When I was growing up, I watched a lot of cartoons, but some of my favorites and the ones that continue to influence me until this day were anime versions of children’s literary classics. The versions I watched mostly originated from Japan and were aired over free TV in the Philippines in the 1990s. They were dubbed in Filipino, and provided many happy memories and life lessons for children of my generation.
6. Von Trapp Family (adapted from the film The Sound of Music) — This series did not trifle too much with the original material which starred Julie Andrews and instead established and fleshed out Maria’s relationship with the Von Trapp children. The series was filled with heartwarming family values and a lot of music. Something new to look forward to every morning, whether it be Maria’s antics or Baron Von Trapp’s surliness.
5. Peter Pan (adapted from the novel Peter Pan by James Matthew Barrie) — The animated series was very fun to watch because it put Peter Pan in the center of all the mischief against the villanous Captain Hook. Together with his lost boys and the Darling children Wendy (their mother), John and Michael, Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up provides a foil to each of Hook’s plans to capture him. I especially loved the Filipino dubbing of this series and the character of Hook’s right hand man Smee whose best line was Opo Kapitan (Yes, Captain). The general tone of the series was magical. It inspires children to accomplish the impossible.
4. Cedie (adpated from Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett) — This series basically shows how a family who has been suffering from wounds of the past is united because of Cedie, the little lord who captures his grumpy grandfather’s (The Duke) heart and teaches him how to be more compassionate not only to his mother, the daughter in law that he does not approve of, but also towards the people working in his court.
3. Sarah, the Little Princess (adapted from the novel A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett) — Perhaps one of the animated classics replayed at least five times in different timeslots because of its overwhemning success in ratings, Sarah, the daughter of a rich miner, touches the hearts of viewers when she sudddenly becomes an ophan and is forced to work as a maid in the boarding school of Miss Minchin, the villainess of the piece. Sarah, despite her privileged background does her best and manages to survive her new status in life with the help of her new friends and and her innate kindness. Sarah is definitely a poster child for positive karma as the ending will prove.
2. Judy Abbot (adapted from the novel Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster) — The series follows the life of Jerusha “Judy” Abbot, a spunky orphan who has a knack for getting into trouble. Judy gets the opportunity to go to college to pursue her dream of becoming a writer with the help of one of the trustees of the John Grier home (where she grows up) whom she refers to only as Daddy Long Legs. The series chronicles the adventures of Judy in school as she grows up and deals with adolescent issues, living in poverty, falling in love. All of these she confides in her letters to her mysterious benefactor, whom she finds out in the end is someone who is no stranger to her.
1. The Dog of Flanders (adapted from the novel A Dog of Flanders by Marie Louise de la Ramee ) — The original novel was written in 1872 about a boy Nello and his dog Patrasche, but the story would speak to generations and generations to come as the one story that touches the hearts no matter what language or medium. The story is set in Belgium and illustrates the struggles of Nello, a poor boy who lost his parents at a young age and lives with his grandfather. Due to poverty, Nello does not go to school and sells milk for a living with the help of his dog Patrasche, an abused dog whom he rescues and becomes his best friend and companion in the years ahead. I cried buckets over this series and it seemed that there was no episode where I did not shed a tear for this innocent soul who was saddled with responsibility so early in life, and was forced to deal with hardships and the cruelty of those who are above his station. I was moved by the genuine love that Nello had with his sickly grandfather and his dog, his never give up attitude, and the sacrifices that he had to go through — hunger, persecution and people’s inability to see through his poverty to discover his artistic skills. Patrasche’s loyalty to his master until the very end is also very touching and contributes to the emotional impact of the entire series.
What is common among these cartoons is that they teach children (and even adult viewers) lessons about becoming better persons. They provide entertainment but at the same time a means for viewers to understand society and how life is not always as it is supposed to be, but how it can be better and how even the actions of one person can effect change. They are fraught with morals gives children a finer understanding of literary classics, sometimes even inspiring them to pick up the original material which gives them an even bigger insight into the stories.
What I like about these cartoons are that they have meaning. They affect something integral in people that make them unforgettable even after years, decades. A difficult feat to accomplish but there it is. I just wished that they continued making more of these types of animes because even as I like the adventure and action in most cartoons nowadays, its refreshing to return to these animated series that are deeply rooted in character building and inspiration for the viewers.