Clangers is a British stop-motion children's television series, comprising short films about a race (or perhaps a family) of creatures who live on, and inside, a small moon-like planet. They speak only in whistles, and eat only green soup (supplied by the Soup Dragon) and blue string pudding. The programmes were originally broadcast on BBC1 between 1969 and 1972, followed by a special episode which was broadcast in 1974.
The series was made by Smallfilms, the company set up by Oliver Postgate (who was the show's writer, animator and narrator) and Peter Firmin (who was its modelmaker and illustrator). Firmin designed the characters, and his wife knitted and "dressed" them. The music, often part of the story, was provided by Vernon Elliott.
A third series, narrated by Monty Python actor Michael Palin, was broadcast in the UK from 15 June 2015 on the BBC's CBeebies TV channel, gaining hugely successful viewing figures, following on from a short special broadcast by the BBC earlier that year. The new programmes are still made using stop-motion animation (instead of the computer-generated imagery which had replaced the original stop-motion animation in revivals of other children's shows such as Fireman Sam, Thomas & Friends and The Wombles).
Clangers won a BAFTA in the Best Pre-School Animation category in 2015.
The Clangers originated in a series of children's books developed from another Smallfilms production, Noggin the Nog. Publishers Kay and Ward created a series of books based on the Noggin the Nog television episodes, which was subsequently expanded into a series called Noggin First Reader, aimed at teaching children to read.
In one of these, called Noggin and the Moonmouse, published in 1967, a new horse-trough was put up in the middle of the town in the North-Lands. A spacecraft hurtled down and splash-landed in it: the top unscrewed, and out came a largish, mouse-like creature in a duffel coat, who wanted fuel for his spaceship. He showed Nooka and the children that what he needed was vinegar and soap-flakes, so they filled up the fueltank of the 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 year of NASA's first landing on the Moon), the BBC asked Smallfilms to produce a new series for colour television, but without specifying a storyline. Postgate concluded that as space exploration was topical the new series should take place in space (and, inspired by the real Moon Landing, Peter Firmin designed a set which strongly resembled the Moon). Postgate adapted the Moonmouse from the 1967 story, by simply removing its tail ("because it kept getting into the soup"). Hence the Clangers looked similar to mice (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.
The Clangers was described by Postgate as a family in space. They were small creatures living in peace and harmony on – and inside – a small, hollow planet, far, far away: nourished by Blue String Pudding, and by 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 an old metal dustbin lid, to protect against meteorite impacts (and space debris). In each episode there would be some problem to solve, typically concerning something invented or discovered, or 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 of the 26 episodes (aired as two series of 13 programmes each) was broadcast on BBC1 from 16 November 1969. The last edition of the second series was transmitted on 10 November 1972.
However, there was also one final programme, a four-minute election special entitled Vote for Froglet, broadcast on 10 October 1974 (the day of the General Election), which was not shown in the usual timeslot during children's programmes. Oliver Postgate said in a 2005 interview that he wasn't sure whether the 1974 special 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 channel announced that a new series would be produced for broadcasting in their 2015 schedules, with Michael Palin narrating in place of the late Oliver Postgate. The American pre-school channel Sprout added the series to their 2015 schedule, with William Shatner narrating.
In November 2015, The Clangers won the Best Pre-school Animation award at the BAFTAs.
|British Academy Awards 2015||Best pre-school Animation||Won|
|Pulcinella Awards (Italy)||Best pre-school 2015||Won|
|VLV Awards for excellence in broadcasting in 2015||Best Children's TV Show||Won|
|Broadcast Awards 2016||Best pre-school programme||Won|
|Televisual Bulldog Awards 2016||Best Children's show||Won|
|RTS Awards North West 2016||Best pre-school animation||Nominee|
|British Animation Awards 2016||Best pre-school show||Nominee|
|El Chupete International Awards (Spain) 2016||Best Children's Show||Won|
|British Academy Awards 2016||Best pre-school Animation||Nominee|
|British Academy Awards 2016||Best Writer||Nominee|
|Kidscreen Awards 2017||Best Animation||Won|
The principal characters are the Clangers themselves, the females wearing waistcoats and the males brass armour:
Other characters appeared in only one or two episodes each:
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 first series was transmitted on BBC1 at 5:55pm, except for the episode Chicken which went out at 5:50pm because there was a Children in Need appeal at 6:00pm.
|#||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 collides with a passing Iron Chicken.|
|4||Music||7 December 1969||Tiny Clanger discovers music.|
|5||The Intruder||28 December 1969||A Lunar 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 Dragon Egg||25 January 1970||The Soup Dragon gets broody, and gains a son.|
|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 golden coins while fishing in space.|
|13||Goods||22 February 1970||A machine that makes plastic items is assembled, but cannot be turned off.|
The second series episodes were also transmitted weekly on BBC1, but in a wide variety of differing timeslots. Episodes 1 and 2 were seen at 4:50pm; episodes 3, 5 and 6 at 5:05pm; episodes 4 and 8 at 5:00pm; episode 7 at 4:40pm; episode 9 at 5:30pm; and episodes 10, 11, 12 and 13 (which followed episode 9 after a gap of more than a year) at 4:00pm.
|#||Title||Date of Release||Summary|
|14||The Tablecloth||18 April 1971||The Clangers use various materials to try 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 Chicken Egg||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 swamped with vegetation.|
|22||Pride||13 June 1971||Small Clanger finds a mirror, and vanity almost costs him his supper.|
|23||The Bags||13 October 1972||A Gladstone bag appears on the Clangers' planet – and is mistaken for a strange, new life-form.|
|24||The Blow Fruit||27 October 1972||Small Clanger and the 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.|
|#||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.|
The first of these was an election special, produced in 1974, entitled "Vote for Froglet". Inspired by what Postgate referred to as the "Winter of Discontent" (a phrase from Shakespeare's play Richard III, usually employed to refer to the winter of 1978–79, but Postgate was referring to the miners' strike in the winter of 1973-74), and inspired partly by his recollections of post-war Germany, it was broadcast on the night of the October 1974 General Election. 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. This special was believed to be a lost episode for many years, but it was released in full for free by the British Film Institute to coincide with the 2017 UK General Election.
Episodes 1–26 were first broadcast at 5:30 pm, Episodes 27–52 at 6.00 pm on CBeebies.
|No.||Title||Date of release||Writer||Summary|
|1||The Lost Notes||15 June 2015||Dave Ingham||The Music Tree notes for Tiny Clanger's marvellous new melody are blown away by a big wind.|
|2||The Little Thing||16 June 2015||Dan Postgate||A Sky Moo gives Small Clanger a strangely shaped little thing that it has found in space.|
|3||In The Soup||17 June 2015||Dave Ingham||Major Clanger decides that the Soup Dragon must be fed-up with dishing up soup.|
|4||The Knitting Machine||18 June 2015||Dan Postgate||Major Clanger invents a knitting machine to save Granny ever having to knit again.|
|5||The Flying Froglets||19 June 2015||Dan Postgate||It is Granny's birthday and all the Clangers are planning their presents for her.|
|6||I Am the Eggbot||22 June 2015||Dan Postgate||A strange little egg-shaped creature lands on the planet and gets stuck in a cave.|
|7||The Giant Plant||23 June 2015||Dave Ingham||The planet is overrun with vegetation when Tiny Clanger and Small Clanger sing a growing song to a plant.|
|8||Tiny's Lullaby||24 June 2015||Dan Postgate||Tiny Clanger's radio hat develops a fault, so she can't hear the Iron Chicken's lullaby.|
|9||The Crystal Trees||25 June 2015||Myles McLeod||Crystal-shaped seeds that sparkle and glow land on the Clangers' planet.|
|10||The Curious Tunnel||26 June 2015||Dave Ingham||Tiny Clanger and Small Clanger discover a strange tunnel that appears to suck things upwards.|
|11||Space Tangle||29 June 2015||Myles Mcleod||Small Clanger has invited the Iron Chicken to a picnic. But the Iron Chicken is late.|
|12||Lonely as a Cloud||30 June 2015||Dan Postgate||Tiny Clanger, Small Clanger, the Froglets and the Baby Soup Dragon are having fun playing games with the Cloud.|
|13||In a Spin||1 July 2015||Dave Ingham||While playing a game, Tiny Clanger and Small Clanger accidentally knock over a tankard.|
|14||Tiny's Orchestra||2 July 2015||Dan Postgate||Tiny Clanger is stuck for ideas for a new tune to make up.|
|15||The Metal Bug||3 July 2015||Dan Postgate||Small Clanger finds a strange ball while out fishing in space.|
|16||Mother's Melody||6 July 2015||Dan Postgate||Tiny Clanger suggests that Mother Clanger makes a tune.|
|17||Crash Bang Chicken||7 July 2015||Dave Ingham||A Sky Moo accidentally knocks the Iron Chicken out of her nest.|
|18||Major's Meteor||8 July 2015||Dave Ingham||Small Clanger misses seeing two meteors streaking across the sky.|
|19||The Singing Asteroid||9 July 2015||Dan Postgate||Tiny Clanger and her flower friends hear a strange voice joining in with their music.|
|20||Small's New Star||10 July 2015||Dan Postgate||The Iron Chicken dumps a huge bundle of unwanted junk metal on to the Clangers' planet.|
|21||Baby Soup Clanger||13 July 2015||Dave Ingham||Baby Soup Dragon decides he wants to be a Clanger.|
|22||Holes||14 July 2015||Dan Postgate||Tiny Clanger and Small Clanger find two circles of cloth that are actually holes, one leading to the other.|
|23||Bubble Trouble||15 July 2015||Lisa Akhurst||Small Clanger and Tiny Clanger can't resist trying out Major Clanger's cleaning machine.|
|24||Dragon Day||16 July 2015||Dan Postgate||Small Clanger decides that there should be a Dragon Day to thank the Soup Dragon for her soup.|
|25||Home Sweet Hoot||17 July 2015||Chris Parker||A little Hoot lands on the planet and causes mayhem with its incessant mischievous hooting.|
|26||Find the Eclipse||20 July 2015||Dave Ingham||The Clangers gather to watch a solar eclipse but the Iron Chicken's nest blocks the view.|
|27||The Little Chill||17 December 2015||Daniel Postgate||There are problems for a Sky Moo when the weather turns cold, but the Clangers try to help.|
|28||The Brilliant Surprise||14 December 2015||Daniel Postgate||The Iron Chicken says something is coming. Everyone seems to know what it is except Tiny Clanger.|
|29||The Ball||23 May 2016||Dan Postgate||Tiny Clanger and Small Clanger find that the Ball they were playing with has friends of its own.|
|30||Planty||24 May 2016||Hickey & McCoy||A family of plants arrives, and are happiest together with Granny.|
|31||The Game||25 May 2016||Dan Postgate||The Baby Soup dragon learns a lesson about sharing.|
|32||Granny and Small||26 May 2016||Dave Ingham||Small Clanger finds that there's more to Granny than she thought.|
|33||Tiny's Good Idea||29 May 2016||Dave Ingham||Mother's flowers are wilting. Tiny Clanger comes up with a brilliant idea to help her water them.|
|34||Star Roses||30 May 2016||Myles McLeod & Dave Ingham||Tiny Clanger and Small Clanger are rewarded for their patience and quick-thinking.|
|35||Chairs||31 May 2016||Dan Postgate||Major Clanger tries to invent a replacement chair for Granny.|
|36||Sweet Music||1 June 2016||Lisa Akhurst||A radio falls out of the sky, and Tiny Clanger, Small Clanger and the Baby Soup Dragon are fascinated by it.|
|37||The Box||2 June 2016||Lisa Akhurst||Small Clanger finds some 'space treasure' but doesn't know what it is for.|
|38||Snapper||5 June 2016||Dan Postgate||A robot lands on the planet, and the Clangers are scared of it.|
|39||The Chicken Waltz||6 June 2016||Chris Parker||Tiny Clanger and Small Clanger come up with a tune for the Iron Chicken to dance to.|
|40||The Puzzle||7 June 2016||Dan Postgate||Major Clanger, Mother Clanger, Tiny Clanger and Small Clanger become lost while exploring a new planet.|
|41||The Little Bag||8 June 2016||Dan Postgate||Small Clanger gives Tiny Clanger a lovely sparkly bag that he caught while fishing in space.|
|42||Hide-and-Seek||9 June 2016||Dan Postgate||The Baby Soup Dragon cheats in a race around the planet, but a Froglet spots him.|
|43||Rainbow Star||12 June 2016||Dan Postgate||Small Clanger catches seven coloured stones floating in space.|
|44||Busy Buzzers||13 June 2016||Dave Ingham||Small Clanger and Major Clanger discover a bowl of glow-honey in a crater.|
|45||Calm in the Caves||14 June 2016||Dave Ingham||Tiny Clanger and Small Clanger discover the froglets sitting abnormally silent and calm in their cave.|
|46||The Golden Planet||15 June 2016||Dan Postgate||Major Clanger invents a new two-seater rocket for special trips.|
|47||All Change Day||16 June 2016||Dan Postgate||Major Clanger is making too much noise, so Mother Clanger suggests they swap jobs.|
|48||The Wols||19 June 2016||Dan Postgate||The Iron Chicken looks after the baby Wols with help from Tiny Clanger.|
|49||The Discovery||20 June 2016||Dan Postgate||Major Clanger discovers some wonderful wall pictures in an underground cave.|
|50||Blob||21 June 2016||Dan Postgate||The Froglets produce a noisy, bouncy, purple blob from the Top Hat.|
|51||Building Bridges||22 June 2016||Dave Ingham||The new table Major Clanger has made collapses, spilling soup everywhere.|
|52||Things||23 June 2016||Dan Postgate||Three pale things drift towards the planet seeking music, heat and light to revive them.|
Following the March 2015 special, a full series was commissioned for the summer of that year. The series was narrated by Michael Palin, and co-produced by Smallfilms with the involvement of Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate's son, Dan. The series was directed by Chris Tichborne and Mole Hill, with music composed by John Du Prez. 52 11-minute episodes were commissioned. The voices of the Iron Chicken, the Soup Dragon, and the Baby Soup Dragon were by Dan Postgate.
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 up to that date. The rating was more than double the previous record, set by an episode of Alphablocks, Numberjacks, Waybuloo, Fimbles, Charlie and Lola, Teletubbies, The Lingo Show and The Octonauts that year, as well as other CBeebies favourites since the station's launch in 2002, although an episode of Numberjacks peaked at over 1 million back in 2009.
A second series of the revival, and the fourth series overall, started on 11 September 2017.
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 1972 Doctor Who serial "The Sea Devils", The Master watches the episode "The Intruder". He mistakes it for a documentary about alien life, and expresses his irritation when George Trenchard reveals that it's purely a fictional series.
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 author of children's books. It was shown on Swedish Television in the late 1960s and 1970s, entitled Rymdlarna. The first 13 episodes were also shown on Czechoslovak Television in August 1972, entitled Rámusíci as a part of the children's evening program slot Večerníček.
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 are narrated by William Shatner.
As from 2018, it is also broadcast on the Belgian channel Ketnet.
|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.
In the early 1990s, three VHS cassettes of the Clangers were released by BBC Enterprises Ltd. Later, another six cassettes were released by Universal Pictures. A number of DVDs have also been released by Universal Pictures (original series) and Signature Entertainment (revived series).
|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, The Blow Fruit, The Pipe Organ, The Music of the Spheres|
|The Very Best of the Clangers (BBCV 4954)||5 April 1993||Chicken, Music, The Top Hat, Tablecloth, The Rock Collector, The Seed, Bags|
|The Complete Clangers: Series 1||18 March 1999||Flying, The Visitor, Chicken, Music, The Intruder, Visiting Friends, Fishing, The Top Hat, The Egg, The Hoot, The Meeting, Treasure, Goods|
|The Complete Clangers: Series 2||15 April 1999||Tablecloth, The Rock Collector, Glow Honey, The Teapot, The Cloud, The Egg (2), The Noise Machine, The Seed, Pride, Bags, The Blow Fruit, The Pipe Organ, The Music of the Spheres|
|Clangers: The Visitor and other stories||18 March 2001||The Visitor, Fishing, The Rock Collector, Goods|
|Clangers: Glow-Honey and other stories||18 March 2001||Glow Honey, The Seed, Bags, The Music of the Spheres|
|Clangers: Music and other stories||21 April 2003||Music, The Blow Fruit, The Pipe Organ, The Hoot|
|Clangers: The Egg and other stories||21 April 2003||The Egg, The Egg (2), Treasure, Chicken|
|DVD title||Series(s)||Aspect ratio||Episode count||Total running time||Release date(s)|
|The Complete Clangers||1, 2||4:3||26||270 minutes||15 October 2001|
|The Complete Series 1||1||4:3||13||120 minutes||4 April 2005|
|The Complete Series 2||2||4:3||13||123 minutes||7 November 2005|
|The Flying Froglets and Other Clangery Tales||3||16:9||11||121 minutes||19 October 2015|
|The Singing Asteroid and Other Clangery Tales||3||16:9||11||124 minutes||25 July 2016|