One of the biggest animated kid’s show to come out of Canada in the 1980’s may be getting a reboot. Creator, Kevin Gillis talked to Global News about plans to bring The Raccoons back with a modern spin. “Part of what’s really driving me here is we’ve had so many people who grew up on Raccoons all over the world who’ve been saying, ‘Wow, I loved that show. It was great, it was fun, why don’t you do a new one?’ Because they’re all raising kids now,” Gillis said about the initial inspiration to bring The Raccoons backs.
The show, which aired on CBC from 1985 until 1992, revolved around Bert Raccoon and his roommates, married couple Ralph and Melissa Raccoon. Together they worked to save their forest home from a greedy aardvark millionaire named Cyril Sneer who was always trying to destroy it for a quick buck. Their friends, Schaeffer the sheepdog, Cedric (Cyril’s son), and Sophie Tutu were always around to help. Lessons about environmentalism, friendship, and teamwork were present throughout the series.
The franchise started with a special called The Christmas Raccoons which aired in 1980 and was a huge hit in Canada as well as the U.S and the U.K. That led to two sequel specials, and the Gemini Award-winning five season TV show.
Gillis told Global News that he’s been thinking about a reboot of the show for a few years now, but he’s been busy working on developing interactive authoring platforms for his company Skyreader Media Inc.
He’s had a few offers from companies who want to buy the show and characters, but Gillis would rather stay involved and help relaunch the show in a new way. The only question is how. “If I take Raccoons into a brand new relaunch, do I do the obvious and age it up? Is it Raccoons 10 years later? Or is it ‘Baby Raccoons’ like Looney Tunes did, Muppet Babies did?” Gillis added, “what might work the best is just to go back a little bit from when they first met and they were teenagers in school. Because the relationships would have been formed then.”
The original specials were produced in a pre-computer era when animation had to be hand-drawn in Ottawa and then shot frame-by-farm on a 35-millimetre film that was shipped to Montreal for processing. Scenes were composed of hand-painted cels and background drawings, a process which required characters drawn on a transparent sheet to be laid overtop of a static background drawing. That method of animation has long since been abandoned in the industry in favour of computer-based animation.
Since they chose not to outsource to Asia as many animation studios did, costs were high, and production time slow. But that wouldn’t be the case for a modern reboot.
As for the direction, Gillis said he’d love to give fans a chance to offer up some ideas for what they’d like to see for the new Raccoons. “The Raccoons, arguably, is probably one of the more famous shows to come out of Canada. We were very fortunate we ended up in 180 countries around the world,” he says.
“I ended up hiring a lot of comedians to write and that brought an irreverence to the series. It was fun, it was funny, but at the same time it was very poignant and it wasn’t in-your-face didactic. We tried to have good clean fun,” Gillis says. Sounds like something kid’s programming could always use a little more of.