The Devil and Daniel Mouse: Trying to Decode the Beautiful Strangle Hold of Nostalgia

Yesterday, I posted on Facebook about one of my favorite childhood cartoons, Nelvana’s THE DEVIL AND DANIEL MOUSE (1978). I had not thought about this cartoon at all since I was a kid. And I certainly had not thought of the music.

But when I watched the opening clip, it was like time stopped in a perilous instant. And when I heard the music, especially the female lead, an odd, familiar, beautiful and sad feeling infected my brain. It stayed with me all day. I couldn’t shake it. It’s pretty much haunting my brain now.

I wax nostalgic a lot these days, but I always have. I had a crazy memory for cartoons and kids shows and was something of a one-man wikipedia during my teenaged years, people asking me about short lived cartoons like Pandamonium and Drac’s Pack.

But the overwhelming feeling I had, listening to that song, and in particular hearing Jan’s voice was like a knockout blow. Watching the final six minute sample, I tried to think why this might be. One point, it was the first cartoon where I feared the good guys would lose. The odds were stacked so high against Jan and Dan Mouse! The devil seemed poised on victory! They had no chance, and yet, via the power of music, they win! So the emotional connection was a hell of a lot stronger than every episode of Super Friends.

Then, there was the music. Jan’s singing vocals were done by a singer named Laurel Runn, who apparently did nothing else that I can find. Dan’s singing voice was none other than John Sebastian, of the Lovin’ Spoonful, who wrote the music for the cartoon. Is it just me, or does a lot of the pop vocal work in the 1970s carry with it an autumn melancholy that you just don’t get in any other eras? And that sad sweetness also sticks like gum in my hair. The main anthem is a freaking ear worm, so I dare you to listen to it and not bop along

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MpYYFMmY6U&feature=related

And lastly, the cartoon was naturally part of a very particular part of my childhood. A good part that ended pretty fast. So, it’s naturally bitter sweet.

Damn. If I could write a short story, novel, comic book or song that could capture this feeling for someone else, shit. I’d be one happy fella.

Now try and listen to that song without singing along! I dare you!

JSR

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About ridlerville

Jason S. Ridler is a historian, writer, and improv actor. He is the author of A TRIUMPH FOR SAKURA, BLOOD AND SAWDUST, the Spar Battersea thrillers and has published over sixty stories in such magazines and anthologies as The Big Click, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Out of the Gutter, and more. He also writes the column FXXK WRITING! for Flash Fiction Online. A former punk rock musician and cemetery groundskeeper, Mr. Ridler holds a Ph.D. in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. He lives in Richmond, CA. Visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jason.ridler.56
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