Dennis the Mennace and Gnasher

I’ve already covered the Beano and described how, for a brief time it was my comic of choice as a kid. Naturally when it’s cover star was made into an animated series I was all over that.

The characters were straight from the Dennis and Gnasher strip, Dennis was the rebel kid, Gnasher was in on it but spoke only in ‘Gnash Gnash’. Mum was slightly mad (just like my own mum) and Walter was as soppy as ever.

Most episodes were standard Dennis fare, he would come up with some sort of rebellious plan and eventually pull it off.

One episode that sticks in my mind particularly was the one featuring the then presenters of Blue Peter Katy Hill and Stuart Miles. The making of was also featured on the programme itself.

This episode sticks in my head particularly because they used a previous Blue Peter theme tune, probably as the dustbin lids of stomp would have jarred a bit amongst the cartoon music.

The series stands up well and the more recent animated series probably owes a lot to this one, personally I think traditional animation suits Dennis best but then he is straight out of a comic book.

The BBC didn’t own the series and it was often repeated on the Fox Kids channel, to the point where it was almost the only thing on the Fox Kids channel. Thesedays all episodes are avaliable on YouTube.

Bucky O’Hare

This was one of those cartoons that were ten a penny. Vague superhero, possibly a mutant to sponge off the hero turtles success. Bucky waw a hare, or perhaps a rabbit I was never sure.

There was a tie-in toy range. I don’t know if the toys came first, I had some and undoubtedly the cartoon was designed to sell toys. Typical of tons of animations, it’s funny what sticks and makes a success of it.

Chances are Bucky would have passed by the audience had it not had a really catchy theme tune/rap (90s style not very good rap). Catchy enough that Andi Peters sang the theme tune on more than one occasion following on from his broomcupboard predessors habit of singing badly live on air.

Even if you remember Bucky, do you remember what it was all about? I barely do. Bucky was the captain of a spaceship in a universe where humanoid animals were at war with toads. Cue the usual adventures at scuppering the bad guys plans.

That’s about all I remember so I did a bit of Google research and it turns out that the animation was based on a comic book (funnily enough so was Turtles). It was made between 1991 and 92 but the comic was ten years older.

Bucky was there for only a short while, the one or two toys I had soon found their way into the box full of other toy tat and Bucky largely left my memory and probably most others, largely insignificant children’s cartoons.

To quote the theme tune “He’s the funky-fresh Rabbit (sic) who can take care of it!” Er… OK then!

Poddington Peas

CBBC 1989

Down at the bottom of the garden, amongst the birds and the bees, a little lot of little people, they call the Poddington Peas. What more can I say?

The Poddington Peas was another one of those short little animations that probably only ran for one series but was repeated ad-nauseum on CBBC, typically at lunchtime on BBC2. The theme tune (my opening paragraph is the first verse) though was brilliant.

Character wise it was one of those typical give a pun-based descriptive name and a personality to match. Black-eyed Pea, Creepy and Dumpy (those last two probably spelt Cree-pea Dumbpea – and yes those that remember it isn’t the correct order they were sung in!). You can already tell what kind of characters they were like.

Go on, bet you can’t guess his name…

Also in common with a lot of these smaller animations the characters didn’t speak for themselves. The show was narrated by Neil Pearson while the characters made elastic band-style noises in the background.

From what I recall the peas loved out a human-style life amongst human scale garden implements (like tools and plant pots). Cree-pea was the mischief maker but there wasn’t much peril because this was a cartoon aimed at a preschool audience.

In truth thats the most I remember despite the fact that I probably saw each episode at least five times, it’s the theme tune that sticks in the head and still is currently on a loop.

It turns out that the shows creators attempted to produce a second, expanded series in the early 1990s but the project fell through. Then again within the last decade an attempt at a remake in 3D cgi was made but it turns out the BBC still own the copyright, although as with most of these short cartoons it was produced independently.

Just included for completeness. No idea what his dog could be called…

Stoppit and Tidy Up

CBBC 1988

For years there were lots of little animations that ran on CBBC, usually for one short series but repeated constantly. The one I personally remember best was Stopping and Tidy Up.

You could argue that it had an underlying good message about waste, it even ended with the Keep Britain Tidy logo. In reality though it was just a load of bonkersness – a new word I invented.

Tidy Up doing a spot of Gherkin Gardening.

Tidy Up was generally the more sensible of the two. He loved his gherkins and spent time growing them in his garden. Stoppit meanwhile was smaller and more annoying, always causing mischief for poor Tidy Up. He lived in a rubbish dump.

They lived in the land of Do As Your Told and each of the episodes focused on a different character alongside Stoppit and Tidyup. Each had a name typically associated with phrases that parents would typically shout towards their kids.

There was Comb Your Hair, Wash Your Face, Hurry Up, Go and Play (with his favourite toy), Calm Down and Not Now. The two bees – Bee-habe and Bee-quiet. Go to Bed, Don’t Do That, Eat Your Greens, Clean Your Teeth and the big bad I Said No! Introducing the characters took up a full minute of each five minute episode.

The whole thing was narrated by Terry Wogan who was very much the star of television at the time. His job was to tell the story as all the other characters didn’t speak and only made noises. Terry did so brilliantly with parental tones but his own distinct style.

Can’t imagine who they styled Clean Your Teeth on.

Tidyup had a distinct shout complete with very wide open mouth which probably was the main draw for me – don’t forget I was only a toddler the first time I saw it and things like that tend to appeal.

The series was animated by Charles Mills and Terry Brain who were also responsible for the more widely remembered Trapdoor on ITV. That was animated using clay models yet it’s easy to see the similarities in character design.

The techniques used to animate both series were revealed on a certain disgraced TV presenters Cartoon Club series. It was fascinating to see how one of my favourite childhood series was actually made.

Dennis

This is not the character from the Beano, although I think the original American title was also Dennis the Mennace. He also wore black and red, but favoured dungarees over a sweater.

This cartoon first appeared early mornings on Channel 4 in The Channel Four Daily and it carried over to the Big Breakfast. It’s animation style looked dated even then but the stories were solid enough for a kids show.

Dennis was a typical little rascal who was up to no good and usually terrorising his OAP neighbour Mr. Wilson with the help of his gang of friends.

In the early 90s the animation was adapted into a live action movie, which I went to see at the cinema. This was also the first time I saw the show credited as Dennis the Mennace.

Not as good as the animation

I didn’t go much on the big screen adaption, to me it felt a bit more cruel and a bit less juvenile which is something the animation had, a juvenile innocence.

The Animals of Farthing Wood

This animation told the tale of a group of woodland creatures led by a fox with input from a wise old and grumpy badger and their mission to relocate from the titular wood to a new home.

The background was that farthing wood was about to be destroyed by mankind who would be soon chopping down trees and building houses on the animals homes.

There was a plan though, the animals had heard of White Deer Park, a nature reserve where they would be safe but to get there they would need to go on a big journey.

Fox, Vixen and Adder – very imaginative names indeed.

All of the animals had to work together, even if that meant natural prey would be left unharmed. Each animal had its own personality but all were named after their species.

There was genuine peril for a children’s animation too. Spoiler alert – not all of the animals made it to White Deer Park. I particularly remember Pheseant not making it due to his general stupidity and self obsession.

Naturally the majority of the animals did complete the journey and some other animals also joined in along the journey. As far as I was concerned the story was complete but a follow up series was made set in the park although the title was not changed it had no real purpose.

I did have one or two of the books by Colin Dan on which the series had been based but I didnt really get into them that much and I suspect the books (and the animation) would have been more geared towards girls than boys.

This kind of animation was fairly unique at the time, English voices and lasting 25 minutes, in my head there were easily 30 odd episodes in a series but that could be how it appeared to me at that young age.

The other unique thing, it was co-produced by all of the members of the EBU – European Broadcasting Union (think of Eurovision). Which if nothing else, made the credits fairly lengthy.

It was well produced

Rugrats

This was a Nickleodeon Nicktoon. But I didn’t have that channel, or anything beyond Channel 4 for that matter, so my first taste of this animation was from Saturday mornings.

Rugrats was the ‘main’ cartoon on Live and Kicking from its launch. It was brilliant. The premise (particularly with the early series) was a kind of secret life of the toddler.

The main protagonist was Tommy Pickles, a baby who was a bit of a hero. He led a gang of toddlers who had adventures based on their understanding of the world.

The famous final scene from the opening titles, Tommy taking centre stage.

Tommy would undo the playpen with a toy screwdriver – brilliant. His closest friend (and cousin) was Chuckie – ginger with thick rimmed glasses, probably Ed Sheran in his youth. He was a wimp.

The antagonist was Angelica who was a couple of years older and would ‘look after the babies but essentially get annoyed with them or disrupt their plans. She was the only youngster who could talk to the adult characters.

Speaking of the adult characters, they were brilliant too. Funny, over the top but with enough adult humour to keep the grown ups watching along interested.

The whole show was well made and brilliantly observed. Later series introduced other characters and the quality of the show began to decrease and as I was moving rapidly out of its target age it no longer appealed.

There was one brilliant episode, All Growed Up, which led to a follow up series called all grown up. It imagined all the characters 10 years later.

Rex the Runt

This offbeat animation aired in the 6pm ‘cult’ slot on BBC 2. The premise was a bit bonkers but with this sort of animation you’d expect that. The series focused on a gang of claymation dogs who were housemates.

Rex was usually the one to come up with the plans. Bad Bob was the scary one and Wendy was the only female. The there was Vince who was like the family pet, he would break out into random bursts of opera.

For me though, t best thing was the guest characters. It seemed as though people you wouldn’t normally expect to voice characters on a show like this were more than happy to appear

Mr Formal, Rex’s Bank Manager.

Stars like Bob Holness who appeared in one episode as the bank manager which was completely unexpected and random but brilliant.

The series was one of those you just don’t see anymore. Utterly offbeat and not aimed a children but no aimed at adults either. It fitted into that slot on BBC2 well.

Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles

What happens when teenagers and turtles collide? They become Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. Yep HERO Turtles because that’s how they were known over here because Ninja was considered potentially too violent for the children of Britain.

As one of those children of a Britain I was a fan and I think I still am. The Turtles were the first series I remember which really pushed merchandise, they were everywhere.

I had one or two of these…

Each episode was pretty much the same something bad happened, usually at the hands of Shredder (voiced by Uncle Phil from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air) or his boss Krang. But it was brilliant, entertaining and a show that spoke to kids, occasionally literally when they broke the fourth wall.

There was a character for everyone, my favourite was Donatello, he was probably the turtle I associated with most – a bit geeky but quick witted. I guess that was its main appeal to children.

Go on name them all…

Technically speaking it wasn’t perfect. There were times Raphael would talk but he was mysteriously wearing Leonardo’s bandana and on one occasion one of the turtles mouths was about 3 feet from their body. I spotted these as a kid but it still didn’t put me off.

The Racoons

The Evergreen Forest, quiet, peaceful, sareen, that is until Bert Racoon gets up and so a million Saturday mornings began.

The Racoons came from Canada but over here they arrived on Saturday mornings just before Going Live. The storyline revolved around the good guys (the racoons) Bert was the main focus but a bit haphazard.

His life would be peaceful except for Cyril Snear… the bad guy who almost always was up to no good and something that would affect the other Racoons but fortunately his son was Cedric who happened to be friends with Bert and therefore the good guys would always win.

Cyril Sneer, an evil Aardvark

Cyril and Cedric incidentaly, were meant to be Aardvarks but they fall into a long line of Aardvarks that look nothing like the real thing, they’re pink with bendy noses, Otis The Aardvark and Children’s BBC puppet had fluffy ears and Arthur from the titular cartoon has no nose at all.

Back to the Racoons and not forgetting the three pigs that were Cyril Sneer’s henchmen and the dog friends of the Racoons, there was certainly a lot of wildlife in the Evergreen forest.

But overall the series was enjoyable it charmed me as a kid on a Saturday morning and when they replaced it with (Lois and Clark) The New Adventures of Superman it didn’t really have the same appeal, at least Live and Kicking would show the Rugrats.

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