From Oliver Postgate's classic children's TV series 'Bagpuss'.

The events of Bagpuss took place in Emily's 'shop', where lost things would hang around until found. One such thing was the Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Organ (MMMO), which was a grand old pianola kind of thing, but with a projection screen, and peopled/staffed by mice.

Each episode, Emily would bring a new thing into the 'shop', prompting an investigation by the long-term lost toys - the lifers, if you will - of the shop. Bagpuss would wake up; everyone else would wake up; the embossed mice on the MMMO's casing would come to life, amid a great deal of falsetto bustle, and clean the object (or at least present it in its best light); Professor Yaffle would confidently identify the object; singing rag doll Madeleine would offer an alternative diagnosis (always wrong, but always more entertaining) and, accompanied by Gabriel the toad on the banjolele, would offer a loosely relevant folk song as evidence.

However, even a folk-singing seventies rag doll understands the value of visual aids, and this is where the MMMO comes in. The mice are charged with the running of the (to them) gargantuan machine, and ("Heave! Heave!") they winch up a music roll and engage it, and the viewscreen displays the animation that goes along with the story of Madeleine's song. Or rather, the camera zooms right in on the screen, which wavers, Wayne's-World-style, and is replaced by the animation.

So far, so soporific. But why would the mice support Madeleine's indefensible standpoint? Gabriel, now he sits right next to her - he's a musician, she's a singer - we can see where his allegiances would naturally lie. But the mice? The mice owe her nothing! They are the ones with the hypnagogic dream machine - why act as her lackeys? They could take over the shop with that kind of hardware!

The fact is, the Marvellous Mechanical Organ mouse contingent and the music contingent are united in their opposition to a third party: Professor Augustus Barclay Yaffle. With his enhanced, 'nail-footed' stability, and his cold, scientific outlook on life, he is the very enemy of creativity. The mice cannot afford to ally themselves with the Professor - after all, they are not real. They only exist through the power of phantasy! To accept Yaffle's worldview would be to deny their own existence.

Of course, the irony of this is that the Professor isn't real either - he is a carved wooden bookend! The key to this paradox may be that Yaffle does not realise that he is not real. Perhaps his 'nailed-to-the-floor' status blinds him to the truth about his own nature - when the other toys fall limp to the ground or slump in their chairs, who is still standing proud? Scholars have yet to agree on an authoritative explanation.

Whether Emily remains in the shop while the events of each episode, empowering the characters with her imagination, or whether she leaves the shop and the toys get up to their antics behind her back, is a debate which must fall outside the bounds of this writeup.

For all your Bagpuss research needs - http://www.smallfilms.co.uk/bagpuss/

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