Emily’s cat Bagpuss; the most important, the most beautiful, the most magical saggy old cloth cat in the whole wide world. And as new book The Art of Smallfilms reveals – originally, marmalade. So what happened to him?
The Art of Smallfilms, published by Four Corners Books (see our longer piece on the book here) charts the history of the Kentish studio set up by Oliver Postgate in 1959 and which went on to produce several classics of children’s animation, from The Clangers and Bagpuss, to Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog.
Postgate’s creative partner at Smallfilms was the illustrator Peter Firmin. He made the models, figures and sets for all of the above and drew many of the characters as sketches prior to modelling.
In the book’s chapter on Bagpuss, one sketch in particular jumps out. It’s clearly of our lethargic hero but he looks a little different: he’s orange. The caption states that it’s the “first colour idea” for the moggy.
According to the book, in 1973 Bagpuss was originally conceived as a marmalade cat, but when the material for his stripey coat was manufactured at Dunbar Fabrics in Folkestone – they used pink by mistake. Which, of course, turned out to be just the right colour for Bagpuss and possibly one of the most magical, most beautiful, most serendipitous moments in Smallfilms’s history.
Also of interest to Bagpuss fans will be the drawing reproduced in the book which reveals that Professor Yaffle started life as a ‘Professor Bogwood’, a human character that was deemed too gloomy and too out of place among the other characters. He was then reconfigured as the woodpecker bookend we all know and love (initially without the trademark specs).
The Art of Smallfilms – The Work of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, edited by Jonny Trunk and Richard Embray, is published by Four Corners Books; £25. The book is designed by John Morgan and features photography by Eva Herzog. Art direction by Morgan and Kirsten Hecktermann.