“Hi, my name is Andrew and I am old enough to have lived through the 1970s!”
“You may think that makes me ridiculously old, and the way my body is behaving lately I feel that way sometimes, but growing up back in the age of bell bottoms, and Tang allowed me to watch a host of golden age cartoon shows that cared not for political correctness, and a whole lot for fun.
“Here are the shows that meant the most to me.”
“Thanks Andrew … but you’re still old.”
By the time I cam across the Banana Splits in the early 1970s, they were already in repeats with their hilariously chaotic show running for 31 gloriously anarchic episodes from September 1968 to September 1970.
The hosts of the show were a bubblegum rock group mad cup of Fleegle (guitar, vocals), Bingo (drums, vocals), Drooper (bass, vocals) and Snorky (keyboards, effects), and when they weren’t singing or engaging in madcap slapstick antics, they were introducing the cartoons and live action mini-shows – The Arabian Nights and The Three Musketeers, and Danger Island, a cliffhanger serial, respectively – that peppered the show.
It was colourful, funny, madcap, full on and a bundle of laughs, and to this day one of the most imaginative shows aimed at kids I’ve seen.
Scooby Doo has been through a 1001 incarnations it seems – including the introduction of the cousin Oliver of the cartoon set, Scrappy Doo – but the series I remember most fondly debuted way back in 1969 and ran till 1971.
The titular character Scooby Doo, and his best pal Shaggy, who were motivated primarily by the promise of food, and a paralysing fear of just about everything that goes bump in the night, were accompanied in their mystery solving efforts by the damsel-in-distress Daphne, and Fred and Velma, who let’s face it was the one who really got the detective work done.
While every episode was pretty much the same – mystery introduced, ‘the Mystery Inc. gang’ as they were called, chased and terrorised, person or persons behind the mystery uncovered accompanied by the villain muttering “I would have got away with it too if it wasn’t for you kids” – I loved the goofy playfulness of Scooby and Scraggy, and the way they only really “helped” solve the mystery through slapstick luck and happenstance, and I often felt sorry for poor Velma who as the brains of the show was woefully under-appreciated.
Above everything else, Speed Buggy was sweet. Adorable in fact. Driven by his protective creator and builder Tinker, who was accompanied by his good looking perky friends, Mark and Debbie, he was the perfect mode of transportation.
And crime fighter. With his human companions, he battle the baddies, and while occasionally taken over by them for their own nefarious purposes, he and Tinker and the gang always won out in the end.
The cartoon series officially ran from 1973 to 1975 but proved so popular it was being shown for years afterwards on various US television series. Apparently they recycled a number of plot lines from stablemate series, Josie and the Pussycats, but I cared not. Speedy Buggy was the car I wanted to own, which was unusual since I hated cars for the most part and didn’t learn to drive till I was 24.
If you had told me I could have driven Speed Buggy for real, I would’ve stuck those L plates on much earlier.
(No embedded video on this one as they have all been disabled for this function on Youtube. No idea why.)
Every episode of this sadly short-lived series began with these goose bump-inducing words …
“This is the year two thousand and twenty. The place is the Challenger Seamount, the top of an underwater mountain. A complex beneath the sea. 250 men, women and children live here, each of them a scientist pioneer. For this is our last frontier, a hostile environment which may hold the key to tomorrow. Each day, these oceanauts meet new challenges as they build their city beneath the sea. This is Sealab 2020.”
Hearing those words already gave me a thrill. I knew it was a cartoon but something about those portentous words, the heart-stoppingly serious nature of their adventures, the idea of people living and working on the ocean floor… all of which was profoundly impactful for a dreamer like me, a nascent sci-fi geek who dreamed of a world far away from the small town I lived in. It was, at heart, the ultimate escape for me.
I was surprised that only 13 episodes of the show were ever made because it seemed like the adventures of the team, led by the handsome Dr Paul Williams (yes, I found a cartoon man handsome! Clearly sci-fi geekery was not the only identity beginning to take its shape within me) went on forever. They certainly inspired endless dreams of how life could be different for me.
THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS
Another short-lived series, The Roman Holidays wondered what life would have been like for a Roman (with very 70s sensibilities) in 63 AD. Similar in tone to The Flintstones and The Jetsons, the day to day life of Augustus “Gus” Holiday and his family only lasted 13 episodes before going the way of Pompeii.
It’s a pity really because even though the show was in many ways a re-hash of Hanna-Barbera shows that had gone before it, it was a lot of fun. Why they even had a pet lion called Brutus who if I recall got all these wonderful lines.
No, it was not a masterful statement on anything in particular, unlike say Sealab 2020 but it provided lots of amusement for a young kid and in the end that’s what a cartoon should do.
This show was psychedelic to the max man! Following the adventures of a fictitious rock band, a favourite profession of so many Hanna Barbera cartoon characters, the Cattanooga Cats were known for their musical numbers which normally featured bright swirling 60s-inspired coloured backgrounds.
Bright fun and engaging, the band was led by lead singer & guitarist Country, singer and dancer Kitty Jo (who owned an enormous goofy dog called Teeny Tim who was just hilarious), bassist Scoots, and drummer Groove, and pursued everywhere by uber-fan and autograph hound, Jessie. The show ran much like The Banana Splits (but without the live segments) and featured three cartoons – Around the World in 79 Days, Autocat and Motormouse and the one I loved above all else, It’s the Wolf!, which featured the incomparable vocal and comical talents of the legendary Paul Lynde.
While the show only ran in that one hour form for one season from 1969-1970, the show did continue on for another year after that in a cutdown form containing Around the World in 79 Days, with the other three cartoons spun off into their own show. Again, as a kid, I thought there episodes without number and I can remember watching the episodes, 16 in all, over and over and clearly caring not for any repetition.
So which cartoons trigger a flood of memories for you?