James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 26: Zummi Gummi

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And so we come to the end of our journey. And what a journey it’s been. But, as part of this whole A-Z journey, I’m supposed to publish a post in a week, to reflect on all of this, so today I won’t dwell on the previous entries in this collection of cartoon characters, conveniently alphabetised for ease of consumption. But just who is our final entry? The letter today is ‘Z’, but I can assure you that this is no ‘Z-list’ cartoon character.

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Z is for Zummi Gummi

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For how could any compendium of cartoons be complete without including the fantastic Gummi Bears?

One of Disney’s earliest 80s TV show offerings, with a theme song that matches the best of them, Gummi Bears was precursor in many ways for the some of the other Disney greats of the 80s and 90s, such as DuckTales and Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. But it wasn’t really the same as those shows. It wasn’t really like anything else.

Set in a fairy-tale land, it was evocative of Arthurian legend, and other such tales of yore. It was also charming and funny and full of energy. And bouncing bears of course.

I first saw Gummi Bears in the cinema, the first episode was shown as a featurette before the main film. I can’t even remember what the main movie was that day, but the Gummi Bears cartoon made quite an impression.

I can’t think of a better cartoon to finish my A-Z of cartoon characters that I liked as a child.

 

Good Intentions, Bad Results

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This morning I didn’t shower
Because I wanted to exercise
And it seemed pointless to shower
Before I exercised

But the day went on
And I didn’t exercise
Because the requisite motivation
Escaped me

And everytime I found motivation
Something else came up
Like meals
Meals got in the way
Because you can’t exercise
Immediately after eating
But you’ve got to eat right?

And other tasks needed doing
And you can’t neglect your life
While you’re waiting to find motivation
To do something you don’t want to do
But once you’ve started a task
You can’t just stop
Because you want or need to do something else
Otherwise nothing would get finished

So the day went on
And jobs got done
And food was eaten
And it wasn’t a bad day per se
But I didn’t exercise
And so I didn’t shower either
Which seems a gross oversight
With the benefit of hindsight

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 25: Yumi

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Sometimes you just have to ask ‘Y’. But ‘Y’ rarely offers an answer. ‘Y’ is just a letter. But it is a letter that can, and today will, represent a cartoon character in my nostalgic, alphabetical trip down memory lane.

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Y is for Yumi

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Yumi is from the cartoon Ulysses 31. She is blue. Because she is an alien. She’s from the planet Zotra.

Which is all well and good, and you might think Ulysses 31 was just a cartoon show set in space with aliens and stuff, and to me, as a child, that’s exactly what it was. But it turns out it was so much more than that.

Ulysses, is, of course, the name of a book that is notoriously hard to read, by James Joyce. And it turns out that Ulysses 31 took the plot of that novel, but set in the 31st century and, y’know, in space.

And if that sounds improbable, it’s because, well it’s not true at all. But Ulysees 31 was a re-imagining of Homer’s Odyssey. Although, in its own way, so was Joyce’s novel, so actually maybe you could argue the parallels of an 80s space-based cartoon and one of the most lauded works of twentieth-century literature. But you probably shouldn’t

Actually the idea of Homer’s Odyssey being set in space is a bit mad too. And quite a hard concept for a small child to understand.

So I didn’t understand it at all.

But I did really enjoy it.

Because it was set in space, with aliens and stuff.

Also, it was really good.

And the theme tune, when it got going, was pretty catchy too.

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 24: X

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X was always going to be the toughest letter in my A-Z of cartoon characters. It’s generally the toughest letter in an A-Z of any subject. Fortunately, the world of cartoons offered me a solution from a time when I thought I’d grown out of cartoons.

X

X is for X

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Professor X that is, otherwise known as Charles Xavier, and founder and leader of the X-Men. When X-Men, the Animated Series first hit our screens in the early nineties, I was already a teenager, and to be fair, not really a big viewer of animation. Some of my friends were into the Japanese Manga cartoons that were doing the rounds back then, but, while I acknowledge there are some excellent Japanese animations out there, it wasn’t really my kind of thing at the time.

No, I’d long sinced moved on from watching cartoons. I was vaguely aware of Batman the Animated Series (a show I would later come to love) but I hadn’t really given it much consideration. Then, one Saturday morning, quite by chance, I caught a few seconds of the new X-Men cartoon. Then I caught a few seconds more. Then I was hooked. Everyone was talking about it in school the following Monday. At first it was brought up surreptitiously, one of my mates dropped it into conversation. Did anyone happen to catch the X-Men on Saturday morning? Turns out we had. Everyone had. And slowly it became apparent that we’d all really got into it.

It was official – cartoons were back on the table.

X-Men: The Animated Series, along with Batman: The Animated Series, paved the way for lots more in the way of superhero offerings, the excellent 90s Spiderman cartoon, The Incredible Hulk, Superman, the list goes on. Obviously there were superhero movies before these cartoons became popular, but I’m pretty sure the current plethora of movies owes a lot to the cartoons of the early nineties recruiting a load of new fanboys who had never even considered picking up a comic book before.

Obviously I’ve chosen Professor X to represent the letter ‘X’ in my little series on cartoon characters, but the character that really resonated with all of us was, rather predictably, Wolverine, and this was when he was depicted wearing yellow spandex, which just goes to show what a cool character he was.

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’?

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‘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.
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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.