In mid-2003 I started making an effort find the name of an animated special I remembered from my youth, via the friendster network:
“I’ve been searching for the title of a longform (I think) animated special that I remember from the 1980’s. Here’s what I remember about it: It wasn’t a regular series – it seemed more like a chopped-up feature. The show was longer than a half hour – I’m wanting to say it was two hours, but maybe it only seemed that long because I was young. The worst part about it was that it ended with a ‘to be continued,’ and I never saw the second half. I know I saw the first half more than once, and I remember it airing on sunday mornings each time I saw it. It was (Maybe) an episode of an after-school special type program, as I remember waiting to see if the second half was showing on any particular Sunday in this time slot and being greeted with live-action of some sort – I believe it might have been a part of an anthology show – with a different movie each week. The story consisted of a group (or ‘gang’) of kids (maybe a dog or other ‘pet’?) falling down a hole / mine / waterfall / something into a crazy hidden underground world, and their attempted journey home. For some reason my memory of the ‘To Be Continued’ scene involves a rockslide in a tunnel, trapping the kid(s) in the fanciful (Though it may have been sinister, I don’t recall) underground world. That might be completely wrong. That’s literally all I remember, besides the fact that I loved the first half and never saw the second half. Can you help?”
My friendsters were no help, so I turned to the animation discussion forum at cartoonresearch.com for answers… and got them!
“Since you say this was specifically an underground world (and not just transportation through a fall or hole to some other land, like the others mentioned, but one with rocks and caverns), can you recall if the kids met any green people? Sounds like it *might* be the three part Hanna-Barbera special “The Secret World of OG,” which aired for years on “The ABC Weekend special.” Apparently it involved four kids, their baby brother, and their dog. The green people seem to believe that all of the old make believe toys or objects they’ve collected over the years are real, or something like that, haven’t seen it in years. It was apparently based on a children’s book, still in print, by Pierre Breton. Couldn’t find any stills online, alas, but does this ring any bells?”
So began my quest for ‘The Secret World of Og.’ The sparse IMDB listing is here. Consulting amazon revealed no home video release, though there were a few used copies of the book on which it was based. Further searching turned up this summary of the plot:
Five young siblings and their pets discover an underground world beneath their backyard. They realize that this could be the place where they can find their missing comic books and other items that vanished from their home. They meet a strange green man who can only say “OG.”
Naturally, I next turned to eBay, where I found a seller who would list a single VHS copy each week. Without fail, these copies would get bid up to between 20 and 50 dollars. I contacted the winners of these auctions in an attempt to ascertain the quality of the video and accidentally got in touch with the family of one of the voice actors:
My daughter was probably 8 or 9 at the time the cartoon was made… She worked in showbiz for about 5 years and grew up to be a nurse! She did the voice of the little girl with the snake [Patsy]. The credits are kind of hard to read, but I think they misspelled her name… they spelled Brittany as ‘Brittiny’ which is really funny because she also did a movie, and in the credits they spelled her name as ‘Britanny.’ I didn’t know Brittany was so hard to spell!
“I received the tape today… I would not call the quailty great. The cartoon was copied from tv some 20 years ago and he has made copies of it. I feel kind of silly that I paid as much as I did for it, but it was my first purchase and it was important to me.
I decided to wait and see if the bidding furor would die down as time wore on as the guy had a seemingly limitless supply. Surprisingly, a few months ago, he stopped relisting the tapes, so I had to find a new source. I found an MSN group that had been created since I began my inital search and got in touch with a member there who was selling VHS dubs for a more economical price. I (and other members of the group) sent him a check and hoped for the best. A few days later, he posted a fairly cryptic message to the group and hasn’t been heard from since. My check remains uncashed.
I finally found someone via a google groups search who had a digital copy that they were willing to burn to DVDR for me. That copy arrived yesterday, and unfortunately, the audio and video are badly out of sync. It served its purpose, however, and after watching the DVD, I can now add the following details to the plot:
- The inhabitants of OG are all green.
- They’ve learned english by reading comic books stolen from the neighborhood children.
- As their language only consists of one word, their schooling “only lasts ten minutes.”
- They spend their ample free-time reenacting scenarios from comic books.
In summary: Mission accomplished. I finally got to see the ending to The ‘Secret World of Og.’ The audio to the climax should probably be played at every comic book convention ever (mp3). My copy is lacking the interruptions of O.G. Readmore and his accursed commercial breaks, but I was able to pick out where the episodic break occurred. There was no rock slide, but the scene that was etched in my memory was there, as one of the children is chased into a dead-end tunnel by the inhabitants of ‘Og.’ There were also plenty of story elements keeping the kids ‘trapped’ underground to fuel my five-year-old ‘Holy crap, that’s creepy’ emotional fire, but as one might expect, 20 years later it wasn’t nearly as fast-paced, exciting, or creepy as I remembered it. The Og characters seem pretty ridiculous, and the overall sense of suspense that my memory conjures is flatly absent. If anyone’s interested I could probably post a few more stills, and I might even be convinced to put together a torrent if there’s sufficient demand.
Tracking down ‘The Secret World of Og’ exposed me to the titles of tons of other animated ABC Weekend Specials, most of which threw a faint switch of recognition. A sampling:
- The Haunted Mansion Mystery
- The Red Room Riddle
- The Amazing Bunjee Venture
- The Return of the Bunjee
- Ghost Of Thomas Kempe
- My Dear Uncle Sherlock [I definitely remember this one.]
- The Trouble with Miss Switch
- Miss Switch to the
- The Dog Days of Arthur Cane
- All the Money in the World
- Mayday, Mayday
Judging by the reaction I got from people I discussed the Weekend Specials with, it seems like there would be a market for someone to release a bunch of them on DVD. If you were the sort of person who woke up early on Saturdays to watch cartoons until lunchtime, this google groups thread is full of crazy reminders.