Tony Mines of Spite Your Face Productions sent me a note about an early-1960s British animated series, The Pingwings, which had been considered lost for the last forty years. The prints were recently found again and a small label in the UK has released the entire series onto dvd. I asked Tony if he could shed a bit more light on this stop-mo series. Here’s what he says:
Pingwings is, so far as I can gather, the very first production by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin’s Small Films. The pair would go on to create pre-school classics like The Clangers, Bagpuss and Noggin the Nog that generations of British children and parents have grown up with. I mention it because while the latter are household names over here, Pingwings is almost completely unknown. Which is criminal, because it’s amazing.
Demonstrating a gleeful disregard for the shortcomings of filming stop-motion out of doors, the show concerns the adventures of a family of wooly penguins that live in a farmyard. Even the most famous of Small Films work is notoriously low-tech, but here you can see how they started out, working literally out of a barn.
Shown only once in the UK, the series was thought lost until recently, and has now been released on DVD, under a small label here. You don’t even seem to be able to get it on Amazon. The DVD contains all three series of 6×5(ish) minutes episodes.
One of the greatest thing about it is to watch how everyone involved develops over the three series. Not only do the Pingwings themselves grow a little older as the show progresses, but story elements and new characters come into play that you can see were developed and reused in later series, notably Bagpuss and The Clangers. In that sense, it forms the blue print for a whole generation of programming.
Here’s a clip from the first episode: