Being a collection of doggerel, verse, stories, politics, historical essays, satire, poetry, jokes, pictures and whatever else I damn well please on a variety of interesting (or otherwise) subjects.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Blasts from the past

My wife and I got to talking last night about childrens' shows that we watched when we were kids. Some of the favorites she remembered were Clutch Cargo, Beany and Cecil, Little Lulu, Davey & Goliath, and Felix the Cat.

These are some of my old favorites:

Space Angel (1962)

Space Angel used an animation technique called syncro-vox, similar to the better known Clutch Cargo. Each animation pane was basically a still film strip with an animated mouth that would move with the dialogue. Kind of strange to watch now. Conan O'brien has appropriated this technique lately for parody purposes.

Space Angel was the code name of Scott McCloud, Captain of the spaceship Starduster of the Interplanetary Space Force. The crew included Taurus, the engineer; navigator Crystal; and Crystal's father, Professor Mace, chief of the Evening Star space station. The stories were usually pretty exciting and imaginative, which made up for the sparse animation and weird lips.

I found some old Space Angel episodes here. Check it out. Really a hoot.

Supercar (1961-62)

This is an excerpt from the wikipedia article on Supercar:

Supercar was a children's TV show produced by Gerry Anderson and Arthur Provis's AP Films for ATV and ITC Entertainment. 39 episodes were produced between 1961 and 1962, and it was Anderson's first half-hour series. In the UK it was seen on ITV and in the US in syndication (the first Anderson series to be shown overseas). The format uses puppets in a technique called supermarionation, a name that was first seen in the closing titles of the last 13 episodes.

The plot of the show concerned Supercar, a vertical takeoff and landing craft invented by Rudolph Popkiss and Horatio Beaker, and piloted by Mike Mercury. On land it rode on a cushion of air rather than wheels. Jets in the rear allowed it to fly like a jet and retractable wings were incorporated in the back of car. Retrorockets on the side of the car slowed the vehicle. The car used "Clear-Vu" which had an inside television monitor that allowed the occupant to see through fog and smoke. The vehicle was housed in a laboratory and living facility at Black Rock, Nevada, U.S.A. In the show's first episode, "Rescue", the Supercar crew's first mission is to save the passengers of a downed private plane. Two of the rescued, young Jimmy Gibson and his pet monkey, Mitch, are invited to stay and live at the facility and share in the adventures.

Supercar could do absolutely anything, go absolutely anywhere and get out of absolutely any nail-biting jam. What was great about Supercar was that it didn't rely on any previous-show precedent for design or capabilities...if Supercar needed new features, good ol' Doctor Beaker and Professor Popkiss just added them!

Anderson always claimed that he invented a futuristic vehicle as an excuse to reduce the amount of walking the puppets had to do, which could never be made to look realistic. The later Supermarionation offerings, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet were filmed in color, but Supercar was in glorious black and white.

Imagine what the James Dobsons of the world today would say about 3 men, a boy and a monkey all living together. The early 60s were a simpler time. :)

Sky King (1952-1959)

I have to assume that I first caught these in rerun, since I was born in 1952 and probably was getting to the age of being interested in this type of program about the time the first run of this series was ending. It sure was one of my favorites, though.

Kirby Grant and Gloria Winters as Sky and Penny King

Each episode began with the dramatic: "From out of the clear blue of the western sky comes Sky King!" Schuyler "Sky" King, and his niece Penny lived on his Flying Crown Ranch in Arizona, and had lots of adventures involving his plane "Songbird," along with assorted horses, six-shooters and other accouterments that one suspects might have been slightly harder to find in 1950s Arizona that this program would suggest. Other recurring characters on the series included his nephew Clipper, played by Ron Hagerthy, and Mitch the sheriff, played by Ewing Mitchell. Mitch was always coming to Sky for help.

As the series began, Sky flew a Cessna T-50 twin-engine "Bamboo Bomber," that was actually owned by Grant, who was a real life pilot. Later in the series he flew a twin-engine Cessna 310B.

Penny was a pilot in the series as well and, in the very first episode, is the only one actually shown flying the plane. I thought this was pretty interesting for 1952.

In researching this blog, I found a real treasure trove. 64 of the 72 episodes of Sky King are available for viewing at the American Flyers website. I've watched the first couple and plan to watch the rest as time permits.

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