James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 26: Zeitgeist

James Proclaims (4)

And so we arrive at ‘Z’ in my shamelessly nostalgic A-Z of albums that I liked to listen to when I was young.

Thanks to everyone who has chipped in with comments along the way, even if it’s to tell me that you’ve never heard of the bands I liked or that you completely disagree with my choices.

But, unless I’m much mistaken, ‘Z’ is very much the last letter of the alphabet, so it ends today.

And whether you’ve enjoyed my jaunt down the memory lane of the musical tastes of my youth or been largely indifferent to it (I assume if you’re reading this then you haven’t actively disliked these posts because, y’know, why would you have bothered to read them at all…) what you cannot deny is that they have involved me writing words.

Which, in the spirit of generating content for a blog, is largely better than not writing words.

Whether I’ll continue to use words to write about things other than music from the nineties is something only time will tell.

But today I will, again, write about an album from the nineties.

One that begins with ‘Z’

Z2020

Z is for Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist_(album)

The Levellers are another band that headlined Glastonbury in the nineties, which seems a strange thing to write in 2020. But they did, in 1994, performing to what was then a record number of people.

They hadn’t even released the album ‘Zeitgeist’ at that point. It came out in 1995 and it remains their only album to top the UK album charts.

The peak of the Levellers success does correspond roughly with the general Britpop phenomenon, but they had been enjoying a bit of success prior to that, (hence the headline slot at Glastonbury), and they don’t seem an obvious fit for the Britpop label. Whether they’d have been quite as big in the nineties without Britpop is doubtful though. They’re still going, still seem to have a loyal enough fanbase, but their days of headlining Glastonbury and the like are long behind them now and the demise of Britpop also seems to correspond with their general decline in mainstream popularity.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a massive fan; I like them, I’d probably see them live (I think in fact I did see them live but I saw a lot of bands in the nineties and unless I held onto the ticket stub I struggle to recall whether I was actually there, or just saw them performing at a festival on TV and my memory has subsequently placed me in the crowd…), I’ve listened to most of their albums at one point or another but only a few tracks really stayed with me.

‘Zeitgeist’ would be the one album I really listened to a lot (which is quite serendipitous when it comes to writing an A-Z of nineties albums, because there weren’t any other ‘Z’ albums leaping to mind) and it’s the one I’d probably stick on if I was in the mood for the intrinsically left-wing folk-rock sound that the Levellers bring to the table.

I liked the single ‘Just The One’ and I think a lot of people enjoyed that as a kind of ‘pre-getting-drunk’ anthem (the nineties was perhaps also the beginning of the British bing-drinking culture that appears to continue to this day. I was very much a part of it in my time – I like to think I’ve outgrown it but it could be that increased responsibilities have reduced the opportunity rather than the inclination to drink irresponsibly). Alas though, the album version of ‘Just The One’ is not the same as the single version so we can’t end on that.

So we’ll end instead on ‘Hope Street’, which seems as good a place as any to conclude my A-Z.

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 25: You’ve Come A Long Way Baby

James Proclaims (4)

It’s the penultimate day of the A-Z challenge 2020 and it’s time to ask ‘Y’.

Specifically we must ask ‘Y’ to tell us what today’s album is.

It wasn’t easy. I assumed a lot of album titles would begin with the word ‘you’.

Or ‘yesterday’.

But these were not popular choices in the nineties apparently.

So I’ve had to step a little outside my comfort zone.

I could have gone with Pearl Jam’s ‘Yield’ but I stopped listening to Pearl Jam after their third album ‘Vitalogy’ and didn’t get into them again until many years later. If I was going to include Pearl Jam it would’ve been for ‘Ten’ or the aforementioned ‘Vitalogy’. And I didn’t so I’m not going with ‘Yield’ either. It would feel dishonest.

Another option was Welsh band Feeder and their 1999 album ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’, but while Feeder always seemed like a band I would probably like, the only album of theirs I really know is 2001’s ‘Echo Park’ so, again, it would be disingenuous to include them.

Ultimately I’ve switched genres and gone with something that screams the nineties like few other albums could.

Y2020

Y is for You’ve Come A Long Way Baby

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While two members of The Housemartins went on to form The Beautiful South, one decided to go in a slightly different direction.

Or a very different direction.

Norman Cook became known as Fatboy Slim and was a pivotal part of the Big Beat movement that was very different to Britpop but largely seemed to exist at roughly the same time.

Not really my cup of tea in theory but I actually did like a lot of the acts associated with that genre of music and they were easily as big a part of the nineties soundscape as any of the indie music I was listening to.

In any case, ‘You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby’ was a massive album that transcended its genre.

The singles off that album were everywhere and on everything.  You’d be hard pushed to listen to Radio One (my default radio station until I outgrew their target demographic) without hearing ‘The Rockafella Skank’.

‘Gangster Trippin’ must have been the accompaniment to many a sporting montage.

And you certainly couldn’t expect to go on a night out without at some point finding yourself drunkenly dancing badly and singing loudly to ‘Right Here, Right Now’.

It was unavoidable.

It pretty much was the sound of the late nineties.

And because this A-Z has always been a nostalgia driven exercise, I have to go with the ‘Y’ album that invokes the most nostalgia.

Even if it was rather forced upon me at the time, it’s as evocative of my youth as anything else I’ve written about.

And it’s hard to argue that it isn’t an excellent album.

The track that I liked best back then would definitely have been ‘Praise You’

The video was genius too.

 

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 24: XTRMNTR

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No A-Z would be complete without the letter ‘X’.

Because ‘X’ is very much a part of the alphabet.

But it’s not the most accommodating of letters and it’s pretty hard to do an A-Z of anything without cheating a bit on ‘X’.

But I don’t think I’ve cheated too much today.

The album I’ve come up with is very much in the spirit of a nineties retrospective.

It just wasn’t quite released in the nineties.

But if you’re going to miss your self-imposed window of a specific decade then being one month out isn’t too bad.

X2020

X is for XTRMNTR

XTRMNTR_album_cover

Could any nineties retrospective be complete without Primal Scream, the band that put out what is oft regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time in ‘Screamadelica’?

Of course it couldn’t.

But this post isn’t about that album.

What about the much less critically-acclaimed ‘Give Out But Don’t Give Up’? Yes it was universally panned but it still produced two of their biggest hits in ‘Jailbird’ and ‘Rocks’ and was an album that I was quite fond of, even if the critics weren’t.

Nope, can’t write about that either.

Because much as those two albums might be worth revisiting, neither of them begins with ‘X’.

That honour goes to ‘XTRMNTR’, which may not have been released until January 2000, but was clearly recorded in the nineties. Plus the first single off it, ‘Swastika Eyes’ was released in 1999.

So it counts.

It does.

Forrest Gump’s mama apparently claimed that life was like a box of chocolates because “you never know what you’re gonna get”. If only someone could have pointed out the little card that comes with the box of chocolates that tells you exactly what you’re gonna get.

What she might have said, were she not a fictional character living in a different time period, is that life is like waiting for the next Primal Scream album to be released because you really don’t know what you’re gonna get.

You have to admire the band for constant reinvention, but if you love one Primal Scream album, there’s no guarantee you’re going to like anything else they put out.

XTRMNTR is a more aggressive album than a lot of their other records, but releasing their rage clear suits Primal Scream (the clue was perhaps always there in the band’s name) because it is generally regarded as one of their better efforts. Not quite up there with ‘Screamadelica’, but as close as they’ve ever been.

Any of the singles would be a fitting way to see us out, but let’s go with ‘Accelerator’. If ever a song was aptly named this would be it.

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 23: Wake Up!

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Who, what, why, where and when are all words that begin with ‘W’.

And so does today’s album.

Because we’re on ‘W’ in my A-Z of albums.

So it should begin with ‘W’.

That is literally the only expectation we can reasonably have of this album.

But it is also one of my all time favourite albums.

W2020

W is for Wake Up!

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Wake Up! was the album that was by far the biggest commercial success for The Boo Radleys, and until recent years it was the only album of theirs that I really knew.

Which is strange because I enjoyed this album so much that you might imagine I’d have investigated the rest of their back catalogue. But their 1996 follow-up, ‘C’mon Kids’, didn’t really generate the same level of interest as ‘Wake Up!’ and I neglected to add it to my collection. Which with hindsight was a mistake because that too is an awesome album.

I have rectified this error in recent times and after paying closer attention to their other work, I feel it’s probably fair to say The Boo Radleys deserve to be recognised as more than ‘just another Britpop band’.

But the success of ‘Wake Up!’ did owe a lot to Britpop.

I don’t know if an album like this would have been successful in another era, but I’m glad it came out in 1995.

Firstly, because I might not have heard it otherwise.

But also because, the day after I finished my last GCSE exam, it was absolutely brilliant to switch on my CD player the following morning, with the longest summer of my life awaiting me and listen to the opening track, ‘Wake Up Boo!’ as I lay smiling in bed. It really is the perfect post examination track.

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 22: Version 2.0

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As we near the end of this A-Z of albums that I liked when I was younger than I am now, and mostly still like today (except for some albums that frankly only made the cut because they began with the right letter) I feel I should acknowledge the heavy bias towards UK acts.

This in part stems from the fact that I am British. I don’t go out of my way to only listen to music made by people from these isles but there is obviously an element of increased exposure. This is particularly true, given that I’m mostly writing about albums I encountered in the nineties when there was a definite media bias towards British acts.

Not that my music tastes are that international anyway. Aside from a few albums I purchased when I lived in Paris, the vast majority of my music collection (for it is a collection – I have now uploaded it to ‘the cloud’ for ease of consumption but I mostly listen to stuff I bought and so large was my music collection before streaming became a thing, that I have eschewed subscribing to a streaming service to date – occasionally parting with my cash to download albums I really want still seems to be cheaper overall, particularly as most music can be sampled for free via various platforms before I decide whether it is worth spending my money) is English-language, but that does tend to include a fair number of artists from the US.

Why then, have I neglected to include any US acts apart from Weezer and Green Day in my list to date?

I’m not sure.

I definitely liked a lot of American bands back then. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, REM and Foo Fighters all could have made the cut for a nineties-themed extravaganza such as this.

That they didn’t is perhaps a little disingenuous on my part because I liked all of them a lot. To be honest, although it pains me a little to admit it, even Bon Jovi was no stranger to my CD player back then. But when it came to it, while I’d happily concede that Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ is a far superior album to Ash’s ‘1977’ (to the point where even comparing the two is beyond ridiculous) it’s the latter album that spoke to me more as a teenager. I may have been wrong as a teenager, but as this has been a largely nostalgia-driven exercise, we have to go with the judgements I made back then.

And so to ‘V’ and Pearl Jam were really in with a shout for this. They released not one but two albums that began with ‘V’ back in the nineties and both ‘Vs’ and ‘Vitalogy’ spent a lot of time in my CD player.

But instead I’ve gone with this:

V2020

V is for Version 2.0

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It may come as some consolation to my American friends that 75% of the rock band, Garbage, do indeed hail from the States. And indeed if you’re apoplectic with rage that I overlooked one of the seminal albums of all time in ‘Nevermind’ then it may be some consolation to know that Garbage’s drummer, Butch Vig, was the producer who worked on that record.

Nonetheless Garbage are fronted by Shirley Manson who is Scottish, so I may still be employing a certain level of British bias.

But it is unintentional.

I did really like Garbage.

If you put a gun to my head and asked me which Garbage album I liked the best then I’d be very scared and wonder why you’d pointed a gun to my head to find out such a trivial piece of information.

But I’d tell you truthfully that I preferred their 1995 eponymous debut.

But ‘G’ was taken and I did still really like this 1998 follow-up.

So did quite a lot of other people.

Because it is really good.

So put the gun down and let’s listen calmly to one of the better tracks on the album.

Which is, perhaps unhelpfully, called ‘I Think I’m Paranoid’.

 

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 12: Laid

James Proclaims (4)

And so we’re at the time of our A-Z journey through nineties music nostalgia when we ask, what the ‘L’?

And ‘L’ is coming, make no mistake about that.

But what fresh ‘L’ is this?

L2020

L is for Laid

James_Laid

I could hardly do a series nineties nostalgia posts predominantly about indie music without including a band that is called James could I?

The fact that they happen to be a fantastic band is really just a bonus.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t as big a fan of James in the nineties as I should have been. I love their music now, but I didn’t know too much about them back when they were arguably at the peak of their powers (although they’ve churned out some pretty good albums in recent times too).

I knew a few of their bigger hits even back then though and I remember them being pretty well-regarded by the NME and Melody Maker, the two publications that largely informed my views of music back then.

Anyway, regardless of whether I was a fan or not at the time, ‘Laid’ is great album and if I’d purchased it when it came out, I would definitely have liked it.

It’s one of my favourite albums now and my tastes haven’t changes that much since then. Or at all in fact.

I could go with any of the singles to sign off this post, but it would be hard to ignore the titular track, ‘Laid’.

So here it is:

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 5: Everything Must Go

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And so, on the fifth day of ‘James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young’ we arrive at ‘E’.

And for this there were a few contenders.

But there was one that invokes so much nostalgia it was ultimately the only choice I could make.

E2020

E is for Everything Must Go

EverythingMustGo(1996album)Albumcover

The Manic Street Preachers fourth album was their first release as a trio following on from the tragic and mysterious disappearance of lyricist and rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards.

Although Richey’s musical contributions were questionable, his lyrics and personality were a fundamental part of the Manics DNA up to that point. Plus they were all friends from school, so the band felt his loss on a personal level.

‘Everything Must Go’ could therefore have been something much darker than it actually is. After all it’s predecessor, the Richey-inspired ‘Holy Bible’ is as bleak an album as you’re likely to come across.

‘Everything Must Go’ confounded expectations however, and is an uplifting (insofar as the Manics do ‘upbeat’), poignant and cathartic collection of songs, that marked the beginning of a period of sustained commercial success.

Growing up in Wales in the nineties means that the Manics are essentially royalty to me, and they are the band that I have seen live by far the most times.

I like pretty much all of their albums, including some of their more recent efforts. But the nostalgia-inducing albums are the ones from the nineties, both as a quartet and as a trio. Their 1992 debut ‘Generation Terrorists’ and the aforementioned ‘Holy Bible’, both could have been contenders for this alphabetised walk down memory lane.

But ‘Everything Must Go’ was an album that saw me through some of the worst of my teenage angst and it’s still a source of comfort when things are getting me down. Which, given the state of the world, means it’s been on the playlist quite a lot lately.

As with a lot of the albums I’ve been revisiting, it could be hard to pick a favourite track from ‘Everything Must Go’. Except that there is one track that just picks itself.

‘A Design for Life’ might just be my favourite song of all time.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Final Thoughts

James Proclaims (4)

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It’s been a week since I finished my A-Z of Cartoon Characters as part of my participation in the annual A-Z blogging challenge. As part of the challenge, I’m supposed to write a post reflecting on the whole experience, and never one to overlook my responsibilities, I am doing just that today.

So, what did I learn?

Well, I learned that some of the cartoons I watched when I was a kid were genuinely as good as I remember them being, while others were, perhaps not quite so good.

I enjoyed revisiting them all, but it was definitely a mixed bag in terms of quality. The most disappointing show in terms of really not being as good as I remembered was definitely The Getalong Gang. I can see why I enjoyed it as a kid, but it’s really best lost to the annals of history. If I had to pick a favourite (and I’m not sure that’s possible) then Danger Mouse might well be the one that tops the list, but ask me tomorrow and it’ll no doubt be a different one.

There were, of course, a lot classic cartoons that didn’t make the it into my A-Z and perhaps some of those deserve a brief acknowledgement now, as well as my reasons for overlooking them:

Battle of the Planets/ G-Force Guardians of Space

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I really wanted to include this one, but the problem was, although Battle of the Planets was essentially the same show as G-Force Guardians of Space, it also wasn’t. They were  both English-language adaptations of a Japanese cartoon called Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. So the animation was the same but the names of the characters, their voices and quite a lot of the plot was different. And I was a small child when I watched this show. I’m pretty sure the version I watched as a kid was G-Force Guardians of Space, but truthfully it was all just noise and moving pictures at the time so I might have watched both versions. I couldn’t tell you much about either without re-watching them, and with there being two identical-looking but essentially different cartoons doing the rounds on YouTube, I decided to leave well-enough alone.

Brave Starr

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Brave Starr was on at the same time as something I wanted to watch on a different channel, so I never really watched it much. I liked it when I did watch it, but I’d be hard-pushed to tell you much about it. Other than the fact that Brave Starr’s horse could walk and talk, which was pretty cool.

Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors

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Literally never heard of this one until it started coming up in a lot of the searches I was doing for other cartoons of the era. Seems it was really popular and looks like one I would really have enjoyed. Not quite sure how I missed it.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold

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I remember this was really popular, but like with Brave Starr, I’m sure I was watching something on a different channel when this was on. I think I would have liked it but fate would not allow our paths to cross, so it remains unwatched by me.

Droids/ Ewoks

 

That there were two Star Wars spin-off cartoons in the 80s and I didn’t see fit to include either of them, does seem an oversight. Because Star Wars is my favourite thing of all. But, while I didn’t hate these shows, neither captured my imagination as much as the 26 shows I did write about. Honestly, at the time, I preferred the Getalong Gang to either of these. I was wrong to feel that way obviously, but I was just a child. That neither the droids nor the Ewoks were ever my favourite thing about the movies possibly had something to do with my indifference. Had there been a Darth Vader cartoon, I’d have been an avid viewer, I’m sure.

Voltron

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I had a Voltron toy. I really liked it. But I never saw the cartoon. Was it even on in the UK? My toy came via my cousins from the US, so there’s every possibility that I genuinely never had the opportunity to watch this when I was a kid. There’s a reboot on Netflix at the moment though and I am tempted to give it a go. Because I did like that toy.

I’m certain that there are many more cartoons of my childhood I’ve forgotten – maybe some people can berate me in the comments below.

Who knows, with a bit of research I might find enough for another 26 cartoon-themed posts for next year’s A-Z challenge…

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

James Proclaims (4)

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.

Z.jpg

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.

 

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

James Proclaims (4)

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.

Y.jpg

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

James Proclaims (4)

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

James Proclaims (4)

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.

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.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 14: Nanny

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It’s April 16th and we’re now halfway through this most glorious of months. And it’s no coincidence that we’re very much into the second half of the alphabet in the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Which brings us up to ‘N’. ‘N’ is a sometimes regarded as a negative letter. Its associations with the word ‘no’ are hard to ignore. Some people claim that ‘N’ gives us nothing. But we wouldn’t have any news without ‘N’, or any nougat for that matter.

But on to cartoons and what delightful animation awaits us today?

N

N is for Nanny

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Nanny was a slightly deranged and surprisingly robust hen who was responsible for the well-being of Count Duckula. Brought to us by the same people who gave us Danger Mouse, (indeed a version of Count Duckula first appeared  as a recurring villain in Danger Mouse, though he was a little different to eponymous hero of the spin-off show) Count Duckula told the tales of a vampire duck, who, due to a mix-up between blood and ketchup during his latest reincarnation, is also a vegetarian. A cartoon about a vegetarian vampire duck is as mad as it sounds, and very funny. Voiced by national treasure David Jason (who also voiced Danger Mouse, as well as the brilliant 1989 cartoon version of the BFG, not to be confused with the equally brilliant 2016 live action version) Duckula is one of the more memorable cartoon characters of my youth. Not quite as good as Danger Mouse, but still not a bad way to pass 20 minutes.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 13: Montgomery Moose

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It’s day 13 of the A-Z challenge, which means, if my maths is correct, we’re halfway through the alphabet. Which probably means I should write about a cartoon character that begins with ‘M’, given that ‘M’ is very much the 13th letter in the aforementioned alphabet.

M

M is for Montgomery Moose

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This is probably the most disappointing entry on the list because I remembered The Getalong Gang as being really good. And having recently watched a few episodes on You Tube, I can see that it really wasn’t any good at all. They only made 13 episodes of it and it was a saccharine-fuelled bore-fest that occupied the moral high-ground at every available opportunity. It was commissioned by a greetings cards company to sell…er…. greetings cards. I suppose the clue was in the title – a cartoon called The Getalong Gang was hardly going to be edgy was it?

Still, I did love it at the time.

Montgomery was the leader and according to the show’s theme tune ‘he’s such a good sport’. But from the few episodes I’ve re-watched he was easily the most boring of all the really boring characters. Bingo ‘Bet-it-All’ Beaver had something about him, but his independent spirit was regularly crushed by the other gang members so in the end he conformed just like everyone else. I think I liked the show because the gang’ (or possibly cult) had a cool clubhouse in an abandoned caboose. I didn’t actually know what a caboose was, but it was on rails so I assume it was something to do with trains. I can’t imagine anyone would just abandon one so the gang must actually have been trespassing. Maybe they had a bit of edge about them after all.

To be fair, the theme tune was pretty catchy too.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 12: Launchpad McQuack

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You want ‘L’? I’ll give you ‘L’! We’re all going to have an ‘L’ of a time!
Because ‘L’ is the letter of the day for the A-Z Blogging Challenge, in which I am currently participating. But which cartoon character of my youth is going to experience ‘L’ today?

L

‘L’ is for Launchpad McQuack

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Launchpad was a duck who appeared in two regular animated series back in the day. He was a main character on the 90s cartoon, Darkwing Duck, which was pretty good when all is said and done. Before that though, he was on the truly awesome series DuckTales, which centred around the adventures of Donald Duck’s rich but miserly uncle, Scrooge McDuck alongside Donald’s’ three nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. Donald, himself, appeared in a  few episodes, but he was not a regular character. It was something of a game-changing move for Disney in terms of output and paved the way for many other popular shows, such as Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (which I’ve already written about), the aforementioned Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin and numerous others.

But even alongside those shows, which all had their merits, DuckTales was a bit special. And as for the theme tune, well it might just be the best of all time.

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 8: He-Man and Hordak

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Right, this is the point when it all gets a bit confusing with the whole A-Z Challenge malarkey. Yesterday, being a Sunday, was an officially designated day off. That’s why I posted a poem instead of piece about my choice of cartoon character to represent the letter ‘H’. I’ll be doing ‘H’ today instead. Which is where the confusion comes in, because previously the numerical position of the letters in the alphabet corresponded with the date. But today is the 9th April and ‘H’ is only the 8th letter. We’re all intelligent people, I’m sure we’ll all be able to work with the situation, but it feels like we may have descended into anarchy a little here…

H

H is for He-Man

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Star Wars figures made up the bulk of my toys as a child, but if there was one franchise that came close to shifting Luke Skywalker et al. from their coveted status as the greatest  thing ever, then it was He-Man and The Masters of the Universe. Predominantly this was within the sphere of action figures. But I did love the cartoon series too. A lot. As far as after-school cartoon shows went, He-Man was my absolute favourite. I watched it again recently and while it has, in no way, stood the test of time particularly well, I can definitely see why I liked it. Obviously it’s all a bit stupid, and frankly it’s not as if Prince Adam doesn’t already have enough going for him (what with being the heir to throne of Eternia) without being given the additional privileges of becoming ‘the most powerful man in the universe’ (Apparently Donald Trump has taken issue with that claim and is currently engaged in a Twitter war with He-Man). Also, why can’t any of the other characters work out that He-Man and Prince Adam are the same person? Literally all he does is remove most of his clothing, and don some kind of strange fetish gear. He doesn’t even change his hairstyle. And that is quite a hairstyle, even by the dubious standards of the 1980s.

On the plus side, Skeletor is possibly the greatest antagonist of all time.

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He’s genuinely hilarious and for a skeleton, he’s in pretty good shape – we know this because he adopts a similar fashion strategy to He-Man and wears next to nothing. In fact a lot of the characters prefer to conduct most of their business wearing very little. Eternia is obviously quite an open-minded community,

The animation was pretty poor in truth, if a lot of the action looks repetitive then it’s because the same animations were used in multiple sequences to save money. Drawings of characters that appear in one-off episodes, are reused as different characters in later episodes. It’s obvious when re-watching the series as an adult but to be fair to the animators I’m certain I never really noticed this as a kid.

One thing that has always puzzled me though, is why, in the opening credits, after He-Man has explained to the viewer who he is, (and he is talking directly to the ‘camera’), does he then seemingly punch the viewer in the face? Seriously, watch the video below – it’s at 50 seconds in.

‘H’ is also for Hordak

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Hordak was the primary antagonist in She-Ra: Princess of Power, a spin-off of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, in which we meet He-Man’s twin sister, She-Ra. Quite why we had never heard of He-Man’s sister in the original series is explained in the opening episodes of the series. Indeed the first five episodes of the show were combined and released as a feature length animation called The Secret of the Sword. I was so excited when that movie came out. It’s not brilliant, but it’s still a billion times better than the live action Masters of the Universe movie which starred Dolph Lundgren as He-Man (and also features a young, pre-Friends Courtney Cox, who, alas, does nothing to redeem the film).

Hordak was nowhere near as good a villain as Skeletor, but, in the main, She-Ra: Princess of Power  was every bit as good a cartoon as it’s precursor, and She-Ra herself, dare I say it, might even have been a bit better than He-Man. Certainly she seemed to have a lot more powers than He-Man. His main power was being really strong, whereas she was just as strong and could talk to animals, and her sword could turn into basically anything she wanted it to (including an ‘ice-making machine’ at one point…)

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If my last entry, the Care Bears, was a show predominantly marketed towards girls then I’m not sure who She-Ra: Princess of Power was aimed at. It seemed to be aimed at girls but I definitely watched She-Ra and so did all of my male friends, and in a much less secretive way than we might all have watched Care Bears. The toys were marketed in a strange way, with all the female characters sold almost as if they were Barbie Dolls, but all the male characters were packaged differently and actually sold as He-Man toys, even though they weren’t ever in He-Man. It was all very confusing, Thank goodness that toys don’t come with such obvious gender-marketing  bias these days.

Oh wait…

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 7: Grumpy Bear

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Can it already be the 7th April? Why, that must mean that we’re up to ‘G’ in my mawkish retrospective of the cartoons of my youth. And today doubles as something of a confessional, as I reveal one of my guiltier pleasures from back in the day.

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G is for Grumpy Bear

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The Care Bears were really aimed at girls and I was very much a boy. Add to this the fact that it was the 1980s, when it was generally considered ‘not ok’ for a boy to like stuff that was aimed at girls (I’d like to imagine that today we live in more enlightened times, but I expect I’m wrong about that) and I wasn’t really supposed to like the Care Bears. But I did quite like the Care Bears. Perhaps I’ve always been a sensitive soul and the notion that all the world’s problems could be solved by just ‘caring a bit more’ appealed to me on some level. Or maybe I just liked the bright colours. I was a small child back then – who knows what was going on in my head?

Obviously the makers of Care Bears didn’t really care about making the world a better place, they really only cared about selling lots of overpriced stuffed toys to children.

The cartoon massively fails the test of time. It’s overly saccharine and hard to watch. But, for whatever reason, I did really like it at the time. Especially the 1985 movie, which might have been a tiny bit better than the TV series, (but probably not much better). I was far from the only kid (male or female) that liked Care Bears though – they were hugely popular.

My sister had a Care Bear.

I didn’t.

You can get them again now. If my mum is reading this, then I need to point out that she is in no way obliged to make up for me not having a Care Bear as a child by getting me one now…

I had loads of toys as a kid. Mostly He Man and Star Wars figures, but also some ThunderCats thrown in for good measure. I didn’t need a Care Bear. I’m not even sure that I especially wanted a Care Bear. I’m just saying that if I had wanted one, there would have been nothing wrong with me wanting one.

If, by chance, I had owned a Care Bear, it would definitely have been Grumpy Bear…

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 6: Ferocious Ness

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Well if it isn’t Friday and, moreover the 6th of April. But who really gives an ‘F’?

Well I do as a matter of fact, because ‘F’ is very much the letter I’m on in my quest to write about the beloved cartoons of my youth in this year’s A-Z blogging challenge.

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‘F’ is for Ferocious Ness

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The Family Ness was a cartoon all about a family of Loch Ness monsters. They all had names that made the most of the word ‘Ness’ by using is as a suffix to nominalise adjectives in order to create their names, although rather than creating an actual noun, the adjective was used as the character’s forename and ‘Ness’ became the surname. It was grammar lesson and a cartoon all in one.

Some examples of Nessie characters were:

Lovely Ness

Sporty Ness

Forgetful Ness

Clever Ness

Ferocious Ness was the main one and he appeared in the most episodes. He wasn’t particularly ferocious, although he was, perhaps, a little curmudgeonly at times.

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 4: Danger Mouse

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It’s the fourth day of April and that can only mean that in my quest to alphabetise the cartoon characters of my youth, we must have arrived at the letter ‘D’.

What’s that you say?

Isn’t the fourth of April also my birthday?

Well I wasn’t going to bring it up but now that you mention it, it is indeed my birthday today.

There’s no need to make a fuss. It’s just a day like any other. No, there’s no need to give me lots of really expensive presents.

Well, ok if you insist.

But there’s plenty of time for all of that. For now let us return to the matter at hand. And that matter is ‘D’

D

‘D’ is for Danger Mouse.

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There were a lot of 1980s rodent heroes as I recall. The Rescue Rangers had a whole team of them, Basil was a Great Mouse Detective, Fievel had his fair share of adventures in An American Tail and if Speedy Gonzales and Mighty Mouse pre-date the 80s, then that’s the time period in which I discovered them so they absolutely still count.

The greatest of them all was, without a shadow of a doubt, Danger Mouse. Seriously, just listen to his theme tune – it literally opens with the line “He’s the greatest…”

I loved Danger Mouse as a kid. I love Danger Mouse now. I own a Danger Mouse t-shirt. I literally would be Danger Mouse if it were at all possible.

But, alas, when asked the question “are you a man or a mouse?” I reluctantly have to concede that I am a man.

And Danger Man just isn’t the same thing at all.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 3: Chip

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It’s the third day of the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2018, and, having dispatched the letters ‘A’ and ‘B’ with ease, let us see what I can do with ‘C’

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‘C’ is for Chip

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Chip ‘n’ Dale were cartoon chipmunks, but not the ones who sang with Alvin. They were the ones who annoyed Donald Duck in classic Disney cartoons.  They were revamped in 1989’s Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers. In this show they were given a team and an awesome theme tune and they tackled crime and helped people. I’m not sure why anyone thought this was a good idea. It doesn’t sound like a good idea. And it wasn’t a good idea.

It was an AWESOME idea!

Crime fighting chipmunks? How cool is that?

Unlike in their original incarnations as duck-botherers, during which time they were largely interchangeable, in this series Chip and Dale had distinct characteristics from each other. Chip was very much the adventurous Indiana-Jones-esque leader of the Rescue Rangers and Dale was more comic relief in the main. It was all entertaining, though ultimately forgettable stuff for the most part. I can’t ever forget that theme tune though…

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 1: Athos and Aramis

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It’s Easter Sunday, a day of not inconsiderable religious significance for some people, which I absolutely respect, though I am not especially of a religious persuasion myself. It also is a day on which we’re encouraged to eat lots of chocolate, so long as that chocolate comes in the shape of an egg,  and this is something that I’m more than happy to get on board with. I’ll certainly be having my fill of egg-shaped chocolate today.

Easter Sunday is not always on the 1st April – given that the need for it to specifically happen on a Sunday precludes it from occurring on a consistent calendar date. I imagine there are other factors, which also determine when Easter occurs, because it’s sometimes in March and sometimes in April and sometimes it’s right at the start of April, but other times it’s at the end of April. I don’t know what those factors are. Perhaps I’ll look them up, or maybe I’ll continue in my ignorance. As long as I get to eat lots of chocolate I’m basically fine with it happening whenever it happens.

What does always occur on the 1st April is the much loved April Fools Day celebration, where we all go out of our way to make our family and friends look a bit stupid, while hoping that they don’t make us look a bit stupid in return. If you are going to embark on a little ‘fool-mockery’ today then be sure to observe the key rule – humiliating people is a morning activity only. If you catch someone out with a witty fabrication in the afternoon then tradition dictates that it is you who is the fool, not them. Even if they still clearly are fools for falling for such an obvious prank…

This year, April 1st is also the day on which I down my usual blogging tools and pick up my specially commissioned alphabetised tools in order to take part in the, now traditional, A-Z Blogging Challenge. This year (as you’ll know if you bothered to read this explanatory post) I’ll mostly be blogging about cartoon characters that I liked in my youth. Which brings us neatly on to my first cartoon character (or in this case characters) of choice. Today, being the first day of the challenge is is all about the letter ‘A’:

A

‘A’ is for Athos and also for Aramis.

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They were two of the fabled ‘three musketeers’ from Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel ‘The Three Musketeers’. Which I’ve never read. But I have seen numerous adaptations which, as we all know, is exactly the same as reading the book.

And my favourite adaptation, beyond a shadow of a doubt, was the brilliant 80’s cartoon Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds, in which all the protagonists were portrayed as animals (and mostly, but not exclusively, as dogs).

I was never quite sure why they were called ‘muskehounds’ in the title and theme tune and then referred to as musketeers in the cartoon itself. But no matter, it’s a tiny criticism of what was one of the seminal cartoons of my youth.

Another criticism might be that the characters of Porthos and Athos seemed, in the cartoon, to have been mixed up – ‘Porthos the muskehound’ largely had the character traits of  ‘Athos the musketeer’ from the book and vice versa. It never bothered me too much, but it does seem a strange mistake to have made.

However, let’s not dwell on that now. Instead, let’s all sing along with the fantastic theme tune.

All together now:

One for all and all for one
Muskehounds are always ready
One for all and all for one
Helping everybody…

Stuff I Used To Do But Don’t Do Anymore (Or How I’ve Become A Less Interesting Person Over Time): Part 5 – A Lack Of Prose Disturbs Me

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After a fortnight’s break from this ‘feature’, I’m back with more ‘Stuff I Used To Do But Don’t Do Any More’.

It’s perhaps appropriate, after a two-week hiatus from the series, that this post is about how I don’t write any more. Although to be honest I’ve disappeared from this blog multiple times before (for longer than two weeks) and in any case, I have actually posted a few things on here in the last two weeks, just not a post about ‘stuff I used to do’.

Maybe I should add ‘writing about stuff I used to do’ to the list.

Or is that just ridiculous?

I think it probably is, but in the context of other stuff I’ve considered appropriate material for this blog, it’s perhaps not all that ridiculous. After all, I did once write this post Continue reading Stuff I Used To Do But Don’t Do Anymore (Or How I’ve Become A Less Interesting Person Over Time): Part 5 – A Lack Of Prose Disturbs Me

So Sally Can Wait

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Welcome to another ‘Artist’s Corner’. Yet again the inspiration for this week’s oeuvre comes courtesy of the Moodle Army Challenge from Haylee’s Aloada Bobbins.

This weeks challenge was to ‘Look Back’.

I’ve been feeling quite nostalgic lately, not least because of the recent ‘Stuff I used to do but don’t do any more’ series of posts that I’ve been writing. Clearly the blogosphere enjoys a bit of nostalgia too because parts 1 and 2 are currently the most popular posts I’ve ever written for this blog.

Anyway, enough self-congratulating, (although clearly part 3 has a lot to live up to…) the point is that I have been ‘looking back’ quite a lot recently. Continue reading So Sally Can Wait