Case E: Clangers
Fittingly, Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate frequently engineered their own solutions to the production challenges faced, such as: adopting a cardboard cut-out animation process for their early productions, which relied on sticky tack for tension and placement; or the Pingwings, whose crocheted bodies provided flexibility and durability; or the hybrid environments of the Pogles, which used natural materials found in Firmin’s garden and the nearby woods alongside butcher’s grass and papier-mâché. These everyday technologies notwithstanding, the technological component that played arguably the greatest part in the production of Smallfilms’ works was Meccano.
Postgate and Firmin relied on Meccano from the outset, employing the versatile construction pieces to augment their camera equipment and to bring strength and precise articulation to their armatures. In episode three of Clangers, titled ‘Chicken’, Firmin and Postgate make Meccano a prominent part of the on-screen narrative. Not described as Meccano, but immediately recognisable as such to any viewer with a knowledge of the construction kit, we see a range of Meccano pieces fall on the Clangers’ moon after they inadvertently blow-up an orbiting object. Confronted with the mysterious debris, the narrator proclaims: “What an extraordinary lot of objects! Well, the only thing to do is to carry them down below and try to fit them together again. If there is one thing that Clangers are really good at, it’s putting together bits of machinery”. Once rebuilt, the Meccano forms one of the show’s most iconic characters: the Iron Chicken.
Dr Chris Pallant
Reader, School of Creative Arts and Industries
Faculty Director of Enterprise (Arts, Humanities and Education)
Canterbury Christ Church University
Chapter 6: Technology and Inventiveness within Smallfilms animation: Clangers (1969 – 1974), in Chris Pallant, Beyond Bagpuss: A History of Smallfilms Animation Studio (London: BFI, 2022), pp X – X