Tuesday, August 26, 2008

He's a ring-a-ding-a-ling of a King

Right ... here we go ... Nostalgia Mode engaged ...

One of my fondest childhood memories is of a series called Arthur and his Square Knights of the Round Table. I managed to find the DVD of Arthur's complete adventures recently and watched it all the way through, and I was struck by just how much the cartoon must have affected me as a kid. I could spot all kinds of little details that I now include in my own artwork. My greatest influence (and personal hero) was wit, raconteur, actor and, above all else, cartoonist Willie Rushton and I owe much of my art style to copying his work when I was younger. But there are strong echoes of the Arthur cartoons in there too. I just didn't realise it until now. Here's a typical episode courtesy of Youtube:



The series was produced from 1966 to 1968 in Australia and directed by animator Zoran Janjic. It was written by, among others, Ozzie playwright Alex Buzo (Buzo's first play, the iconic Norm and Ahmed explored issues of racism and agism and hit the headlines when those involved in the production were charged with obscenity for use of the word 'fucking.' The charges were eventually quashed by the Australian Attorney General) and Rod Hull, a much-beloved British entertainer best known for his puppet act involving a life-sized, and dangerously psychotic emu.

The cartoons followed the adventures of the legendary King Arthur of Camelot - a mild-mannered little chap - and his tall, elegant wife Guinevere who, unusually for a 1960s children's cartoon, had a significant amount of cleavage permanently on show. Other characters involved the foppish Sir Lancelot, a doolally Merlin, a manic Jester, and the bad guys - the Black Knight and evil witch Morgan le Fay. The drawings were very stylised, much like its contemporaries Roger Ramjet and Tomfoolery, and the music is so hip it hurts, man.

The plots invariably centred around the bad guys trying to get one up on the King but between the main features there were also comic 'shorts' that would focus on one or more of the supporting characters. The British pantomime spirit is strong here (maybe that was Rod Hull's contribution) because there does seem to be an inordinate amount of cross-dressing with burly knights frequently crammed into dresses on the slightest pretext. And there's a generous dollop of discontinuity too; in the first ever episode, Arthur's magic sword is stolen by a female, anthropomorphic freshwater octopus and Merlin and Lancelot have to get it back using a submarine. Even Monty Python's take on Arthur made more sense!

Watching Arthur and the Square Knights of the Round Table again makes me feel all yummy and warm. It was a great little series that obviously left its mark on me. But I never seem to meet anyone else who remembers it? Do you?

10 comments:

Me said...

I do remember it - but for the record - I am YEARS younger than you....
Tee Hee!

Stevyn Colgan said...

With age comes wisdom. Mine's got lost in the post apparently.

Debby said...

This one does not ring a bell. We had cartoons like 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' to poke fun at us. (If only I had an honorary degree from Wossamatta U.)

chris hale said...

Blummin' heck! I remember this! But I also remember the curious adventures of Sir Prancelot, and that minstrel with the electric lute. Oh, and the voices done by Peter (Captain Pugwash) Hawkins.

D'ye know, before the internet, we could say, "Ah! Do you remember..(insert prog here)...wasn't it fantastic?" But memories are defective. Looking at some of this old stuff now, we can see how rubbish it was. Except Space Patrol, of course. Even as an eight year old in 1963 I could see it was crap.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Debby - If it makes you feel any better, I don't think that we had Rocky and Bullwinkle (though I have seen them since). We had all the Hanna Barbera stuff of course.

Chris - Sir Prancelot! Ha ha! The gayest TV show ever! Good old Peter Hawkins. He was involved in some toot wasn't he? Space Patrol was way before my time though ...

chris hale said...

You're lucky you were born so late. You also successfully managed to miss Torchy the Battery Boy (fnarr fnarr!), Sarah and Hoppity, and Pussy Cat Willum. Looking at the mangled papier mache faces and goggle eyes now, I wonder us kids weren't terrified of these early puppet creations.

Oh, and you're right about Peter Hawkins; though I did love Captain Pugwash. But not in a biblical sense, you understand?

Stevyn Colgan said...

How great to be told that 1961 is 'born too late'! I feel so young. La la la. Yup, missed all of those but I do remember Twizzle, Fireball XL5, Supercar, Pogles Wood, the Woodentops and all of that 'Watch with Mother' crowd. Happy days. La la la.

Debby said...

Chris - if you want to tell me that 1957 was born too late, I'll do Stevyn's happy dance as well.

Me said...

Even if Chris doesnt it seems a fact now that 1961 and 1957 were born too late years - so the happy dance has to be de rigeur of the day! Anyone got the steps???? Not sure I can really dance - my knees are not good, in fact come to think of it - perhaps a gentle sway is about all my body can manage.....sigh.....

chris hale said...

Stevyn - apologies in advance for talking across you, as it were. Debby, yes, anyone born after 1955 is a young whipper-snapper. Please feel free to do The Happy Dance!

Ah, this is just like chatting across the fence, isn't it? Can anyone lend me a cup of organic fair trade sugar?