James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 23: Willy Fogg

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Who, what, why, where and when? They are all words that being with ‘W’. So are ‘wonderful’, ‘witty’ and ‘wise’. I’m sure you knew that already though. I don’t know what point I’m trying to make really. Except that today’s letter in our A-Z compendium of cartoon characters, from a time period in which I was younger than I am now, has happened upon the letter ‘W’. So let’s see which whimsical creation we’re dealing with today.

W

W is for Willy Fogg

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Brought to you by the same people who brought you the amazing Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds, Around the World with Willy Fogg was another adaptation of a literary classic, with anthropomorphic animals as the protagonists. In this case, the novel in question was Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne. I haven’t read that book any more than I’d read The Thee Musketeers so I can’t comment on the fidelity of the animation to the original story. There were subtle changes that anyone could spot obviously. For example, the protagonist of the novel being called Phileas, whereas (fortuitously for this ‘W’ themed post) the protagonist of the cartoon was called Willy. Also the protagonist of the cartoon was an anthropomorphic lion, and I don’t believe that was the case in the novel. I could be wrong though, maybe he was a lion. Maybe I should read the book. Or a book at the very least. It might be a more suitable pastime for a man of my age than watching old cartoons.

Around the World with Willy Fogg was a fairly diverting cartoon. I remember watching it regularly and I remember enjoying it. It was very similar in tone and aesthetic to Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds, but it didn’t quite capture my imagination in the same way as that cartoon did. But, the theme-tune, if not quite as instantly catchy, certainly grows on you after a few listens.

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 22: Venkman

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It’s the 25th day of April and victory is in sight. Well that’s if you can count the the act of writing 26 cartoon-themed blog posts in alphabetical order, within a thirty day period as something it’s possible to be victorious in. Perhaps it is, or perhaps there are no winners in this race. Or more pertinently we’re all winners. Perhaps I should avoid talking about winners until tomorrow, as that is the ‘W’ post. Today I should stick to the term ‘victory’ as the designated letter is ‘V’. But, in the battle to represent ‘V’, just who was victorious?

V

V is for Venkman

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I love everything Ghostbusters. I loved the original 1984 movie, I loved the slightly inferior, but still great 1989 sequel and I liked the 2016 reboot, which was not as good as it could have been but much better than perhaps it should have been.

But more than all of those, I loved The Real Ghostbusters, the spin off cartoon that ran from 1986-1991.

Sorry, did I say I loved the cartoon more than the original movie. Obviously that’s not true at all. It was nowhere near as good as the first film. Let’s not lose our heads in all this nostalgia.

But it was a good cartoon, with some notable deviations from the movie. The most obvious of these was that the Harold Ramis character, Egon, had white hair in the cartoon. Also Slimer, the green ghost who was primarily a minor, though memorable, antagonist in the movie, was part of the team. Because a loveable ghost made it easier to sell merchandise probably. The show was called The Real Ghostbusters rather than just Ghostbusters, was because there was a different Ghostbusters cartoon around at the time, which had nothing to do with the movie. I didn’t watch the other Ghostbusters cartoon (I don’t know anyone who did) but The Real Ghostbusters was an after school favourite for many years.

Peter Venkman was my favourite character. He was obviously played by the brilliant Bill Murray in the movies but he was voiced by Lorenzo Music in the cartoon (who was also the voice of Garfield – so perhaps appropriate that Bill Murray would later go on to voice Garfield in the movie version of that particular franchise). Apparently Lorenzo Music was replaced after season 2, which I don’t recall, although that could be because I was just a kid and didn’t notice such things. Lorenzo Music did have a distinctive voice though, so more it’s likely that I didn’t watch too many episodes after season 2, which is entirely plausible given that together, seasons 1&2 totalled 78 episodes. I definitely don’t remember the show changing it’s name to Slimer and the Real Ghosbusters, but apparently this happened from season 4 onwards. I’m not sure how I feel about that; Slimer was a great image for lunchboxes, but I’m not sure the character contributed as much to the show as the actual Ghostbusters.

Having re-watched a few episodes of the first season in preparation for writing this, I can say they hold up pretty well after all this time. Definitely a fitting homage to one of the greatest movies of all time.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 21: Uni

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Today I’m looking at ‘U’. Because that it the letter we’re up to in my A-Z of cartoon characters of my childhood. But, and I know this seems grammatically incorrect (even though it isn’t) – who is ‘U’?

U

‘U’ is for Uni (the Unicorn)

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Dungeons and Dragons was a pretty dark show as kids cartoons went. It was also brilliant. And slightly horrifying.

The premise is that some kids go on a ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ ride (whatever that was supposed to be – I’m not sure a fantasy role-playing game really lends itself to a roller-coaster but who am I to judge?) at a theme park, and rather than the thrill of a quick adrenaline rush, they get transported into an alternative reality called ‘The Realm of Dungeons and Dragons’. And it’s a pretty scary place, with a five-headed dragon and an evil wizard called Venger who wants to do them harm. Fortunately they meet someone called the Dungeon Master, who gives them magical weapons and they also meet a unicorn called Uni (brilliant name for a Unicorn no?) who seems to be more of a liability than anything. With these new weapons they set about trying to find a way out of the realm, and back home to their lives.  After many adventures, and one false dawn after another, they finally do get home.

Except, they don’t.

There was never a concluding episode to Dungeon and Dragons, so as far as we can tell those poor kids are still trapped there. Although it’s been, what, over thirty years, so they won’t be kids anymore. That’s if they survived.

Allegedly there was going to be a final episode, where the kids did all have the opportunity to leave, but it never got made.

Which is a bit rubbish really.

But it was a still an amazing cartoon.

 

On a completely separate note, it turns out that this is my 500th post on James Proclaims. That seems like quite a lot, so I should probably be congratulated for achieving this. Feel free to praise me to excess in the comments section below!

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 20: T-Bob

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Is it really time for ‘T’?

Well, in that case I’ll have an Earl Grey. Hot. Like Captain Picard used to have on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

And while I’m sipping on my Earl Grey, I’ll write today’s contribution to my catalogue of cartoon characters from a bygone age, as I head closer to the endgame of my A-Z Blogging Challenge. Because it really is time for ‘T’.

T

T is for T-Bot

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One day, I imagine, two executives at Kenner, the toy company which made many of the toys I loved as a child, sat down for a conversation. In my head, it went something like this:

Exec 1: Those Transformers toys over at Hasbro are doing pretty well, we should totally do something like that.

Exec 2: But we can’t just copy them, that would be unethical and as a major corporation, operating in the nineteen-eighties, ethics are at the cornerstone of everything we do.

Exec 1: I completely agree. But we should do something similar.

Exec 2: But what would be like Transformers, but not actually be Transformers?

Exec 1: Well, as far as I can tell, the bit the kids like is the transforming bit. They aren’t too bothered about what the thing is transforming from or to.

Exec 2: You mean like how originally Transformers were robots who transformed into vehicles, and were quite literally ‘robots in disguise’ but later on they became robots who transformed into dinosaurs, which makes no sense at all, because a giant robotic dinosaur would stand out as much as,  if not significantly more than, a giant robot.

Exec 1: Exactly, and the kids still love all that right?

Exec 2: Yes, kids are stupid.

Exec 1: Have we turned into Harry and Marv off of Home Alone?

Exec 2: What’s Home Alone?

Exec 1: I don’t know. I imagine it’s a film that will be really popular in the early nineties, but as it’s currently the early eighties, I couldn’t possibly know what it is.

Exec 2: Hmmm, this is all getting a bit strange. Have we turned into Vladimir and Estragon from Waiting for Godot?

Exec 1: What’s Waiting for Godot?

Exec 2. I don’t know. I imagine it’s a surrealist play by an Irish playwright who wrote a lot his plays in French and then translated them into English, and was an influential figure in the theatre of the absurd movement. I could feasibly have heard of this play given that it was first performed in 1953, but I haven’t because I’m an executive for a toy manufacturer, and it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing I would be into. Anyway what were we talking about?

Exec 1: Well, as I was saying, it’s the ‘transformy-ness’ of the toy rather than the fact that it’s a robot that makes Transformers so popular.

Exec 2: I think it’s a bit to do with the robots.

Exec 1: No, it’s definitely not the robots that make the toy work. So I reckon if we just copy the transformy bit, but make it ‘not robots’ we could have a hit on our hands.

Exec 2: So what? We’d have dinosaurs transforming into vehicles then?

Exec 1: I love that idea, but no, I think dinosaurs and vehicles is still too close to Transformers. What we need is something else changing into something else.

Exec 2: What? Like a helicopter that changes into a plane?

Exec 1; I mean that does sound a bit stupid, but essentially yes, why not vehicles that turn into other vehicles? No-one would think we were copying Transformers if we did that.

Exec 2: And we could give all the people that drove those vehicles really boring names like Matt Tracker, or Alex Sector.

Exec 1: This is going to be huge!

Now I don’t know if that is exactly how the conversation went, I wasn’t there. But that is, I think, a reasonable summary of what M.A.S.K was (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, if you’re interested. Any yes, they did just change the spelling of the word ‘command’ to suit their needs).

And you might make the reasonable supposition that M.A.S.K was such a bad idea that it was one of the key contributing factors that eventually led to Kenner  being taken over by Hasbro.

But you’d be wrong. M.A.S.K was huge, and for a period of time it was my favourite thing ever. Seriously, I loved it more than He-Man, ThunderCats, Transformers, even Star Wars. I had a T-Bob birthday cake one year and it made me insanely happy.

But my whereas my love for all those other franchises has endured, my love for M.A.S.K burned bright for a time and then disappeared.

Because, really, it wasn’t very good.

And T-Bob was totally a robot who changed into a vehicle. He changed into a scooter. A scooter that still looked like a bloody robot. So he was like the worst Transformer ever really.

But the helicopter that changed into a plane was pretty cool.

Forlornly Fatigued

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Sometimes when I feel tired
I’m not really that nice
And it’s better to avoid me
Or make interactions more concise

I don’t mean to be so grumpy
Like a bear with a sore head
But I’m not very good at coping
When I spend too little time in bed

I’ll be much better tomorrow
When I’ve had a chance to rest
But today will be a challenge
And I won’t be at my best

So I wouldn’t bother trying
To engage with me today
I’ll be morose and sulky
If I cannot get my way

Better just to ignore me
And pretend that I’m not here
I might be a little joyless
But there’s nothing much to fear

Although it might help a little
If you want to cheer me up
To give me lots of chocolate
And pour some coffee in my cup

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 19: SuperTed and Spotty Man

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19 letters in to my A-Z Challenge brings us to ‘S’. Which is all rather super really. And also spotty.
S

S is for SuperTed and also for Spotty Man

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SuperTed was a local hero for me growing up in South Wales. Because he was Welsh. I mean he wasn’t actually Welsh, he was clearly fictional, and in the English Language version of the cartoon he didn’t have a Welsh accent or anything.

Nonetheless SuperTed was made in Wales and originally the show was made for the Welsh Language TV channel S4C, so the cartoons were actually broadcast in the medium of Welsh. But it didn’t take long for an English language version to hit our screens, which was just as well for me because I couldn’t understand Welsh. Well not very well anyway. We did learn it a bit in school, but I was never competent enough to attempt watching SuperTed in the language.

The English version had quite a well-known voice cast for the day, not least SuperTed’s sidekick, Spotty Man, who was voiced by none other than Jon Pertwee, who is perhaps better known for his roles as Worzel Gummidge and of course for being the third incarnation of Dr Who.

Even by the standards of some of the mad cartoons of the day, SuperTed was utterly bonkers. There was a weirdly complex origin story, which was shown at the start of every episode and involved both aliens and magic. Also it was a bit strange that an anthropomorphic Teddy Bear with super powers, who had been brought to life by magic, felt the need to assume a secret identity, as a normal Teddy Bear.  Because a walking, talking Teddy Bear would still be something of a talking point right? Although he still went by the name ‘SuperTed’ even when he wasn’t dressed in his superhero outfit, so it was never a great secret identity. Then again he lived in outer-space most of the time, so it wasn’t much of an issue.

The main antagonists were interesting, but not really in a good way, and they do rather date SuperTed to an era before political correctness was a thing. They were an odd bunch indeed – the leader was Texas Pete, an evil cowboy, Bulk, who just seemed to be a bit fat and Skeleton, who was actually a skeleton, albeit somehow alive. He was also very camp and wore pink slippers. There was recent talk of a SuperTed reboot (it doesn’t seem to have happened yet) and one of the main changes, according to SuperTed’s creator,  was going to be that the villains would be have to be different because literally none of them would be acceptable by today’s standards. Whether they were appropriate back then is certainly questionable, but it highlights how much progress we have made in the last thirty years, even if it doesn’t always feel like we have.

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Still, we all loved SuperTed at the time and one of my favourite memories as a child was going to see the SuperTed stage show. I’m fairly sure that Jon Pertwee actually played Spotty Man on stage, but that could just be my memory inserting information that isn’t actually true. It was my first ever visit to the theatre though and it was one of those experiences when I got so excited I made myself a bit ill.

It was brilliant.

There was also a road safety video that SuperTed and Spotty Man were in, and, although it was animated, it was very clearly set in Cardiff – you can actually recognise landmarks, and I’ve walked down that same street many a time – plus the orange buses were a dead giveaway, although they also date it, because Cardiff buses changed to green quite a few years ago. I’ve attached the road safety video below, because you need to see it, and it starts in the same way as all the episodes did, so you can also see SuperTed’s weird origin story too. Alas Texas Pete et al. are not in this clip, which means you don’t get a true reflection of the regular show in all it’s politically incorrect glory, but maybe that’s just as well.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 18: Raphael

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Gosh we’re making progress with this A-Z business now aren’t we? We’re already up to the letter ‘R’. I think that calls for a little celebratory ‘Cowabunga’!

I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me. I assure you that will never happen again on these pages.

Let’s just try and forget about it and move on to today’s animated hero of choice

R

‘R’ is for Raphael.

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Raphael, as I’m sure we all know, was an Italian Renaissance Painter. As was Michelangelo, who also did a bit of sculpting. Sculpting was a thing that Donatello was also known for, and as for Leonardo, well he was something of a Renaissance polymath, who notably painted the Mona Lisa amongst other things. He was also a pretty good footballer in the 1990s. Although that might have been a different Leonardo. We should probably use full names when talking about these people to avoid confusion.

Certainly my sister got a bit confused when my family visited the Vatican back in 1990. When told that Michelangelo painted the Sistine chapel, she exclaimed her surprise, noting that she thought Michelangelo was a turtle.

Because of course, Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Donatello were all turtles too. Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles to be precise.

Sorry? What’s that?

Did I mean to write Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

I mean obviously I’ve heard of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They were also quite popular back in the day, and, to an extent, have retained a certain level of popularity over the years. Enough popularity for Michael Bay, not satisfied with ruining Transformers for everyone, to also ruin Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with some more of his awful movies.

But the franchise I loved when I was a child was definitely called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles.

The main characters of Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles were anthropomorphic turtles who were really good at martial arts and were all named after renaissance artists.

If that sounds similar to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles then so be it, but it must have been a different cartoon because why else would it have had a different name? It can’t have been because British censoring laws in the 1980s meant that the word Ninja couldn’t be used because it might corrupt minors? That would be absolute madness!

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 17: Quimby

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Right, time for a little Q&A. Except, of course, we’ve already had ‘A’ – that was way back on the 1st April, when I started this whole A-Z of cartoon characters malarkey. So we’ll have to make do with ‘Q’ on its own today. I must admit that, along with ‘X’, ‘Q’ did present me with the most problems. There aren’t a lot of cartoon characters that start with ‘Q’. But I did manage to find one.

Q

‘Q’ is for Quimby

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Chief Quimby as a matter of fact. From 1980’s cartoon classic Inspector Gadget.

Inspector Gadget was a fun show about a hapless law enforcer, who for some reason was cybernetically enhanced with a load of gadgets, that mostly seemed to involve his arms and legs extending, although I do recall helicopter blades coming out of his hat. Despite all of the gadgets at his disposal, Inspector Gadget was largely useless, and more often than not, if he did save the day, it was entirely by accident. Fortunately his niece, Penny and their dog Brains (who was really a marvellously talented canine) were a bit more savvy and solved most of the crimes on his behalf, only for him to get all of the credit.

There were nods to a lot of pop-culture within the show – Inspector Gadget was quite a lot like Inspector Clouseau (albeit Peter Sellers iconic bumbling detective did not have extending arms) while the primary antagonist, Dr Claw, who was never seen on screen apart from his gaunteletted hands, which were often stroking a cat, was very much like Blofeld in the early Bond films. As for Quimby, well he was the guy that always recruited Gadget for his missions and there was a definite Mission Impossible vibe to the whole thing, with the messages always self-destructing after Gadget had read them. Unfortunately for poor Quimby, they always exploded in his face due to Gadget’s ineptitude and ignorance.

Inspector Gadget was a fun show. The plot was largely the same each week, but it didn’t really matter too much. It was always twenty minutes well-spent.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 16: Panthro

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“I’ll have a ‘P’ please Bob” was something that was said a lot to the late great Bob Holness, presenter of the seminal 80s quiz show Blockbusters. It was a joke we never tired of (though I’m sure poor Bob did a little). Well now it’s my turn to have a ‘P’. For indeed that is the letter that we’re up to in the A-Z Blogging Challenge. But just who is the cartoon character that is hiding behind the letter today?

P

P is for Panthro

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In terms of 80s cartoons which also had a line of action figures, ThunderCats might have been my third favourite. Star Wars toys don’t count because they were inspired by a live-action movie, so it’s fight between He-Man figures and Transformers for the top sport, with He-Man et al. probably edging out the Cybertron exiles (well he was the most powerful man in  the universe!). But I did like the ThunderCats, partly because they were a reasonable size to be integrated into any games I was playing with my He-Man figures (the ThunderCats were a little taller if I recall, but close enough in size, whereas Star Wars figures were much too small, and had to be played with separately, according to the code I lived by at the time).

The ThunderCats cartoon was also hugely enjoyable. It was a bit of a strange concept, I was never clear if the ThunderCats were people with catlike qualities, or if they were  cats with people like qualities. It doesn’t really matter, they were from an entirely made-up world, which they had to escape from for some reason. Then they went to live on a different made-up world where they were tormented by Mumra. Mumra was, hands down, the most frightening of all the cartoon bad guys of the 1980s. Not as much fun as Skeletor from He-Man, but properly scary.

Panthro was the ThunderCat that was a bit like a Panther. Liono was the leader (and a bit like a lion). There were others that had names which told you which big cat they were a bit like. Panthro was cool because he drove the ThunderTank, which was the toy that everyone wanted back in nineteen-eighty-something. I wanted it anyway. But I wanted a lot of toys. I didn’t get the ThunderTank. But I did have a Millennium Falcon, which, on balance, was probably better, although entirely unsuitable for my ‘ThunderCat/He-Man crossover-inspired’ imaginary play.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 15: Optimus Prime

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Another day of blogging about cartoons and today we’re up to letter number 15 in the alphabet, which surprisingly enough is the letter ‘O’. Which is OK. Well half of OK anyway. But what delightful animated personage awaits us today?

O

O is for Optimus Prime

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It had to be really. Well it could have been Orko, but we’re already covered He-Man. And it would have been remiss of me not have paid homage to the mighty Transformers, because , before Michael Bay decided to desecrate my childhood with his really bad movies, I did really like Transformers. The original cartoon felt the need to use the definite article and was therefore called The Transformers. It was, quite clearly, developed in order to sell more of the Transformers toys, but to be fair they were really cool toys. I probably had more in the way of He-Man and Star Wars toys than I did Transformers, and I imagine that was, at least a little bit, down to cost. I expect Transformers were a bit more expensive, but then they did do quite a lot more than your bog standard action figure. I mean they transformed from robots into other things that were not robots.

I did have a few Transformers in my collection, including Optimus Prime, who was the one everyone wanted. Well, we all wanted Soundwave, because he turned into a tape player, and Megatron because he turned into a gun, but they were Decepticons and therefore bad guys. Optimus Prime was the best Autobot (who were the good guys) to own. Bumblebee was also pretty cool, back when he was a VW Beetle, before Michael Bay decided that nothing was precious and turned him into a sports car.

The first Transformers toy I remember owning was a small red Autobot who transformed into a plane. I think he was called Jetfire. He was a ‘gift’ from my newly born baby sister (although I suspect my parents might have actually done the purchasing as my sister, being a newborn, had no discernible income and wasn’t especially mobile at the time). I remember being asked what it was that I’d had, by the nurse, when visiting my sister for the first time. With the benefit of hindsight it now seems clear she was asking whether I had a new baby brother or a new baby sister, but, exciting though the arrival of a new sibling was, I was more excited by the arrival in my hands of Jetfire, so I proudly explained to the nurse that I had a Transformer.

The Transformers was a great cartoon in its original format, but the particular highlight was the 1986 feature film, The Transformers: The Movie. It was pretty dark for a kids film, with Optimus Prime, until that point having always been the untouchable leader of the Autobots, getting killed off pretty early on. Other characters also meet quite their ends in quite brutal ways throughout the movie. It is also particularly notable for the fact that it was Orson Wells’ final film performance. He provided the voice of Unicron, the main antagonist. That’s right, Citizen Kane himself was in The Transformers: The Movie.

Optimus Prime was resurrected for subsequent The Transformers TV series. He had to be, he was just too popular and awesome to be dead for too long. Plus, presumably because he was a robot, he could just be repaired?

Obviously Transformers are still very much a thing, and as well as the awful live action films, there have been plenty of reboots of the cartoon over the years. None of them have had anyone of the calibre of Orson Wells linked with them but maybe some of them are OK? My nephew is really into something called Rescue Bots which appears to be a Transformers cartoon aimed at smaller children. I bought him the Rescue Bots version of Optimus Prime for Christmas.

It seemed like the right thing to do.