Merry Christmas! I hope you’ve been having a lovely relaxing time, whatever you’ve been doing.
Christmas is a time for review lists and nostalgia, it’s one of those traditions. So this festive season, to help bridge the gap between Christmas and New Year, I thought I’d post a list that I’ve fancied doing for a while and has been partially written in my drafts for some time, as it’s a bit different to what I normally post about.
I do occasionally find myself reminiscing with friends about shows we enjoyed watching as children, in the days before smartphones and the internet. And the more I’ve thought about it, the more programmes I can remember. So I’ve put together a long list of many of my favourite shows that I enjoyed during my youth. It covers things I saw up to the age of 18, so there’s quite a mixture overall. I’ve split it into 3 posts to spread it out a bit as well.
And for this first part, the longest of the set, I’m going to list my top 50 shows involving animation and puppetry that I enjoyed.
A lot of these shows are now available on DVD, but in most cases I’m not interested in buying them. It’s just nice to look back at them on Youtube for a bit of nostalgia now and again. However, there are one or two shows that I have bought DVDs for, which I’ll mention as I go along. Many of the programmes have also had spin-off series and films made as well, a few of which I’ve mentioned here if they’re of interest or relevance, but I haven’t written about them in every case. You can check the Wikipedia articles and other places I’ve linked to, and search online as well, for the full history and details of each show.
So I hope you find the list interesting, and perhaps it will resonate a bit with you too if you remember any of these programmes. I’ve embedded some videos to help jog your memory, and there are links to other clips and information scattered throughout the text too. And feel free to let me know what TV shows you enjoyed during your childhood as well, it might remind me of things I’ve forgotten about!
Although I’ve done this list in alphabetical order, as it’s easier than trying to rank things, I’m glad this is first because it was one of my most favourite shows as a kid. From the wonderful theme tune to the beautiful animation and storylines, it was always a delight.
It followed a group of animals who had to find their way to a nature reserve, when they discovered their current homeland was being demolished to be built on. And it wasn’t an easy journey either. There was a lot of drama and it really tugged at your heartstrings sometimes. Despite being a children’s show, it never pulled its punches, as it didn’t shy away from death and other tough subjects. So there were quite a few shocks along the way.
I never had the books that the series was based on, but I did get the entire magazine series that accompanied the show, called Farthing Wood Friends, containing stories, artwork, facts and so on. There were 130 issues altogether, and I’m pretty sure I got the whole lot, although they were disposed of a very long time ago now.
Such magazine series were quite common in those days, but I suppose they probably aren’t such a big deal now. The first issue would come at a cheap introductory price, then all the others would be at a much higher price, and it was quite an investment to pay for the whole series really! Some franchises gave away a gift every week, or parts to a model that you gather over the weeks to build the finished item at the end. So there were one or two others I collected as well, one of which I’ll be mentioning later in this post.
This is a show that many people remember very fondly, about Mr Spoon’s adventures visiting Button Moon, where all the characters were based on kitchen utensils. It’s one of those shows that I know I saw and enjoyed, but I don’t have vivid memories of any particular episodes now. It’s also a fun fact that Peter Davison (who played the 5th Doctor in Doctor Who) and his then wife Sandra Dickinson (who played Trillian in the TV version of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy) composed and performed the theme tune together. I wouldn’t have known who they were when it was broadcast though.
This was another weird show set in space, about strange whistling creatures that lived on a moon, and were fed by a Soup Dragon. To people who’ve never seen it before, it might not make any sense whatsoever. But back in those days, it was actually quite fun, especially as it was so different from everything else at the time. And it was revived in 2015, with narration by Michael Palin (or William Shatner for the American version), so it’s clearly still popular now.
Does anything really need to be said about this? If I had to pick a single favourite cartoon from my youth, this would be it. David Jason and Terry Scott gave great vocal performances as eye-patch-wearing superhero secret agent Danger Mouse and his much less confident hamster companion Penfold, whose base was hidden beneath a postbox in London, from where they received orders from Colonel K and fought villains including Baron Silas Greenback (the latter two both played by Edward Kelsey).
It was a parody of spy fiction and was always very funny. It never took itself remotely seriously, with very silly storylines and resolutions to its cliffhangers, and even the narrator (also played by David Jason) was a character in his own right.
It had a brilliant theme tune as well, and spawned an enjoyable spin-off show for the character Count Duckula. Such is my fondness for the show that I even bought the 30th anniversary DVD boxset, because it was one of those shows that worked at a level for adults as well as for children, so it can be enjoyed whatever age you are.
The series was also rebooted in 2015, with Alexander Armstrong as Danger Mouse, Kevin Eldon as Penfold, and Stephen Fry as Colonel K. And to their credit, it works very well, which often isn’t the case for remakes. I watched a few of the new episodes in the first series, and felt that it remained very faithful to the original version while still bringing it up to date nicely. So I’m very glad a new generation have been introduced to this show. and I hope they check out the original series as well.
I enjoyed reading comics like The Beano and The Dandy sometimes, with characters like Dennis The Menace, The Bash Street Kids, Desperate Dan and Bananaman. I remember getting a few of their annuals as well. So it was fun to see Dennis and his dog Gnasher getting their own series in which to cause more mayhem and mischief. Other characters from the comics also ended up on TV too, as I vaguely remember watching the Bananaman series as well.
This was a fun cartoon focused on the adventures of Scrooge McDuck with Huey, Dewey and Louie. I still remember the characters and they way they spoke, and I could do a reasonable impression of Scrooge. The show also had a fantastic theme song as well. The cartoon has also been rebooted by Disney for a new generation, including an updated version of the theme tune as well.
As you’d expect from the title, this show was about a heroic fireman and his colleagues who would put out fires all over the town. Why people weren’t more careful so they didn’t have so many fires in the first place, I don’t know, but thankfully Sam’s team had no problems saving the day every time. It was another programme with a fun theme song as well, and had a couple of reboots during the 200s.
This is one of those shows that everybody knows, having been the longest running animated TV series until The Simpsons took the crown from them. So not much needs to be said about Fred and Wilma, with their neighbours Barney and Betty. It was just a very fun show to watch, of which I had a few videos in my collection at one point, and yet another with a memorable theme song.
There have been many spin-off TV shows and films since the original series too. I’ve seen the live action film from 1994 and its sequel from 2000, which are ok but nothing special, so I wouldn’t want to buy them. The reworked theme song by the B-52’s (performing as the B.C. 52’s) is very catchy though, and its release came with many remixes including the Space Cowboy Mix, Barney’s Edit and Bedrock Dub, among others.
The theme song is what people remember most fondly about this delightful Jim Henson production I think, which was very lively and musical throughout, and always great fun, so it gained a huge following. There was even talk about a film for a long time, but it’s never come to fruition as yet.
This was a nice cartoon about the adventures of the yellow feline. Although I don’t remember any particular stories these days, it’s the style of animation that does stick in my mind, as it had its own unique look.
Parsley The Lion stands out as the most prominent character from this show set in a magical garden. He was adorable and even got his own spin-off series too. The Herbs is also notable for being written by Michael Bond, who is best known for creating Paddington Bear.
This was a brilliant cartoon about a cyborg inspector who has gadgets for every eventuality that he can pull out of his body when required, as part of his efforts to defeat Dr Claw and the M.A.D. organisation. However, the inspector is oblivious to his own incompetence, and the fact that it’s really his clever niece Penny, with all of the technology she has at her disposal, who is secretly saving the day with her dog Brain. So I loved watching this show, and yet again it’s one with a catchy theme song.
While having great success with stone-age cartoon The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera made sure they had variety by looking to the future for this cartoon about a space-age family. It was just as enjoyable as its prehistoric counterpart, and I had one or two video of it.
I always loved watching these short cartoons. It was a wonderful lucky dip as to which character would be the star of the show each time. My personal favourite was the Road Runner, as Wile E. Coyote’s many failed attempts to trap the speeding bird would always make me laugh. I also enjoyed characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Pie and Sylvester, among many others. They were all good.
Although this was first broadcast before I was born, this cute show was still being repeated during my childhood, and just seeing the title makes the theme tune pop into my head immediately, along with images of characters like Dougal and Zebedee.
There were a lovely variety of characters in the various different iterations of this cartoon series, based on an equally enjoyable set of books by Roger Hargreaves. Obviously these days I relate most to Mr Tall, although when the lighting’s not great I tend to become Mr Bump! The narrator of the original series was Arthur Lowe, best known as Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army, and he had a great voice for it.
Ah, dear little Noddy. I used to really like this show based on the Enid Blyton stories, and had one or two videos at home. He was so cute driving around in his little car around Toyland, wearing his hat with the bell on top, and seeing friends like Big Ears and Mr Plod the policeman. It was always the sort of show that could bring a smile to your face.
I’ve always been interested in the human body and how it works, and I think this cartoon was a big influence in that regard, because it was fun and educational. I also had the series of books called How My Body Works that accompanied the show, with each edition telling you about a different part of the body (for instance, issue 7 was about the heart). The original set from 1992-1994 (which I probably got) had 50 books, while a later edition of the series from 1996-1998 had 67 parts, so people sometimes remember the sets differently as a result. But in any case, they were very interesting to read, as they explained things really well.
I have a lot of affection for Paddington station in London, as it was always the terminus we came to when travelling from Devon to London to see our relatives, and I still use it now when visiting the Westcountry. And so of course I have a lot of love for the bear from Peru named after the station too, created by Michael Bond. The TV series was very sweet and fun, and had a lovely theme tune called Size Ten Shuffle by a group called The Boyfriends.
Two live-action films have also been made about Paddington recently, both of which I really enjoyed when I finally got around to watching them for the first time this Christmas. I’ve written more about them in my Christmas Favourites posts that you’ll see in the new year, but I can highly recommend them, they’re really funny and sweet. There are plans for a third film too, after they’ve made a kids TV series for Nickelodeon, so I’ll be looking forward to the next movie if it goes ahead.
This character, who appeared in the title sequences of the Pink Panther films about Inspector Clouseau, was so popular that he ended up being the star of his own enjoyable cartoons, most of which used the memorable theme tune by Henry Mancini, but I also remember the catchy song From Head To Toe by Doug Goodwin that was used too. The original series was always the best though, and I was able to watch it when it was repeated during my childhood.
This was an educational show where the school bus in each episode would arrive at a different stop, where you would meet a different puppet character. I remember the Why Bird best, but there were also other characters like Sam and Peggy Patch, and Poppy the cat, that we got to meet too. There was a different stop each day of the week, so you had a nice variety of episodes all the time.
I very rarely eat spinach. I don’t mind it, but it’s not a vegetable I buy. But if it really had the effect on me that it did on Popeye, I would eat it a lot more often! His cartoons were always humorous, and yet again we’re in catchy theme tune territory as well.
Talking of theme tunes, the theme to this lovely series was a great song, that tells you everything you need to know about the show. The full version of the song performed by Ken Barrie (who was also the narrator and voiced many characters including Pat), even reached number 44 in the UK charts. As for the programme itself, the advantage of being a postman and knowing everyone in the town meant that Pat had good reason to meet a variety of different characters as he did his rounds, so the stories were always fun. It was a very charming, feel-good series.
Postman Pat’s song was good, but it’s still not what you’d call a ‘banger’. Whereas Lisa Lougheed‘s theme tune Run With Us most definitely is. Irrespective of the great show it’s associated with, it’s just a fantastic song anyway (although the 12″ mix is a bit of a mess to be honest). She was also the voice of Lisa Raccoon too, and the raccoons in the series were continually thwarting Cyril Sneer’s efforts to destroy their forest. It was another nicely animated show that I watched a lot.
This was yet another programme with a memorable theme tune, this time by a group called Telltale. The show featured the puppets Zippy (who had a zipper for a mouth), George (a pink hippo) and Bungle (a big bear). And they were joined by a human presenter, with Geoffrey Hayes being the longest-serving and most memorable, who often had to settle arguments between the puppets and teach them about things, thus teaching the viewer in the process too. it was all good fun and it was very popular.
Less well known is the humourous adult-oriented Twangers episode that was made as a joke for the Thames staff Christmas tape. It was never intended for the general public, and was never broadcast as an actual episode, for reasons that quickly become obvious when you watch it. But it was shown on a series called TV Offal and now circulates online.
Here I’m referring to a character rather than one specific TV show, as it was always enjoyable to see Roland wherever he popped up. He started as a regular feature on breakfast show TV-am, giving the series a desperately needed ratings boost, and became so popular with the kids that during the holidays he was given his own series of half hour episodes. He then moved to the BBC for a while, again making various shows for them too. He’s also appeared on Channel 5 and made many guest appearances elsewhere, and even released his own music as well, such as Rat Rapping, along with various other forms of merchandise. So his “rat fans” remember him very fondly, he was great.
This cartoon series on BBC1 was notable for being narrated by actor Richard Briers, with the characters Roobarb and Custard being a dog and cat respectively. It was very funny, and was animated in a deliberately crude, sketchy manner, rather than being designed to look professional, which was a big part of its charm. There were only 30 five-minute cartoons made, but it was very popular. It was revived on Channel 5 in 2005, again with Briers narrating, though I didn’t watch that version.
Again this is one of those titles that makes the theme song pop into my head. Rosie and Jim were rag dolls who lived on a narrowboat called the Ragdoll. The owner of the boat, who changed a few times during the series, would be looking for inspiration for their stories, illustrations or music, which took him and the dolls to new places. This enabled Rosie and Jim to have fun exploring and learning about the world around them, by secretly coming to life when nobody was looking. It was all very sweet and fun.
The theme song by Jackie Lee, which reached number 14 in the charts, is what I remember most from this show, although Rupert’s distinctive appearance is also very memorable too. I also remember reading some of Rupert’s stories, which were unique in that they written in rhyme, which The Two Ronnies paid tribute to by having rhyming dialogue in their Rupert parody sketch.
Everybody knows Scooby-Doo, it’s been a huge franchise with countless TV series and films over the years. It’s the original series that I remember most – Scooby Doo, Where Are You?. It featured Fred, Daphne, Velma and Shaggy, with their dog Scooby, travelling around in their Mystery Machine van, and solving mysteries by revealing who was pretending to be a ghost by hiding under a white sheet, or masquerading as a mummy wrapped in bandages. It was always someone they’d met earlier in the episode who they had first thought was a nice person.
I do remember watching one or two of the other series that came later, and I remember the arrival of Scrappy Doo, plus I did see one of the live-action films out of curiosity, but the original Where Are You? series, with its catchy theme song, is where my fondest memories lie.
Like many others, I watched this a lot as a kid, and it needs no explanation. I loved seeing all of the different characters like Big Bird, Elmo and Oscar The Grouch. I also enjoyed all of the comedy, and it really was very educational. And once again we had a great theme tune, featuring great harmonica playing by the late Toots Thielemans.
Just posting the title here is enough, surely. You’d have to have lived under a rock for the past 30 years not to have heard of The Simpsons, even if you’re not a fan. Not a single day goes by when they’re not being repeated on TV somewhere. But I do enjoy the show. It’s not at its best these days, sure, but it’s still fun nonetheless.
As a child I had videos of some episodes from the very first season, and I’ve now got all of the DVD box sets for seasons 1-19. Whether we’ll get all of the remaining seasons (currently up to 31) on DVD remains to be seen, as we wouldn’t have had the most recent box sets without extensive pressure from fans. But I hope they all come out eventually. I’ve also got the movie on Blu-ray of course, and I have all of their studio and soundtrack albums too.
Sooty, Sweep and Soo were adorable, and The Sooty Show was always very funny. I also had my own Sooty and Sweep glove puppets at home. Sooty had a removable magic wand held in one paw, while Sweep of course had a squeaker inside. They were 2 of the many cuddly toys I used to have, but they were the only ones related to any TV shows as far as I remember.
I haven’t watched this cartoon for many years, as at some point I grew out of it and lost interest. But during my teenage years I did enjoy watching it, as it was wonderfully immature, and I still recall the song Chocolate Salty Balls by the Chef character form the series, voiced by singer Isaac Hayes, which he even performed at Glastonbury. I remember seeing and enjoying the Bigger, Longer & Uncut movie too.
I never had the audio stories, but I did have the animated film of this fun little tale on video. It’s about a young boy learning to play the piano, and it suddenly comes to life, talking to him with its keys acting as a mouth. The unique voice effect in the film was produced using a sonovox.
The piano can play itself too, if Sparky requests a song and runs his hands over the keys. And this leads Sparky to fool his piano teacher, family and others by pretending to play really well, even though it’s really the piano doing all the work. As a result, he gets invited to perform in concerts to great acclaim, which goes wonderfully until the piano gets fed up of Sparky’s inflated ego and refuses to help any more, teaching Sparky a valuable lesson.
There isn’t much to say about this really, beyond the fact that Spot was absolutely adorable, and I enjoyed the books as well as the TV show, The Adventures Of Spot. It was a lovely programme for young children.
SuperTed was, as the name implies, a superhero teddy bear, given magical powers after he was thrown away by the factory in which he was made. He then travels the world and beyond, with his alien friend Spotty, to save the day. It was great fun.
These heroes in a half shell, all named after Italian renaissance artists, were great to watch as they continuously fought against the evil Shredder. It was a cool action-packed cartoon from America that was very popular all over the world. Here in the UK they were actually called Hero Turtles due to controversy over the ninja aspect, and the show was censored as a result, but as a kid I was blissfully unaware of that kind of interference. I just enjoyed watching it.
Another show with a claim to one of the greatest and catchiest theme tunes of all time, even lending itself to a cleverly-timed Beyonce parody. I loved watching the adventures of Thomas, Gordon, James, Percy and others, with The Fat Controller of course, all narrated by Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. I used to have videos of this show as well.
There were many puppet-based shows developed by Gerry Anderson, including Stingray, Captain Scarlet and Joe 90, all of which I watched to some extent or another, but this is the one I liked best. From its iconic theme tune to the enjoyable puppetry and storylines, it was always great fun.
This was yet another wonderful action-packed American cartoon that was very popular in the UK. I don’t remember any of the stories vividly these days of course, but I know it was one of those shows I really liked when I was young. What with that and things like Danger Mouse and the Ninja Turtles and others, there was something great about superhero animals fighting to save the world that lots of people loved.
Again I think most people know about these cat and mouse characters, with Jerry constantly evading capture by Tom most of the time, although occasionally they could be friendly and even work together, and there would be other characters who would appear too. These cartoons were always funny when I was a kid.
This was a stop-motion animation, the second part of the Trumptonshire Trilogy. It was preceded by Camberwick Green and followed by Chigley, all very sweet and gentle shows to watch. But Trumpton is the one I remember best out of the three. For instance, one of the most memorable parts was the roll call of the firemen – Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub. Completely random names, but somehow the register rolls off the tongue nicely. The show had nice music too, as did all the programmes in the trilogy.
The fact that there are so many Hanna-Barbera productions in this list shows how popular they were. And even if I wasn’t around when they were first shown, they were still repeated so much that I got to know them well. And this is yet another example. I loved watching Dick Dastardly and Muttley‘s failed attempts to try and win their races, and I knew a boy at school who could do the Muttley laugh too.
A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers & A Close Shave are still three of the finest stop-motion animations ever made. As a kid I really enjoyed seeing what daft inventions and schemes Wallace would come up with next, while clever Gromit looked after him and helped to save the day.
And I’ve continued enjoying them as an adult, as have millions of other people, because they have such wide appeal across the generations. So I saw their next short film A Matter Of Loaf And Death, and their feature length outing The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit. There have been many spin-offs and mini-episodes as well of course, a few of which I’ve seen. But it’s their main films I’m most interested in.
I have all 4 of their main TV films and their big movie in my DVD and Blu-ray collection of course, and I have the Were-Rabbit soundtrack in my music collection too. And with my friend Claire I also saw the live concert Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels at Barbican in May this year, which we really enjoyed. There’s just so much warmth and humour in all of their stories, along with great animation and Julian Nott’s music, that they always make me smile and laugh, and probably always will. They’re timeless.
I don’t think I ever read the books for this charming story of Toad, Rat, Mole and Badger, but I do very fondly remember one of the many TV adaptations that there have been over the years – specifically the 1980s series featuring David Jason as Toad and the Chief Weasel, Richard Pearson as Mole, Peter Sallis as Rat, Michael Hordern as Badger, Brian Trueman as the Henchman Weasel, and Ian Carmichael as the narrator. It was beautifully animated, the storylines were fun and humourous, and it was very charming overall.
I also went to a live production of The Wind In The Willows at the National Theatre as a child, which was wonderful. It was very cleverly staged, because they made full use of their revolving floor, which turned and lifted to reveal the underground part of the set. I was happily reminded of that during a tour of the theatre in April this year.
The stories are such an integral part of British culture that the characters even made a fleeting appearance in the opening Isles Of Wonder film for the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, 32 seconds into the sequence.
I always enjoyed watching these lovely cartoons about Christopher Robin, Pooh and their friends in Hundred Acre Wood, based on the wonderful stories by A. A. Milne, some of which I also read as a child.
The thing I remember best though is the feature-length movie The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh that I had on video, including the title sequence that pans around Christopher Robin’s bedroom before opening a book to enter the cartoon. That’s always stuck in my mind, as I watched it a lot. The movie is a combination of three previously released cartoons, plus an additional one tagged on the end, and was very successful.
The rubbish-clearing residents of Wimbledon Common need no introduction, everybody knows who they are. I loved watching their TV series as a child, it was very well made. Rather more random was the fact that my grandparents had the Superwombling album in their vinyl collection, which we inherited after they died. I’m assuming they had it because of me or my young cousins, as it was very out of place among their other music! So I was able to create a digital copy of it, which I still have on my computer. It’s a fun selection of songs. But obviously their most well known hit is The Wombling Song, from the album Wombling Songs. They produced a lot of music altogether, courtesy of their creator Mike Batt, and were so popular that they even did a set at Glastonbury!
And finally, one more Hanna-Barbera cartoon to finish the list. Yogi was “smarter than the average bear”, and the cartoons focused on his adventures in Jellystone Park with his friend Boo-Boo. They were always fun.
And there you have it, my top 50 animation and puppet shows of my youth. Well done if you made it through them all! There are various other shows I could have mentioned, of course, but those are the ones that stand out most prominently in my mind. And I hope it brought back some memories for you too. The next couple of posts looking at other types of programme won’t be quite as long as this one, but hopefully they’ll spark some memories for you as well!