for black and white television by Smallfilms for Associated Rediffusion in 1958, but was later revived in 1975 when new episodes in colour were produced for the BBC.

The series was written, animated and narrated by Oliver Postgate. Peter Firmin provided the artwork. The sound effects were endearingly low-tech, with the sound of Ivor's puffing made vocally by Postgate himself. The music was composed by Vernon Elliott and predominantly featured a solo bassoon, to reflect the three notes of Ivor's whistle.

Voices were performed by Oliver Postgate, Anthony Jackson and Olwen Griffiths. Anthony Jackson provided the voices for Dai Station, Evans the Song and Mr. Dinwiddy.[3][4]

Episodes[edit]

The original series was in black and white and comprised six episodes which told the story as to how Ivor wanted to sing in the choir, and how his whistle was replaced with steam organ pipes from the fairground organ on Mr Morgan's roundabout. There then followed two thirteen-episode series, also in black and white. Black and white episodes were 10 minutes each.

In the 1970s, the two longer black and white series were re-made in colour, with some alterations to the stories, but they did not remake, or re-tell, the content of the original six. The colour series consisted of 40 five-minute films. These would often each form part of a longer story.

Although the six original black and white episodes were subsequently released on video, the two longer black and white series (totalling 26 episodes) were not and for many years were thought to have been lost. In October 2010, however, film copies of all 26 episodes were discovered in a pig shed.[5][6][7]

When the colour series was subsequently released on DVD, some of the episodes whose content linked, were edited together, with the relevant closing and opening titles and credits removed.

The colour series episodes were:-

Characters[edit]

Ivor[edit]

The locomotive of The Merioneth and Llantisilly Rail Traction Company Limited. Unlike real steam locomotives, Ivor has a mind of his own. He can drive himself and, using his whistle, can speak. His fondest dream is to sing with The Grumbley and District Choral Society, a dream that is realised when his whistle is replaced with three pipes from an old fairground organ. He becomes first bass of the choir, as well as providing them with a means of getting from place to place.

Ivor enjoys doing all sorts of things that people do. As well as singing in the choir, he likes visiting the seaside, making tea from his boiler and spending time with his friends. He is fond of animals, and has several of them among his friends. He can be wilful and disobedient at times, and it is not unknown for him to go and do his own thing when he should be working. He dislikes shunting and timetables.

Jones the Steam[edit]

Edwin Jones is Ivor's driver. He is a cheerful and kind-hearted man who perhaps sympathises more than most railway staff with Ivor's idiosyncrasies. Postgate and Firmin describe him as "an ordinary engine driver who is there to cope with whatever needs to be coped with". People who are new to the area find him rather eccentric for talking to his engine.

When not driving Ivor or helping the engine with his latest flight of fancy, he enjoys fishing and day-dreaming.

Dai Station[edit]

Station master at Llaniog. He is a stickler for the regulations of the railway, but sometimes bends the rules to help his friends. His life is made a little difficult by the fact that Ivor really doesn't care much for regulations at all. Although he is often gloomy, he is a good person at heart.

Owen the Signal[edit]

Owen the Signal inhabits a signal box near Ivor's shed and makes an occasional appearance in the episodes.

Evans the Song[edit]

Evan Evans is the portly choirmaster of The Grumbley and District Choral Society.[8] He is also Jones the Steam's wife's uncle .[9]

Mrs. Porty[edit]

A rich eccentric who enjoys the occasional glass of port and has new hats sent from London every week. She is also technically the owner of the railway, having bought it when the line was threatened with nationalisation. However, she does not bother much with the day-to-day running, and things remained much the same after she bought it.

Mr. Dinwiddy[edit]

A very odd, possibly insane miner who lives in the hills and digs for gold. He enjoys explosions and mining. In fact, his mountain is full of gold, but as soon as he digs it up, he puts it back again. He often has need of new boots.

He is something of an amateur scientist. He describes himself as "educated" and knows "something about rock". He has constructed a few odd devices, including a donkey carriage and a bubble-blowing machine.

Bani Moukerjee[edit]

An elephant keeper from India, who works for Charlie Banger's Circus. He is in charge of the elephants Alice, George, Margaret and Clarence, who all obey him without question.

Idris the Dragon[edit]

A small, red Welsh dragon who also sings in the choir for a time. Having been hatched from an egg in Ivor's fire, he lives with his wife Olwen and their twins, Gaian and Blodwyn, in the extinct volcano Smoke Hill. As well as singing, he proves useful by cooking fish and chips for the choir using his fiery breath.

Unfortunately, Idris runs into trouble when Smoke Hill goes cold and needs to be kept hot in order to survive. The gasboard provide a temporary furnace, but when that became too expensive (and decimalisation renders the slot-machine inoperable), the only other option for the dragons is a heated cage. Luckily, Mr Dinwiddy is able to provide a solution, and they now live in a geothermally-heated cave under the ground.

Alice the Elephant[edit]

A circus elephant with Charlie Banger's Circus. She is normally placid, but does not like taking medicine. When Ivor met her, she had escaped and was asleep on the track. Since then they have become friends. She and her elephant friends were able to help Ivor when he got stuck in the snow.

Bluebell the Donkey[edit]

A donkey who lives at Mrs Porty's house. She cannot talk, but she and Ivor just enjoy sitting around together. As the Merioneth and Llantisilly Rail Traction Company Limited has only one locomotive (apart from the short service of Juggernaut), Bluebell is sometimes called upon to provide motive power. Examples include the towing by chain of the broken down locomotive Juggernaut and also the pulling of Mrs Porty's donkey cart when this was temporarily set on the railway tracks to pursue 'robbers' when Ivor had been 'stolen' in the episode The Lost Engine; in this latter case, like a locomotive, Bluebell strictly observed the railway signals, halting the chase until Owen the Signal had raised the signal arm.

Morgan the Roundabout[edit]

Mr Morgan is the fairground owner. He gave Ivor some pipes from the steam organ on his roundabout, so that Ivor could sing in the choir. He only appeared in the very first black and white series.

Claude Gilbert[edit]

Claude Gilbert was the station master of Tan-y-Gwlch station in the original black-and-white series, who would share a cup of tea with Jones whilst Ivor rested at the platform. Like Mr. Morgan, he only appeared in the first black and white series and was not seen again.

Juggernaut[edit]

Juggernaut is a diesel railway engine made out of bits and bobs, resembling a road lorry on flanged wheels. Juggernaut falls into the lake soon after starting service, nearly killing Idris.

Books[edit]

Original book cover c.1962

Ivor the Engine published by Abelard Schuman in 1962.

Six story books, based upon the TV series were published in the 1970s and were reprinted in 2006/07:

  • The First Story[10]
  • Snowdrifts[11]
  • Ivor the Engine and the Dragon[12]
  • Ivor the Engine and the Elephant[13]
  • Ivor the Engine and the Foxes[14]
  • Ivor's Birthday[15]
  • also The Ivor the Engine Annual c.1978

As the books were published in the early days of political correctness, London Borough of Hackney Public Libraries banned the entire series because of the Indian elephant keeper, called Barni. They thought ethnic minorities might be offended by him.[16]

Influences and future appearances[edit]

Ivor at the Battlefield Line Railway in August 2007
  • BBC2 Wales revived Ivor for a series of promotional spots advertising their new digital television channel "2W" for Wales.
  • Postgate and Firmin created a map of their fictional railway which was adhered to rigidly during filming.
  • In 2007 'All Aboard with Ivor' events were held at various heritage railways around the UK following the modification of a small Peckett industrial locomotive to resemble Ivor. Railways hosting the event include the Battlefield Line Railway in Leicestershire, the Watercress Line in Hampshire and the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway in Oxfordshire.
  • On the Loonee Tunes! album by the British ska band Bad Manners is a song titled "The Undersea Adventures of Ivor the Engine".
  • Some of the artwork from production is on display at the Rupert Bear Museum, along with several other items from Smallfilm's history.[17]The Rupert Bear Museum is now part of the Canterbury Heritage Museum in Stour Street, Canterbury.
  • In April 2011, Smallfilms collaborated with mobile gaming company, Dreadnought Design, to launch an Ivor the Engine game under the newly created Smallworlds brand.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "An interview with Oliver Postgate". Clive Banks. March 2005. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  2. ^ "Bagpuss creator Oliver Postgate in his own words". guardian.co.uk (Guardian News and Media Limited). 2008-12-09. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  3. ^ "British actor Anthony Jackson dead at 62". The Big Cartoon Forum. 2006-12-10. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  4. ^ DeMott, Rick (18 December 2006). "Ivor the Engine Actor Dies". Animation World Network. Retrieved 2010-01-28. 
  5. ^ Lost episodes of Ivor the Engine discovered in 'priceless' haul found in pig shed< at dailymail.co.uk
  6. ^ Laura Chamberlain (27 October 2010). "Ivor The Engine episodes unearthed". BBC Wales Arts. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  7. ^ "1960s' Ivor the Engine episodes unearthed in Kent". BBC News. 26 October 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  8. ^ "Ivor the Engine: People – Evans the Song". SmallFilms (Official Website). Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  9. ^ Ivor The Engine: The First Story, ISBN 0-9552417-0-7, page 15
  10. ^ ISBN 0-9552417-0-7
  11. ^ ISBN 0-9552417-1-5
  12. ^ ISBN 0-9552417-3-1
  13. ^ ISBN 0-9552417-2-3
  14. ^ ISBN 0-9552417-4-X
  15. ^ ISBN 0-9552417-5-8
  16. ^ "Cult TV - Interview with Oliver Postgate". BBC Cult TV. 2005-04-27. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  17. ^ "Postgate's genius lives on at museum". Canterbury City Council. 16 December 2008. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  18. ^ "Children's TV character Ivor the Engine brought back to life in a new mobile phone game". Kentish Gazette. 27 April 2011. 

External links[edit]