Monday, 1 July 2013

With Fiery Blasts Our Roaring Rockets Rise

Since it’s Canada Day today, let us pay a humble tribute to the glorious pinnacle of exported Canadian entertainment, a legendary television show that shines brighter than even the brilliant SCTV.

Yes, Rocket Robin Hood, “The Trouble With Tracy” of Canadian animation. Appropriate it is that a show about outer space should be animated and voiced in the Centre of the Universe™, Toronto.

Perhaps we should avoid the temptation to call this an “animated cartoon” because, isn’t it far greater than an animated series like, say, “The Robotic Harlem Globetrotters” (or whatever it was called)? Well, that and it isn’t very animated. Oh, it is in the opening. In fact, we get to see the same animation of Robin heroically raising his sinewy arms twice. But some of the time drawings of characters simply remain rigid frame-after-frame while only the lips move. Unless it’s a medium-long shot where nothing is animated while the soundtrack crackles with dialogue. Hey, non-lip movement worked for the Fleischers, didn’t it? Shamus Culhane worked there. Obviously the close-mouthed mumblings of Popeye were an inspiration when the demure Mr. Culhane produced this programme. And Robin’s better than Popeye because he doesn’t need a crutch like spinach.

Gape with awe at some of the background drawings from the show opening.

How great is this show? There’s one episode where Little John suddenly has a different voice about half-way through the cartoon. It’s like the first actor got drunk at lunch and was so out of it, someone else had to do his lines when the session picked up in the afternoon. (To be serious, the show featured the voices of Bernard Cowan, Paul Kligman and under-used Carl Banas, so it wasn’t all bad). And, unlike Buck Rogers, who we know is in the 25th Century, Robin and his posse are in “the fabulous years to come,” as if the writers couldn’t make up their minds when to set the show.

With all the reboots on TV and in theatres these days why, oh, why, hasn’t an artistic soul come forward to freshen this series for modern times, turning the Merry Men of N.O.T.T. into futuristic, lute-playing hip-hoppers starring Lil RR Hoody? Isn’t it time? Shame on Shamus that he’s not around any more to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to update one of his masterpieces. But perhaps you, dear reader, can assemble a band of brothers, marching together, heads held high in all kinds of weather, to bring back Canada’s gift to the world— Front Page Challenge Rocket Robin Hood—and return him to a rightful position of prominence and esteem on television once again.


  1. Ralph Bakshi (who took over from Culhane) is still around, though. Maybe he can spearhead the relaunch!

  2. "Rocket Robin Hood—and return him to a rightful position of prominence and esteem on television once again."

    Lord knows if American TV can handle that!

  3. Ugh, this used to air on Teletoon Retro some many years ago, and there is even a pilot of this floating around on YouTube with very different character designs and better looking animation, watch it as long as it lasts!

    John K. has once remarked this as Canada's version of Filmation cartoon, and he is Canadian too and so am i!.

    In fact, i have findings that the episodes occasionally used Winston Sharples music from The Mighty Hercules (another show with Canadian voices, but the first half of those cartoons have the usual New York talent like Jack Mercer - nice to learn and realize that Canadian Animation, especially from NFB, is exactly like New York Animation Industry - WOOT!)

    And from watching the pilot, John K was RIGHT!, it does seem like the Canadian answer to Filmation cartoons and also i recall that the show was abused for Spider Man's second season in the 70s, especially reusing backgrounds from the show and whatnot, so HAPPY CANADA DAY, brudder!.


  4. Shows like RRH really are why nobody make much of a noise about the downward trajectory of Hanna-Barbera's TV cartoon output in the late 1960s -- even if the stories and characters were repetitive and the animation and designs uninspired, compared to what others were peddling in the TV market at the time Bill and Joe's superhero efforts looked as fully animated as the Fleischer's Superman cartoons by comparison.

  5. So ROcket Robin Hood and Guy Lombardo (or as Buzz Buzzard called it in 1954's "Real Gone Woody", examined more than once before on this blog,
    "Guy Lombago") are two Canadians who don't get much respect even from
    their own country here..(I'm American btw but have high respect for most Canadian performers...)

    I remember was by a company called Trillion Productions Co. (Canada's excellent, the west coast, but Victoria was pretty cold when my family and I visited two years ago on a cruise..:))


  6. Characters changing voices in midcartoon is nothing new. One installment of the 1972 ABC SATURDAY SUPERSTAR MOVIE "The Banana Splits in Hocus Pocus Park" (a busted pilot depicting the title characters in animation) featured two comically inept wizards who were voiced by Don Messick and Howard Morris. No, Messick didn't voice one wizard and Morris the other. Rather, both their voices were performed by both actors. And their voices kept switching back and forth- sometimes in the middle of scenes.