Having rushed downstairs to fix a bowl of healthy cereal which I then preceded to bury under an Everest of sugar, I would watch a Saturday morning children’s television schedule which was so varied in characters, plots, and eye-grabbing animation that I would feel spoiled come lunchtime.
However, it is the Raccoons which I always look back on with some of the fondest memories of my childhood television viewing.
It wasn’t the usual crash bang wallop of swords, lasers and explosions which grabbed most young boys’ attention. Instead it was an altogether warmer, homelier cartoon driving home the message of how important friends are and what it is to do right over wrong. (When I watched and episode of Thundercats a few years back it was startling to see just how blatant these moral messages were in cartoons, even if they go over your pre-occupied head as a kid.)
The raccoons in question were Bert, Ralph and Melissa. Bert was a hyperactive and over-zealous man-child whilst Ralph and Melissa were a sensible, and therefore ever so slightly dull, couple.
The three of them worked on their own newspaper, The Evergreen Standard, which must have been a fairly sparse read. I’ll bet they filled a lot of it up with property ads for overpriced tree houses in Evergreen Forest and the surrounding area. Also, where did they get the paper?
What occupied most of their time when working on the paper was the monitoring of local tycoon Cyril Sneer’s devilish business practices.
Cyril Sneer was a pink industrialist aardvark. Say that sentence again. The creative mind is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? However, it’s hard to imagine a cartoon villain permanently smoking a cigar on a children’s cartoon nowadays but it’s equally hard to imagine a cartoon villain as bitter and gnarled as Sneer, hunched over, tobacco-ravaged voice spluttering out sinister plans.
Sneer was an evil bastard. Aided by his three sidekicks who were three fussy, bickering pigs, his profit-above-all-else mentality was succinctly put in the cartoon’s opening sequence: Playing on a suitably dated computer with a joystick he controls his own character to eat up trees and is rewarded with bags of money. Some things never change.
Sneer’s relationship with his son, Cedric, played on the universal theme of a son trying to please his father but never feeling he ever cuts it. Cedric was the complete opposite of his father. Shy, unassuming and, frankly, a complete geek. Plus he hung out with the raccoons.
The cartoon wouldn’t last two minutes these days. It probably isn’t loud enough to keep children who have the attention span of a gnat interested. But times do change. Thankfully I caught a wave of children’s television which cared.
By Jack Prescott