Well the official summer season has ended with the celebration of Labor Day last weekend. I want to apologize to those of you who were looking for my column last weekend but a technical glitch caused by a gremlin caused it to not make it in the newspaper.
In the words of that lovable squirrel Rocky, "And now here's something we hope you really like…"
I listened to those words for many years as a daily viewer of "Hatchy Milatchy" with Miss Judy that aired on channel 16 just after "Good Morning America." It was one of my favorite shows and I watched it without fail since I knew from time to time Uncle Ted would show up in the magic garden and entertain with a magic trick.
The one that stood out in my mind was the "Hippity Hop Rabbits" which he did on occasion with what struck me as a dry sense of humor. Every time I perform that trick today I think of him as it was one of the first effects I remember marveling about to my friends and family.
Judy also had a magic drawing board which I since learned was more a chroma-key type effect. She would color on it and a live video would appear on the sketch pad. This was done by painting the pad with green ink which allowed the video editors to mask in a live camera shot from somewhere else with which she could interact. It was pretty cool to a six year old though and felt like pure magic. She also had guests in there from time to time, but other than Uncle Ted I don't remember many of them.
Of course the mainstay for the program were the cartoons interspersed among her segments or vice-versa depending on your point of view. This was where I was introduced to Underdog, Sherman and Mr. Peabody, Tennesse Tuxedo, Chumley and of course the best animal duo in the world, Rocky and Bullwinkle. I think some other cartoons were shown along with these but these characters are forever linked in my mind to Hatchy Milatchy.
They are great examples of how the current events of the day were captured and satirized through the magic of cartoons. Underdog was always fighting one organized goon portrayed by different dogs while Rocky and Bullwinkle used irony and humor to fight their Cold War adversaries Natasha and Boris Badenov. The writing on those shows as I have since learned was most double entendre in that for children, the shows were a delightful romp but the jokes also had an adult character to them that parents got at a different level.
It was hard to tell where one show started and the other one stopped, but from what I can recall and refreshing my memory with the authoritative imDB database on the Internet, I believe most of the characters save Underdog, Tennessee and Chumley appeared on the Rocky show although it seems some may have spun off or also been released on their own. They seemed to run together on the program.
From what I can remember I believe Sherman and Mr. Peabody were sandwiched between two parts of a Rocky story along with a Fractured Fairy Tale which were parodies on classic fairy tales. The first one that was ever parodied was Rapunzel. Meanwhile Tennessee Tuxedo and his friends namely Chumley the Walrus was another cartoon segment and this featured the smart aleck penguin trying to escape from the zoo where he lived with the inept help of Phineas J. Whoopie because the curator Stanley Livingstone would not listen to his problems.
Underdog was a take-off of Superman set in the world of man's best friend, the dog. He was a shoeshine boy by day but in times of trouble or threats by Simon Bar-Sinister especially on his friend Polly Purebred, Lovable Shoe Shine Boy became Underdog to save the day.
Like the movie serials of old, these cartoons as well as Rocky and Bullwinkle were always split into two or more parts that ended with cliffhangers compelling us, the young viewers and probably older ones as well to stay tuned for the ending.
Just thinking about these cartoons today reminds me of how much fun they were and yet I enjoy them at a whole different level as an adult because there is quite a bit of multi-layered humor in the shows. I think many of the cartoons were written like that historically and you could still see it as cartoons evolved in things such as Rugrats, Animaniacs and Tiny Toons. All of those have humor aimed at the whole family and I think were intelligently written shows.
On a side note I find it ironically funny that while these are offered on DVD from time to time in the stores and probably all the time on Amazon, the cases actually have warning labels on them. Apparently someone somewhere determined many of these cartoons are inappropriate for young audiences.
I cannot fathom this considering we all grew up on them. Apparently movie ratings people today don't have the same concept of humor that all of us did growing up thirty to forty years ago. Go figure.
All I know is that the magic of those shows and the years of watching Hatchy Milatchy continues to stir fond memories in me and it's sad shows like that are gone from the airwaves. Television has moved from local programming to national syndication and these old shows with regional celebrities have moved on to the airwaves of the past, but the magic of our memories will make them live on in our hearts.
Til Next time…