Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Oliver Postgate RIP

I heard the sad news today that Oliver Postgate who created Bagpuss, the Clangers, Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog, has passed away at the age of 83. He was a great story-teller and communicator, and in many ways a hero of mine. Not only did he create some of the greatest children's TV characters ever, he did it on a minimal budget, filming in a converted farm outbuilding.

He didn't use hi-tech computer wizardry, or marketing publicity overkill. He just told stories, which had real soul. Growing up I loved Bagpuss and looking at it now, the pure simplicity of the animation was part of it's charm. But the real power of Oliver Postgate's work was in his characters - the pompous Professor Yaffle, or the cheeky mice, or Tiny Clanger being scared of froglets, or Noggin taking on the evil Nogbad, or a little steam engine who wanted to sing in the choir. Or Bagpuss, with his ever-so-catching yawn.

A lot of people don't know this, but Oliver Postgate was a pacifist and toured the country in the early 1980s showing the episode of the Clangers which never got aired on the BBC, where the little pink aliens got involved in an arms race and ended up blowing up their little moon. Of course, the Clangers' moon was really our world, just seen through different eyes, and back then there was a real danger of it being blown to hell. It took real courage to stand up against the evil of nuclear weapons, and I admire him for doing that.

Of course, "children's TV" has moved on. It's become a huge industry in it's own right. But along the way it has lost something of itself and it's own innocence. And I'm sad that Oliver Postgate has died as he seemed to understand that innocence is the vital element of childhood and when we lose it we are no longer children. That when we lose the wonder of childhood, so often it is replaced by fear.

Oliver Postgate was a story-teller. He was a creator of magical worlds. And as he moves on out of this world, he takes a little bit of that magic with him. I never met him, but I feel like I know him, because I know his creations.

I'm glad he was willing to share them with me, and thousands of children like me.

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