2012 Film Challenge #30 - The Fun Parade

This is one of those cheap videos full of old cartoons of which everybody seemed to have a small library when they were six. However, The Fun Parade's slightly different. Compiled by a company called Diamond Films in 1986, it's been quite expertly edited together into a flowing whole.

These are very, very old cartoons. The soundtrack is faded as hell on a lot of them, and where the music's been lost, The Diamond Film Players add their own terrifying funk workouts. The animation's ropey, and time's not been kind to the quality of the video. However, this just makes for a unique grainy, hazy, almost dreamlike quality and a unique hypnagogic viewing experience completely without precedent in this digital age.

It opened with a couple of detectives seeking out a pink ghost in a dilapidated post-apocalyptic city. This suddenly segued without warning into an operatic piece in which a villain pursues a maiden.

He's the first of two or three villains in The Fun Parade. Villains are immediately identifiable by their top hats, their leers and their beards. You don't really see them these days.

Next comes a kangaroo (who resembled a gaunter Mickey Mouse) driven up the wall by a baby ostrich and a faulty vacuum cleaner. This is followed by my personal favourite – a curiously British affair in which a cabbie raises a taxi from birth in the interests of forming a business partnership. But on their first day, they're bullied and intimidated by the other taxis, so the plucky cabbie has to turn to devious means in order to get ahead in a competitive market.

Then there was another villain tormenting another maiden (though this villain was a wolf), which preceded a short piece about a rabbit so banal and twee that we had to zip through it.

The penultimate piece was another in which the soundtrack had been lost. But, unfazed, The Diamond Players simply improvised a jaunty polka accompaniment. It concerned a jamboree in the snow tormented by what I thought was another villain, though I was told that this was more of a ne'er-do-well. He was defeated, though, by the formidable team of a young buck and a sentient furnace.

Finally came a strange PIF about road safety in which two gay snowmen caused havoc in a land populated by fairytale characters. They made Simple Simon (the pieman) into a road hog and encouraged Cinderella's Prince Charming to show-off by driving too fast. The best bit, though, was where they caused a bout of road rage which saw a giant hammering his opponent on the head (to The Anvil Chorus) whilst a duck lay eggs in the back of his car.

The king sorted everything out in the end, releasing two benevolent spirits who made everything right. Most pointedly, they made Jack Spratt's wife, who had been transformed into a back-seat driver by the gay snowmen, agree to shut up.

Things ended very suddenly after this, but we were left amused and nostalgic – remembering those days when we could watch cartoons all day with no recourse. We must have seen thousands over the years. We had scores of video compendiums like The Fun Parade, but also entire three hour tapes which had been filled back-to-back with anything – anything at all – so long as it was animated.

One of them was called Cartoons, Cartoons & Even More Cartoons – it had been made for us by our great uncle and was filled mainly with Popeye. Then there was a video on which was written “tank” - this one was filled with wall-to-wall Thomas The Tank Engine. And we also had a green tape filled with Thunderbirds.

You could probably begin an in-depth study into the ways these disjointed animation compendiums shape upbringings and world-views. But I've no doubt that that way lies sadness and yet another quarter-life crisis.

This article's headed by an image of a top hat (a tribute to the villains) because I could not for the life of me find any images of any of the cartoons featured in The Fun Parade. Of course, I could just take a picture of the box, but shut up.

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