Bagpuss ‘a saggy, old cloth cat, baggy and a bit loose at the seams’ arrived on UK screens in 1974.
Each episode began the same way with a series of sepia photographs telling the viewer about a little girl called Emily who owned a shop.
Emily found lost and broken things and displayed them in the shop window so their owners could come and collect them. She would always leave them next to her favourite toy, Bagpuss, asking him to wake up and look at what she had brought.
Once Emily left the shop Bagpuss would wake up yawning and the programme would change to colour with the various toys in the shop also coming to life: Gabriel the toad, a rag doll called Madeleine, Professor Yaffle a wooden woodpecker bookend and the mice who were carved on the side of a mechanical pipe organ which played rolls of music and projected a picture onto the screen.
Whilst one of the toys (usually Madeleine) told a story about the object (shown in thought bubbles over Bagpuss’s head) the mice would sing to the tune of Sumer Is Icumen as they fixed it.
With the object fixed and displayed in the window Bagpuss would begin yawning again and as he fell asleep the colour would fade to sepia and they all became toys again.
The series was made by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate with Firmin’s daughter playing the part of the Victorian child Emily in the opening sequence.
Bagpuss was an actual cloth cat who was intended to be a ginger marmalade cat but a mistake during the dyeing process resulted in the cloth turning out pink and cream.
Although only 13 episodes were ever made of Bagpuss it was frequently repeated in the UK for 13 years and in 1999 topped a BBC poll for the UK’s favourite children’s TV programme.