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Opening the trap door to 'shows of pure delight' ; Mary-ann Astle counts downs her top 10 children's shows of the 1980s... [Sentinel, The (Stoke-on-Trent, England)]

September 28, 2013


THIRTY years ago this week, a cartoon series which saw an enchanted roller coaster deliver six youths into the magical realm of Dungeons & Dragons hit television screens.

The anniversary of the arrival of Dungeons & Dragons in cartoonland prompted me to think about my favourite children's shows of the 1980s.

While I'm a massive fan of the roleplaying version of D&D (yes, I'm wearing my Dungeon Master T-shirt with pride) the cartoon I found sadly lacking and it doesn't make it into my top 10 list.

In at number 10 is arguably one of the most bizarre concepts to ever hit TV screens - a man who became a superhero whenever he ate a banana.

Bananaman, which began on the BBC in 1983, came from the comic book series, Nutty, and was later carried across to The Dandy in 1985.

Two things about this show stick out in my mind. Firstly, the voice-actors were the three members of the comedy troupe The Goodies and, secondly, I can still, without prompting, remember Bananaman's introduction - This is 29 Acacia Road. And this is Eric - the schoolboy who leads an exciting double life. For when Eric eats a banana, an amazing transformation

The show in the number nine slot isn't a cartoon - quite frankly I'm not sure what you'd class Button Moon as!

I was only one-year-old when this show began in 1980 and it can't have been many years later when I realised its production values were lacking. DOLLS, BEARS MAGICAL thesen All of the characters are based on kitchen utensils and the very first episode saw Mrs Spoon give Mr Spoon a present - a spaceship (pimped up bean tin) so he can fly to Button Moon.

Yes, rubbish - but still 80s gold. My eighth favourite show is Danger Mouse spin-off Count Duckula.

I was never a fan of the mouse - but I'd happily watch the adventures of the recurring duck villain.

Very loosely based on Count Dracula, the feathered count lived in Transylvania with his butler Igor and his large nanny.

The number seven slot goes to the lovable little blue creatures known as The Smurfs.

Created by Belgian comic artist Peyo in 1958, the Smurfs hit the small screen thanks to Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1981.

PONIES AND CREATED A 80S I still have a soft spot for Smurfs and confess I've watched the 2011 self-titled film more than once when it's been on the movie channel.

In sixth place is Inspector Gadget.

During my childhood - much to my delight - there was an incredible graffiti version of the dim-witted cyborg detective in Bathpool Park, Kidsgrove.

In the fifth spot is Fraggle Rock - the cartoon based on the live action version of the same name created by Jim Henson.

The best bit of any Fraggle Rock episodes were, undoubtedly, the songs.

In at number four is a TV show that - almost - makes me forgive Canada for Celine Dion. The Raccoons hit the screens in 1985 and the series revolves around Bert Raccoon and married couple Ralph and Melissa Raccoon. The episodes generally focussed on the trio's efforts against the industrialist forces of greedy aardvark millionaire Cyril Sneer, who was trying to wipe out their forest.

In at number three is Thundercats - or should I say THUNDERCATS, HO! An American/Japanese animation, Thundercats was based on a group of cat-like humanoid aliens and I can vouch that the show was a hit on the playground of St John's Catholic Primary School in Kidsgrove.

Number two is He-Man - which was compulsory after-school viewing. I spent many hours - with my dad - watching He-Man and his friends defend the realm of Eternia and the secrets of Castle Grayskull from the evil forces of Skeletor.

Ultimately, the position of number one goes to a show that's clay rather than cartoon - The Trap Door.

The show is a pure delight and - for the 80s, when a lot of shows were sloppy - cleverly done. The Trap Door revolves around a bunch of monsters who live in a castle and my continuing love of the show is probably, in part, due to my love of horror and dark fantasy which the show's makers surely drew on.

Beneath the castle is a series of dark and mysterious caverns inhabited by all manner of horrible things, accessible by the trap door.

A total of 25 four-minute episodes were made in 1984.

Again, the introduction to this show - a horror film parody - is ingrained into my brain: Somewhere in the dark and nasty regions, where nobody goes, stands an ancient castle. Deep within this dank and uninviting place, lives Berk, overworked servant of the thing upstairs. But that's nothing compared to the horrors that lurk beneath the trap door, for there is always something down there, in the dark, waiting to come out...

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