Bagpuss was a striped tabby moggy. In other words, a mackerel tabby random bred or mixed breed cat. He was not a purebred cat. It is rare for the creators of fictional cats to think of specific cat breeds. Bagpuss was meant to be a marmalade cat (red tabby) but the business that manufactured him made him pink because something went wrong with the dying process. The creators of Bagpuss, Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate, accepted the error. I guess they thought it looked just fine although of course pink cats don’t exist in real life. They thought it was a fortuitous mistake which made Bagpuss stand out more and made him look more interesting.
An important point is that Bagpuss was a real cat rather than an animated cartoon. He was made and you can see him with Postgate.
“It should have been a ginger marmalade cat but the company in Folkestone dyeing the material made a mistake and it turned out pink and cream. It was the best thing that ever happened,” said Firmin.
Bagpuss was first aired on February 12, 1974. The filming was created with “stop motion animation”. This is animation in which the objects in front of the camera are moved very slightly and photographed. The photographs are then strung together to make a film and the objects appear to move. It creates a charming innocence in my opinion.
Bagpuss, as the name tells us, was a cat made from “saggy old cloth”. He lived in a shop owned by a little girl called Emily. The shop did not sell anything. It was a home for lost property.
Only 13 episodes were made but it has retained his popularity down the generations. The BBC tells us that it was voted the all-time favourite children’s programme in 1999.
The creators of Bagpuss set up the production company Smallfilms. This business produced other favourite children’s program such as The Clangers (969), Ivor the Engine (1958) and Noggin the Nog (1959).
Emily was not a fictional character but Peter Firmin’s daughter. She wore a dress made by her mother, Joan. In real life Emily worked as an artist.
The professor in the films, woodpecker professor Yaffle, was based on the philosopher Bertrand Russell. Postgate had once met Bertrand Russell.
The Smallfilms website says:
“Bagpuss is a magical cat. When he wakes up, all his friends come to life.”
All in all, he’s just an old, saggy cloth cat. Baggy, and a bit loose at the seams. But Emily loved him.
The long title sequence to the Bagpuss series of animated films was designed to look like it was a set at the turn of the 20th century. It was filmed in 1974 when Emily was aged eight.
Bagpuss was filmed in Peter Firmin’s barn in Blean just outside Canterbury, UK.
The opening shot of each episode is in sepia with Emily in clothes that appear to be from Edwardian times. After Emily leaves Bagpuss comes to life with Postgate providing his voice. The film changes to colour.
Below are some articles about cartoon cats.