Every now and then we like to go through the site stats and see what exactly is bringing in the punters, be it toy reviews, our occasional random list articles, or our unique brand of “journalism” and bestiality jokes. Far and away the most hits come from people looking for the obscure 80’s cartoon The Get Along Gang. We don’t pretend to know why.
So, because we’re super nice and always give you readers what you want (and because Luke blew this month’s entire toy review budget on a life-size Cadbury Bunny, for reasons best kept to himself) we’re going to revisit the gang with a view to reminding you what they were all about. We’ll cover the toys (obviously), the animated series, and even the disastrous 21st-century relaunch that no doubt ruined someone’s childhood FOREVER. And maybe we’ll even delve into the shameful Get Along Gang pornography scene if time and/or the law allows.
A group of furry preadolescents created in 1984 by American Greetings (they of the Care Bears fame), the main six members were:
- Montgomery Moose – the well rounded, personable one,
- Dotty Dog – the smart and peppy cheerleader,
- Bingo Beaver – a compulsive liar and gambling addict,
- Zipper Cat – the sporty, tough guy with an attitude,
- Woolma Lamb – a spoiled and vain waste of space,
- Portia Porcupine – basically a toddler toted around by the gang for some reason.
Their sworn enemies were Catchum Crocodile and his slimy subordinate Leyland Lizard. Most of Catchum’s villainous “schemes” involved cheating in a contest of some sort, or trying to get into the gang’s clubhouse. Phew, make sure the kids are in bed before he comes on.
The main line of GAG merchandise consisted of six 11-inch plush dolls. Each doll came with removable clothes and accessories (you can even take off their socks and shoes, which we find funny for some reason). All of them were packaged wearing roller skates, because that was apparently law in 1984 when they were released. The skates are actually the hardest thing to find on the secondary market, possibly because most kids took them off one time and promptly lost them. The dolls themselves can be found cheaply and easily second-hand and are remarkably well made; ours are still holding together after thirty years of rough play. Christ, turns out you really can trust Tomy.
Before we go any further, we’ve just got to mention that while the likenesses are generally very good, we feel that poor Woolma really got the short end of the stick here. We’d like to interview the designer and ask him what medication he was taking at the time this abomination was made. Behold:
The main cast were also rendered as 5-inch hard plastic figures, advertised as Dress-Up Kids. Oddly, the male characters had their trousers painted on, just like Olivia Newton-John in Grease. Unlike Olivia Newton-John, all the characters had slightly creepy, shapeless bodies underneath their clothes, so we can’t imagine many people wanted to disrobe them.
Of the twelve characters actually designed by American Greetings, the toyline focused heavily on the main six featured in the cartoon. The others were available only as small figurines. These were scaled perfectly, though, for the Clubhouse Caboose playset. It was basically a red plastic wagon with a fold-down wall, and it featured a small platform for the toys to hang around on and a kind of turntable thing so they could spin around. It’s quite poor by today’s standards but don’t worry: it was quite poor by yesterday’s standards as well.
Thirteen episodes were produced by Dic (cough) between 1984 and 1985. The same company was also responsible for the Super Mario and Sonic cartoons, but is probably most famous for creating the Robocop/Don Adams hybrid Insepctor Gadget. The show followed the adventures of the gang in and around their home of Green Meadow, a strangely anachronistic American small town. Actually, the whole show has a slightly outdated feel now that we think about it. The title sequence shows the gang riding around on soapbox carts they made themselves (not exactly the vehicle of choice in 1984 – when the skateboard, Big Wheel or even Pogo Ball were all popular) and instead of staying home and playing Atari these kids preferred to hang around in the malt shop or play with simple toys like marbles and the like. Very odd.
Anyways, the stories themselves are standard-issue children’s TV fodder; we have treasure hunts, encounters with pirates and other bad guys, and typical power-of-friendship escapades. In fact, these very quaint “adventures” could have been written for any show at all, so generic are the settings and characters – but the stories chug along very nicely anyways. It probably won’t hold the attention of an adult audience but if you were expecting a furry version of Twin Peaks, then a) you’re asking too much of a kids cartoon, and b) someone get on that shit ’cause it sounds amazing.
Round about 2004, American Greetings started sending out press packs detailing the relaunch of the Get Along Gang. This would be an all-new show, with a fresh and funky 21st-century look. Plans were to show off the new gang at a licensing exhibition that year (the kind of thing where smaller companies acquire the rights to produce merchandise like lunchboxes, stationary and the like) but as far as we can tell the powers that be put the kibosh on the whole thing before any licensed tat could be made.
Some digging tells us that the characters were designed by artist/animator Saxton Moore, whose recent work includes The Twisted Whiskers Show and an original children’s book called Yin the Master of Yo. Instead of just freshening up the old gang, Moore created a whole new bunch of characters designed to be their successors.
Although the characters and (planned) merchandise had a hand-drawn look, the accompanying cartoon was to be a computer-generated affair – presumably for cost reasons. Behind-the-scenes info and drawings have since leaked online, and the first, or perhaps only, episode has somehow made its way to Youtube. We’ve given it a look, and we quite like it. We can say it’s got a bit more of an “edge” than the original show (not hard, we know) with snappy humour and lots of fourth-wall breaking gags. They’ve also modernised the gang’s clubhouse a tad. It now has a hologram artificial intelligence built in – think Power Rangers’ Zordon, and you’re there. If “there” is a random designer’s crazy cheese-dream.
Curiously, in the course of the episode the new gang are actually shown stock art of their 80’s progenitors- we don’t quite know how to process this because it makes no sense – and are explicitly told that they are distant relatives of the originals. There’s no counterpart for Portia Porcupine (here given the actual surname of Bristlemore) because she’s revealed to be the old woman in the line up above. Erm, we hate to point this out, but only twenty years had passed between the original show and this one, so either it’s set far into the future or cuddly forest animals really don’t age well.
Watch the show below, and try not to snicker when it invites viewers to “get loose in the caboose”.
Theme song by Prince Paul. No, really.
WATCH IT NOW
At some point a company called Mill Creek Entertainment released a DVD containing 10 two-part episodes. We do wonder were they sourced the episodes from, though. The picture and sound quality is abominable – it’s the worst we’ve ever seen on a store-bought DVD. It looks for all the world like it was straight-up ripped from YouTube… after being recorded off the telly in 1985. And it’s Region 1, so UK readers will have to nab a multi-region DVD player to even watch the damn thing. It also says the gang “travel the countryside” bringing help to “wherever they’re needed” which pretty much confirms the manufacturer never actually watched the product they’re selling.
Maybe we’ll revisit the gang in the future. There are rumblings of yet another remake in the works, so with any luck a whole new generation of kids will get to enjoy their own version of the gang, but as it stands it’s a nice throwback to a simpler time. The Get Along Gang were a nice bunch, and their exploits and adventures were many and quaint. It seems that the show was an effort to instill some positive values in the young audience, to prepare them for the tumultuous decades ahead.
You’re never too old to learn – so maybe we should all sit down, watch some Gang, and all learn how to get along.