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The Weird World of 80s Filler Cartoons

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Picture the scene – your mum’s busy reading “My Ovaries Hell!” in Woman’s Own, and she doesn’t want to bother with her loud, snotting kid until she’s finished. Five minutes later, she’s all done and ready to put your turkey drummers in the oven while you cling onto her leg shouting “WHY DON’T LADIES HAVE WILLIES?”

Your mum has small, cheaply produced filler cartoons to thank for her small bit of peace (although, in my house, my mum sometimes plonked me down in front of the news, which is why I developed such an unhealthy knowledge of Douglas Hurd). My point still stands – most kids grew up watching random, hastily cobbled together cartoons intended for this exact purpose.

Normally running for 5-10 minutes, and having no real plot or characterisation ( I wrote that sentence on purpose – kill me now for being a prick), filler cartoons are nevertheless fondly remembered. Five minutes of plot is all you need when you’re six. Trust me – “Will they manage to hide the birthday cake?” is more gripping than any episode of Game Of Cards.

Here’s my lookback at those shows we immediately forgot once we’d finished watching them. Maybe you’d like to sit under a fort made of a blanket and the clothes airer watching these. For maximum points, watch them while eating Crispy Pancakes and drinking Tizer. For maximum maximum points, follow this up by writing a hilarious list of all the swears you know, that you will accidentally leave around for your dad to find. You’d think he would have been impressed by my spelling.

The Shoe People

The plot: Shoes. Seriously, that’s it. Some shoes.

What can I say about The Shoe People that hasn’t already been said? Well anything really, since who the hell has ever bothered writing about this.

The most fascinating thing about The Shoe People is the fact that the episodes cost £1.89 each to view on Amazon, whereas the whole series costs £1.49. This has left me wondering about the people who’ve paid to watch The Shoe People on Amazon at all, let alone per episode, since it’s available for free on YouTube. People like me don’t count. It was for research. It’s fine, I’ll just get that £1.89 back by going on the game.

Anyway, let’s sum up an average episode of The Shoe People:

Shoe 1: “Hi, I’m a shoe. But I still have a brain and a personality and everything. It’s just that I fancied basing my entire personality around the kind of shoe I am. LOL.”

Shoe 2: “What bantz.”

Shoe 3: “I’m the ballet shoe, and I think this means I’m the pretty one, because pretty girls don’t want to do things like be farmers, they do ballet and wear skirts. Even though I am a shoe, and therefore incapable of wearing a skirt, I will uphold this tradition nonetheless. Look how my skirt flaps around my sexy insoles. Probably.”

Shoe 4: “Hello I am a flip flop. I am a woman one but I am not pretty. Therefore I am a bit useless, and I need rescuing from the sea. For fuck’s sake. Did I mention I’m a shoe?”

Shoe 5: “Hello I am a knackered old boot, much like Flip Flop, am I right lads? Anyway, I’m a gardener or something, but I’m lazy as well, oh dear, will someone do my laces up please? Fiddle di dee. I’m nearly dead.”

I think there are some other shoes in the show, but I can’t be arsed with it. I’m still mad that I paid £1.89 for an episode because I’m dim.

You know what? The fact that they’re shoes barely ever factors into the plot. They should have called it People.

The Family-Ness

The plot: Loch Ness monsters dicking about.

I love this show so much. This show is 100% more entertaining than the real life Loch Ness museum, where you pay seven quid to be told by a video that you’re an idiot for even wondering if the Loch Ness Monster is real. Then you’re herded into a gift shop to buy toys of the thing you were laughed at for only minutes ago. I am not bitter.

Anyway, The Family-Ness does none of that. It goes with proper Loch Ness Monster canon, which is that the Loch Ness Monster is real, and it has a family, and they all wear hats and piss about.

This show does still fall foul of nominative determinism, but screw that because it’s Loch Ness Monsters dicking about. The only way this show could have been better would be to have Ted Danson as a cartoon Dr Dempsey.

This also scores mega bonus points for its theme song. Not the opening theme song, although that’s catchy in its own right, but the closing theme, You’ll Never Find a Nessie in the Zoo. This theme was uplifting and stuck a big middle finger up to those shits who would capture Nessies for money.

The main ethos of the song is that the zoo is really not a nice place to be. Consider the following:

Fig. 1: Zoo

Fig. 2: Not Zoo

Mainly, though, this show’s good because you get to see Loch Ness Monsters dicking about.

The Poddington Peas

The plot: There are some peas. Sometimes they’re a bit racist.

Poddington Peas was originally adapted from Kafka’s novel The Trial, and brought into play the themes of guilt by assumption and the faceless authority. However, this adaptation was shelved as it featured carrots rather than peas, which didn’t fit with the title.

From the Wikipedia page: “The cartoon features a cast of anthropomorphic peas”. I don’t think we need go any further than that. Maybe a car chase.

Anyway, Poddington Peas focused on the lives of up to 20 peas living at the bottom of someone’s garden. They were generally named for their one characteristic – Slee-Pea, Hap-Pea, Grum-Pea, Ray-Pea, D-U-Pea etc. The peas went around trying not to get their shit interfered with by the two foreign peas, Black-Eyed Pea and Creep-Pea. We can tell they’re the baddies because they look dark and foreign.

For this they tend to get bullied a bit. For example, in the intro we see the obese pea (Dia-pea-tes?) squashing and nearly killing Black-Eyed Pea. The others just laugh at his injuries, the dicks.

Further sullying the good name of the pisum sativum is the existence of Sweet-Pea, who, as with The Smurfs, exists to be the girl one, and then to get fucked by all the man peas. As my boyfriend succinctly put it: “Where exactly do you stick it in a pea?”

I’m trying to think of an awesome pun about how they should have had “Pea-Cee”, but I’ll have to stop because that’s a fucking rubbish idea.

I realise none of this is really informing you about the structure of the show. Oh well. It’s peas, what else do you want?

Bananaman

The plot: Ordinary schoolboy Eric turns into the world’s most difficult to spell superhero.

Originally appearing in Nutty comic (also showing up in The Dandy and The Beano), Bananaman is more widely remembered by my generation as “that boy on TV who really liked bananas. Eric Bana? No wait that was the Hulk. Wait, no it wasn’t…”

My stupidity aside, Bananaman is a cracking five minute giggle, voiced by The Goodies and delivering a delightful British piss-take of everything ‘gritty’, ‘serious’ superhero fans treat as sacred. Good. I like my superheroes silly.

Given that Bananaman was always intended as a parody, the following observation is going to come across as ‘that guy on Twitter’. I’m sorry in advance.

One thing I always wondered about the show was why did Eric have a banana themed bedroom? Who does that? Was it common knowledge that he was Bananaman? If so, why didn’t he get killed in a pit of flames and evil? If not, who does that? He has a sodding banana themed bed – that’s like Prince Adam having a He-Man duvet cover.

Anyway, the plot. Normally Eric turns into Bananaman and defeats General Blight, who is apparently based on Hitler. This is ok, because bananas are naturally funny so it cancels out any genocide.

Penny Crayon

The plot: Whatever Penny draws comes to life. Penny is magic or her crayon is, I can’t remember. Or neither of them are magic, and the writers were lying. Anyway, japes ensue. Plus, there’s no way ‘Penny’ wasn’t meant to be short for ‘Pencil’.

Voiced by hen night announcer Su Pollard, Penny Crayon is a bit of a cheat because it clocks in at a whopping 8 minutes per episode, 8 of which are taken up with the opening theme song. Also on voice duty as Penny’s friendzoned BFF Dennis is Peter Hawkins, AKA voice of the Daleks and the original, pre-Roy Skelton voice of Zippy.

Now then. I have a lot of love for Su Pollard, but I can only imagine that the production meeting for Penny Crayon was along the lines of the following:

Steve: “Right, I need someone to do the voice of a 10 year old girl.”

Alan: “Ok, I’ll start looking for some child actors.”

Steve: “No way, what do you think I am, some kind of sell-out? This is going to be a gritty reboot man, not some saccharine fairy tale where she buys some shoes and then is married.”

Alan: “Are you alright?”

Steve: “Let me tell you Alan, this chick comes from the wrong side of the tracks. Barnsley! Or whatever. She’s one day away from retirement and she doesn’t play by the rules. And she’s permanently on a fun northern hen night.”

Alan: “I might get you a coffee…”

Steve: “And she has a snake! I think, or is it a pencil?”

Alan: “Yes hello, security please. It’s happened again.”

Despite Steve’s best efforts, Alan got his gritty, take-no-prisoners voice for Penny. And I think it adds the show that touch of working class realism so lacking in more polished shows like the sodding Shoe People. Another solid hit for Peter Maddocks, along with The Family Ness.

Incidentally, the main problem the average viewer seems to have with this show is summarised by the following YouTube comment: “How does a snake blow out a 1800’s lamp in the middle of the day and it still goes black?”

How indeed. How does a snake.

Stoppit And Tidyup

The plot: Various monsters do the boring shit your parents are always trying to get you to do.

Despite that lacklustre synopsis, Stoppit And Tidyup is easily the best show on this list. No other show bothered to have Terry Wogan narrate a story about a farting spider or a pair of obese bees. The show’s message wasn’t exactly subtle, with characters like ‘Go To Bed’, ‘Clean Your Teeth’, and ‘the two bees – Bee-have and Bee-quiet’ wandering round having mild adventures. But it managed to get its point across, which was “Please, for the love of God, stop being shits for five fucking minutes.”

There was a sort of bad guy, in the form of ‘the big, bad I Said NO!’, but he’s possibly the least threatening baddie on this list. And this list includes The Shoe People. I think the worst thing he ever does is attempt to steal some gherkins.

Partly funded by the Keep Britain Tidy Group – another reason I have a soft spot for this show. I live in an area where it’s not uncommon to find a Red Stripe can stuffed with used johnnies outside McDonald’s. Okay, that only happened once, but still. If only more kids had watched Stoppit And Tidyup, maybe they wouldn’t have grown up to be the people who can’t use cashpoints properly and who shout for no reason and who play that weird loud music. Grrrr.

Jenny writes a mediocre blog called World of Crap. She once attempted to eat 36 Trios in one go. Follow her on Twitter to witness her ongoing mental breakdown.

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