If you are like me, and a child of the 1980s/early 1990s Nickelodeon era, then you are probably familiar with the programming that aired between the actual programming. One such interstitial program that aired from roughly the late 1980s until the mid-1990s was a import called Sports Cartoon.
So let's dive right in...er, play ball...shoot some hoops...let's just watch some Sports...Cartoons.
The cartoon featured a different sport to fill the animation, participated in by anthropomorphic animals -
...A large pink hippopotamus (or hippopotami for team sports), referred to herein as The Hippo...
...A pig/pigs, very much in tune with the hippopotamus character in terms of personality...
...A blue cat with a red nose (or multiple blue cats with red noses for team sports). There were two types of blue cats, herein referred to as The Big Blue Cat/Cats and the more common Little Blue Cat/Cats...
The sports the characters engaged in were common to both United States and International audiences. Derek Lamb was English; Perlman, his former wife and co-collaborator, is Canadian. Some of the sports were unconventional in terms of being actual "sports" - chess, balloon ride, and jump rope strike me as examples, but nevertheless, there is engagement in some type of physical activity...except chess.
Boxing (The Pig makes his first appearance as the literal punching bag for The Cats, with The Hippo as his trainer/masseuse)
Gymnastics (featuring the Pig)
American Football (featuring the Large Blue Cats versus the Pigs)
Baseball (The Dog is featured in this one)
Soccer (American) (Featuring the Dog as the referee, and a whole team of Blue Cats versus a whole team of Hippopotami)
Skeet Shooting (Pull! Pull!)
Skydiving (In a salute to the Swimming/Diving short, the Hippo actually lands in the pool this time!)
Bocce (Part 1 - The Dog gets his turn)
Soccer (Little Cats versus The Pigs Variant - the helmet on the goaltender leads me to believe this is European Football - the Hippo features here as a priest who wanders in and scares one of the Little Blue Cats out of faking an injury that is causing his "demise")
Hot Air Balloon Ride (Featuring The Hippo and The Dog - after an incident with the balloon, they go off to play another sport, Golf)
Wrestling (Big Blue Cat versus The Pig, featuring The Dog as the Referee, and The Hippo as an audience member enjoying his ice cream until he becomes a part of the action, however unwillingly)
Swimming/Diving (Part 2 - He lands in a net)
Golf (Part 2 - Deserted Island - The Dog with The Hippo.) I'm convinced this was the nod to the Hot Air Balloon cartoon.
The animation was on par with cartoon shorts produced by the National Film Board of Canada. They were minimal in terms of visual and audio style - simply put, the cartoons contained music set to very basic animation with little to no vocalization from the characters (vocalization always came from that menacing Little Blue Cat). When compared to cartoons of the "Product Placement Age" that dominated television at the same time, Sports Cartoons paled in comparison in terms of artistic quality, but made up for this with their cleverness. Unlike much of the cartoons from the "Product Placement Age," they have a timeless feel and age very well.
I'm absolutely nuts over The Hippo, who is absolutely adorable and lovable, with his "dancing radar ears." His ears remind me of my brother and sister-in-law's four-year-old Yorkie, Howie, who also has very animated ears when he is happy or excited (which is often, despite his sad eyes). The Hippo is an active participant in the sports he engages in, and comes to win (despite the fact that his victories are all bourne out of dumb luck, which is better than no luck at all), but shows his sensitive side when the safety of a butterfly or bird is at risk.
The Cat is a poor sport, but it is hard not to love his tenacity to win and how it backfires in his face. I especially love how vocal he is in "Darts," hollering "NOOOOO!" quite often, the only actual spoken word in the series of shorts - otherwise, the sounds the animal participants make are merely that, sounds.
Of the forty-five shorts that were made, my favorite shorts are Darts, Gymnastics, and Skydiving.
Darts seems to be the one that stands out as the most memorable of the lot, probably because it is the longest and has the funniest moments. The Little Blue Cat gets his, and bangs his head on a wall when he gets loses. "NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!"
Gymnastics was one of those "well put, well said" shorts, and coming in as one of the shorter segments, The Pig's determination to mount the perfect dismount into his Easy Chair was just too darn cute. A perfect "10" in my book!
And what can I say about Skydiving? The music was pretty, The Hippo's string collection got a little laugh from me...and he had a perfect landing in the pool. And there are those "Happy Radar Ears" again!
This setup was obviously taken from one of the VHS releases of the cartoons, though You Tube searches did not yield any extra material from its home video release (video opening/closing, previews, if any existed on the VHS print).
In all, special little treat from an arguably great era in Nickelodeon's past. I smile a little over seeing these again.
Do you remember this little relic of Nickelodeon's past? What was your favorite "sport"? How about character(s)? Also, if you have a copy of the original clamshell VHS cover, I'd love to see it.
Thanks for visiting!