Follow-up: 80s British Cartoons That Americans Missed (Or Not)

Chris Sobiniek was kind enough to write in to fill in some background information on my recent post about 80s British cartoons that I thought never made it across the Pond. Lo and behold, some of them actually did! Below is what was sent over detailing where and when they made it on the air.

Thanks Chris!

In the US, many of these shows aired first on cable TV. There wasn’t much of a chance for any of ‘em on regular TV much during that time, and the new cable TV market proved to be a great ‘dumping ground’ for foreign toons on channels like Nickelodeon (further picking up the interest of those of us who were tired on the domestic Saturday morning junk). Cable/satellite TV in those days wasn’t quite as proliferated as it was in the 90?s, so there was plenty of room for experimenting and trying different things than what was seen before from “The Big Three”.

Danger Mouse premiered as early as 1983 over here and lasted up to probably 1988 or ’89, but also made a faint appearance in the early 90’s I think too.

Count Duckula would premiere also on Nick in 1988 and lasted for a good number of years as I recall.

Bananaman on the other hand, aired on Nick in the 80’s as well, though I can recall it mostly coming on right after Dangermouse as I think they had 5 or so minutes to kill and just stuck it there anyway, in later years it showed up on a program called “Total Panic” as one of the cartoons shown Sunday mornings.

While Nickelodeon back then was part of the “basic tier” of cable channels one could get, The Disney Channel use to be a premium channel on the same platform as HBO or Showtime, and thus you had to beg your parents to get that so you could watch SuperTed they played too (I think it use to be on around 1984-86). Home Video releases of the SuperTed series also were made available from Walt Disney Home Video (which came in handy for those that didn’t get the channel).

Not sure if we ever got Postman Pat back then, though I do recall videos of it being released here anyway (home video often was the scapegoat for things that may see little or no airings on TV in those days). I’m certainly the later Postman Pat stuff when they got the puppets mouths moving probably did air here anyway.

I don’t remember The Raggy Dolls or The Family Ness showing up here (let alone “The Trap Door” for that matter, and that one surely could’ve hit it over big here too), I do recall this show popping up on Nick featuring Spike Milligan’s wit and narration…

Thomas The Tank Engine had a rather interesting history over here, as we didn’t get quite the same type of program you guys had. Instead, and probably as a means of testing the waters for this guy here, Britt Allcroft co-created a program as a springboard for Thomas that aired on PBS stations beginning in 1989 called “The Shining Time Station”. Thomas’ adventures were told from a little character the kids could see named “Mr. Conductor” (who was either played by Ringo Starr in the first season and George Carlin for the remainder of the show’s run).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shining_Time_Station

Pretty much the way I view that show today is really just that, we had to get up to speed on this Thomas thing like the Brits and then go from there (such as with that movie)!

So yeah, we Americans weren’t too far behind, but we certainly did miss out on a few stuff now and then.

British Cartoons From the 80s that Americans Sadly Missed

I suppose it’s a sign that I can safely say I remember a time when there wasn’t 24 hour cartoon channels. Yes, I am a child of the 1980s, and I have very fond memories of not only watching cartoons, but waiting for cartoons to come on.

Anyway, here’s a couple of my favourites that I don’t believe made the transition across the Atlantic, which is a shame. However, thanks to the wonder of YoutTube, you can (well, at least the openings anyway). Enjoy!

Count Duckula (which rocks a very thriller-esque theme)

Bonus! The end sequence, which in all likelihood has yet to be bettered in terms of effort.

Danger Mouse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nf8bInp52sE

Bananaman

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hq2KXudEjkI

The Family Ness

Raggy Dolls

Superted

Thomas the Tank Engine

And my very favourite, Postman Pat

Toys As A Creative Source For Cartoons

I was rather gutted when I found out they were toys first...

To be frank, I don’t remember an awful lot of these. being a child of the mid-80s, I missed more than half the decade, also having been raised in Ireland, I was dependent on whatever RTE could afford or care enough about to import.

What made cartoons of that decade stand out more than anything else? Toys of course! Yes indeedy, this was the decade where cartoons reigned supreme as the marketing vehicle to children, even moreso than today or the 1990s for that matter.

You couldn’t turn on a TV without seeing a show based on a toy. be it The Care Bears, Transformers, G.I. Joe and so on. The strategy was successful, but of course, the shows themselves dated quickly. Although some managed to achieve a certain level of cult status.

Thankfully, somebody wised up in the 90s and realized that cartoons worked much better if they were the source of the toys, not a cog in the marketing machine. Today we have smart, funny and intensely entertaining cartoons to watch 24/7 and the toys that go with them are top notch too. How much nicer is it to see Spongebob getting into trouble in Bikini Bottom than, say, the Transformers off to stop the evil Deseptacons, again!

The reason for this post is the word filtering through the internet that the two guys behind Ruby-Spears have announced that they intend to start marketing old Jack Kirby ideas as a combined TV show and toy line.

Great! If that’s what they want to do, then more power to them. There can never be enough cartoons in this world. There will always be good and bad shows, sometimes (like the 80s) there will be more bad ones than good ones. Nonetheless, I think we can all agree that some form of animation on TV or otherwise is better than nothing. Now if I was in charge, you can bet you’d only see the best, creator-driven cartoons ever made. But unfortunately I’m not in charge, so we’ll have to deal with what comes out between now and then.

Nope, what I’m wondering is where they’ll find a willing buyer. Disney is only interested in its own properties (or those developed in-house). Nickelodeon, while sometimes going outside Viacom, has so far chosen to develop their own shows and market them accordingly. With the stunning success of Spongebob Squarepants, I can’t see them changing their tune either. As for the Cartoon Network, they’ve decided to change their direction away from cartoons. Although they have bought in shows, such as Cookie Jar’s Johnny Test, the network has an abysmal record of translating their shows into marketable products. Ben 10 is the exception rather than the rule, and even then the show has a very, very narrow focus on boys aged 6-11.

That leaves the broadcast networks. Which as we all know, are a bit of a graveyard for kids shows these days. ABC airs constant (and I mean constant, i.e. the same 20 episodes) re-runs of Disney shows. NBC has handed their Saturday mornings to Quobo, the quasi-cable channel. That leaves the CW and CBS. The former entrusts 4Kids, the latter used to use DIC before they got swallowed up by Cookie Jar.

Of all of these, the most likely prospective buyers are 4Kids and Cookie Jar, although 4Kids has focused more on anime imports, such as Sonic X and TNMT in recent times. DIC of course, has brought us many toy-related shows over the years. So perhaps they may be the buyers for and toy-related show that comes out of this. Such a shame the ratings are in the sub-1.0 level.

There is plenty to be hopeful about, but the last 20 years have proven that cartoons that are creator-driven stand to make much more money for toy makers than themselves. They would be wise to realize this.