Monday, November 30, 2009

Candy and Andy

In 1966, at the height of his powers, "supermarionation" creator Gerry Anderson came up with a bold concept for a new television series. He had already designed the puppets and with the recent success of Thunderbirds behind him, it looked certain that the new project would be given the green light.

But there was one problem: Anderson's idea was utterly mad.

The new series was given a unanimous thumbs down by television executives, but undeterred, Anderson turned his idea into a franchise, spawning 154 issues of a comic and several books. The whole sorry episode lasted less than three years but it was long enough to screw-up a generation of under 5s.

Welcome to the world of "Candy and Andy":

Candy and Andy are just like any other children, except that they are plastic and live with two panda bears called Mr and Mrs Bearanda. They drive around in a Mini called Stripey.

The Candy and Andy books fail to explain the children's relationship with the Bearandas. It is clearly not a genetic bond, so were Candy and her brother adopted? Is Andy even Candy's brother? We are never told.

With their panda parents, Candy and Andy live in a world of humans (and a talking hedgehog). It should be enchanting, but the reality is deeply disturbing.


A slightly coquettish pose from Candy.

In Candy and Andy's world, you do talk to strangers. Oddly enough, these strangers are never alarmed by the presence of two sinister dolls.

A moment of reflection.

This photo is the stuff of nightmares, with Candy and Andy sitting on the lap of an evil-looking Father Christmas. This was the era before CRB checks, when perverts and sex offenders were able to find work as store Santas. This one looks as if he's just been released from Parkhurst.

I inherited a Candy and Andy book when I was three and forgot all about it until this year, when I started suffering from flashbacks. Perhaps it was my new job. If Proust was inspired to write a mammoth novel from the whiff of a few cakes, what hope did I have with thousands of books at my disposal?

There is another disturbing aspect to this story. I am a hardcore rationalist, but one day I saw a box of books and the words "Candy and Andy" came into my head. I started to unpack the contents and there, lying at the bottom, was the first Candy and Andy book I had seen since I was three. I now know the meaning of the phrase "sent a shiver down my spine".

Candy and Andy has been conveniently airbrushed out of Gerry Anderson's career history. There is no mention of them on Wikipedia and apart from one dedicated 1960s website, I can only find a few cursory references.

There are probably thousands of people in Britain who shudder at the sight of dolls without knowing why and find themselves suffering from recurring nightmares about talking pandas and psychedelic Minis. Like most traumas from early childhood, these memories are deeply repressed.

Perhaps it is time to form a support group for victims of Candy and Andy. We may have had our childhoods stolen by the weird, perverted fantasies of Gerry Anderson, but at least we can work together to end the nightmares.

NB - If you're wondering what happened to Candy and Andy, I'm told that Candy made a few soft porn films in the 1970s, before marrying a millionaire property speculator. She now manages a chain of high class hotels. Andy never managed to cope with the transition from child star to adult and his last acting role was in 1987, at a pantomime in Swindon. He was arrested last year for stealing a Breville Sandwich Maker from a branch of John Lewis. He still lives with Mrs Bearanda.

23 comments:

Lucille said...

Thank heavens I missed this. I was already deeply traumatised by the puppets in Rubovia, presented by the BBC's Puppet Theatre. I have only very recently been able to establish that they were not just the stuff of a childhood nightmare. Pongo Pongo Pongo! was all I could remember and some grim bewigged courtiers.

Harry Tournemille said...

Hilarious. Thunderbirds played out here when I was young. Marionettes are creepy regardless of context.

Those eyes. Those damned eyes.

moo said...

Saw that mini a few weeks ago:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/orqwith/4085212943/

I knew I remembered it, but couldn't think from where.

Steerforth said...

Brilliant! I had no idea that there were Candy and Andy toys. I suppose it isn't that surprising, as every Anderson franchise spawned a Corgi toy.

Many thanks for the link.

Jim Murdoch said...

As I read through this I though you were just joshing, a belated April Fools blog, and then I did a bit of research myself and, horror of horrors, you're right. How did I miss that? Or maybe I should be saying: Thank God I missed that. This is truly awful. These must be what happen when autons (Dr Who) and cybernauts (The Avengers) have babies.

I'm a great Gerry Anderson fan. I have models of several of the vehicles from his shows including a monochrome Supercar. Fireball XL5 was always a favourite. Did you ever catch any of the revamped Captain Scarlets? They were actually okay.

Steerforth said...

I haven't seen the new Captain Scarlet, but I'd like to.

I love the story behind Francis Matthews getting the job as the voice of Captain Scarlet ("Just do your Cary Grant impression, Frankie").

Without wishing to sound like a misery memoir, my parents were so skint (the genteel poverty of the lower echelons of the Civil Service), they couldn't afford to buy new toys - I lived on hand-me-downs, like Candy and Andy.
However, I did save 5p a week for half a year to buy a Captain Scarlet SPV.

Brett said...

This is high weirdness indeed. I've never, ever, heard of Candy and Andy. It reveals an aspect of the English character that is hard to get my head around, like the bad trip holiday camp of "The Prisoner", or the cult I discovered of people who build full scale replicas of Daleks. Fascinating and repellent.

Art said...

There is a word for this: creeptastic. Luckily I've never seen such a thing, certainly not one intended for children.

Steerforth said...

Creeptastic is an excellent word. I'll be using it from now on!

Brett, you're quite right. Funnily enough, I've been to the Prisoner village and it is a very weird place. There is a man who actually lives in "the village", wears the clothes, drives the jeep and occasionally inflates the rover balloons. When I was at university, we got in touch with him and were invited up there for a day. It was a deeply weird experience.

Mike Cane said...

Holy cow. Anderson fan too. I'd vaguely heard of Candy & Andy and seeing this is, like you say, creeptastic. Bury it! Ha!

Laura Benedict said...

Oooooh, good. I'm always looking for something new for pizza night with the kids. Netflix, here I come!

Laura Benedict said...

Obviously the books wouldn't be on Netflix--But there has to be a pilot somewhere.

Will have to watch some Captain Scarlet instead. *sigh*

Steerforth said...

Yes, there should be a pilot episode.

I'd pay good money to see that!

Mike Cane said...

OK. You want freaky Gerry Anderson? The pilot for "The Investigator." I hope you can see it in the UK!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBp_GBHxtSM

Steerforth said...

I'm speechless. Apart from being a completely insane concept, it's also one of the worst things I've ever seen.

Adam said...

I am now 48 & the disturbing thing is I never forgot Candy & Andy. I even remember when they joined foces in the Jack & Jill comic which was really their demise! In 1971 I remember thinking 'this would make a charming tv series'. Perhaps what kept me enthralled was exactly that it remained a purely visual series of stills in a weekly comic & I was in the land of "what might have been?" Nonetheless even today I have fond memories. Something very English about the thing with a little psychidellia & futurism! I must admit though Andy's facial expression always gave me heebi jeebies. I never knew if he was happy, sad or Chucky's brother. Wish FANDERSON would do an article!

Anonymous said...

Am also 48 and I've never quite forgotten Candy & Andy and the Bearandas either. Part of me was beginning to wonder if I'd imagined the whole thing!!!
Cara

Rach Granger said...

I am too young to remember them...however i have been traumatised by finding a candy and andy book amounst some donations....the scary part is that on one page...andy is actually a REAL boy....freaky

Anonymous said...

I am 48 as well and still have my battered matchbox rainbow striped mini with it's number plate of 'Candy 1' which I played with lots as a small child, and until about 20 years ago also had a small plastic mum panda. I couldn't quite remember what the show was all about, but I do now!

kavin Robert said...

This came under attack, from local authority, Yes the idea 2 children, with 2 Pandas for perents..Caused alot of panic..
The Comic was even withdrawn from many newsagents..

kavin Robert said...

This came under attack from the local authority. Yes the sight of 2 children, with 2 Pandas for perents, Athough they had a Mini called Stripey, Who had a mind of its own... Yet the whole thing was distubing indeed..Somehow Gerry Anderson must had relised this mistake..
The Comic was even withdrawn from many Newsagents, By looking at it, You would think, "THEY LOOK AS THOUGH THEY HAVE ADUCTED OR SOMETHING"

kavin Robert said...

This came under attack, from local authority, Yes the idea 2 children, with 2 Pandas for perents..Caused alot of panic..
The Comic was even withdrawn from many newsagents..

Steerforth said...

Kavin - I think it's a great pity that social workers are so uptight about other species adopting children these days. There must be hundreds of kids in care homes who would give anything to live with two kindly pandas.

We've passed laws about discrimating on the basis of race and sex, but pandas are still treated like second class citizens. It's a disagrace.