1. Benji, Zax, and the Alien Prince – Really not sure how this idea came to be. In 1983, the Benji franchise was in the sweet spot of its popularity – that movie star dog could do no wrong. He’s like Lassie, but interesting! Sort of. Hanna-Barbera took on the task of pulling Benji from the big screen and putting him on television in weekly installments. The best way to do that, they must have thought, was to put him in a sci-fi storyline with robots and aliens.
So yeah, Benji, the little dog who could help normal people solve normal problems, was suddenly tasked with helping an heir to an alien regime displaced by a coup restore honor to his planet. Benji, Zax & the Alien Prince aired as part of CBS’s 1983 Saturday Morning lineup. The idea was that this deposed prince was sent to earth to hide, and he and his guardian robot Zax came across Benji.
Zax, being a robot in the ’80s, was obviously a wisecracking know-it-all. He and Benji had a friendly antagonistic relationship, and Zax was able to decipher Benji’s short barks into the long sentences that they apparently actually were. Convenient! Zax also provided a good prop for Benji to do his tricks against.
The series was mostly about bad guys from outer space coming to capture/kill the prince, and Benji’s successful thwarting of such attempts after Zax displays an inability to do so.
The series lasted only one season; it appears that that Benji love that consumed American youth in the 1970s and 80s only goes so far. I’m still scratching my head over who thought it’d be a good idea to take the Benji franchise into this territory – it’s a pretty square peg going into a round hole. It makes for some fun point-and-laugh nostalgia, but I can’t imagine anyone pitching this with any seriousness.
Here’s an episode. Woof.
2. Frog and Toad Claymation – Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad series of books were a staple of my childhood, and I’m really glad that my son loves them as much as I do. What I didn’t know about the series was that Lobel worked on a claymation version of several of the stories. With stop motion talent John Clark Matthews directing, Lobel narrated this 1985 release. Fun fact: Toad is voiced by Otis from The Andy Griffith Show, who also voiced Flintheart Glomgold in Duck Tales!
3. Time for Timer – This 1970s PSA series on ABC showed kids the effects of food on their bodies and, more importantly, the importance of eating the right foods. The animation is gorgeous and really unique to this series. Check one out, here:
4. Use Medicines Properly – This beautiful 1970 poster from the UK reminds us to ask how to use our medications.
5. 1945 Berlin – This crisp color footage of 1945 Berlin is absolutely stunning. Absolutely stunning.