A surprisingly common occurrence when it comes to media aimed at kids and young teens is the people behind it trying to slip in, shall we say, more adult themes and content. The Clangers, a British stop-motion show about mice that lived on the Moon is no different. Though it is somewhat unique in that away with having swearing in its dialogue for decades because all of its characters communicate via whistle.
Created in the late 1960’s by legendary British entertainer Oliver Postgate, a man responsible for creating several iconic British children’s with some of the more notable being Bagpuss, The Plorbs, Pingwings, Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine. Fun fact for Americans, one of the shows we just listed isn’t real. Can you guess which one?
Anyway, Postgate was inspired to create The Clangers, in part by the space race between Soviets and the USA, which is why the titular Clangers live on the moon. Or at least a place that looks almost exactly like it save for being occasionally visited by dragons and spirit whales.
As for the Clangers themselves they resemble but specifically aren’t mice, with Postgate once sheepishly revealing that the Clangers he initially intended for the creatures to be mice but them having tails proved problematic given that their favourite meal was soup. Apparently, at least according to him, this resulted in Clangers continually having their tails fall into their soup so he just opted to remove the tails rather than try to explain why so many of the models were wet.
Moving on, perhaps the most iconic trait of the Clangers is their language, which is composed entirely of whistles provided by an intern off camera armed with a swanee whistle. Now, you’d assume given that the creatures had no spoken dialogue there’d be little use for say, a script, let alone stuff like voice direction or anything like that. Especially given this was a show for kids.
Weird then that not only did the show have a script, but the whistles were even translated into other languages. Sort of. To explain, even though they never bothered to change the whistles for international markets people watching the show in those areas would report that the Clangers were indeed speaking their language, just via whistle. Which makes the fact the Clangers were swearing like right little bastards all the funnier.
You see, according to Postgate himself the Clangers were, to quote “swearing their little heads off“, it’s just nobody could tell because, you know, whistling. A claim that would have in all liklihood been relegated to rumour territoty if not for the fact, as mentioned, the show had a script. A script nobody at the BBC ever bothered to read according to Postgate’s own son because, well, why would they?
As a result, a whole mess of bad language reportedly slid right under the noses of the infamously prudish British censors throughout the show’s run. Something that apparently amused Postgate to no end since admittedly it is very funny to think of a bunch of tiny pink moon mice absolutely off their tits on soup swearing up a storm.