The Clangers
August 16, 2020 12:26 AM   Subscribe

The Clangers, knitted into being by Joan Firmin, live on a small moon-like planet, enjoy music, eat green soup provided by a dragon, as well as glow-honey and blue string pudding, speak in a whistled language, were occasionally political (podcast), and appeared in Doctor Who in 1972. Adventures included shooting down an iron chicken, fishing for gold, an egg, marching hoots, and narrowly avoiding visiting...? First revealed on the BBC in 1969 and voiced by Oliver Postgate, rebooted shows from 2015 onwards have been narrated by Michael Palin and William Shatner. Best watched while young or knitting (pattern) or happy.
posted by Wordshore (14 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
[Approving whistling]
posted by Major Clanger at 1:00 AM on August 16, 2020 [17 favorites]

Thanks for the post! I always particularly loved the quirky, moody music in all of Oliver Postgate's works - and therefore a shout out to Vernon Elliott who composed much of it - Clangers Music, Music of the Spheres, Ivor the Engine Theme, etc.
posted by rongorongo at 1:19 AM on August 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

... Just wanted to point out this quote, from Oliver Postgate, about how the "SmallFilms" operation that produced The Clangers - and much else - worked. I doubt many TV programmes would be funded on such a laisez-faire manner today:
We would go to the BBC once a year, show them the films we'd made, and they would say: "Yes, lovely, now what are you going to do next?" We would tell them, and they would say: "That sounds fine, we'll mark it in for eighteen months from now", and we would be given praise and encouragement and some money in advance, and we'd just go away and do it.
posted by rongorongo at 1:32 AM on August 16, 2020 [6 favorites]

My family and I emigrated from the UK when I was 7 in 1971. One of my nagging memories from pre-emigration was something on TV about whistling and outer space. No one knew what I was talking about and so, it just remained in that part of my brain that is labelled "dunno, probably just imagined".
50 years later and I discover it was real and called the Clangers
Thank you.
posted by Kermit the Destroyer at 4:23 AM on August 16, 2020 [20 favorites]

posted by lalochezia at 5:46 AM on August 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Don't forget Ivor The Engine!
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 6:55 AM on August 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Credit to Jim'll Paint It [previously] for the Wu-Tang Clangers.
posted by Major Clanger at 7:25 AM on August 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

The Clangers was one of a group of programmes which occupied a very particular slot in BBC 1's schedule in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, bridging the five-minute gap between the end of Children's Hour proper and the early evening news. Other programmes taking a turn in this slot included The Magic Roundabout, Hector's House and The Adventures of Parsley, all of which came in similar bite-size episodes.

Adults wanting to watch the news would often arrive in front of the set in time to watch one of these programmes alongside their children, which meant they became just as familiar in the era's adult culture as they were to kids. I think that's one reason why they're so widely - and so fondly - remembered today. They were never "just" children's programmes, and so can't be dismissed as such.
posted by Paul Slade at 7:29 AM on August 16, 2020 [6 favorites]

As often noted, the BBC complained to Postgate about language in the scripts!

Their scripts had to be written out in English, for Steven Sylvester and I to use Swanee whistles; we just sort of blew the whistles in Clanger language for the text that was there, so it didn’t matter much what was written. But when the BBC got the script, [they] rang me up and said, “At the beginning of episode three, where the doors get stuck, Major Clanger says ‘Sod it, the bloody thing’s stuck again!’. Well, darling, you can’t say that on Children’s television, you know, I mean you just can’t.” I said, “It’s not going to be said, it’s going to be whistled” but [they] just said, “but people will know!” I said no, that if they had nice minds, they’d think, ‘Oh dear, the silly thing’s not working properly’. So the BBC said, "Oh, all right then, I suppose so, but please keep the language moderate."
posted by Major Clanger at 7:31 AM on August 16, 2020 [10 favorites]

In the 1972 Doctor Who story The Sea Devils we see The Master briefly watching The Clangers while imprisoned. He is mildly impressed.

(And now I see that was in the highly comprehensive FPP - apologies!)
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:46 AM on August 16, 2020 [5 favorites]

Also featured on the BBC's error page
posted by doiheartwentyone at 11:03 AM on August 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Not sure how you can make a Clangers post without mentioning that they also EXPOSED NASA'S LIES.
posted by Lonnrot at 1:17 PM on August 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Once you know the Clangers - and all should - then this ancient web page becomes funnier and funnier.
posted by YoungStencil at 1:24 PM on August 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Well, there you go. Lonnrot beat me to it.
posted by YoungStencil at 1:42 PM on August 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

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