by Luis de Sousa
Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 07:16:34 AM EST
The weather's been messing up again and I find myself at home in this Sunday morning. Maybe a good time for some cleaning, set some things in order and answer some correspondence. I find out that some of my local friends are running some sort of campaign to change all their profile pictures at Facebook to comics or cartoons characters. It's quite funny to see al those images from the early years: Tom Sawyer, Donald Duck, the Coyote. There's no doubt which cartoon I'll chose to join this campaign.
Simple things can sometimes be quite defining of a generation. Mine is that set of folk to whom the videos below bring up a tear to the eye.
A long, long time ago in a distant galaxy, there were folk who actually cared for the education of their children, nurturing products that were both entertaining and educational, not just mind plugging devices that keep them quiet while their parents go shopping.
I was born in 1978. By coincidence or not it was during that year that a French animation company, leaded by Albert Barillé, started a true saga with the Il était une fois... series. Backed by several TV broadcasters all across Europe, it grew to be one of the most important productions for children in the continent.
The first three series accompanied my childhood: L'Homme, L'Espace and La Vie. The first was a set of disconnected portraits of Universal History, with both humour and some mystery, always leading to a teaching, meaningful ending. L'Espace was more refined, the 26 episodes were connected by a grand plot staged in a high-tech future with a less clear, but perhaps more important, meaning. This series heroes travel across space meeting other civilizations, some times more advanced from which they learn, sometimes less advanced, to whom they teach, some times ill intended, with whom they have to deal. L'Espace is about Man's place in the world, dominating without destroying, adapting to what's more powerful. With La Vie the option was again for disconnected episodes, each one focusing on a particular aspect of our body. Most of what I know about Physiology still comes from this series, cartoons make it all more easy to perceive; we owe many of the medics and nurses of today to La Vie.
But of these series the one that had the most impact on me was L'Espace. L'Homme was transmitted by the state TV (the only one that existed at the time) for the first time in 1980 or 1981, but it wasn't dubbed, and since I couldn't read the subtitles only got in the way. For L'Espace they decided to get professional and dubbed it, transmitting the series soon after it was available from France. I yearned every weekend for each episode, it was not only the fancy starships, fancy suits and robots, it was the whole futuristic high-tech setting - I really believed the world would be like that one day and I might just live long enough to see it happen...
L'Espace really sums up what being a child is to me: having the whole life in front of you, all things are possible, the sky is the limit. It is the hope that we can fix everything's that's wrong when we grow up. The infinite and unknown of Space is the perfect allegory for those early days.
And nothing does a better jog bringing those emotions back than the series generic song. Popular Music was still an art those days and the French produced quite a remarkable piece, perfectly enclosing those feelings of hope and high expectations:
Other broadcasters made their own versions of this song, an indispensable part of the dubbing. While sticking pretty much to the original, the British chose a compelling female voice that added something else to the song:
These sort of emotions are something hardly found in German music, especially at the epoch. With Machinemusik fully established in those parts, they opted for an electronic version, possibly trying to match the futuristic setting of the series:
In Spain they produced a different song, not really that good:
But well, by far the best version of this song was recorded here. For the vocals was chosen Paulo de Carvalho, a pioneer of rock back in the 1960s and at the time one of the best male voices in Portugal; he'd reach tones higher than any of the other interpreters. And the cherry on top of the cake was the children chorus:
Two minutes of jollity, still one of my favourite pieces of music (maybe that's why I listen to space music today). There's another interesting aspect to this song, the spacey and futuristic environment, the chorus, the orchestra, the piano, it's all highly reminiscent of the greatest rock album ever made in Portugal: 10 000 Anos Depois entre Vénus e Marte, which was, coincidently or not, finished in 1978.
When I listen to Era uma vez o Espaço, down deep I believe again a better future is possible, no matter how bad things may look today.