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Series / Bagpuss

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Once upon a time...
not so long ago...
there was a little girl and her name was Emily.
And she had a shop.
—Opening narration

The shop, Bagpuss & Co, was very unusual in that it never sold anything; it was full of things that people had lost and Emily had found. This business model is never called into question.

Bagpuss is a British animated series created by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin and made by their production company, Smallfilms. Most of the show was produced using Stop Motion, except for some of the stories and songs which were illustrated by paper cutout animation. Postgate had used both techniques before, but had never combined them in a single series. Some of the scenes involving Gabriel singing included a few live-action shots of him strumming his guitar, and the opening titles depict Emily in a series of sepia-tinted still photographs.

Each episode begins with Emily finding a broken item, leaving it next to her toy cat Bagpuss in the shop, and reciting a poem to him. When she has gone, Bagpuss and his friends wake up and try to figure out what the object is, and repair it. In the process they tell lots of stories (based on folk tales from around the world) and sing songs. The repaired item is put in the shop window so its owner can see it and come in to pick it up, and Bagpuss and his friends go back to sleep as the episode ends.

Bagpuss is still fondly remembered (there is even a Shout-Out to it in Spaced), and is widely regarded as the pinnacle of Postgate's career, along with The Clangers.

Main characters:

  • Emily, who only appears in the title sequence.
  • Bagpuss, an old, saggy cloth cat, baggy and a bit loose at the seams. But Emily loved him.
  • The mice, decorations on the Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Organ. The mice clean and repair the week's object whilst singing cheerfully.
  • Professor Yaffle, a carved wooden bookend in the shape of a woodpecker. Yaffle lends his rather fusty expertise to working out what the object is.
  • Madeleine the rag doll, who tells stories.
  • Gabriel the toad, who plays the banjo.

Only 13 episodes were made, though Oliver Postgate did also narrate several audio stories that have recently been uncovered by the creator's children, Dan Postgate and Emily Firmin in the form of Bagpuss Mouse Tales.

This series contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Not only are there far more episodes of Mouse Tales than the series itself (currently 30 approx uncovered), but due to being audio only, the events are no longer limited by the stop motion film making. Gabriel and Madeleine now move about and take part in the antics with the others for example, while Bagpuss' Imagination-Based Superpower can cause wilder events besides just fixing toys (especially due to his occasional Power Incontinence).
  • Anachronism Stew: The series is implied to take place in the Victorian era, though some of the toys are from later periods, such as the double decker bus with a Watch With Mother billboard on its side in "Uncle Feedle".
  • British Brevity: Thirteen episodes were made.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Downplayed case. Bagpuss often tells stories and shares dopey observation, but the show is more an Ensemble Cast work, with Yaffle and the mice often supplying the antics and arguing over the item, while Madeline and Gabriel offer the occasional story and song.
  • Cats Are Mean: Subverted with Bagpuss, who is a sweet if often befuddled old cloth cat. His close friends are even toy mice.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Bagpuss is generally dozy and lets the others call the shots, but is magically endowed enough to give them all life in the first place.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Professor Yaffle is always pooh-poohing anything fanciful, but without Bagpuss's magic he would just be a bookend.
  • Imagination-Based Superpower: Bagpuss, whose daydreaming and stories not only fix the objects that come to the store but in fact give life to all his friends. A lot of Mouse Tales are Hilarity Ensues plots caused by Bagpuss merely daydreaming about something and causing it to spring to life.
  • Living Toys: all except Professor Yaffle, who is a bookend.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Professor Yaffle, who tends to be quite pedantic in what is possible and what isn't, and is almost always wrong.
  • Naughty Is Good: The mice are harmless, but sometimes rambunctious and like to play tricks on the others, making them amusing foils for the straight laced Yaffle.
  • Not So Above It All: Gabriel for most of the series is a chill intellectual content to strum on his guitar. However the Mouse Tales episode "Wash Toad", reveals his unwillingness to take a bath (he is a toad after all). After he is forcibly washed by Bagpuss, he throws a brief tantrum.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: The mice love driving the no-nonsense Yaffle up with the wall with their mischief.
  • Species Surname: A stranger example, Professor Yaffle comes from 'Yaffle', another word for a European green woodpecker.
  • Opening Narration: See the quote at top of page. There is also a closing narration.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: The pedantic and rationalist Professor Yaffle vs, well, the rest of the cast. A relatively nuanced example, though, as Yaffle does still contribute through enlightenment, and clearly enjoys art and likes good stories, even if they are "silly".
  • Team Mom: Madeleine tends to play this, sorting out disputes between the toys with her calmer maternal nature.
  • Stop Motion: All of the action involving the main characters and some of the stories, except for short live-action shots when Gabriel is strumming his guitar.