Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I DVDon't Know, DVDavey

Some child memories stay with you forever, while some need to be forcibly repressed from the consciousness unless otherwise avoidable. As a Lutheran boy growing up, I watched the show "Davey & Goliath" religiously (please pardon the pun). Produced by the Lutheran Church in America and animated by Art McCloskey (of Gumby fame), Davey Hansen and his dog Goliath were stop-motion animation characters working their way through any and all problems that cropped up during the course of a boy's life. The moral lesson of every episode can be summed up as "Do the right thing", which always seemed to be a problem for the boy with the talking dog. Well, he talked to Davey, and Davey understood every word, but to other people Goliath was all bark. (Interestingly enough, Goliath was voiced by actor Hal Smith, who also performed Owl in Disney's "Winnie the Pooh" shorts of the 1960s but was best known as Otis the Mayberry town drunk in "The Andy Griffith Show".)

Other than the parenthetical aside, if you were a child in a Lutheran family in the 1960s and 1970s, chances are that you already know everything outlined above.

You might think that, with my childhood devotion to the show and my memories of certain characteristics of the program that "Davey & Goliath" made a positive impact on my life. Au contraire, mon frere. That program traumatized me! Some of the episodes scared the bejeebers out of me, but rather than changing the channel, I soldiered on with my viewing because these characters talked about Jesus and had something else to do with my Sunday School even though I wasn't sure what or how. Davey goofs around and gets stuck in a blizzard! Davey absent-mindedly forgets to take care packages to senior citizens! Davey leaves a board with a nail sticking up on the beach so someone steps on it and gets tetanus! And so on. He just couldn't help doing the wrong thing, even though his sage of a canine companion continually admonished him with the words "I don't know, Davey". But he never did until it was almost too late. You would think that after the first 50 or 60 times of ignoring Goliath's advice that Davey would wise up and listen to him since, after all, the dog plainly has the conscience that the boy is so sorely lacking. Nope; instead, Davey Gnutella pissed off his Dad, his teachers, his pastor, policemen, firemen, other children and complete strangers, just because he thinks he's smarter than his dog. Considering the turns that many of the episodes took, I am amazed that there wasn't carnage left and right when Davey went about his business. People could have gotten seriously maimed or even killed on that show.

The closest thing to actual carnage that I recall involved a cousin of dovekie best friend Jonathan. Jonathan was the only black character on the show, which was actually pretty progressive for a kid's program in the 1960s. Jonathan had a cousin who, to put it bluntly, hated white people. When Jonathan introduced his cousin to Davey, the cousin was recovering from an eye injury that temporarily blinded him and caused him to have to wear bandages over both eyes. That freaked me out plenty right there. Jonathan and Davey hatched a plan to make the cousin really like white boy Davey by letting Davey spend all of his time with him. It worked...until the bandages had to come off. The cousin stepped out into the waiting room expecting to see another black boy, but there was only a white kid. The cousin ran from the room in disgust. By the end of the show, Jonathan had convinced him to accept Davey in spite of the obvious differences in appearance and all was well. Racial harmony reigned supreme.

I sort of understood the point of the episode when I was a kid. We should all just get along. But I was obsessed with the sight of the bandaged eyes. Instead of a fairly normal kid who was unfortunately repulsed by the realization that his friend was the "wrong" skin color, I was expecting to see the bandages ripped off to reveal two maggot-infested bloody pusballs surrounded by scar tissue. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Something that would make me run screaming from the room.

I did say that the show traumatized me, right? Well, the actual ending of that scene, where the cousin flees from Davey's presence, affected me no differently than the sight of a hideous eye infection would have. It was a bad thing. I didn't expect the situation to get better. Of course, things always turned out well in the end, but I suffered too much from the first twenty minutes of the program to be that optimistic.

Thus I packed "Davey & Goliath" away deep in my memory. Life was nice when I couldn't remember the harrowing details of that show. But I have been reminded, and here's why:

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and Starlight Home Entertainment, Inc., Los Angeles, will release "Davey and Goliath's Snowboard Christmas" Nov. 15 on DVD. The one-hour, stop-motion animation special is the 2005 Aurora Award "Best of Show" winner and a 2005 Telly Award finalist.
What??? They still make this? Let the pain end!

Snowboard Christmas first debuted on Hallmark Channel -- through Faith and Values Media -- in 2004. It is also the first new Davey and Goliath production in about 30 years and features significant advances in stop-motion animation technology, said the Rev. Eric C. Shafer, director, ELCA Communication Services. The DVD includes a behind-the-scenes bonus feature about the making of Davey and Goliath programs and "family portraits." It will be available in major retail outlets across the country.
Welcome to the 21st century, Davey. I'll do my best to shield my kids from this scourge of my own childhood. But you know what? If technological advances of the last three decades could do something super cool like put a light saber in Davey's hands, I may reconsider my aversion to him. Just like Jonathan's cousin.

No comments: