With only three weeks before I get older than old (if you’re older than me, this is not meant as an insult, my brain just can’t really compute that I’m entering a new decade!) I’ve decided to have a little look back at my childhood by way of the TV that defined it. Because, I’ll be honest, I watched A LOT.
My days consisted of riding my bike, watching TV, re-enacting said episodes, balancing badly on rollerskates, (note ‘skates’… I actually started with those ones you attached to your shoes before progressing to ‘roller boots’. No blades here!) attempting to complete the Rubik’s cube (by peeling off the stickers, obviously!) and back to more TV.
As an 80s child, I was spoiled for choice with excellent shows – yes I’m biased but I’ve seen kids cartoons these days and they are not a patch on what we had then.
Many of them still crop up anecdotally, the mere mention of a particular word is enough for me to recite their entire theme tunes (which were an event in themselves) and there are at least two of them I briefly lost my heart to (who said you can’t find a cartoon character attractive?!)
So here, for your nostalgic pleasure (or education, depending on age!) are some of my favourites. There are plenty more I watched and loved, such as He-Man and Transformers but these remain the ones I immediately think of when recalling my youth.
THE VERY BRITISH TOONS
Coming home for lunch meant I was able to enter the world of Mr. Benn. The suited, booted, bowler-hat wearing man would visit a fancy dress shop daily and go into the changing rooms. He would leave by a secret entrance to embark on a journey defined by his costume. It was magical, barmy and always had a moral.
The Poddington Peas followed the adventures of …erm… peas. At the bottom of the garden. I loved it but I think most of it had to do with the theme tune. Still know every word!
Another that I can still recite the intro to perfectly is the The Raggy Dolls. Centering around the antics of a load of mis-fit toys, it embraced being different. I mean, how sweet are these words?
‘….Raggy Dolls, Raggy Dolls, made imperfectly. So if you’re not at ease with your knobbly knees and your fingers are all thumbs, stand on your two left feet and join our Raggy Doll chums!’
Pigeon Street was about…a street full of pigeons (kids programs remember, we’re not into the cutting edge cartoons yet!) I couldn’t tell you much about the plot but I was weirdly fascinated by the animation – I mean, who thought arms and legs should look like that?!
THE ANIMAL STARS
It was quite likely that your leading stars in 80s / early 90s cartoons were animals – Okay some of them had amazing powers or fighting skills, like the Hero Turtles and Samurai Pizza Cats but they were animals nonetheless!
The Gummi Bears bounced here, there and everywhere by drinking their Gummiberry Juice. As a consumer of a large amount of Ribena (which was the same colour), I naturally thought I could BE a Gummi Bear – I’m sure my bouncing got annoying VERY quickly…
Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds was fun and the first time I was aware of a ‘crossover’ or homage to something else. I loved the play on their names from the more well known Muskateers and it educated me about a time period that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about. And they had cool swords fights!
80 Days Around the World was based on the adventures of not Phileas but Willy Fog and his sidekick Rigadon. Educating its viewers to the countries of the world whilst traveling on Victorian modes of transport, apparently the show remained so popular in Spain that in 2008 there was a live action, theatrical version to commemorate its 25th anniversary!
I never could work out what Tiko was saying… ‘I’ma Tiko from that Scotland’ is all I ever heard. Any offers?
The best character in The Raccoons was by far Cyril Sneer. Who was an aardvark. A pink, smoking, money laundering, scheming aardvark at that. Thank goodness for Google because I didn’t have a clue what animal he was supposed to be as a child!
THE TOP 5
These are the ones that I would still watch now – I’ve even converted some of the children at school to their awesomeness. They might not make cartoons like they used to but at least kids still recognise a good one!
Defenders of the Earth…. Defenders! I wanted to be Phantom and talk to the animals. I wanted to be the ‘ghost who walks’ – how cool does that sound? It had a fab theme tune (…master of magic, spells and illusion, enemies crumble in fear and confusion…MANDRAKE!) and adventures a-plenty. Loved it.
Weird vehicles. Space. Lasers. A proper 80s power ballad opener (always a good choice in front of the mirror with a hairbrush) and a crush on the leading ‘man’ ( I liked his two-tone hair), Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors was one not to be missed. Yet it seems largely forgotten by most.
I’m not sure how I saw it but many of my friends have never heard of it. I do remember we were one of the few people who had cable at the time, so perhaps it was on this. Frankly, being in the minority just made it cooler!
The BEST theme tune and overall, continuing plot goes to The Mysterious Cities of Gold.
Set in the 16th century, it followed the adventures of orphan, Esteban (which I considered the most exotic, amazing name ever at the time!) and his friends. A mix of archaeology, science fiction and education about the Mayas, Incas and Olmecs, it was like a historical soap opera!
Thunder, thunder, Thundercats….Ho! Still gets shouted when there’s a storm. Every. Single. Time.
Cheetera was all kinds of amazing and I longed for a pet Snarf… he still gets channeled when I have the sniffles! Just brilliant. 🙂
And in first place, with another character who stole my heart, is Dungeons and Dragons.
I wanted to run around in an invisibility cloak, with thigh-high boots on. I wanted to be married to Hank. I NEEDED a tiny unicorn and hoped that if I went on a roller coaster at Alton Towers, I’d get thrown off into a parallel universe (Well…maybe not the throwing off bit!) And I HAD to fight a dragon…
This probably cemented my love for fantasy adventure as a genre and it has remained my favourite category as an adult, whether it be in books, films or games. I even auditioned for a real-life version of D&D…but I’ll leave that until next time!
I hope you enjoyed my first trip down TV memory lane – which do you remember and love? Next week, I’ll look at the live action and puppet shows that formed my youth, so stay tuned!
Image Credits: YouTube, Amazon and Wikipedia.