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Western Animation / Cro

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Cro is an animated educational/informative show from the Children's Television Workshop (now known as Sesame Workshop) and Film Roman about mechanical engineering and technology. It was based on a children's technology book called The Way Things Work by David Macaulay. The show ran from September 1993 to October 1994 on ABC for 21 episodes. In 1999, the show returned to the air on Noggin, a channel co-founded by Sesame Workshop.

The premise: A mammoth from the ice age is frozen in a glacier, and thawed out by a scientist and her kid sidekick. The mammoth, named Phil, can speak perfect English and comes from a surprisingly sophisticated tribe of mammoth scientist/engineers. Each episode, Dr C. and Mike would, in a cold open, encounter a tricky engineering problem with some device, and Phil would tell a story about solving the same problem years ago. Cue titles, then a Flash Back.

The titular Cro was a young human boy (presumably a Cro-Magnon man), whose adopted Neanderthal family was assimilated into the mammoth community. Although the humans were, for the most part, pretty stupid, the mammoths found their opposable thumbs useful.

Each Flash Back would have the mammoths coach Cro and his Neanderthal family through the solving of a problem with some type of simple machine. It differed from the typical Bamboo Technology in that all the devices were built on a foundation of good solid science.

This program provides examples of:

  • Are You Sure You Can Drive This Thing?: The ending to "Let Me Help" has Phil attempt to use a bulldozer to help out with gardening. Predictably, it goes haywire after Mike asks this question.
  • Beast Man: Bobb, who is the least evolved of the Neanderthals.
  • Downer Beginning: And how. The opening sequence starts off with the main family of cavemen being saved from reoccurring villain, a purple sabertooth tiger, by Phil the Mammoth. Then the ground underneath Phil's feet collapses and he seemingly dies before the eyes of his friends when he plummets to his "death". This is made all the more depressing with the knowledge that Phil would not be found for thousands of years, so Cro and company never found out that Phil survived and ended their lives never knowing. Then by the time said Mammoth would be reanimated, everything he knew and loved had long since died, though this never is brought up in the actual series. And if that's not not enough for you, the opening theme song is done to the tune of Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion."
  • Edutainment: The science lessons aren't rammed down the viewers' throats like, say, the math lessons on Cyber Chase, focusing first and foremost on entertainment. It helps that the dialogue itself is genuinely funny.
  • Elephants Never Forget: Well, a woolly mammoth, actually. Despite being thawed in the present day after spending a million years frozen in ice, Phil is still able to recall every memory from his past life.
  • Eternal English: Phil and Cro speak a version of English that is still in use thousands of years later.
  • Every Episode Ending: Dr. C's always heading into some kind of extremely perilous situation just as the episode ends.
  • Fantastic Racism: Earle, Mojo and (sometimes) Esmeralda, the older mammoths in the herd, are shown as conservative and don't really like or trust the humans.
  • Foot Bath Treatment: Phil can be seen with his feet in a large basin of water in the opening credits.
  • Framing Device: Dr Celia and/or Mike have a problem which reminds Phil of a story about having a similar problem in Woollyville and how they solved it, setting up each episode.
  • Hulk Speak: Most of the Neanderthal characters would talk like this. Complete with the Mongo Pawn In Game Of Life moments:
    Ogg: That not funny! Not politically correct either!
  • Humans Are Smelly: Zig-zags into literal territory in "What That Smell?". The mammoths were repulsed by the Neanderthals' stench, but Seline considered it an appetizing aroma. After most of them bathed, the latter was disgusted.
  • Intellectual Animal: Turns out mammoths were all trained science teachers who spoke perfect late 20th century American English. Who knew?
  • Last of His Kind: Phil, although he takes it remarkably well. Maybe all the reminiscing helps.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: Cro got a lot of this in "Meal Like A Pig." He was repeatedly gored in the backside by a wild boar (which turned out to be just a baby) and he repeatedly fell off a small cliff and landed on his butt. He got tangled up in a vine and was dragged butt-first over some rocks. What's more, it's implied that his adventure ended with him getting a huge dose of this trope from an entire pack of (adult) boars!
  • Logo Joke: After the end credits, a rolling stone square would collide with a stone circle and a stone triangle, causing all three shapes to crumble into the initials "CTW" (short for Children's Television Workshop, the name that Sesame Workshop went by until 2001).
  • Misplaced Wildlife: The show is set in modern and prehistoric California, but has a family of Neanderthals (found only in Europe) and an Australopithecus (found only in Africa) as main characters. Additionally, Phil and the other mammoths are identified as woolly mammoths, which didn't roam that far south, only Columbian mammoths did.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted hard. Not only is the concept of death very frequently brought up, in the first episode, Earle and Mojo advocate outright GENOCIDE against the humans.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Charlie Adler voices Mojo as an impersonation of Paul Lynde.
  • No Fourth Wall: The series is very self-aware. For example, in "Lever In a Million Years", after Ogg successfully learns how to use a lever to lift a large rock, a light shines down, and Gogg notes "That good special effects!"
  • Noodle Implements: While the majority of the mammoths' "Or Else!" threat in "What That Smell?" is left unrevealed, it's painful and somehow involves pineapples.
  • Noodle Incident: Gogg and Nandy mention that Bob turned into a potato once via magic, but not the circumstances or how he turned back. Just that he hasn't been the same since.
  • The Pig-Pen: Ogg is this in "What That Smell?", refusing to bathe even though his stench kept Seline right on his trail.
  • Predators Are Mean: Played straight. Both the saber-toothed cat Selene and the dire wolves are portrayed as stereotypical villainous predators. Meanwhile the humans show no interest in hunting the mammoths.
  • Running Gag: In "Play It Again, Cro... Not!" Mojo keeps getting interrupted before he can play his triangle.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Ogg once remarked, "Mung very mung-like today."
  • Shout-Out: "Play It Again, Cro... Not!" has several:
    • The band Phil puts together is referred to as "The Woolyville Philharmonic Marching Band".
    • The dire wolves' leader says he once saw "Dire Wolf on the Roof"
    • Bob plays "Flight of the Bumblebee" on his nose flute.
    • Cro and the dire wolves play part of "Turkey in the Straw".
    • The dire wolves' leader says "We're in like Flynn."
    • Later, Ogg sings "Me-me-me-me! Ogg-Ogg-Ogg-Ogg!" to the tune of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5" a couple of times.
    • The characters' band performs their own rendition of Andy Williams' "Feelings".
    • There's one to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in "What That Smell"?
      Ogg: Bath?! Ogg no want bath! Ogg no need no stinking bath!
  • Stuff Blowing Up: One episode was dedicated to gunpowder.
  • The Teaser: Involving Phil and the scientists having a problem in the present which cues the flashback.
  • Title Theme Tune: "So listen as Phil takes us back to wonders of long ago / And weaves a tale of Woolyville and ice-age boy named Cro-o-o-o, Cro-o-o-o... Cro!"
  • Translator Buddy: Bob, being an Australopithecus, only speaks in monkey sounds. Gogg translates for him, though Ogg has attempted to translate on at least one occasion and was way off the mark.


Video Example(s):


"Cro" Theme Song

The theme song to the short-lived animated series "Cro", which tells us about who our title character is, as well as how his woolly mammoth friend made it all the way to the 1990s.

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