Nostalgia Sunday – Cartoons we loved
From Donald Duck to Tintin to Asterix, international cartoon characters have always been part of the Israeli pop culture landscape. The power of television, however, made them ever so much more so, even back when we still had but one Israel Broadcast Authority channel, one experimental second channel and educational TV was on for just a few hours a day.
Although not Israeli-born, the cartoon Barba-aba — our local version of Europe’s Barbapapa – was much loved here for a brief time in the mid-1970s… and then, like so many other characters, forgotten.
The original Barbapapa books were written in French. First published in 1970, they were subsequently translated into over 30 languages. The syndicated cartoons, produced in the Netherlands, were short and featured the blobby pink father Barapapa, blobby mother Barbamama (Hebrew: Barba-imma), and their seven blobby children, each of whom had a different interest or attribute.
The Israeli series, dubbed into Hebrew by radio personality Itzhak Shimoni, was a hit. Not only did it inspire a song in the Children’s Song Festival, the characters were also product-licensed by local confectioner Elite to sell chocolate.
Barbapapa has never really made a major comeback — though I did spot some dolls in a Neve Tzedek boutique window a few years back — but the series does live on in the hearts of some. There’s a local party bartending service that’s taken the name Barbaraba (“bar” – get it?) and there’s even a Hebrew-language Fan Page.
Another beloved international series that made it big in Israel in the mid-80s was HaLev (The Heart), a dubbed version of a Japanese cartoon series, 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother.
This Japanese anime television series was based on a part of the novel Heart (Cuore) by Edmondo De Amicis, and told the heart-rending story — no pun intended — of Marco, a young Italian boy who travels the world in search of his mother.
What can I say? The attraction escapes me but again, it was wildly popular among the after-school set, some of whom later grew up and created a T-shirt showing Marco sitting in front of Google and searching for “Mother”.
Both of these characters popularity was dwarfed — again, no pun intended* — by the big blue juggernaut known as Schtroumpf, Smurfs or in the local parlance, Dardasim. The cartoon series was broadcast here in the mid-80s and the term dardas taken into our local slang as someone of short stature.
The definition of nostalgia is “1. A sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations, and 2. The evocation of these feelings or tendencies, especially in commercialized form.” Tel Aviv T-shirt maker Noon has done booth, paying homage to the Dardasim, in their own hipster way, with a Smurfin’ shahid t-shirt.
To end on a less twisted note, here’s Tsipi Shavit singing the Barba-aba song.
*Okay, maybe a little bit.