Rejoice! Rejoice! The Clangers are back! I suspect this may mean nothing to my US associates, but for UK residents of a certain age this is very very good news indeed.
Originally screened in 1969, The Clangers was a stop motion animation about a family of cute aliens that lived inside a planet. There was Mother Clanger who held it all together, Major Clanger, the father who was a grump trying to make all things right, Small Clanger, and his little brother Baby Clanger. Their staple diet was bluestring soup, which they obtained from the Soup Dragon. The Iron Chicken was another character that appeared occasionally. She orbited the planet and would occasionally shed bits that would bounce off the saucepan lids the Clangers used to protect the entrances to their burrow.
There was a narrator, but one of the charms was the lack of spoken dialogue. The Soup Dragon communicated by low rumblings that sounded like soup simmering. I had a friend at University who was a brilliant mimic for this when he was drunk. It gets better. The Clangers didn’t talk, they whistled at each other. The F/X were generated on swanee whistles, and in the programme’s heyday you’d frequently hear people imitating the Clangers. I used to do a fair bit of rally navigating at the time, and on one practice session my driver and I communicated only by whistling like the characters. That led to an eventful hour or so, as you may well imagine. Intriguingly, when the programme was shown without the narration to foreign students, many of them felt the Clangers spoke their mother tongue.
Visually, the creatures were some of the most endearing ever to grace a screen. They were knitted from pink wool, and looked like a cross between a mouse and a pangolin. The Soup Dragon looked as if she had been constructed from tiddlywinks, and the Iron Chicken and her nest were made from bits of Meccano that were lying around in the production studio. Then you had the cardboard cutout Music Trees which would allow the Clangers to harvest notes now and then.
The timing couldn’t really have been better, since the first episode aired just nine days after Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. In fact it was the huge interest in space flight at that time that created the basic theme of The Clangers. There was even a cameo appearance of a Lunar Rover at one point, I seem to remember.
I hope the new production manages to retain the delight and charm of the original, and the new crew don’t mess it up too much with CGI. They ran a pilot last week, and it was fab. I’m told that the favourite children’s TV character of all time is Bagpuss, but I wouldn’t put him out if he were on fire. Clangers Rock!