When I was a kid, our family lived in a house that was right next to an electric fence. Since you’ve likely never lived next to an electric fence in the world before cable, let me just explain: it completely destroys your TV reception. So your choices are either to order cable, or give up on TV altogether. Obviously no red-blooded American would give up on TV, so our family was one of the absolute first to get cable.
Back when Nickelodeon was brand-new, they didn’t have a lot of their own programming, so they’d fill most of their airtime with foreign cartoons that were completely unlike anything on American TV:
- The World of David the Gnome which looks like a cute happy kiddy show, but actually has a decent amount of action and (kid-friendly) violence (against trolls) and ends with the main characters dying. Seriously.
- The Mysterious Cities of Gold, a French-Japanese co-production, which had a 39-episode plot arc and ended up with strange mutants trying to take over the world with a flying Olmec statue head, defeated only by a golden, solar-powered, condor-shaped airplane much footage of which is in this badass techno music video. Seriously these cartoons rocked. This series is available on Netflix.
- Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea
Spartakus was by far my favorite, and it’s really hard to explain, because the show is so surprisingly complex. It’s a French cartoon. The premise is, basically, that while two kids are out camping with their family, they paddle their canoe into a cave and fall into a fantasy world that lives beneath the Earth’s crust. That world consists of “stratas” (basically, huge floating continents), and the center-most strata has the titular “sun beneath the sea” (called Tehra, artificially created by the Arkadians eons ago). The Tehra is dying, and nobody knows why, so in violation of the law some Arkadian children enter the archives to research the problem, which is where they find Tehrig, and Bic and Bac.
Tehrig had a huge influence on me as a kid. He’s basically a giant trilobite-shaped sentient hovercraft/computer, which the cast uses to travel between the strata. He looks like this:
(He also has dozens of little helper robots called Triggies:
If you’ve seen Farscape, now you know where they got the idea for the DRDs. And possibly Moya as well. But I digress.)
I won’t spend the rest of this post gushing over the cartoon, which frankly was poorly-animated and poorly-dubbed. But for a little kid with very little exposure to sci-fi concepts, this thing was mind-blowing.
But pangolins, yes. So the comic relief characters are a pair of immortal identical twin creatures who can start fires by rubbing their noses together named Bic and Bac. It sounds stupid, but they’re awesome. They also have their own little music video in the series, although unfortunately it’s always cut-off in the English dub:
(Link in case embedding breaks.)
If you read the show description or fan sites, you’ll soon learn that Bic and Bac are described as pangolins. What the hell is a pangolin? This is a pangolin:
Pangolins are awesome. They’re basically anteaters, covered in scales, and when in danger they can roll into a ball. (Which Bic and Bac did as well, by the way.) According to their Wikipedia page, someone once made a coat of armor out of pangolin scales, which strikes me as insane. They’re also somewhat endangered, because crazy Chinese people think you can use pangolin scales to reduce swelling.
So, yeah… that’s pretty much all there is too it. I was nostalgia-ing out one day, and came across a couple fan sites for this show I watched as a tiny tot. I read the description of the characters, and came across the pangolin. A basass-looking animal with a goofy-name.