Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cartoons On Iraqi TV

This post about cartoons, specifically the most famous cartoons millions of Iraqi children used to watch on TV in the early and mid1980's when a "big shift" was taken by officials at the TV station from showing Eastern European made cartoons and to focus on Arabic dubbed-Japanese animation.

In the late 1970's, or maybe earlier, cartoons from Poland, such as the semi-silent type of cartoons like the polish cute adventures of Lolek & Bolek were the most famous children animation. My brother and I used to imitate those two characters and try to re-live their adventures.

It worked, most of the times.

Another famous Polish cartoon character was Reksio, the cute puppy who was famous for his human-like body-stretching after his night sleep, and his ability to learn fast from his mistakes and teach other pets good things about life around them.

I loved his tip-tapping using four legs from time to time

The "shift" I mentioned in the beginning to Japanese animation was taken in the early 1980's, thanks to Lebanese media companies and their excellent work of Classic-Arabic language dubbed cartoons, and making use of voices of famous Lebanese actors like Abdel Majid Majthoob, Mahmood Sa'eed and Jihaad Al Atrash. It became a dilemma when other Arab countries followed suit, such as Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt: the breath taking adventures of Adnan and Lina (or Future Boy Conan, as it is called in its orignial version), is a great example.

Anyone interested in the official website of this cartoon character, click here (in Japanese)

However, "Sandy Bell" was girl's all-time favorite. I was mostly interested in her van/ minibus when she grew up in later episodes and started working as a journalist.

There were other cartoon series, such as Zeena and Nahool, a story about the adventures of two bees (Zeena female, Nahool male) in the vast and mysterious green forest. I think the success of that series prompted authorities to buy another "Bee adventure" show, I am referring to the ultra-depressive bee Bashar, who spent the whole series looking for his mother.

Does anyone know the link between that bee, Bashar, and Saddam Hussein?

Another cartoon series that gained instant success from the first episode was "Lady Oscar". it was about a young woman in France who has been raised as a man to become her father's successor as leader of Versailles Palace Guards, and whom later becomes very close to French queen, Marie Antoinette, before and after the French Revolution.

During that time I noticed that some episodes of that show were edited. Some episodes were shorter in length / time than previous ones. I believed that the reason was that some scenes were axed (by censorship) on a number of times. After all these years, thanks to the internet to prove my theory right, because I don't recall seeing a romantic scene like the below

In order to provide variation to the material shown on TV, it is just a speculation though, there was in the middle of all this "Japanese-animation-mania by Iraqi TV officials", Barabpapa came along, a family of colorful-shape-shifters, which became the inspiration for many to have their pictures, on school-bags and magazines, for example.

I still doubt that Iraqi TV bought all episodes from this series, or maybe one season, because this show is repeated never-seen-before shows on Dutch TV, to this day .

On a related matter where uncompleted animation show, I add "Faris Al Fadha''" or Captain Future or Kyaputen Fyūchā, as its called by original makers. I watched every single episode of that series and I was convinced that not all were shown on Iraqi TV then. However, that was one fantastic show.

It was a big inspiration to me when I used to draw and write about science fiction at younger age. Maybe that was the reason

After all these years, traveling and watching television shows in different countries, I became more convinced how skilled are those people used to be responsible for the children programs department at Iraqi TV. The material provided by the officials then were not something that can by any means considered as outdated, as I thought back then - I was furious then, because TV did not show Spider-man or other Marvel or DC comics super hero characters.

These compliments extend itself to include those highly-skilled men and women who used to bring joy (and education too) to millions of Iraqi children with their work and effort on "Majallaty" and "Al Mizmar" - both were children magazines that included comics by different Iraqi artists. It also included educational information on history, technology, society, in addition to competitions and games, such as puzzels.

Without emphasizing on government's influences, the work those great men and woman did for Iraqi children in the media is something highly appreciated. In the middle came the period of bloody war waged and Iraq was deep involved in it (Iraq-Iran war), so political and military authorities were keen to boost its propaganda as it saw it necessary in all media aspects as an effective weapon to be used to win any war.

Speaking of wars, one of my all time favorite cartoon series I loved to watch was the "Blue Submarine" (or Bluenoah, as called by its creators). Its about a very advanced submarine (and a huge carrier) that was in a war against alien invaders to planet earth.

It was another fantastic show, with fantastic ending

Sasouky is another Japanese cartoon that stole the hearts and minds of many children in Iraq at that time, simply because it was about two things: magic and Ninja martial arts... what a combination!

What was the worst cartoon series? In my opinion, there were few, but the first comes to mind was Iron Man - not Marvel's Iron Man, I meant the Japanese animation, originally called "Dinosaur War Izongorg". The show was not fully animated, some scenes encompasses of actors in monster suits doing the jumping and fighting - an art widely known in Japan as suitmation, and other scenes with simple Japanese animation.

To me, despite its success world-wide, it was one of the most awful shows I have ever seen, yet, all children wanted to become the Iron Man, the hero who defeat gray-ugly and fat pre-history dinosaurs and monsters.

Mentioning monsters here brings me to talk about the ultimate and one of the longest aired animation show ever played on Iraqi television: Grendizer, or Goldorak (in Japanese)

That show was unbeatable, no Iraqi child will ever forget Grendizer. It tops the list, with one exception, which I will come to it later. Boys and girls, mainly boys, were influenced by that show. More than 70 episodes on daily basis, where each episode showed earth and humanity on the verge of destruction and threatened by Mighty Vega and army of green soldiers attacking using their speedy UFO's. That show has everything; in addition to the super robots huge battles using deadly and catastrophic weapons, the details of space ships, places, bases given on that show were amazing. Grendizer as a show contained slow but stable story-line development, as well as character and inter-relationship progression to each (even with the customs they appeared in on later stages showed their transformation from the teenagers to those mature men and women), it had comedy and even love. Most children know the title song by heart, I mean the Arabic version of the song, it has the same melody as its original Japanese version, but with Arabic lyrics. All children became familiar with the weaponry the giant super robot use, and all children sit with anticipation at air time, waiting and trying to guess which weapon Grendizer will use against the new enemy today - what helped learning the different lethal weapons Grendizer uses against his enemies were the rantings during the different battles of main character and the "driver/controller" of that super robot, I mean "Prince Daisky". He call each weapon with its name upon using it with powerful tone and impact.

I think that Lebanese actor, Jihaad Al Atrash, did sing the main theme song, I am not sure.

Parents watch their Children watching the show with eyes wide open, focused (and some would turn world up side down if someone say something while watching the show). By the end of the show, specifically, a long gasp and "WOW" would come out from the child's mouth when seeing the final fatal slam by the giant Grendizer on his enemy monster or robot.

I heard that Mazinger was the only show that can beat Grendizer. I can't agree, or disagree because I have never watched Mazinger, thus, Grendizer remain in the top of list, except for one show that in my opinion can be on the top of the list of animation ever put on Iraqi TV:


But talking about that show will have to wait for now.

This is the intro to the Arabic version of the famous cartoon series

This is the original, Japanese version