Contrary to my earlier mis-informed belief that Pingu, the BAFTA award-winning stop-motion clay animated television series, was Norwegian, it was actually conceived by Swiss creator Otmar Gutmann.
Pingu was first presented at the Berlin Film Festival in 1987 and soon became a worldwide phenomenon with the simplest of plot lines and an indecipherable language consisting of squeaks and grunts rather than words, which on the DVD and video cases was sometimes dubbed 'Penguinese'. However, owing to the simple plots and descriptive body language, viewers need no dialogue to see what is going on. The family and home focused stories appeal as much to adults as to children.
German born Gutmann, who died in 1993, first created Pingu at his studio in Russikon, just down the road. There, he brought Pingu to life by producing a different figure for each individual movement sequence, with each scene constructed separately. The production studio looked as if littered with numerous tiny dolls strewn about haphazardly but the individual elements were gradually pieced together to produce a natural looking scene. Gutmann immersed himself completely in the world of Pingu and his team created the different tiny props including furniture, crockery and food.
The first Pingu series was aired on Swiss DRS TV station and soon experienced extraordinary success, eventually being shown on at least 100 different television stations throughout the world. Pingu also went on to win many prizes including the Kleiner Baer at the Berlin Film Festival (1987), the Japanese Maeda award (1991) and the French Prix Jeunesse (1991)
To this day, Pingu maintains a cult following and enjoys regular reruns on Cbeebies in the UK. It originally aired on the BBC between 1995 and 2005.