|Created by||Oliver Postgate|
|Narrated by||Oliver Postgate (1969–72, 1974)
Michael Palin (2015–present)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||78 (plus three specials)|
|Running time||10 minutes per episode (1969–72, 1974)
11 minutes per episode (2015–present)
|Production company(s)||Smallfilms (1969–72, 1974, 2015–present)
|Original channel||BBC1 (1969–74)
|Original release||Original series:
November 16, 1969 –
October 10, 1974
March 19, 2015 –
Clangers is a British stop-motion animated children's television series of short stories about a family of mouse-like creatures who live on, and inside, a small moon-like planet. They speak only in whistles, and eat green soup supplied by the Soup Dragon and blue string pudding. The programmes were originally broadcast by BBC1 between 1969 and 1972, followed by the first of three special episodes that was broadcast in 1974.
The series was made by Smallfilms, the company set up by Oliver Postgate (writer, animator and narrator) and Peter Firmin (modelmaker and illustrator). Firmin designed the characters, and his wife knitted and "dressed" the Clangers. The music, often part of the story, was by Vernon Elliott.
A new series, narrated by Monty Python actor Michael Palin, started on 15 June 2015 on the UK CBeebies TV channel with successful viewing figures. Two short specials were broadcast before then. The stop-motion animation remains, despite the evolution of modern technology such as computer-generated imagery, often a replacement of the original stop-motion animation in most other children's programmes such as Fireman Sam, Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and The Wombles.
- 1 Background
- 2 Storyline
- 3 Production
- 4 Characters
- 5 Music and sound effects
- 6 Episode listing
- 7 Reception
- 8 Legacy
- 9 Other countries
- 10 Soundtrack album
- 11 VHS and DVD releases
- 12 References
- 13 External links
The Clangers originated in a series of children's books which developed from another Smallfilms production, Noggin the Nog. Publishers Kay and Ward created a series of books from Noggin the Nog episodes, which were then extended into a series called Noggin First Reader, aimed at aiding initial reading skills.
In the 1967 story Noggin and the Moonmouse, a new horse-trough was put up in the middle of the town in the North-Lands. A spacecraft hurtled down and splashed into it. The top unscrewed, and out came a largish, mouse-like character in a duffel coat, who wanted fuel for his spacecraft. He showed Nooka and the children that what he needed was vinegar and soap-flakes. So, they filled up the tanks in this little spherical ship, which then "took off in a dreadful cloud smelling of vinegar and soap-flakes, covering the town with bubbles".
In 1969, the BBC asked Smallfilms to produce a new series for colour television, but did not specify a storyline. Postgate concluded that because space exploration was particularly topical, the new series should be set in space. He adapted the Moonmouse from the earlier story, removing its tail "because it kept getting into the soup". The Clangers looked similar to mice, anteaters and, from their pink colour, pigs. They wore clothes reminiscent of Roman armour, "against the space debris that kept falling onto the planet, lost from other places, such as television sets and bits of an Iron Chicken", and they spoke in whistles.
Clangers was described by Postgate as a family set in space. The Clangers were small creatures living in peace and harmony on – and inside – a small, hollow planet, far, far away, nourished by Blue String Pudding, and Green Soup harvested from the planet's volcanic soup wells by the Soup Dragon. The word "Clanger" is said to derive from the sound made by opening the metal cover of one of the creatures' crater-like burrows, each of which was covered with a door made from an old metal dustbin lid, to protect against meteorite impacts. In each episode, there would be some problem to solve, something invented or discovered, or perhaps some new visitor to meet. Music Trees, with note-shaped fruit, grew on the planet's surface, and music would often be an integral feature in the simple but amusing plots. In the "Fishing" episode, one of the Cheese Trees provided a cylindrical five-line staff for notes taken from the Music Trees.
Postgate provided the narration, for the most part in a soft, melodic voice, describing and accounting for the curious antics of the little blue planet's knitted pink inhabitants, and providing a "translation", as it were, for much of their whistled dialogue.
The first episode was broadcast by the BBC1 on 16 November 1969, and a further 26 episodes were made. The last of these was broadcast on 10 November 1972. The final programme, however, was a four-minute election special, broadcast on 10 October 1974. This was not shown at the usual slot during children's programmes. Oliver Postgate said in a 2005 interview that he wasn't sure whether this episode still existed and it has been referred to as a "missing episode". In fact the whole episode is available from the British Film Institute.
In October 2013, the BBC's Cbeebies and US pre-school channel PBS Kids Sprout announced that a new series would be produced for their 2015 transmission schedules. Michael Palin would narrate it.
The principal characters are the Clangers themselves, the females wearing dresses and the males brass armour:
- Granny Clanger: an elderly Clanger, she is fond of knitting and often falls asleep. She wears black in the original but now wears lilac in the new version.
- Major Clanger: the father and head of the family, he is determined to get all things right on their planet, and can be grumpy. He wears brass armour. Narrator of the 2015 series, Michael Palin has said that Major Clanger is one of his favourite characters.
- Mother Clanger: Mother to Tiny and Small Clanger, Mother Clanger is the matriarch of the family and is often seen preparing and dispensing the Clangers' soup or Blue String Pudding for the family. She wears red.
- Small Clanger: Small Clanger is the son of Mother and Major Clanger and older brother to Tiny Clanger. Small Clanger is very inquisitive and inventive which despite his best intentions has sometimes led to some element of chaos amongst the Clangers, the soup pump being a classic example. Small Clanger is often the focus of the episodes as he is the most adventurous of the family. He wears brass armour in the original but now wears blue in the new version
- Tiny Clanger: Youngest of the family, daughter to Mother and Major Clanger and younger sister to Small Clanger, Tiny Clanger often plays a key role in episodes, too. She has a kind and gentle nature which is apparent in many episodes in which a new visitor arrives as she usually tries to communicate peacefully with them. She wears red in the original but now wears pink in the new version
Three other Clangers, two males with different coloured hair and a female wearing blue, also appear, but they have been removed for 2015
- The Soup Dragon: a benign (female) creature with a penchant for Green Soup. The Soup Dragon dwells in the soup wells within the Clangers' planet, she is often summoned by tapping on the top of what look like small inactive volcanoes, she slides the lid back and then takes a jug from (usually) Small Clanger which she then fills for them to eat. A green glow is visible beneath her when she emerges, suggesting some kind of energy source down there.
- Baby Soup Dragon: the Soup Dragon's child. Baby Soup Dragon was brought into the Clangers' world when the Soup Dragon became broody which meant the Clangers could not get any soup. Tiny Clanger called the Iron Chicken by radio, for advice, and she told Tiny to get the egg that she had left on the surface of the planet and to fill it with ingredients. Then they made a nest with macaroni sticks harvested not far from the soup wells, and placed the egg in the middle. The Iron Chicken asked the Clangers to stand back while she shot the iron egg with a beam from her nest: this had an effect, the Soup Dragon saw the egg and instinctively sat upon it, moments later after the beam was shut off. Then the Soup Dragon was startled and leapt up to find that the egg was hatched and she had a Baby Soup Dragon.
- Froglets: a trio of small orange aliens with black, stalk-like legs and large eyes, which travel around in a top hat. In the new series, they can occasionally change colour with one being yellow and another being blue in some episodes.
- The Cloud: a cotton-wool cloud that floats over the surface of the planet, releasing musical raindrops. In the new series, it displays the ability to change its shape.
- The Music Trees: The two small Music Trees are a permanent fixture on the surface of the Clangers' planet. They sit in a small divot on the surface (in the new series, they now sit atop a small hill) and are often harvested by the Clangers for their music notes, though the Clangers are always polite to ask the trees first after which the trees release some of their notes onto the ground, suggesting some form of sentience.
- The Glow Buzzers: lightbulb-like creatures that live in hives around the caves, which they fill with "Glow Honey". They also helped Small Clanger find his way out of the flower caves when he followed them to find out where they got the Glow Honey from. The Glow Buzzers are rendered digitally in the new series.
- The Iron Chicken: a "bird" made of scrap metal (modelled from Meccano), which lives in an orbiting nest made of metallic junk. (The pieces were found around the Smallfilms studio.) She had a chick in two episodes of series 2.
The others appeared in only one or two episodes each:
- Hoots: small horn-like creatures with three legs, speaking like trumpets.
- A Spaceman: an astronaut, who arrives to collect rock samples. Upon landing, the Clangers observe his movements and discover that he is digging up rocks, Small Clanger peeks out of a hole and takes the wicker basket he is (rather humorously) placing the collected rocks into. The astronaut turns to find his basket gone and begins to look for it, he searches the surface until he lifts the lid of one of the holes only to find Tiny Clanger within. This clearly scares the astronaut who then proceeds to run away and fall straight down one of the holes into the planet where he then falls into a soup well. After the Clangers retrieve him and clean him up, he appears to be still in shock then begins to run around again in panic, at which point he accidentally runs himself into orbit around their planet. Small Clanger retrieves him with a fishing rod and a magnet.
- Sky Moos: large, flying, blue cow-like creatures that appear in The Seed episode, helping the Clangers by eating all the vegetation that is overrunning their planet.
- Lunar Rover: The rover appeared when the Clangers were building a structure on the surface and one of them noticed an incoming object, they all dived below for safety. Upon impacting, the rover destroyed the structure they were building much to the Clangers' annoyance. They all observed the rover staying just out of its sight then when it began to dig and seemingly eat some of the surface Major Clanger intervenes and stops it from eating any more. It then turns to face him and they attempt to shake hands at which point the Rovers "nose" comes off in Major Clanger's hand, he tries to return it but the Rover drives off, finds a suitable bit of ground then launches itself back off into space. Major Clanger exclaims that it is "Marvellous."
- Eggbots: A group of egg-shaped, nesting doll-like robots that make sounds based on the solfège scale (each smaller Eggbot saying a successive note).
Music and sound effects
One of the most noted aspects was the use of sound effects, with a score composed by Vernon Elliott under instructions from Postgate. Although the episodes were scripted, most of the music used in the two series was written in translation by Postgate in the form of "musical sketches" or graphs that he drew for Elliott, who converted the drawings into a musical score. The music was then recorded by the two, along with other musicians – dubbed the Clangers Ensemble – in a village hall, where they would often leave the windows open, leading to the sounds of birds outside being heard on some recordings. Much of the score was performed on Elliott's bassoon, and also included harp, clarinet, glockenspiel and bells.
The distinctive whistles made by the Clangers, performed on swanee whistles, have become as identifiable as the characters themselves, much imitated by viewers. The series creators have said that the Clangers, living in vacuum, did not communicate by sound, but rather by a type of nuclear magnetic resonance, which was translated to audible whistles for the human audience. These whistles followed the rhythm and intonation of a script in English. The action was also narrated by a voice-over from Postgate. However, when the series was shown without narration to a group of overseas students, many of them felt that the Clangers were speaking their particular language.
The non-worded but scored script seemed to allow the Clangers to say almost anything, including swear words in the basic script. As part of the production, Smallfilms had to send the scripts to the BBC, and on reading the script for episode three they asked Postgate to remove some "Clanger-speak", explaining that, although whistled, "you can’t say that on children’s television [...] you just can’t". Most notably, in the opening of the episode "Chicken", Major Clanger kicks a door to make it work, and his first words are "Oh, sod it; the bloody thing’s stuck again". Postgate replied that viewers wouldn't recognize what was said, but the BBC replied "But people will know!" The offending Clanger-talk remained in the episode, and after the series became a commercial success, and the Golden Bear Company became responsible for merchandising, the Clanger-talk used for the talking-squeezable model was this phrase.
Series 1 (1969–1970)
|#||Title||Date of Release||Summary|
|1||Flying||16 November 1969||Major Clanger builds a flying machine and Tiny Clanger gets stuck at the top of the cave with a balloon.|
|2||The Visitor||23 November 1969||The Clangers find a television set.|
|3||Chicken||30 November 1969||The Clangers build some fireworks, one of which hits a passing Iron Chicken.|
|4||Music||7 December 1969||Tiny Clanger discovers music.|
|5||The Intruder||28 December 1969||An exploration rover lands.|
|6||Visiting Friends||4 January 1970||Tiny Clanger builds a helicopter to visit the Iron Chicken.|
|7||Fishing||11 January 1970||The Clangers build a flying music boat and Major Clanger goes fishing in it.|
|8||The Top Hat||18 January 1970||The Clangers find some Froglets in a top hat.|
|9||The Egg||25 January 1970||The Soup Dragon gets broody.|
|10||The Hoot||1 February 1970||A noisy metal creature is retrieved from space, disturbing the Clangers' peace.|
|11||The Meeting||8 February 1970||More Hoots arrive, and seem upset that the first Hoot has changed.|
|12||Treasure||15 February 1970||Tiny Clanger finds a bag of gold coins while fishing in space.|
|13||Goods||22 February 1970||A machine that makes plastic items is assembled, but cannot be turned off.|
Series 2 (1971–1972)
|#||Title||Date of Release||Summary|
|14||Tablecloth||18 April 1971||The Clangers try various materials to keep some Froglets warm.|
|15||The Rock Collector||25 April 1971||An astronaut arrives to collect rocks, but falls in the soup when Tiny Clanger startles him.|
|16||Glow Honey||2 May 1971||Small Clanger wanders off into some caves, looking for glow-honey, and gets lost.|
|17||The Teapot||9 May 1971||A teapot fished from space is less useful than the Clangers thought it would be.|
|18||The Cloud||16 May 1971||The Cloud is invited to Mother Clanger's birthday party, and rains on the Froglets.|
|19||The Egg (2)||23 May 1971||The Iron Chicken lays an egg, and the Clangers try to look after it.|
|20||The Noise Machine||30 May 1971||The Clangers assemble a machine they find in space, and the iron chick gets into trouble.|
|21||The Seed||6 June 1971||The Clangers tend a seed and soon their planet is covered with vegetation.|
|22||Pride||13 June 1971||Small Clanger finds a mirror, and vanity almost costs him his supper.|
|23||Bags||13 October 1972||A Gladstone bag appears on the Clangers' planet – a strange, new life-form.|
|24||The Blow Fruit||27 October 1972||Small Clanger and Baby Soup Dragon cause trouble playing with jet-propelled fruit.|
|25||The Pipe Organ||3 November 1972||When the soup-trolley loses a wheel, Major Clanger tries to make a soup-pump.|
|26||The Music of the Spheres||10 November 1972||Tiny Clanger is accidentally hoisted away into space by the Hoot planet.|
There was also an election special produced in 1974, entitled "Vote for Froglet". Inspired by what Postgate refers to as the "Winter of Discontent" (a phrase usually used by others to refer to the winter of 1978–79, but in his case to the miners' strike of 1974), and by his recollection of post-war Germany, it was broadcast on the night of the second election in 1974. The narrator explains the democratic process and demonstrates it by asking the Clangers to vote between the Soup Dragon and a Froglet. The Soup Dragon wins the election on a policy of "No Soup for Froglets", but the Clangers are dissatisfied with the result.
Series 3 (2015)
|#||Title||Writer||Date of Release||Summary|
|27||The Lost Notes||Dave Ingham||15 June 2015||The Music Tree notes for Tiny Clanger's marvellous new melody are blown away by a big wind.|
|28||The Little Thing||Daniel Postgate||16 June 2015||A Sky Moo gives Small Clanger a strangely shaped little thing that it has found in space.|
|29||In The Soup||Dave Ingham||17 June 2015||Major Clanger decides that Soup Dragon must be fed-up with dishing up soup.|
|30||The Knitting Machine||Daniel Postgate||18 June 2015||Major Clanger invents a knitting machine to save Granny ever having to knit again.|
|31||The Flying Froglets||Daniel Postgate||19 June 2015||It is Granny's birthday and all the Clangers are planning their presents for her.|
|32||I Am the Eggbot||Daniel Postgate||22 June 2015||A strange little egg-shaped creature lands on the planet and gets stuck in a cave.|
|33||The Giant Plant||Dave Ingham||23 June 2015||The planet is overrun with vegetation when Tiny and Small sing a growing song to a plant.|
|34||Tiny's Lullaby||Daniel Postgate||24 June 2015||Tiny's radio hat develops a fault, so she can't hear the Iron Chicken's lullaby.|
|35||The Crystal Trees||Myles McLeod||25 June 2015||Crystal-shaped seeds that sparkle and glow land on the Clangers' planet.|
|36||The Curious Tunnel||Dave Ingham||26 June 2015||Tiny and Small discover a strange tunnel that appears to suck things upwards.|
|37||Space Tangle||Myles McLeod||29 June 2015||Small has invited the Iron Chicken to a picnic. But the Iron Chicken is late.|
|38||Lonely as a Cloud||Daniel Postgate||30 June 2015||Tiny, Small, the Froglets and Baby Dragon are having fun playing games with the Cloud.|
|39||In a Spin||TBA||1 July 2015||While playing a game, Tiny and Small accidentally knock over a tankard.|
|40||Tiny's Orchestra||TBA||2 July 2015||Tiny is stuck for ideas for a new tune to make up.|
|41||The Metal Bug||TBA||3 July 2015||Small Clanger finds a strange ball while out fishing in space.|
|42||Mother's Melody||TBA||6 July 2015||Tiny Clanger suggests that Mother Clanger makes a tune.|
|43||Crash Bang Chicken||TBA||7 July 2015||A Sky Moo accidentally knocks the Iron Chicken out of her nest.|
|44||Major's Shrine||TBA||8 July 2015||TBA|
|45||The Singing Asteroid||TBA||9 July 2015||TBA|
Following the special a full series was commissioned for the Summer of 2015. The series is narrated by Michael Palin and co-produced by Smallfilms with the involvement of Oliver Postgate's son Dan and Peter Firmin. The series is directed by Chris Tichborne and Mole Hill,with music composed by John Du Prez. 52 11-minute episodes have been commissioned.
The first episode of the new series aired on 15 June 2015. It turned out to be a massive hit for CBeebies. The BBC News Entertainment and Arts magazine revealed that 65% of the episode's viewing audience of 484,000 were adults, and that it was CBeebies' most watched programme of 2015 to date. The rating was more than double the previous record set by an episode of Alphablocks, Numberjacks, and Waybuloo that year, as well as other CBeebies favourites since their launch in 2002, although an episode of Numberjacks peaked at over 1 million back in 2009.
|#||Title||Date of Release||Summary|
|1||Vote for Froglet||10 October 1974||Oliver Postgate tries to persuade the Clangers of the merits of party politics.|
|2||Eclipse of the Sun||19 March 2015||The Clangers and Michael Palin teach children how the solar eclipse happens and how to stay safe.|
|3||Meet the Clangers||12 June 2015||CBeebies Stargazer Maggie has made a very interesting discovery with her telescope.|
Although not quite as popular as Bagpuss (which in 1999 was voted in a British television poll the best children's television programme ever made), since the death of Postgate in December 2008 interest has been revived in his work, which is considered to have had a notable influence on British culture throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. In 2007, Postgate and Firmin were jointly presented with the Action for Children's Arts J. M. Barrie Award "for a lifetime's achievement in delighting children".
In the Doctor Who story "The Sea Devils", The Master watches the Clangers episode "The Rock Collector". He pretends to mistake it for a documentary on alien life, and feigns disappointment upon learning that it is actually a children's show.
The series was not widely broadcast outside the UK in the 1970s, mainly because it did not require additional money from sales abroad to finance its production. However the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation showed the series in 1970 and 1982, entitled Romlingane. It was narrated by Ingebrigt Davik, a popular children's-book author. It was shown on Swedish Television in the late 1960s and 1970s entitled Rymdlarna.
The revived version in 2015 has received funding from Sprout, a subsidiary of NBCUniversal, and has been pre-sold to other foreign broadcasters including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The American transmissions will be narrated by William Shatner.
|Clangers: Original Television Music|
|Soundtrack album by Vernon Elliott & Oliver Postgate|
|Genre||Classical, Children's music|
In 2001, a selection of the music and sound effects was compiled by Jonny Trunk from 128 musical cues held by Postgate, who contributed act one, "The Iron Chicken and the Music Trees", of A Clangers Opera, with libretto that he had compiled.
- Intro Music and Dialogue from "Episode One"
- The Start Of "Music"
- From "Visiting Friends"
- "Clangers running around the planet!"
- From "Fishing"
- From "Treasure"
- "Some Musical Sequences"
- From "Goods" (when the machine in the episode "Goods" went into continuous production of plastic objects)
- "An End Title"
- "Tiny Clangers Radio Hat"
- "Some Of Oliver's Special Clangers Effects including the Froglets"
- From "The Rock Collector"
- From "Glowhoney"
- From "Teapot"
- From "Cloud"
- From "The Seed"
- From "The Bags"
- From "Blow Fruit"
- From "The Pipe Organ"
- From "The Music of the Spheres"
- "A short, silent interval"
- "A Clangers Opera, Act One" "The Iron Chicken and the Music Trees" (compiled by Oliver Postgate)
VHS and DVD releases
In the early 1990s three videos of the Clangers have been released by BBC Enterprises Ltd. Many DVDs have also been released.
|VHS video title||Year of release||Episodes|
|Clangers (BBCV 4374)||2 July 1990||Chicken, Music, Glow-Honey, Fishing, The Top-Hat, Goods|
|Clangers 2 (BBCV 4625)||3 June 1991||The Egg, The Hoot, The Meeting, Blow Fruit, The Pipe Organ, The Music of the Spheres|
|The Very Best of the Clangers (BBCV 4954)||5 April 1993||Chicken, Music, Top Hat, Tablecloth, The Rock Collector, The Seed, The Bags|
|DVD title||Series(s)||Aspect ratio||Episode count||Total running time||Release date(s)|
|The Complete Clangers||1, 2||16:9||26||270 minutes||15 October 2001|
|The Complete First Series||1||16:9||13||120 minutes||4 April 2005|
|The Complete Series 2||2||16:9||13||135 minutes||7 November 2005|
- Conlan, Tara (31 May 2015). "Michael Palin: 'The Clangers will be a little oasis of calm'". theguardian.com. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
- "An interview with Oliver Postgate". Clive Banks. March 2005. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- An Interview with Oliver Postage, March 2005
- BBC - Cult - Classic TV - The Clangers - Trivia
- "Clangers are back". The Sun. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
- "Postgate's genius lives on at museum". Canterbury City Council. 16 December 2008. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
- "Clangers to make TV return". BBC News. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 15 October 2013.
- "Michael Palin to narrate The Clangers series". 8 September 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
- "Classic TV – Clangers Video". BBC. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
- "Action for Children’s Arts – J. M. Barrie Award". Childrensarts.org.uk. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
- Buckley, Peter (2003). The rough guide to rock. Rough Guides. ISBN 978-1-84353-105-0.
- "Doctor Who Classic Series Episode Guide – The Sea Devils". BBC. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
- "William Shatner calls 'Clangers' a 'beautiful' children's show". Today Pop Culture. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
- Clangers at BBC Online
-  at Sprout
- A copy of the moon landing hoax parody
- Link to Clive Banks interview with Oliver Postgate about Election Special
- British Film Institute Screen Online
- Knit your own Clanger
- A short clip from Vote for Froglet at BBC Online
- Clangers at the Internet Movie Database
- Clangers at TV.com
- Link to BunnyEars.tv, complete Clangers episodes for viewers in North America