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.

To Me… To You…

BBC 1, 1996 – 1998

So someone had the idea of creating a gameshow for the Chuckle Brothers and you know what, it wasn’t actually that bad.

Set on Chuckle Island (you better there were lots of Chuckle names in this show), it was actually more like a board game than a gameshow (roll the Chuckle dice).

The game board was semi-circular with the start space in the middle. The Chuckle Dice would be rolled by each team and then move the prize trolley. Any prizes won, either by answering a question or playing a mini game stayed on the trolley until a team reached the home Square and won all the prizes.

That wasn’t the end of the game everything was reset and more prizes would be earned. Along with this Coconuts were earned and the team with the most at the end won. All good fun.

For a show named after the Chuckle’s most famous catchphrase you bet there was plenty of the usual shtick with Paul and Barry… oh dear oh dear. There were also some new gags like the space on the board where you could steal a coconut, Knickers naturally.

Each show featured a CBBC celebrity and at the time there was a huge pool to choose from. There were one or two sketches but on the whole it was done as a straight forward kids gameshow.

While ChuckleVision will be remembered by many as a bit cheesy and naff, although we all at one point must have found it amazingly funny, I think it is a shame more people won’t remember this.

It’s three series do the fact that Paul and Barry held it together no justice at all. To support kids, present a quiz show and never break character is no mean feat.

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.

The Smurfs

My memories of the Smurfs? It was terrible. An animated cartoon about a group of blue people who were tiny and lived in Smurfland of course. But I did watch it and that’s because it aired early mornings before school and there wasn’t a great deal else to choose from.

The show opened with a La La La theme tune which got stuck in your head. The premise was that the Smurfs would have a pretty normal existence in Smurfland, well normal when you are tiny and blue.

Some sort of incident would befall them and they’d have to deal with it. There were also enemies in the human (both in size and colour) who i want to say flew on a broomstick. He was Gargamel (yes I had to google) an evil wizard or so it says.

The smurfs were near enough always happy until something went wrong. Except for Grouchy Smurf. Oh yeah they stole the be named after your personality thing too.

There was Hefty Smurf who was the strong guy, Brainy Smurf who was the nerd, Papa Smurf who was the elder of the village and wore red instead of white. Then the female characters, well I only know of one and she was Smurfette. Good luck keeping the population going.

You can tell by my sarcastic tones that I wasn’t a fan but thats probably because I had the same distain for the show, it was too happy and cheery for before school and I always remember it having some sort of cheesy moral outcome at the end.

Tuba Smurf, Trumpet Smurf, Boring Smurf, Farty Smurf… I have no idea.

But by the time the series aired before school it was already ten years old, the Smurfs themselves remain successful characters in their native Belgium and in more recent years have had some CGI big screen adventures.

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.

Maid Marian and her Merry Men

Tony Robinson wrote and started in this kids comedy series. He was the sheriff of Nottingham and pretty much constantly trying to outwit and seek revenge on Robin Hood and his band of men.

Brilliantly the traditional story is turned on its head. Robin, traditionally portrayed as the hero of the piece is instead a vien, self-obsessed and slightly dim-witted character.

This means the Merry Men really have a different leader and the fair maiden Marrian from the original story is instead portrayed as as a straggly, Tom boy. She makes for the perfect foil to the sherrif’s antics.

One of my personal favourite episodes featured a Crystal Maze spoof. Brilliantly executed down to Robin Hood revealing himself as bald just like Richard O’brien and wearing similar attire.

Who should have replaced Richard O’Brien

The series was one of my favourite as a small child but towards the turn of the millennium CBBC gave it a repeat run and I can confirm that the humour travelled well. There are jokes for all the audience in a way you don’t see from things primarily aimed at children anymore.

The humour ranges from juvenile and purile to being genuinely very funny

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