I’ve joined a gang.
Not the bad type. Although when I was at school the idea of gangs of any kind was strongly discouraged. It was even seen as a bad word. You had “groups”, maybe. But never “gangs”.
Over here in Britain, gangs aren’t really a thing. Maybe you have some teenagers in tracksuits who loiter outside the Spar, or drive around town on their 50cc chicken chasers. In the States, however, they are very much a thing, and there’s all sorts of violent crime associated with them.
But my gang doesn’t do much. We’re the amiable sort. You could say we always get along with people.
Of course, I haven’t really joined a gang. I’ve just been watching The Get Along Gang, an old eighties cartoon that has faded into obscurity. Just like the Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake, the Get Along Gang were created by Those Characters from Cleveland for use on birthday cards and such in 1983, but the license was quickly extended to include an animated series, comics, toys, clothing and more merchandise than you can shake a stick at.
I’m not quite old enough to have seen them back then, although I was aware of them as a kid thanks to adverts in my decade-spanning collection of Transformers comics. But it’s only recently that I’ve properly made their acquaintance, thanks to the copyright no-man’s-land that is YouTube. I’ve seen pretty much every episode of the cartoon series over the course of a few months.
For some reason that will probably only become apparent during my autopsy, I couldn’t stop watching it. It’s a bit rubbish, but incredibly inoffensive and delightfully earnest.
The characters, the titular Get Along Gang, hang around in the woods in an abandoned caboose that serves as their clubhouse. Each episode begins with one of the gang getting in trouble or having some kind of problem, and the others help them to sort it out. The emphasis is on teamwork and caring – typical Power of Friendship stuff. The occasional antagonist is Catchem Crocodile, a bully who evidently can’t count. Normal bully protocol would advise against picking on a group who outnumber you twelve to one, I’m sure. Besides, he’s not exactly Skeletor; most of his schemes involve such egregious behaviour as ‘cheating at a game’ or ‘telling lies’.
A fair few of the gang’s problems arise internally, proving that a society’s worst enemy is itself. There are often disputes and quarrels, or sometimes one member of the gang will straight up betray the others’ trust, but it’s always fixed by the time the credits roll. Remember kids, with a little help from your friends, and the power of democracy, you can achieve anything!
For the animated exploits of the gang, they were somewhat whittled down to a core cast of six, with the others only spoken about or appearing in cameo roles. The main cast were as follows:
Monty is the voice of reason and the unofficial leader of the gang. He seems to be the oldest and strongest, and also the most boring. He wears a sports shirt with a big “M” on it in case we forget who he his. In the Nelvana animated special (more on that in a bit) he spoke like a drunk hillbilly.
Is Portia a real name? I haven’t heard of it outside of Shakespeare – by which I mean Google. It sounds a bit like “Porsche”, if you want to be a twat and say it with a German accent. Anyway, Portia is the baby of the group. Not letting her diminutive stature get in the way of her ambitions, she often gets out of her depth and relies on the gang to pull her through, bless her heart. She wears a sort of sailor suit – I’ve seen enough anime to know she’d probably test well with modern audiences if the show were to be revived.
Dotty is the peppy one. She’s a cheerleader apparently, although I don’t recall ever seeing her at a sporting event in the cartoon, so maybe she just likes the uniform. There’s not much else to say about her, although the cartoon wins points for not having her be the airhead; she’s extremely pleasant.
Never referred to as such in the cartoon, it took me a good long while to figure out that he was even a cat. I thought he was a wolf. He doesn’t go “meow” or scratch the furniture or anything, so it’s an understandable mistake, right? Anyway, I’m rather fond of Zipper, despite the fact that he’s a bit of an asshole. He’s lean and sporty and confident, and often comes down hard on the other members of the gang when they mess up. Although he will sometimes throw a hissy fit if he doesn’t come out on top of any competition. Uh… why do I like him again?
Bingo “Bet It All” Beaver
Bingo is a constant source of strife for the gang. He has a compulsive disorder that leads him to lie, cheat and bet. All the time. Normally his heart is in the right place and he just wants to help the group – he just can’t see an honest way to do anything, poor guy. Zipper normally has to give him a kick up the ass to keep him on the straight and narrow. I wonder what would become of Bingo were he left to his own devices.
Woolma is the prissy and vain one. She speaks with a sort of posh drawl, and is never without her hand mirror. She wears a peculiar pinafore thing, which is odd seeing as she’s covered head-to-toe in wool. When winter comes, the rest of the gang will shear her and knit cardigans. Or sell her precious lanolin to the cosmetics industry.
In 1984, there was a video special produced by Nelvana that sort of stands alone in its own continuity. The animation is fluid and charming, the plot is innocuous but decent, and there’s a gentle humour running throughout that makes it great fun to watch. John Sebastian wrote and sung several songs for this production. They’re jolly and upbeat – the motif will be stuck in your head for days.
This episode puts the actual animated series (produced by DiC) to shame. The voices are aren’t quite as good (although they are superbly acted), they just don’t seem to fit the characters as well. However, you can tell a lot of effort and therefore money went into this. DiC are pretty infamous for their sloppy and cheap production values; the drop in quality when going on to the cartoon series is flabbergasting. It does have a lovely theme song, though. The lyrics don’t make a damn lick of sense, but I can’t help but smile when I hear it, especially when the cast sing it over the end credits.
In summary, I’m glad I’ve become reacquainted with the gang. It seems that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate this sort of thing more than I did as a kid. Maybe this is because it’s an escape from the pressures of adult life. Maybe it’s because adult entertainment is often cynical and gritty. Or maybe it’s because armed with experience and an open mind, I can look a little deeper, and find new things to appreciate in something that, taken at face value, is rubbish entertainment for children.
“Was quickly extended”