7.8/101 Votes Alchetron
Created by Kevin Gillis
Ending theme Run with Us
Network CBC Television
Genre Family Comedy-Drama
Narrated by Geoffrey Winter
Program creator Kevin Gillis
|Directed by Kevin Gillis
Voices of Len Carlson Michael Magee Linda Feige (Season 1) Bob Dermer Marvin Goldhar Sharon Lewis Keith Hampshire (Season 5) Lisa Lougheed (Seasons 4-5) Stuart Stone (Season 5) Noam Zylberman Nick Nichols (Seasons 1–4) Susan Roman (Seasons 2–5)
Theme music composer Kevin Gillis Jon Stroll
Cast Lisa Lougheed, Len Carlson, Michael Magee, Carl Banas, Susan Roman
The Raccoons is a Canadian animated series which was originally broadcast from 1985 to 1992, with three preceding television specials from its inception in 1980, and one direct to video special in 1984. The franchise was created by Kevin Gillis with the co-operation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (French: Société Radio-Canada).
- Other characters
- Additional voices
- Home video releases
The series revolves around Bert Raccoon and married couple Ralph and Melissa Raccoon, of whom Bert is a friend and roommate. The series mostly involved the trio's efforts against the industrialist forces of greedy aardvark millionaire Cyril Sneer, who usually tries to destroy the forest for a quick buck. However, the Raccoons would always save their forest from Cyril's schemes, with help from their forest friends including Schaeffer, a gentle sheepdog; Cedric, Cyril's college graduate son; and Sophia Tutu, Cedric's girlfriend. But, as the series progressed, Cyril became more of a sympathetic character, eventually becoming an antihero.
Lessons featured in the series mainly included environmentalism, but also included other lessons, including friendship and teamwork.
The Raccoons franchise was originally conceived by Kevin Gillis in the 1970s, while appearing in shows like Celebrity Cooks and Yes You Can. The initial idea for the show was created by Gillis and columnist Gary Dunford (they drew their inspiration for Ralph Raccoon from a dilemma that happened at a cottage in Ottawa). Dunford backed out, but Gillis took his idea to Ottawa lawyer Sheldon S. Wiseman, who saw a potential in Gillis' idea and put together a large group - animators, musicians, and writers, to create the first special to star the characters known as The Christmas Raccoons. Production on the special began in 1979 and completed in 1980, and the special was shown on the December of that same year on CBC Television. It was also shown in countries around the world, including the United States and the United Kingdom. The special was a huge hit and resulted in two sequel specials The Raccoons on Ice and The Raccoons and the Lost Star and a direct-to-video special, The Raccoons: Let's Dance!. In 1981, United States TV networks CBS, NBC and ABC approached Sheldon Wiseman about producing a 13 episode Raccoons TV series. In 1984, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Disney Channel began funding on the television series, which cost about $4.5 million to make. In the United States, the show was run on The Disney Channel from July 4, 1985, to August 28, 1992. In Canada, it was shown on CBC on Monday evenings and later in a block consisting of The Wonderful World of Disney and Fraggle Rock.
The series had a new wave soundtrack including the theme song "Run with Us" by cast member Lisa Lougheed. Season 1 ended with a different version of the song, not sung by Lougheed. "Run with Us" was performed in Season 1 by Steve Lunt. In the first season, the French Canadian singer Luba performed several songs, several of which were later re-recorded by Lougheed for use in other seasons. There were also several other songs performed by other musicians such as Rita Coolidge and Rupert Holmes who performed songs for the first special, Leo Sayer and Coolidge again for the second, and John Schneider and Dottie West for the last television special. Rory Dodd, The Dior Bros. (actually Kevin Gillis and Jon Stroll under a pseudonym), and several other musicians also had songs performed, although somewhat rarely compared to the aforementioned people.
The earlier version of "Run with Us", like quite a few of the other songs from The Raccoons, were never officially released. The songs from the first two specials were released on the album Lake Freeze – The Raccoons Songtrack in 1983. A soundtrack for the fourth special was released in 1984, but featured vocals from Frank Floyd and Hank Martin to replace John Schneider. Nine of the songs from the series featured on Lougheed's album Evergreen Nights (1988), though Lougheed only sang some of the songs (sometimes in duets), while some were sung by other artists (Curtis King Jr. and Stephen Lunt). The French version of "Run with Us", as well as most of Luba and Lisa Lougheed's songs, was performed by the French Canadian singer Jano Bergeron with "Run with Us" being renamed in French to "Viens Vers Nous".
The instrumental music was composed by Kevin Gillis and Jon Stroll and performed largely by the National Arts Centre Orchestra from Ottawa, Canada. Some of the instrumental cues heard in the series were actually recorded for The Raccoons and the Lost Star and re-used. Only six of the instrumental tunes (from The Raccoons on Ice and The Raccoons and the Lost Star) have ever been released officially (they can be found on the Lake Freeze and Let's Dance! albums).
From 1979 to 1985, Canadian animation company Atkinson Film-Arts provided the animation for the four specials and first season of the series. In 1986, after producing the first 11 episodes, Hinton Animation Studios took over to animate the remaining seasons of the show (seasons 2-5).
Home video releases
Embassy Pictures and its home video counterpart were responsible for releasing the specials and select episodes (mostly Season 1) on home video from 1982 to 1994. Embassy also released the specials on Laserdisc format. Other distributors, such as Catalyst & GoodTimes released some specials and episodes on VHS from in 1995 and 2001 to 2005.
In the UK, Embassy Home Entertainment released the four Raccoons specials on VHS in the mid 80's, before the distribution rights went to Channel 5 Video (a division of Polygram Video) in 1986. They re-released the four specials on video, as well as released another video called The Raccoons Big Surprise with two Season 1 episodes "Surprise Attack" and "Going It Alone" (Cat. No. CFV 05042). Then three videos with Season 2 episodes were released, the first two were by Picture Music International (PMI) that included "Double Play" and "The Sweet Smell of Success" on volume 1, released in 1988 and then "Blast from the Past" and "Power Trip" on volume 2, released in 1989. Then Video Collection International Ltd released a third tape which contained the episodes "Stop The Clock" and "The Artful Dodger" on 13 August 1990 (Cat No. VC1191). That same tape was re-released again by Video Collection International Ltd on 22 July 1991, as part of their Children's Club range (Cat No. KK0019).
In 2003, Morningstar Entertainment had released the show on DVD for the first time. Two 9-episode boxsets were released, each containing 3 discs that were also available separately. The discs were released without any region coding in NTSC format. The first set contained nine of the ten episodes from season 2 (omitting "Stop the Clock") and the second set contained the first nine episodes of season 3. The extras include character bios, a chance to create your own scene from the The Raccoons and Raccoon-A-Roma DVD-ROM content, like QuickTime animated sequences. For this release, Len Carlson also reprised his role as Bert during menus and gave in-character commentary before and after episodes. Both sets are now out of print.
A 2-disc Region 2 PAL DVD release of the complete series 1 was released on September 17, 2007 through Fabulous Films Ltd. The bonus features on set 1 were duplicated from the Canadian release, mainly the create a scene and Raccoon-A-Roma DVD ROM content. They later released a DVD entitled "Three Adventures With The Raccoons" on April 7, 2008. This DVD contained the first 3 episodes of Series 1 with no extras. Series 2 was released on April 20, 2009 by Fabulous Films Ltd. in another 2-disc set. DVD extras on the set include character model sheets and a documentary.
On September 18, 2009, MORE Entertainment had released an 8-disc DVD set in Germany, it contained all 60 episodes (7-8 per disc) and no extras. The language track is German only.
On December 14, 2009, the first season of The Raccoons is released on iTunes in Canada. On April 19, 2010, the first season is also released on iTunes in the United States. The first two seasons are released on DVD to Netflix in the United States in early-2010 and in Canada on August 2011.
On November 29, 2013, MORE Entertainment in Germany had released a DVD featuring all four of the Raccoons specials on DVD. Like the complete series set the only language track is German.
The Raccoons was well received by critics. The New York Times, in its review for their second TV special, said "the Raccoons are an adorable lot, supported nicely by an attractive production." Variety praised the third special, The Raccoons and the Lost Star, calling it "a rollicking good adventure filled with space-age animation, high-tech gadgetry, lilting tunes, a lovable sheepdog, and the delightful Raccoons team."
The show was nominated for many awards, including a Gemini Award for Best Sound and Best Writing, and won the Gemini for Best Animated Series.