Once upon a time in the realm of children’s television, an odd yet endearing show charmed its way into the hearts of young viewers across Britain. A true testament to the power of imagination and storytelling, the iconic series, ‘The Clangers,’ took viewers on surreal cosmic adventures that remain a cherished part of the UK’s cultural legacy. In this Collecting The Clangers feature, we’ll be taking a look at the history of everyone’s favourite whistling moon creatures, explore some of The Clangers collectibles and The Clangers merchandise produced over the years.
Broadcast originally by the BBC from 1969 to 1972, The Clangers were the brainchild of Oliver Postgate (writer, animator, and narrator) and Peter Firmin (modelmaker and illustrator). Operating under the banner of their company Smallfilms, the dynamic duo brought the Clangers to life on the small screen, with Firmin’s wife also playing a crucial role by knitting and “dressing” these delightful characters.
Rooted in an earlier Smallfilms production, Noggin the Nog, the Clangers evolved from a charming children’s book character known as the Moonmouse. In the 1967 story, ‘Noggin and the Moon Mouse,’ this space-exploring rodent lands on Earth seeking fuel for his spacecraft. This whimsical lunar wanderer would eventually inspire the creation of the Clangers, with a few tweaks – Postgate removed the Moon Mouse’s tail, stating humorously that it “kept getting into the soup!”
In a stroke of genius sparked by the BBC’s vague request for a new colour television series, Postgate decided that the new show should be set in space, mirroring the then-burgeoning interest in space exploration. This bold step into the cosmic unknown gave birth to the delightful, whistling, mouse-like inhabitants of a far-off moon – The Clangers.
The very name ‘Clangers’ is an onomatopoeic nod to the unique living conditions of these space creatures. The metallic ‘clang’ produced by opening their dustbin-lid doors – protective shields against meteorite impacts – not only christened the series but also added a distinct auditory charm to their extraterrestrial existence.
But the soundscape of Clangers extended beyond these resonating clangs. The distinctive swanee whistle communication of these space critters – melodic and captivating – became synonymous with the series. These “speech patterns” mirrored the rhythm and pitch of a script written in English, creating a captivating and innovative form of storytelling.
The principal characters are the Clangers family themselves, consisting of Major Clanger, the often gruff but caring head of the family; Mother Clanger, the gentle and nurturing matriarch; their curious and adventurous children, Small and Tiny Clanger; and finally, Granny Clanger, the wise and comforting elder of the family. The Clangers communicate through distinctive, melodic whistles, creating a language that is as endearing as it is unique. Beyond the immediate family, other recurring characters add depth to the Clangers’ universe.
There’s the Iron Chicken, a friendly creature made of scrap metal who lives in an egg-shaped scrap metal nest; the Soup Dragon, who lives in the planet’s soup wells and provides nourishing blue string soup for the Clangers; and the Froglets, mischievous but benign creatures who live in the planet’s topmost layer and are often involved in playful disputes with the Clangers. The richly imaginative world of the Clangers is truly brought to life by these characters, each contributing to the whimsy and charm that have made the series a timeless favourite.
The Clangers’ charmingly distinct episodes have etched a permanent mark in the memories of many viewers. The very first episode, “Flying”, which aired on 16th November 1969, introduced the curious audience to these endearing creatures and their intriguing lifestyle. This was a remarkable narrative on the creatures’ inventiveness as they fashion a music boat from a metallic object that fell from space.
In “The Tablecloth”, the Clangers use a fabric square that drifted down from a space probe as a tablecloth, inadvertently getting into a tug-of-war with the Froglets. Another notable episode, “Music”, introduced the Music Trees and the melodic notes they produced when hit with the Clangers’ little mallets.
In “The Egg”, a strange flying egg appears, causing much excitement and concern, but ultimately hatches into a new friend, the Iron Chicken. “The Rock Collector”, another memorable episode, explores themes of friendship and understanding differences when a Rock Collector from space visits the Clangers’ planet.
The Official Clangers web site has a shop so collectors can still buy a range of items from mugs, postcards, bags, aprons, CDs and soft toys.
The Clangers was, and remains, a series bursting with creativity, whimsy, and heart. Its lovingly crafted characters, innovative use of sound, and charming storytelling struck a chord with viewers, resulting in a cult following that endures to this day. A delightful departure from terrestrial tales, The Clangers is a nostalgic gem, reminding us of a time when a whistling, tailless space mouse could captivate an entire nation. It’s a testament to the power of creativity, proving that the magic of childhood can, indeed, reverberate through the cosmos.