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Gaps in nostalgia - Which is not unduly obvious, as I am about to explain
Gaps in nostalgia
One of these days I'd like to devote a Saturday to inviting friends over and having a big breakfast with pancakes and sausages and fruit and stuff, and then we'd all watch cartoons. We'd each bring one or two cartoons we remember from our childhoods (possibly without previewing them) and watch them together, either enjoying them, laughing at them, or cringing in horror.

It's difficult to share nostalgia when everyone's different ages and come from different places and backgrounds. In my example, I grew up in southern Ontario during the late 70s/early 80s. So the cartoons I got were a typical North American mix for the time, except with a bunch of odd and/or crappy ones thrown in for Canadian content regulations (e.g., The Mighty Hercules, and some low-budget stuff broadcast from Buffalo, N.Y. (e.g., The Funny Company).

On top of this was TV Ontario, a sort of local PBS that produced a whole ream of low- and medium-budget educational shows. Some of their stuff was broadcast outside Ontario, but it's hard to find people to reminisce about The Adventures of Timothy Pilgrim. TVO also imported a lot of British programming, such as Vision On and Willo the Wisp. Of course, our area also got the Buffalo PBS station and its programming (e.g., Powerhouse).

And on top of all that, I was learning French, so I was watching the Quebec TV stations (The Secret Railroad/Les Voyages De Tortillard). Often they'd import cartoons from France, which included a lot of Japanese animation. Stuff like Les mysterieuses cités d'or, which had these kids during the colonial Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica, who find a huge solar-powered gold condor airplane built by an advanced, vanished civilization. Or the time I accidentally tuned in at exactly the right time to watch the Tezuka film Le prince du soleil.

European TV was surreal. From La Linea (clip), to Chapi Chapo, with funky electronic music, or Colargol (aka Jeremy or Barnaby), with really really long episode-spanning storylines. (Hey niall_, is it true there was a punk cover the theme song?)

So - I'm going to wander around a lot here - it's really hard for me to meet anyone who shared that same background and saw the same stuff. I mean sure, a lot of my friends in southern Ontario watched the TVO stuff, but not the French stuff, and now that I've moved west to Manitoba, no one here's seen the TVO stuff. My friend plonq is a few years older than I am, grew up on the west coast, and so has a vastly different viewing experience (e.g., Kimba), as well as atara, who's from Ohio, and entropicana, from P.E.I. ... I just wish I could talk to folks about this stuff sometimes.

On the other hand - what's there to talk about? As an impressionable eight-year-old, I was amazed by a lot of programs, and more than occasionally confused. I remember watching Thundercats, but I have no doubt that if I watched them again today, I'd be wincing and saying, "What was I thinking?!" Perhaps some things are better left to nostalgia. I remember watching a cartoon called The Snorkles, and it was utterly unremarkable. But I watched it all the time. In its case, I have no desire to see it again.

Other shows, well, when you're young, and you wonder if you're missing something, that you're just not getting something important about the show that would have explained everything. So when I went onto Web sites that explained the plots of things like, say, The Land of the Lost or The Starlost - I discovered that no, I wasn't missing anything, the writing was bad, contradictory, compromised by the producers, and although there may have been an overall idea to the show, it was a mess, and what the TV stations really wanted me to do was buy breakfast cereal.

This lack-of-understanding-something-that's-not-there problem also happened a lot with the French shows I watched, because I couldn't follow everything that was being said. I never got to see most of that Mesoamerican series, but later I learned that the important plot points were few and far between, and that the all the major story stuff happens in the last two episodes when things got really weird anyway.

In some cases, regardless of the cartoon's quality, I really got into it. Maybe the content was shallow, but I was still moved. YTV for some bizarre reason got its hands on Spartacus and the Sun Beneath the Sea. Most of the episodes were filled with repeated clips they'd play in every episode, and long pans across stretches of mysterious, underground caves and structures - obviously to keep the animation budget down and fill up the half hour. It many ways, it was boring. But somehow, it evoked a kind of other-worldliness that I just fell for.

Other cartoons, wow, they were so bad, it was like drugs. You just let yourself get lost in the nonsense and stupidity. Come on, it's true. That was one of the charms of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Actually, I regret not getting high and watching re-runs of this stuff when I was older. Readalong on drugs would have been an incredible trip. Ghod, anyone remember the piece of crap called Conan the Adventurer? You *know* it's crappy when you can't even find a fan site on the InterWeb!

I'll admit to liking all sorts of things. The Raccoons, the first season of Ewoks. I genuinely enjoyed being frightened by some episodes of The Godzilla Power Hour. There was one episode where the characters are trapped on this island with a huge Cyclops monster. Then they discover that the force field trapping them there was originally set up by earlier alien visitors, because the aliens couldn't defeat the Cyclops either. The solution? Just get the hell out of there. I think this is one of the few times I've ever seen a cartoon where the efforts to defeat the antagonist were outright abandoned.

So a lot of this stuff is pretty old or pretty crappy and I'm not sure I feel like even attempting to track down episodes or explanations. Closure? Doubtful. The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin cartoon was sappy and annoying, but unlike most of the other cartoons of its day, it dared to have actual episode-to-episode continuity and an over-arching plot. (Just my luck I missed all the important episodes.)

A cartoon I'd love to get my hands on is The Animals of Farthing Woods. (Originally, I watched it in French. So when I hear the characters in the English version, it simply sounds wrong.) I watched it as a young adult, but man, I would have loved it as a kid. The first season was so-so. Like several cartoons of the early 90s (Captain Planet, Pirates of Dark Water, Biker Mice from Mars, The Smoggies), the environmental message was handled with the subtlety of a diesel truck. A bunch of animals have to flee their home when it's torn down for development. Vowing not to kill or eat each other, they travel together to a nature reserve. The thing was, the characters died along the way, and not nicely, either. So few cartoons have the guts to do that. This cartoon really did a job on you. It dared to be dark. Kids want that, it's not given very often. (This scene, 8M, for example, is the cartoon at its most extreme.)

The second season was the animals settling into the reserve. The native animals had no vow about killing and eating, and had a definite home ground advantage. Eventually the fox couple - the head of the Farthing Woods animals - got into a war with the local bad-guy blue foxes, who were just nasty. Two of the kits on each side became friends and didn't want anything to do with their parents' quarrel, of course. Meanwhile, of the of other kits is tired of living under his father's shadow, and after a terrible argument, runs off to live independently in the nearby town, where he meets a vixen. She gets pregnant, then tells him that she's really glad her kits will have his famous father's attributes, and by the way could he lead her to the reserve so her kits can grow up somewhere safe? He agrees, depressed as all heck about still not being able to escape his father's reputation, and leads her there, gets physically injured along the way, and dies by the time they arrive. There's a final scene where his father and him forgive one another. I cried. Dammit, I want more cartoons like that.

And you can't find them! Even on file-sharing! Or the few episodes that are out there, are of such shoddy quality, or in different languages. (Clips: atara wanted me to find something called Wildfire, but what can I say, it ended in much the same way as the whole Message From Space debacle.) So I don't know how I'd even *get* the episodes for a Saturday morning breakfast thing with friends.

Ahhh, who knows. Maybe some day!

Whaddya think of a meme? Post about three cartoons you have memories of, and ask about shows you can't quite remember but hope that someone could identify?
5 comments or Leave a comment
melskunk From: melskunk Date: July 8th, 2006 08:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the Secret Railroad was one of the ones I have been going nuts trying to remember if I'd really seen it or not.
You don't have Dr. Snuggles, which disapoints me, or the fact that TVO at one point broadcast Astroboy :)
Sadly, didn't watch much of the French stuff, though I do now, which is no help at all.
The weird thing I wish I could find people to reminsce about with is Nickelodeon. I didn't watch much, but when my family would go to Florida two weeks every year or so, I'd watch it all the time when I wasn't outside, since we didn't have cartoon only networks in Canada. So Miya the Bee and David the Gnome and Roobear are things people rarely know from Ontario but do from elsewhere, which does me no good :)
dronon From: dronon Date: July 9th, 2006 05:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Sadly no, I've been looking for Dr. Snuggles, but in vain. Well, one of the file-sharers seems to have a bunch of episodes, but they're entirely in German, so that's no fun.
atara From: atara Date: July 9th, 2006 12:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Gosh! Why is all the stuff I remember/like only available in translation?
dronon From: dronon Date: July 9th, 2006 05:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Luck of the draw so far? Ask me for something else, we might get lucky! Anyway, I've got two Wildfire episodes for you, if you ever want to show them to anyone. One's in Portuguese and the other's in Spanish.
niall_ From: niall_ Date: July 10th, 2006 02:53 am (UTC) (Link)
TORTILLARD! Oh man, I had forgotten all about that! That thing was weird!! As in, read: it had unfettered imagination and kids LOVE that. No preachiness, just weird stuff and let kids enjoy it. I don't know how much stuff has that today.

Fathing Woods was a seriesa of British children's books, no? That explains the dark patches. British kids aren't spared the cruelty of nature, so they actually grow up saner, I think.

First season of Ewoks. I have most of it on VHS still - if not all of it.

Thank you for that clip of La Linea! I was gaga for that thing! The colour indicating mood, the completely unfettered imagination, the careful understated humour, the quick-fire simplicity... lovely. And I got you that Chapi Chapo clip. That thing still stands up today!

As for punk version of Colargol.. more than likely. If there can be a ska cover of Le Petit Castor's opening theme, why not!
5 comments or Leave a comment