During the Eighties the BBC brought us a great number of cartoons which were in serial form, that is made up of 20 to 30 episodes which formed an epic full story, rather than most cartoons which are normally stand alone episodes.
The cartoon which started all this off was Dogtanian and The Three Muskehounds and it soon became a must see for many kids. It’s bouncy theme song welcomed you in but more importantly the story being told was interesting and captivating. The Beeb followed Dogtanian up each year with a new epic cartoon, and one of these was Around The World With Willy Fogg.
This series was created by Spanish studio BRB Internacional, who were also responsible for Dogtanian, with animation provided by the Japanese company Nippon Animation. Willy Fogg’s adventures were based on the famous Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eighty Days, in which Victorian gentleman Phileas Fogg and his man servant travel around the world in the said 80 days, in order to win a bet.
Now, I admit I haven’t read the novel, but I am told that, name changes aside, and the fact that Willy Fogg is a lion of course, the cartoon is actually remarkably close to the original story. Most of the problems and delays that Phileas Fogg encountered in the book are also encountered by Willy Fogg on his journey. The major addition to the story is the villainous wolf Transfer, who has been employed by Willy’s betting opposition to prevent Mr. Fogg from completing the journey.
Willy is accompanied by his butler, for want of a better word, Rigodon, who was a cat and ex-circus performer. His friend Tico, a mouse, also from the circus, tags alongs with him and is there for the comedy relief. Tico always got very hot headed in situations, normally making matters worse in the process.
Fogg and friends gain a new travelling companion when they reach India, in the form of Princess Romy, who they rescued from a fiery death when her husband, the Rajah, died. Tradition stated she was supposed to be burnt alongside him (quite gruesome for a kids cartoon) but she was rescued by Rigodon, and she starts to fall for Willy Fogg.
As if avoiding Transfer isn’t enough, Willy is also having to avoid Inspector Dix and Constable Bully from Scotland Yard, who believe he robbed the Bank of England, and is trying to escape justice by travelling around the world.
Around the World with Willy Fogg was also graced with it’s own memorable theme song, and as with Dogtanian it soon became a necessity for the Children’s BBC presenter (Andy Crane at the time) to start singing along and sending out lyric sheets to viewers. I wish I had applied for one of these though, so that I could understand Princess Romy’s lines in the song, which sounded to me like:-
a marla mayla me so much.
Any ideas what she said? It’s almost as impenetrable as bits of The Flintstones and Top Cat theme songs…
Anyway, Willy Fogg was a lot of fun for the entirety of its 26 episode run, and was so popular that it apparently even spawned a sequel series, uninterestingly named Willy Fogg 2, which transferred two more Jules Verne novels to animation (Journey to the Centre of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). It was even so popular in it’s native Spain that it spawned a musical theatre show as well!