A good chunk of the movies I watched back then were recorded off the Disney Channel. We had whole tapes chock full of their programming. There was almost always something coming on that we liked. Obviously, this is where I got a lot of my Disney animated features from. I owned some of the actual VHSs, but quite a few of them were taped off TV. Yes, I’ve been a pirate since I was five years old. My daddy raised me right, yep.

One of the first Disney movies I remember my dad recording for me was The Three Caballeros. Surely someone out there besides me has seen this movie. I used to watch it constantly. It’s not your usual Disney feature; it’s more like a musical travelogue than anything else, and in the end it descends into a sort of psychedelic madness. However, it’s funny, creative and visually striking, and it’s a piece of history– the movie was actually commissioned by the US Government during World War II to try to introduce the American people to Latin American culture.

Here’s my favorite part of the movie: the titular musical number featuring Donald Duck and his friends José Carioca and Panchito Pistoles, a Brazilian parrot and a Mexican rooster, respectively. It’s one of the funniest Disney musical numbers ever; the zany sight gags are more like something you’d expect from Warner Bros., not Disney.

And now for something completely different.

Sometime in the early 90s, Disney aired the stand-up comedy special Bill Cosby: Himself. When I was a kid, this was the funniest shit I had ever seen in my life. Even though I had the whole thing memorized, I would laugh every time I watched it, and I still laughed when I watched it again the other day. This thing is truly a classic.

However, one thing I didn’t know back then was that Disney Channel cut out about fifteen minutes of this special. I didn’t find out until I watched it on DVD years later. They cut the parts where The Coz was talking about drugs and alcohol. I guess I can understand why they did it, but they should have left it in anyway because the drugs bit is one of the most hilarious parts.

Here’s the clip:

Some of the other movies I got courtesy of the Disney Channel were Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan (which I never liked, but whatever), Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer, and The Little Mermaid. I also had various non-Disney cartoons that they would show sometimes, including one Thanksgiving special that starred a bunch of animal characters, one of which was a fox. I can’t remember much else about that one, but I watched it a bunch of times.

However, one show I do remember watching a lot of is a Canadian cartoon called The Raccoons. I only had a few episodes on tape, but I watched it every afternoon. This show had a really cool ending theme song that I loved as a kid. This isn’t the actual end credits sequence (couldn’t find a good video of it), but it does have the full version of the song:

Anyway, I haven’t seen that show in a long time, but I remember it being different than a lot of other cartoons at the time. It seemed so much more mature, and I remember the characters being surprisingly well-developed for an 80s ‘toon. Hell, as a matter of fact, the antagonist actually becomes a good guy later on. You didn’t see that very often back then (except maybe in anime). There was a DVD boxset released, but apparently it only has 9 episodes in it and goes for like 40 dollars. So it doesn’t look like I’ll be checking that out anytime soon.

So…you might be wondering what the hell happened to the Disney Channel. After they changed to basic cable in 1997, it was all downhill from there. I guess they decided they wanted to make more money. And they do– apparently the network and its franchises and such are estimated to be worth some 800 million dollars nowadays. That’s fine and all, but I really miss the more diverse programming that anybody could enjoy, rather than the very narrow demographic they cater to nowadays. It’s like an MTV for kids, almost. And we all know how much MTV sucks ass.

To add insult to injury, there’s almost nothing “Disney” about Disney Channel (yes, they have officially dropped “The” from the name). It pains me to think that many kids will grow up associating the Disney name with stuff like Hannah Montana, High School Musical (oh God save us all), and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. I’ve been thinking that maybe they should just do a name change and a re-launch since there are so few actual “Disney” characters and programs on the network.

On the off chance that they do show one of their classic features (quite rare these days; they want to you shell out the cash for them on DVD, of course), it’s interrupted quite often and then you have to deal with their tweenybopper crap.

However, I’ve still got my memories, so when I think of the Disney Channel, I always try to think of the good ol’ days. Keeps my blood pressure down.

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