Friday, August 20, 2010

Children's Fantasy (Canadian TV, 1980s)

I've been thinking about urban fantasy more frequently lately, thanks to @inkgypsy and #UFChat on Twitter, and thanks, of course, to my WIP and the progress I'm making on it. I'm not thinking deeply about it, per se, but it seems to be in my mind more. Percolating, if you will, which means at some point I'll probably come out with a nice long post full of thinky-thoughts.

But not today. Today's post is brought to you by a tweet that points out that Sesame Street is urban fantasy. No, seriously. If you don't believe me, watch the video below.



Did everyone see the monsters, giant birds, and talking dog? Good. The show also contains wooly mammoths and vampires, though they're not featured here.

Sesame Street wasn't the only urban fantasy (or fantasy) I watched. Now, I know most children's programming has fantasy elements in it, and that there's no way I could list them all here. Instead I'm going to focus on the shows available to me as a Canadian kid in the 1980s*, because I'm much more familiar with them than with the American shows of the era.

So, without further ado:

The Polkadot Door - A man, a woman, four puppets, a giant green kangaroo that talked, and a magical door that acted as a portal to anywhere in the world. I've just watched a number of videos from it on YouTube, hoping to link to one, but none of them combine the kangaroo and the door. Also, the videos are highly cheesy and twee, which I think goes with the era and target demographic. I remember it being a lot more magical.

Today's Special - A mannequin with an enchanted hat, a female store manager, a bumbling security guard puppet, and a computer AI. The first third of an episode, for your enjoyment:



The Friendly Giant - A friendly giant, who lives in a castle, reads books to a giraffe and a rooster. Needless to say, this was one of my favourite shows, because there was a new story every day!



Babar - Yes, I know this is talking animals, but come on, it's Babar! There are multiple societies of talking animals! It's even historical fantasy, in a way, because the elephants dress and act as though they were in a quasi-Victorian world, and Babar's palace is almost certainly Baroque.



If you're familiar with Canadian children's TV of the 1980s, you'll notice I left out a few. I don't feel talking animal puppets a fantasy make, unless there are other elements involved. Just about every kids show has them, too. (That said, Mr. Dressup and The Elephant Show are classics, and Under the Umbrella Tree isn't half-bad either.) I also left out Fred Penner's Place because I don't think it qualifies under any circumstances as fantasy. It was all about the music. (I may also have forgotten some shows. It's been a while.)


When I look back at these shows and my memories of them, I can pinpoint parts that wowed me and influenced me. I'm pretty sure the portal in the door, the giant in the castle, and the fact that a mannequin could come to life and have adventures were the first instances of other worlds, magic, and transformation that hooked me. If not, they're the first I remember so that has to count for something.


*Yes, this is partly a nostalgia fest.

1 comment:

Hannah said...

That's amazing! And a good reminder that urban fantasy doesn't always have to be vampires/werewolves/dark.