Wednesday, November 21, 2007


When I was twelve, we moved from Nova Scotia to Ontario, and left behind pretty much everything I'd ever known. Okay, we didn't cross the ocean or wind up in a country where no one spoke English or had never heard of Christmas or something, but it was still a big adjustment on a personal level.

I was an overweight kid and I got targeted for a lot of abuse. It was worse being a new kid among a bunch who'd known each other for six or seven years at that point. It took me a while to find my own friends and fit in. But I had this wonderful crutch... this little gateway to something sweet a couple of times a week.

It was an animated show called Fables of the Green Forest. Produced in the 1970s by a studio in (I believe) Israel called ZIV International, it was an adaptation of stories by Thornton W. Burgess that told the tales of a group of slightly anthropomorphized animals living in the Green Forest. TVOntario, kind of Ontario's answer to PBS, used to show it at 6:30 on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. That year, I lived for those moments. For half an hour, I could just dissolve into this world that, in spite of its wildness, was oddly comforting.

The was a kind of a plot arch, at least in the beginning. The central character was a woodchuck named Johnny, and as the series opens, he's an adolescent cub on the verge of leaving home. After a fight with his brothers, he does leave home, and sets out for the Green Forest. He meets another woodchuck named Polly, and while they maintained separate homes throughout the series, it was obvious that sooner or later they'd make a home together. Secondary was Peter, a rabbit, and Johnny's best friend. Though not actually stupid, he frequently played Watson to Johnny's Holmes. The other characters ranged from mostly friendly (Joe the Otter, Patty Beaver, Grandfather Frog, Uncle Billy the possum, Buster Bear) to generally self-interested (Chatterer the squirrel, Sammy Blue Jay, Bobby Raccoon, Jimmy the Skunk) to the truly villainous (Granny and Reddy Fox, the Mean Weasel). Beyond their world was the human world, whose sole human representative was a young blond boy named Tom Brown, a farmer's son. He did occasionally interact with the animals of the Green Forest, but on another level; they did not speak to him, and his face was almost never shown. He represented a general, somewhat neutral, and uncounterable threat. Associated with him were a dog named Bowser, pretty much the only animal feared by Reddy Fox, and a cat named Blackie, who was a threat to the smaller animals. Ironically, these are the only repeating animal characters on the show without speaking roles; while most of the animals of the Green Forest worse some manner of clothing; they did not. The animals living most closely with humans were, intriguingly, portrayed as the only genuine animals in the show.

This was the show I clung to for several years. As I grew older, of course, it came to mean less and less to me. But it never lost its nostalgic charm. TVO ran it pretty much constantly till I was about 20, then, suddenly, stopped. For years I had always toyed with the idea of taping the series, but it was just always there... I never thought a day would come when I wouldn't be able to just tune in some night or on the weekend and get my fix. But the thing utterly evaporated.

It was a popular show among people my age in Ontario. You see it mentioned on blogs and forums. But it's not commercially available. A handful of episodes were released on tape, but that's it. There were something like 52 episodes, but I personally only have four, and that's courtesy of someone else who happened to have them, and his generosity.

Well, as it turns out, this place is offering about half the episodes on DVD. They're not cheap. But it's just been so long since I've been able to take my brain gently in my hands and just let it float and bob in that wonderful warm water; I think I'm going to bite and order them.

A sample of what I'm talking about...

...You might notice they say "Monday and Friday"... they did eventually shift the days. For me, it was Tuesday and Thursday, which was better, between it nicely split the week up into alternate days. There's a lonnnnng gap between Monday and Friday when you're twelve years old.


James said...

Though not actually stupid, he frequently played Watson to Johnny's Holmes.

Just a small point: Watson wasn't, by any stretch, stupid. Unfortunately, a couple of popular film/TV versions of the Holmes story liked to portray him as a bumbling boob, but in the original stories he was a sharp and accomplished physician.

Lone Primate said...

Yeah... your point might be more appropriate if I'd actually said "since he was stupid, he frequently played Watson...". But hey, I'm not complaining... I'm always tickled when some corner of my soul I've offered up serves as the ottoman for someone to sharpen the claws of his pedantry on.