CBBC Memories – Cartoon Critters.

Cartoon Critters (CBBC, 1996-1999)

A while ago I looked back at CBBC sitcom Space Vets, which seemed to do rather well. In that piece I did say about Cartoon Critters, which wasn’t really a spin-off, but it did feature one of the characters from that show. It was rather odd to see them turn up again in a totally different format, and I have decided that I might as well give this one a full review.

Cartoon Critters was a show about animations from the archive that starred animal characters. This did sort-of come across as a cross between Stay Tooned and The Really Wild Show. This was hosted by Dogsbody (I can only presume that the rest of his crew had long-since been lost in space), and he was accompanied by a female dog who was Fleur Pompidou.

Do I detect a touch of romance between them? Well, maybe not. I also couldn’t help but notice the contrast between his American accent, and her English accent. I also remember being amused by the opening sequence where an animated version of Dogsbody was surrounded by various animals causing chaos, including a rather strange penguin.

This was a show that promised “the truth behind the toons”, well we’ll see about that. Among those that were featured were Bugs Bunny and Tom And Jerry, some classics that were dusted off once again to be shown. And of course, the clever thing about cartoons is that animals can be made to talk, and have personalities created for them.

We’d also see archive clips of real animals, you would never believe that they could make so many squeaking noises. There was also a section where Dogsbody would put his beret on and get his big pen out, and draw some animals himself, which would be accompanied by the famous music from Vision On. Some of his pictures weren’t too bad, I wonder if he was a distant relative of Sebastian The Incredible Drawing Dog?

There were four series of Cartoon Critters, so there were plenty of amusing moments featured. This would also often be repeated as part of CBBC’s breakfast strand, but I don’t ever recall this turning up on the great CBBC On Choice strand. And any show that made us imagine what the world would be like if elephants could talk must have something going for it.

CBBC Memories – Space Vets.

Space Vets (CBBC, 1992-1994)

This is a rather bizarre science-fiction sitcom that was shown on CBBC in the early-90s. Space Vets centred around the adventures of a spaceship called the Dispensable, which contained the Intergalactic Animal Health Service, whose aim was to help all types of ill alien animals wherever they were in the universe. It really did happen. And there was a rather memorable cast on this show. vlcsnap-00672

The main cast were Captain Pubble (who was about 12 years old), although he was later replaced by Captain Skip Chip (Mark “I bet he drinks Carling Black Label” Arden). There was also Mona the receptionist (Ann “Philadelphia” Bryson, who went on to star in flop 90s ITV sitcoms Sometime, Never and Days Like These), who was rather fond of chocolate, and the dreadlocked second-in-command was called Number Two (how funny!). vlcsnap-00674

Oh yes, and there was also a hat-wearing puppet dog with an American accent called Dogsbody. Each episode was 15 minutes long and there were a lot of odd moments, along with a lot of creative puppetry and costume design, which was all the more impressive considering that the show’s budget was probably about three shillings. “Will the Dispensable escape the Great Black Hole of Nauphragia?” was a typical description of what happened in an episode. Who needs Red Dwarf when you’ve got this. vlcsnap-00665

Space Vets eventually ran for three series and 39 episodes on Tuesday afternoons, but that wasn’t the end of it. In 1997, Dogsbody (still voiced by the same actor) had beamed back down to Earth and turned up in a totally different CBBC show called Cartoon Critters, to introduce a collection of mouldy old cartoons that featured animals, assisted by a female dog puppet called Fleur. vlcsnap-00675

I’m fairly sure that Space Vets wasn’t featured as part of the CBBC On Choice strand. However, it was repeated in the early days of the CBBC Channel in 2002, and it was also repeated on BBC2 as late as 2005, over a decade after the series ended. Five series two episodes were released on VHS, but there has been no DVD release, I feel that it deserves one as this was an enjoyably odd show.