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Ashens returns to the Tech Dump

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David Thair | 12:20 UK time, Friday, 17 September 2010

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Stuart Ashen, that bloke off the internet who sounds a bit like his nose is blocked, writes...

Hello! I'm Stuart Ashen, that bloke off the internet who sounds a bit like his nose is blocked.

I recently had the honour of featuring forgotten eighties cartoon Bo-Starr and the Champions of Galastrom on my show Ashen's Tech Dump.  As you've no doubt viewed the episode multiple times already and told all your friends about it, you may have developed an interest in old cartoons which failed miserably.  So, as a special treat, I've listed some other unsuccessful animated franchises below.  Feel free to use this information to make yourself sound clever during nostalgia-themed conversations down the pub.

Verse Masters
A high-concept "edutainment" cartoon, Verse Masters featured two opposing factions of giant robots who battled by reciting poems at each other.  This proved immensely unpopular with children, possibly due to the show almost exclusively featuring obscure 19th Century lyric poetry.

The producers braced themselves for a backlash of negative feedback from bored kids, but most complaints received were actually from confused parents angry that most of the poems didn't rhyme.  Upon learning of this the despondent script writers threw themselves off a cliff.

Snufflors XTREME!
'The Snufflors' was a series of Swedish children's books, beloved in their native country for their gentle humour and positive outlook.  In the late seventies an animated series was produced which carefully retained the warm charm of the original material.

In 1985 the series was picked up by an American conglomerate who decided that it was too tame to make them any serious money.  They created Snufflors XTREME! by mixing the original footage with explosions and long explanatory sequences delivered by a cute robot in a space station.  It was a complete flop, and the original Swedish creators went on to make millions by releasing a translated version of the earlier series on DVD.

Originally conceived by comedian Rob Frener as a spoof idea for a Candid Camera-style show, Give-us-all-your-parents-money-bots was pitched to a real studio executive who was filmed with a secret camera.  Frener hadn't banked on the executive having no sense of irony or proportion, and rather than getting the amusing rebuff he expected the cartoon was actually green-lit for a 28 episode series.

Frener decided to use the opportunity to create a scathingly satirical show which poked fun at not only the conventions of contemporary children's television, but at consumer culture as a whole.  But then he realised that would be a lot of hard work so he made another hidden camera show based around public lavatories.

The Exorcist Adventures
Riding on the craze of kid's cartoons based on adult films started by Rambo and the Forces of Freedom and Robocop: The Animated Series, the rights were purchased for seminal seventies horror The Exorcist.  Pre-production documentation shows that the plot revolved around the possessed girl Regan travelling across America and solving problems with her kooky demonic powers.
The series never made it past the planning stage, as the production team were lynched by everyone in the entire world.

Vinnie Vole's Existential Nightmares
A spin-off of the similarly-titled computer game, little is known about this early eighties British animation.  Supposedly based on stories concocted by a group of depressed philosophy teachers and an escaped Armenian mental patient, the planned series was to feature the eponymous Vole suffering in despair through various metaphysical tortures designed to provoke the primal fear of death itself.

Two pilot episodes were produced for the benefit of the show's potential sponsors. The screening had to be cut short halfway through the first episode when several people present collapsed in hysterical distress. Ambulances were called, and the films were sealed inside a lead case and stored in that huge warehouse you see at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Look out for more new Tech Dump next week. In the meantime, here's more from Ashens on the blog.


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