Cathode Ray Mission: OVIDE AND THE GANG (1987-88)

While we here at Canuxploitation have always been firmly focused on theatrical tax shelter oddities and straight-to-video schlock, we’ve always had a soft spot for our film industry’s small screen cousin, the often inhospitable landscape of Canadian television.  That’s why we’re introducing CATHODE RAY MISSION, a new column by CanTV expert Cameron Archer, whose boob tube scribblings have appeared on sites including TV, eh? , Canadian Animation Resources and other assorted publications (including his own blog). Each entry of CATHODE RAY MISSION will highlight some of Canadian television’s more offbeat offerings, featuring video, commentary and lots of bad memories dredged up from the bottom of your consciousness.

OVIDE AND THE GANG (1987-88), like many Canadian animated television cartoons of its era, was shuttered to weekend television’s non-peak hours during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Unlike Cookie Jar and Nelvana, who can easily fling C.L.Y.D.E., MY PET MONSTER, and THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN on This TV, qubo and/or Teletoon Retro, CinéGroupe’s productions are harder to come by in reruns.

Maybe that’s just as well. OVIDE AND THE GANG (LA BANDE À OVIDE in French-speaking areas, like Quebec) — was an odd platypus. The Canada/Belgium co-production was created by Belgian cartoonist Bernard Godisiabois, better known by his pseudonym Godi, and fellow Belgian Nicolas Broca. Nic Broca, a cartoonist and animator, helped develop 1980s Hanna-Barbera/SEPP cartoon property, THE SNORKS.

The Basic Formula
A typical OVIDE AND THE GANG episode features Ovide, a blue platypus in a green hat. Ovide and his friends – Saffron the fatter yellow platypus/cook, Groaner the white toucan/pun-lover, and Polo the red lizard/janitor–live in Paradise, an ersatz Australia. Ovide’s main enemy is Cy Sly, the purple python who wants to take over Paradise for…greed’s sake, I suppose. Cy’s motives are never quite clear.

Addle-brained henchman Bobo hangs around with Cy, calling Cy “boss.” Wikipedia identifies Bobo as a Keel-billed toucan, though I have my doubts. Koala versions of the three wise monkeys, named Doe, Rae, and Mi in the English dub (Ko, A and La in the French dub), appear on the show sometimes. Literal woodworm Woody pisses Polo enough for Polo to futilely chase after it. Later episodes establish Matilda, a boomerang-wielding kangaroo.

The weird bits
What makes OVIDE AND THE GANG weird (aside from the koalas) is its fixation with television. Televisions are literally everywhere on this show, even built into the island. Ovide also owns a portable TV, for his and/or his friends’ viewing pleasure.

Whenever Cy needs an excuse to oust Ovide from Paradise, one of the island’s television sets pop up, with ideas central to the episode’s plot. Ovide usually fights back by… watching television. His name is an anagram for “video.”

Let’s Watch
Here’s an episode (“The Prophet”) centred around Cy’s new religion. The religion is surprisingly not called Cyentology.

In this video, a Spanish galleon washes up on shore, leading Cy to wonder how he can use it to his advantage. Meanwhile, Ovide debates the merits of a television show, before the television show becomes an integral part of the plot.

Cultural legacy
OVIDE AND THE GANG uses a variation on the same plot — Cy wants Paradise, Ovide foils him, everyone stops what they’re doing to watch television – for most of its run. I’m not sure what was lost in the translation from  LA BANDE À OVIDE  to OVIDE AND THE GANG .

The show was popular in the Netherlands, as OVIDE EN ZIJN VRIENDJES, yet never caught on in North America. Global Television Network, which aired OVIDE in English Canada, mainly used it as CanCon filler.

Twenty-five years later, a central tenet of OVIDE AND THE GANG  has come to pass. Tablet computers, as well as mobile television content, have made OVIDE AND THE GANG ‘s world a reality. I wouldn’t be surprised if, ten years from now, a Rogers- or Bell-branded television set burrows out of the ground, selling me on the merits of Maclean’s magazine or the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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  1. Brian Draney says:

    Might sound crazy, but ever since I first discovered this cartoon in 2007, I’ve had my heart set on reviving the show to DVD in shops. I have a whole bunch of English episodes on YouTube, hoping something will do it justice.

  2. Polecat says:

    Came here because I used to see ads for Ovide on the same videotapes as my favorite Rude Dog cartoons and realized that I never actually saw the show or knew what it was about (I’m a Yank). Well, now I’ve finally found out after all these years!