I'm sure everyone has at least one movie that they remember watching during their childhood that no one else seems to remember. Believe me, I'm no exception to that, and I find it quite frustrating when I'm the only person who seems to remember those lost treasures from my youth. For that reason, I'm doing something a little different this week. Instead of posting a review of one movie, I'm making a list of the movies that I retained a fond memory of, particularly the ones you have to search long and hard for today. Hopefully, this list will not only refresh some people's memories, it might also help increase some popularity for the films listed. So without further ado, here is my list off Obscure Movies from my Childhood
1) Brown Bear’s Wedding/White Bear’s Secret- These two mini-movies almost didn’t make it onto this list, but I remembered them both at the last minute. In Brown Bear’s Wedding, Brown Bear, voiced by Joss Ackland, is content with his solitary life in his log cabin, until he sees White Bear skating on the village pond and is instantly attracted to her. With the help of his best friend, Owl, voiced by Hugh Laurie long before his days as Dr. Gregory House, Brown Bear sets out in his quest to win White Bear’s heart. The story continues in White Bear’s Secret, which basically covers the events leading up to the birth of Brown Bear and White Bear’s firstborn child. And just to try and finish up my attempt at promoting these two mini-movies: White Bear is actually voiced by Helena Bonham Carter
2) The Dragon Who Wasn’t (Or Was He?)- Also known as Dexter the Dragon & Bumble the Bear, this was a Dutch film made in 1983 that was produced in the Netherlands. It’s about a rich bear named Oliver. After a stormy night, Oliver’s servant, a dog named Yost, discovers dragon tracks on the ground. However, Oliver is a practical bear and doesn’t believe that dragons exist. In order to find something to convince his master that dragons DO exist, Yost heads into the woods where he comes across a spherical object. Upon taking it back to the mansion, Oliver announces that it’s a beach ball. The next morning, however, while Oliver is cleaning up his mansion for a party he’s throwing that night, the so-called beach ball is revealed to be an egg, from which a baby dragon hatches. The baby dragon immediately starts showing affection towards Oliver. Oliver’s neighbor, Kit Cat, points out that the baby dragon thinks Oliver is his father. Oliver then names his new dragon Dexter, after his great grandfather. What follows is a series of events that involves Dexter the Dragon getting into a multitude of trouble due to his inability to change his dragon nature. Because of these events, Oliver’s friends try to convince him that the best thing he could do for Dexter would be to set him free in the Misty Mountains, where dragons are believed to roam free. While this movie can be found on YouTube, it’s the original Dutch version with no subtitles. However, it can be found on Amazon in VHS format. To my knowledge, there was never a DVD release.
3)Bejeweled- No, this movie has no connection to the popular phone app game. This is a rare Disney movie from 1991. It’s never been released on DVD, and to my knowledge, it’s nearly impossible to find it on VHS. I can’t even locate it on Amazon. That’s how rare it is. Thankfully, someone was kind enough to load it onto YouTube so unless the YouTube copyright Nazis have found and removed the uploaded videos, be sure to check it out. It begins with an old woman writing out her will, which states her priceless collection of jewels would not be inherited by her niece as originally planned, but will instead be donated to the museum, which will ensure that everyone can enjoy them. Immediately after she writes this, she apparently croaks right then and there, as indicated by the sound of her offscreen wheeze and moan. Sometime later, the old woman’s niece, Stacey, is working at the museum where the jewels are on display. The jewels are apparently going to be loaned to the London museum, but Stacey’s boyfriend/boss, Gordon, refuses to pay for a curator to transport the jewels. Instead, he coerces Stacey to transport them herself in a hatbox in lieu of a reinforced briefcase. So big surprise, the inevitable mix-up we’re all expecting happens. Due to an incident at the London airport, Stacey ends up with a hatbox that had been transporting a doll, which belonged to a little girl she met on the plane. When Stacey tracks the little girl down to try and correct the switch, they learn that the little girl doesn’t have Stacy’s hatbox either. So who has the jewels now? Hilarious hijinks ensue as Stacey teams up with the little girl and her older brother, with the assistance of their male nanny, in order to get the priceless jewels back.
4) Peter No Tail- This is a Swedish animated movie from 1981 about a cat named Peter who was born without a tail. Because the owner of the farm Peter is born on thinks that having more cats around will cost too much money, he orders one of his workers to have Peter drowned. The worker, however, is unable to kill Peter. Instead, Peter is given to a family living in the city of Uppsala. In Uppsala, Peter attracts a lot of attention because of his lack of a tail, including that of the bully Måns, who cruelly teases Peter, and Molly Silk-Nose, a female cat who becomes quite taken with the gentle and kind Peter. Unfortunately, Måns also has his sights set on Molly. This movie also had a sequel, Peter-No-Tail in Americat, which premiered four years later. In the sequel, Peter has received a fancy university degree, which very few cats in Uppsala have obtained. Shortly afterwards, Peter’s American relative, Pelle Swanson, asks him to visit. In America, Peter experiences just how different the big city is, and along the way, he encounters ghetto-rats, a cat mob, and a Native American cat who presents Peter with a magical long golden tail, earning Peter the new name of Peter-Gold-Tail.
5) The Richest Cat in the World- The Richest Cat in the World, which was released by Disney, was a made-for-TV movie from 1986. After millionaire Oscar Kohlmeyer passes away, he leaves his entire estate and five million dollars to his cat, Leo. While this seems like a typical move by an eccentric wealthy man who dearly loves his pet, there’s a twist: Leo can actually speak English! Oscar and Leo discovered Leo’s extraordinary talent from the moment they met, when Leo instinctively warned Oscar that the pizza he was cooking in the oven was starting to burn. Now that Oscar is gone, however, Leo is deeply saddened by the loss of his long-time friend, and not even being visited by Bart and Veronica, the children of Oscar’s in-laws, cheer him up. However, Bart and Veronica eventually discover Leo’s gift of gab. While Bart and Veronica agree to keep the fact that Leo can talk a secret, Oscar’s nephew and his scheming wife plot to get rid of Leo so they can claim the inheritance. Since I haven’t seen this movie in years, I can’t remember what happens in the end, but seeing as the movie is property of the Disney Company, it’s probably a safe bet that the movie has a happy ending.
6) Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveler- This movie is rather strange when you think about it. It’s about a pair of boys, Tommy Tricker and Ralph James, two friends who collect stamps. One day, Tommy cons Ralph out of a rare stamp that belongs to Ralph's father. This kick-starts a series of events that leads to Ralph and his younger sister discovering the well-kept secret of stamp travel, which enables you to travel the world by actually entering postage stamps. Naturally, there are a complicated series of rules, and Ralph ends up being sent to China and then to Australia in his quest to locate Charles Merriweather, who apparently has been lost within a stamp for 75 years. If you need some convincing on how this coming-of-age movie is pure gold, consider the fact that towards the end, there’s a moment when a kangaroo actually goes up to a mailbox and mails a letter. This is shortly followed by an incredible sequence when the two main characters burst out of an open envelope in the form of some sort of weird colored-penciled animated boys who proceed to float through the air before the eyes of Ralph’s family, all while goofy kazoo music plays in the background.
8) Prehisteria- Prehisteria is actually a trilogy of movies created by Moonbeam Entertainment, a company that specialized in B-list family-oriented sci-fi and fantasy movies. In the first of these three movies, which was released in 1993, a museum curator named Rico Sarno is exploring a temple in South America and comes across five eggs. However, a mix-up results in the cooler transporting the eggs being picked up by a dog owned by the Taylor family. The family’s two kids, Monica and Jerry, discover the eggs which hatch into living dinosaurs. Jerry ends up naming the five dinos after famous pop musicians: Elvis the T-Rex, Paula the Brachiosaurus, Jagger, the Stegosaurus, Hammer the Chasmosaurus, and Madonna the Pteranodon. The first sequel aired in 1994, and it had the five dinosaurs accidentally being shipped in a crate full of raisins and ending up under the care of a lonely rich kid named Brendan and his friend Naomi. In this sequel, the dinosaurs help heal the rift between Brendan and his workaholic father. The following year, the third and final movie in the Prehisteria series was released. In this movie, the dinosaurs find their way to yet another family and help them save their family-run mini-putt golf coarse from going under.
9) Dragonworld- In this movie from 1994, which was also released by Moonbean Entertainment, John McGowan is sent to Scotland to live in his grandfather’s castle after loosing his parents in a car accident. Sometime after he is brought to Scotland, John’s grandfather shows him a magical wishing tree that grows on the estate. With the tree’s magic, John ends up conjuring up a baby dragon he dubs Yowler. John and Yowler become instant friends, and the pair grow up together. One day, a man named Bob Armstrong comes to Scotland to film a documentary. He is accompanied by his teenage daughter, Beth, and their pilot, Brownie McGee. All three newcomers discover the existence of Yowler, and Bob, eager for the prestige, tries to talk John into ‘renting’ Yowler to Lester McIntyre, a corrupt businessman. John eventually agrees because of the pressing need to pay off the mounting taxes on his now-deceased grandfather’s castle. However, it soon becomes clear that McIntyre duped them and plans to exploit Yowler. To John decides to do whatever it takes to save his childhood friend, even if it means sending Yowler away forever. While this movie does have a sequel, it bears little connection to the original movie and has received mostly negative reviews. For that reason, I suppose it’s a good thing I never saw it.
10) Pet Shop- Here is the third film created by Moonbeam Entertainment, which was released in 1995. It is undeniably goofy with cheap special effects that adults might find painful without the use of nostalgia goggles, but kids will most likely love it. It begins with a Brooklyn family being brought to live in Arizona under the Witness Relocation Program. The family’s young daughter, Dena, comes across a pet shop that’s run by two people who dress like archetypal cowboys. The pet shop owners give Dena a dog, free of charge. While Dena is surprised by the fact that she is given her dog for free, she shrugs it off and names the dog Geisel. However, while out playing with her new dog, Geisel suddenly morphs into an alien dog. Dena soon finds out that she’s not the only kid in town with these weird alien pets, and she quickly forms friendships with the other three kids, along with their alien pets. However, the four kids soon discover that their pets have stopped eating. When they take them back to the pet store to figure out what’s going on, the cowboy-impersonating owners reveal that they are also aliens, and they plan on kidnapping the kids and selling them to an extraterrestrial zoo.
11) Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken- This movie is based on the life of a woman named Sondra Webster Carver, who earned a living riding diving horses. For those who don’t know, diving horses was a popular attraction in the mid 1880s. It involved a horse and rider diving into pool of water from a platform that could be as high as 60 feet off the ground. Naturally, diving horses receive a lot of criticism in modern times due to the attraction being seen as a form of animal abuse. The movie begins in the days of the Great Depression, with orphaned Sondra living with her aunt. Due in part to the family’s financial situation, Sondra’s aunt plans to place Sondra into an orphanage. Unwilling to go along with this, Sondra slips out of the house during the night and runs away. She ends up at a county fair where she watches another girl named Marie performing as a diving girl. Sondra approaches the manager of the diving horse attraction, Doc Carver, requesting to become his new diving girl. At first, Doc won’t even consider Sondra due to her age, but Sondra refuses to give in and after some time goes by, Sondra manages to prove to Doc that she has what it takes. Sondra’s career as a diving girl takes off and she bonds with a horse called Lightning, as well as Doc’s son, Al. However, when Sondra is performing in Atlantic City in front of her largest audience yet, she has to use another horse instead of Lightning, who had developed colic after eating moldy hay. The stand-in horse is a jittery stallion, and right before the jump can be made, the sound of a cymbal crash startles the stallion, who falters and trips. Sondra’s eyes are opened when she and the horse fall into the water, and as a result, the retinas in both of her eyes become detached. Because of the injury, Sondra becomes permanently blind. Without her eyesight, it looks as if Sondra’s life as a diver girl is over, but Sondra finds herself missing it too much, and she’s determined to continue, believing that her bond with the horse Lightning will be enough to allow her to continue diving, even while she is blind. In the end, Sondra manages to find a way to continue being a diving girl in spite of her blindness, and she continues to dive for another 11 years. Even though the real-life Sondra voiced her dissatisfaction with how the movie over-romanticized her life, the movie still appealed to the general public.
12) Peter and the Magic Egg- I’m sure we’ve all seen those cute cartoon animals that are featured on the PAAS Easter Egg Dye kits. Well, did you know that those animals were once featured in a TV-movie from 1983? It’s true. PAAS really did adopt the animals featured in this movie as their mascots. And as you might expect from a movie that inspired the mascots for a popular Easter Egg dye manufacturer, Peter and the Magic Egg is an Easter-themed film. However, there is one negative aspect to the movie that probably should be addressed. The movie does present the viewer with a stereotypical portrayal of the Amish. But the PC issues aside, it’s still a rather decent holiday film for young children. The movie takes place on a country farm, where the story’s villain, the evil Tobias Tinwhiskers, has taken over the entire town and uses his extensive wealth to make everyone miserable. A married couple seeks help, and receive it in the form of a small boy named Peter, who was left in their chicken coup by a fairy. Peter, of course, is magical, and uses his gifts to help the other farmers get enough money to keep their farms. What’s more, he even makes the farm animals anthropomorphic. As you might expect, Tinwiskers is not pleased by Peter thwarting his efforts to make everyone’s lives horrible, and he plots to get rid of the boy.
13) The Wonderful World of Puss 'n Boots movie series- Released in 1969, this movie was created by Tōei Animation, arguably one of the most popular distributor of Anime shows and movies. In fact, it is this movie that gave the company their mascot. The movie series features the star feline, Pero, who is portrayed as a musketeer-like cat. Pero has been declared an outlaw among other cats because of his refusal to chase mice. In fact, Pero even becomes friends with a particular group of mice. Pero is therefore constantly being chased by three police cats, who are thankfully bumbling dolts that Pero always manages to get away from. The original movie was essentially a retelling of the original fairy tale story of Puss in Boots, with Pero helping a young boy named Pierre to pose as a prince and suitor to a princess, leading to a climatic battle with a shape-shifting giant. The movie was followed by two sequels. The first of these was The Three Musketeers in Boots. While I have never seen this movie, it apparently featured Pero ending up in a Western-style town where he aids a boy named Jimmy in helping Annie, the daughter of a murdered saloon owner. It is the third movie that I remember the most, mostly because I used to watch the English dubbed version as a child at my grandparents’ house. In this film, Pero (or Pussy in the dub) is working at a restaurant in Paris. It his here where he makes a bet with the richest man in town, a pig named Gourmont (Sir Rumblehog in the dub). Pero has to travel around the whole world and make the trip in 80 days or less. If he succeeds, Gourmont will give everything he owns to Pero, but if he fails, he has to become Gourmont’s personal slave forever. Accompanying Pero are a goofy hippo and two of Pero’s mice friends. Of course, Gourmont secretly hires goons to try and foil Pero’s attempts at winning the bet.
14) Adventures in Dinosaur City- Have you ever wanted to actually meet the characters from your favorite television program? Well, in this movie, three kids get to do just that! Timmy and his two friends, Jamie and Mick, absolutely love the TV show called Dinosaurs, which feature anthropomorphic dinosaurs. Meanwhile, Timmy’s parents are inventors who have a full-blown laboratory in the house. One of the projects Timmy’s patents are working on involves sending objects through some sort of dimensional vortex with the use of a large TV screen. When Timmy’s parents go off to a convention, the three kids sneak into the laboratory in order to watch their dinosaur program on that big screen. As a result, they accidently start up the vortex project, and they are instantly warped into the TV show, where they help the show’s main characters, Rex, Tops and Forry, battle the evil Mr. Big and his cavemen flunkies known as The Rockies. The whole movie is pleasantly wacky, and it was successful enough to inspire a video game called DinoCity, which was released for Super Nintendo in 1991.
15) Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend- In this American adventure fantasy film from 1985, an American couple, George and Dr. Susan Loomis, journey to Central Africa, where they hear legends from the natives about a mysterious creature that lives in the jungle. The couple eventually discovers that these creatures are actually a family of Apatosaurus (or Brontosaurus, as they were incorrectly known as when this movie was made). Of course, George and Susan are not the only ones who come across the dinosaur family, and it’s not too long before they have to protect the baby Apatosaurus from greedy scientist, Dr. Eric Kiviat, especially when Papa Apatosaurus is killed by the military and Mama Apatosaurus is captured. While it might be the nostalgia goggles talking, I was surprised to discover that the film received mostly negative reviews. In spite of this, I had fond memories of this movie and the animatronic dinosaurs it featured. Plus, I have a very vivid memory of the character Kenge Obe, and his main catchphrase ‘No Problem!’ As a special treat, I even found a clip from the movie, which is posted below to give you an idea of what the movie was like.
16) Mother Goose Rock ‘n Rhyme- Also known as Shelly Duvall's Rock n' Rhymeland; I used to LOVE this movie. As the movie starts, we’re immediately introduced to Gordon Goose, the son of Mother Goose herself. When Gordon leaves for his job at a pillow factory, he runs into Little Bo Peep, who informs him that Mother Goose has gone missing. When people all over Rhymeland start to vanish into thin air, it becomes clear that Mother Goose has been somehow removed from their world. Gordon and Bo Peep team up to find and rescue Mother Goose, and along the way, they cross paths with other Nursery Rhyme characters, including the Three Blind Mice, the Itsy Bitsy Spider, Mary and her Little Lamb (who’s not so little anymore) Humpty Dumpty, and Old King Cole, who is portrayed by Little Richard. As the title of this movie implies, it’s filled with musical numbers, but don’t let that scare you away. It’s still an entertaining movie with a cast that consisted of numerous stars from that era.
17) Unico Films- A charming and cutesy movie that was based on a manga, the Unico films follow a baby unicorn named Unico who was born with the ability to make the people around him happy. As the first movie in the series, The Fantastic Adventures of Unico, (or simply Unico as it’s known in Japan) explains, Unico’s gift angers the gods, who think that only they should have the ability to control the emotions of others. The gods order the West Wind to bring Unico to the Hill of Oblivion, which will apparently remove all living memory of Unico from the world forever. The West Wind takes pity on Unico, and is therefore unable to fulfill the command. Instead, the West Wind continually transports Unico from place to place, taking the little unicorn to a new location whenever the gods discover his whereabouts, erasing Unico’s memories of the friends he made each time. In the first film, which introduces Unico and explains his plight, the little unicorn befriends a baby devil named Beezle and Chao (Katy in the English dub), a kitten who wants to become a witch. Unico and Beezle eventually team up to rescue Chao/Katy from a demon who is attempting to seduce her. In the sequel, entitled Unico in the Island of Magic, Unico ends up aiding a young girl, Cheri, whose older brother, Toby, is working for/enslaved by the evil Lord Kuruku, who plots to turn everyone, human and animal alike, into living puppet slaves. Sadly, each film ends with the gods discovering Unico’s location, and the West Wind is forced to take Unico away from his newfound friends in order to bring him somewhere else, denying Unico the chance to say goodbye to his friends. The one thing that continues to disappoint me about these movies is that we never see if Unico gets his happy ending, and a part of me is forever hoping that Unico eventually grew into an adult and managed to get the gods off his back, enabling him to become reunited with Beezle, Chao/Katy, and Cheri once again. There was a third Unico film that was made before the other two were, in order to serve as an ecologically-themed pilot film for a proposed TV series. However, not only was this TV series never picked up, the film in question, entitled Black Cloud, White Feather, was never released in English, and is quite hard to come by today.
18) The Mouse and his Child- An animated film from 1977, this was based on Russell Hoban’s novel of the same name, which was released a decade earlier. The story’s protagonists are a father mouse and his son, who are two parts of a single wind-up toy. Their lives begin in a toy shop, where they befriend a toy elephant and toy seal. After the clockwork father and son fall off a counter and break, they wind up in the trash and quickly become enslaved by a rat called Manny. Manny brings the father and son to his casino to join his legion of broken wind-up toys, who are all forced into undergoing slave labor for the rats. The mice soon escape from Manny with the help of a psychic frog. The rest of the movie follows the father and son mouse in their quest to become free and independent ‘self-winding’ toys. Be warned, however, that for a children’s film, this movie has shockingly dark moments. For example, in one particular scene, the viewer gets to see a clockwork donkey get straight-up murdered onscreen. Even though we only see this happen through the use of shadows, it still has the potential to be as emotionally scarring as the shoe-dipping scene in Roger Rabbit.
19) Phantom Toll Booth- Like Mouse and his Child, this was also a movie adaptation of a book written by Norton Juster. In this 1970 film that combined live action and Chuck Jones animation, we meet Milo, a San Franciscan boy who is completely bored and jaded with his life. His ho-hum life comes to and end when a large gift wrapped package instantly appears in his living room. The package is revealed to be tollbooth, which turns out to be a gateway to a parallel universe. Milo ventures though the tollbooth and winds up in the enchanted Kingdom off Wisdom. Along with his newfound friends, Tock the watchdog and the Humbug, Milo undergoes a series of adventures. In the process, he helps end an ongoing feud between the king of Digitopolis and the king Dictionopolis, and eventually rescues the Princesses Rhyme and Reason from their prison in the Castle in the Air. In February 2010, work began on developing a remake, but there is no information on how long it will take before this project is finished
20) Flight of Dragons- In this direct to video movie from 1982, which contains an opening song sung by Don McLean, a wizard named Carolinus is discovering that magic is beginning to die away as mankind begins to place more emphasis on science. Carolinus summons his four wizard colleges and proposes that they create a Last Realm of Magic, where all magical beings can live. However, one of the wizards, Ommadon, desires to take control of this world himself. To stop Ommadon, it is decided that the other wizards must seize and destroy Ommadon’s crown, which is the source of his power. To achieve this end, three protagonists must be selected. Immediately, Carolinus’ dragon, Gorbash, and the knight Sir Orrin Neville-Smythe are elected, but when it comes to the third protagonist, Carolinus selects a young man named Peter Dickinson, who he comes across in a pawnshop discussing a game he created to the pawnshop owner; a game that has pieces resembling the five wizards and Gorbash. When Ommadon learns of the plan to defeat him, he sends his own dragon to capture Peter. In an attempt to save Peter, Carolinus casts a spell and accidentally places Peter’s mind into Gorbash’s body. Because Carolinus cannot undo the spell, Sir Orrin and Peter/Gorbash have to set off as they are, with an older dragon named Smrgol accompanying them in order to help mentor Peter about magic and being a dragon. The group is eventually joined by Aragh the wolf, Giles the elf and an archer named Danielle who band together in their quest to obtain Ommadon’s crown. While The Flight of Dragons was made using the possibly-dated animation of Rankin/Bass, it is still well worth a viewing, as its one of the rare fantasy-themed movies that actually discusses the concept of science, and presents the question of whether or not magic and science can co-exist.
21) Cheetah- This movie has always held a special place in my heart. It’s a live-action film shot in Nairobi, Kenya and released by Disney in 1989. As the movie opens, two American siblings, Ted and Susan, have just arrived in Kenya to spend six months there with their scientist parents. Shortly after their arrival, they meet and befriend Morogo, a young boy from a Masai tribe. While Ted, Susan and Morogo are off exploring one day, they come across a cheetah cub, whose mother had been killed and skinned by poachers. Realizing the cheetah cub will die if she’s left alone, the three friends take her home and name her Duma. However, once the six months have passed and Ted and Susan have to return to America to go back to school, they are faced with the fact that Duma, now fully grown, will have to return to the wild. Before they can fully train Duma how to hunt and fend for herself, a group of corrupt men, including the poacher who skinned Duma’s mother, kidnap the cheetah with the intent to race her against greyhounds. To save Duma, Ted, Susan and Morogo head off on a journey that takes them across the African wilderness. While this movie is available on DVD, it sadly was released with absolutely no bonus features. This is a shame, because while Cheetah may not be one of Disney’s most well-known films, it certainly was among the most beautifully filmed, giving the viewer plenty of visuals of Africa’s landscapes and wildlife. (Plus, it also featured the phrase ‘Hakuna Matata,’ five years before it became famous with the release of The Lion King)
So that was my list of obscure movies. Hopefully, if you also watched these movies during your youth, you have enjoyed seeing that you're not alone in remembering them. If not, maybe you'll feel the need to hunt down the movies to see them for yourself for the first time. Perhaps if we get enough people to remember these movies, the ones that deserve it will get the prestige they've been long denied. And for the ones that aren't able to stand up against the test of time, well, what value can you really put upon childhood memories?