A bit delayed with some things I was going to review, so bumping that to tomorrow and instead having a look at these two specials from the early eighties. The Raccoons was a staple of Saturday mornings when I was a kid for a long time, although I must admit that it was mainly because I loved the intro, loved Run With Us, and just ate my breakfast through those two things to kill the time.
As recently pointed out by a work colleague of mine, Cyril Sneer is definitely a Jewish caricature.
First, The Christmas Raccoons.
The Evergreen Forest is looked after by Ranger Dan, who lives nearby with his children and dog Schaeffer. However, as immense as it is, it’s starting to disappear. Who could be responsible for that?! I think we’ve all got a good idea!
The deforestation, which could rob the animals of their homes, is played as quite sinister. You know who, Cyril Sneer, skips through the forest with chainsaw in hand, while his son Cedric wrings his hands over the damage. Even though Ralph, Melissa and, of course, Bert Raccoon were the stars of the show, the troubled relationship between the Sneers was pretty much the backbone of the programme, with Cyril as a greedy bad guy, but not such a bad guy that he’d do anything to hurt his son.
The Raccoons get their first encounter with Schaeffer when they drop down Ranger Dan’s chimney looking for their tree, chased away by him, but then realise he can communicate with them (Bert: “The beast talks!”). They track down the Sneers, where Cedric is more complicit than you’d think in this iteration, but Cyril is forced into replanting the trees to give the Raccoons and the other animals new homes. While they wait for them to grow, a bit of a “Was it a dream?” scenario is used to give them somewhere to reside.
Nice little special, with the dynamic set up for the series. Only real trouble is the character designs for the human characters are pretty ugly. Also, was it ever discussed as to why Bert had the same nose as Cyril and Cedric? Lost son?
To go with that, here’s The Raccoons on Ice.
Funny to see that Leo Sayer played Ranger Dan in this special. One of his last big appearances was going mental on Big Brother in the UK:
Cyril is back with more sinister plans to stop the Raccoons having fun skating and playing hockey. Cedric is much more of a friend this time, plus we have the debut of his future girlfriend Sophia. We also have the first appearance of Cyril’s boardroom full of cigar-smoking bears, who approve of him building a new casino over a lake. Bad plan to start with, what about when the ice melts?
While Leo may not make much of an actor, and his Canadian accent is terrible, he does contribute towards a few good musical interludes in the special. The Raccoons protest when Cyril turns up with his bulldozers, so business is agreed to be settled in a manner similar to wrestling – a hockey game, with the winners getting to do what they please with the lake. Cedric, the premier hockey player of the lot, agrees to play on the team of the Raccoons, but Cyril grounds him to put him out of commission (pretty whipped kid if he’s a college graduate and can still get grounded).
The wrestling analogy doesn’t end there, with injuries, substitutes, masked players turning the tide and big reveals, then big comebacks. The side that you’d expect end up winning… Couldn’t be any other way.
The Bottom Line: I enjoyed watching these a lot more than I expected to, with some great atmosphere and a good sense of stakes, especially in the second special. I remembered The Raccoons as being somewhat wimpy, and it is to a degree, but they got 95% of the components of the show right from the beginning, especially Cyril and his growling, gravelly voice.
One major thing wrong with these specials, and the omission of this: