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Clangers designer needled by CGI

Published 23/06/2015

The original Clangers were knitted
The original Clangers were knitted

The designer who brought to life classic children's shows The Clangers, Ivor The Engine and Bagpuss has poured scorn on today's use of CGI on the small-screen and hinted that the cloth cat and green locomotive could make a comeback.

Peter Firmin, who also designed Basil Brush, worked with Oliver Postgate on some of the best remembered children's TV shows from the 1970s.

The designer, who was given a special Bafta for his outstanding contribution to children's media last year, is the design consultant and co-executive producer on the revival of Clangers on CBeebies.

The 86-year-old told Radio Times magazine: "I think it's important that the Clangers should be knitted again because with HD and the very good production you do feel you could almost hold them now.

"Children can sense these are real things and not just pictures."

He added: "I hate CGI (computer-generated imagery) faces on humans because you look in the eyes and there's nothing there. There's no soul. Even puppets with glass eyes have more life."

The puppet maker also hinted about the possible return of Bagpuss and Ivor The Engine to the small-screen.

"Dan (Postgate, Oliver's son) has this idea that Bagpuss would work well translated into a New England atmosphere, and Ivor the Engine as a live action series - a Titfield Thunderbolt-type story," he said.

And he said of his work with Oliver Postgate: "Oliver wrote, narrated, produced and animated. I made everything you see, designed and drew it...

"We had to do everything ourselves because the budgets were pretty small in those days. It was all very primitive then, though we didn't think it was primitive.

"I hardly ever bought any new materials. I improvised all the time, which was really the theme of the whole thing."

He said that Postgate, who died in 2008, would have loved the new Clangers, which cost a reported £5 million to make.

"Oliver was all about kindness and love... never an aggressive thought. He was a conscientious objector (in the Second World War). And he never patronised kids.

"He would have loved the result of (the new Clangers) I'm sure because we've been so careful to try to be honest and preserve the spirit of the original."

Asked if there were any recent children's programmes he admired, he added: "The Wallace & Gromits are fantastic... Creature Comforts and In The Night Garden, which is a very pleasant little thing."

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