Pingwings Pingwings

Pingwings Rediscovered


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:

  • Oliver Postgate is easily one of my favorite animators of all time, a real inspiration. There was a great documentary about Oliver and Peter on BBC4 on Monday night, which showed how they made Bagpuss, Clangers, Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine were made, as they still have all the old sets and artwork in their shed i the country where they were all made. He even made his stop motion equipment out himself out of meccano! If the transfer went well, I’ll consider uploading it onto Youtube.

  • Russell H

    I do remember THE PINGWINGS being aired on WNDT Channel 13 in the New York area in the early 1960s. WNDT was the original non-commercial “educational TV” station in the region, before the advent of PBS. They also aired NOGGIN THE NOG.

  • Fantastic, I love Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin’s work, they are missed greatly on TV. By the way Smallfilms had done a lot of films before Pingwings, including Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine. Postgate mentions the perils of creating animation outdoors in his book, after a long slog working on one stop-motion scene he was rather dismayed to find that a caterpillar was zooming about at warp speed in the background.

  • Apologies for placing Pingwings first. As I say, it was so far as I could gather, so I suppose I didn’t gather far enough. Though the chronology suprises me.

    The caterpillar in question makes the final cut, clear as day. As Mike Jittlov would enthuse “then it’s more animation!”

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Heh, while I don’t know of these guys personally, I had seen Bagpuss and possibly Clangers in my childhood so it hits home a bit for me seeing this type of work that had been a classic of British children’s programs. It’s facinating what a few people could do with what limitations they had to work with, yet created such memorable works that aired on national TV.

  • Heheh….cute. Looks like a cross between Charley Bowers and Mr. Bill.

  • Postgate and Firmin’s work is superb. The Pogles and The Clangers are firm favourites but I hadn’t seen Pingwings before this – the barn featured is, I believe, the studio where all Smallfilms were shot.

    I’m pretty sure you couldn’t get away with half naked mermaids like Postgate and Firmin did in one episode of Bagpuss today!

    I’d definitely recommend his biography, Seeing Things, to anyone interested in Postgate’s work, if you can track a copy down.

  • joy

    I actually have a Ping Wing doll sent to me by my grandparents in England in the 1960’s I too watched them in the NYC area when I was a kid. I never forgot them; they were so cute & cool!