In the Simpsons comics, Matt Groening would often write some editorial (maybe he still does, I stopped getting them a few years ago... are they still running, actually, or is it all reprints? I mean, the ones I got were *already* reprints, of the American versions. Anyway...), sometimes related to The Simpsons but often just about his life. One of those was "Things which frightened and disturbed me as a kid." And that's kind of the approach I'd like to take to this post.
Sometimes it feels like my defining childhood moments involve watching something on TV which disturbed or haunted me. Usually they seem to be animated. There is one I remember which involved a ship which was overheating... the furnace was overloaded or something, and it was burning up. The main things I can remember are the scene where the characters escape by helicopter or something, and watch the ship blow up in a sort of mushroom cloud, and the fact that one of the characters had an unshaven face. If I saw it again I don't think it would have much of an effect on me, but at the time... well, let's just say I felt the need to leave the room any time The Simpsons was on - Homer's unshaven face brought back the unpleasant memory.
I'd love to find out what TV show that was, though.
Anyway, I think there can be something genuinely unsettling about the stark look of some of those 70s/80s animated TV shows, with their gloomy colours. One of them I am glad to say I was able to find. Say hello to... The Valley of the Dinosaurs, episode 5 "Volcano"!
Yes, it's only the second half. You're experiencing it the way I did. The first half isn't too hard to find if you're curious, and you want to know why this 70s family is hanging out with these cave-dwellers. Why these prehistoric Ama-zon inhabitants are white (or maybe slightly Asian) or why they speak in the same dialect as the 1970s family, only slower and with no inflections, remain mysteries.
So, anyway, this was a TV series that was on before Saturday morning Disney cartoons. So I invariably saw the last few minutes of it before the cartoons I wanted to see came on. This "Volcano" episode was being shown on the first morning I started seeing Saturday morning cartoons, and I must say that in spite of all the tackiness I see before me now, for a young kid like I was at the time, that volcano... referred to at 03:53 as "Devil's Pudding" for some reason... was High Octane Nightmare Fuel.
And, this was followed by an advert for some sort of superhero-based pasta shapes... which was animated, and involved a tidal wave of spaghetti sauce flooding through a city. I think I assumed this was the preview for the following week's episode: "Next time... the lava reaches the city and kills a lot of people!"
And then... the first cartoon on the Saturday Disney show was the Donald Duck classic "Good Scouts", where Donald and his nephews visit Yellowstone National Park... and begins with them all crossing a mud spring called "Devil's Stew Pot". Oh... and the fact that Donald later winds up on top of a geyser, which *erupts*, didn't exactly put the Hanna-Barbera Nightmare Fuel out of my head.