Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Oliver Postgate: Pure creativity in an age before audience research

You will have heard by now of the death of Oliver Postgate, the creator of several iconic children's TV programmes. The ones I remember most fondly were Ivor the Engine (above) and the marvellous Clangers.

Postgate, who was 83, lived here in Broadstairs. I saw him on the prom once, ambling along. I've heard people around here say they realised who he was only when he spoke, his voice recognisable as he narrated so many of his own programmes. But I recognised him instantly from many a nostalgic TV documentary.

In one he talked about creating live animation in the early days of TV ... using magnets. Sometimes they'd use the wrong side of a magnet and the characters would flip over on live TV! Of course, the shows were never recorded so they just moved on.

He and Peter Firmin made their programmes in an old barn in Blean, near Canterbury, completely separate from the BBC which screened them. I love this quote from Postgate from the BBC obituary:

"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."

Oh, for the age before focus groups and audience research!

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  1. I am afraid that we live in an age that has replaced genius with ticking boxes. He will be sadly missed.

  2. Agreed. I see a lot of kids TV as I have two young children, and my main problem is the lecturing tone of so many shows.

    They're always about being nice to your friends, working as a team blah blah. I don't remember that in the kids TV of my childhood, in shows by the likes of Oliver Postgate. It was more about silliness and fun.

    If it was done, it was far more subtle. Kids ignore all that stuff anyway!

  3. With all those tick boxes I'm not seeing an increase in production values. Often the opposite is true.



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