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Western Animation / Sylvanian Families

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Sylvanian Families (1987) is an animated series produced by DiC Entertainment to cash in on the Sylvanian Families franchise which was reaching the peak of its popularity at the time. Each episode, a small child with a problem makes a wish about something that might cause An Aesop, and then meets a magic woodkeeper who opens a door to Sylvanian Forest and shrinks them. They enter and meet a few of the Sylvanian Families, after which they learn the Aesop of the episode, which usually has something to do with either how you should have been happy all along, or that you should quit being such a Jerkass.

Based on a toy line created and originally released in Japan by Epoch Company in 1985, the 1987 series was of American origin, though 3 Japanese studios, K.K. DiC, Tokyo Movie Shinsha and Studio Mook, provided animation production, TMS & Mook being uncredited. After the success of the show in the UK, a short four-episode stop-motion series of UK origin, titled Stories Of The Sylvanian Families, followed in 1988. This was followed in 2007 in Japan by a three-episode 3DCG-animated OVA series, and in 2017 with a series of Netflix-exclusive OVAs and shorts.

Compare to Mapletown, which aired on U.S. TV at the same time. On a fascinating side note, Haim Saban (yes, that Saban) and Shuki Levy were involved in both projects, although their involvement in Sylvanian Families is minimal.

And the Tropes get small, smaller, smallest!:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Gatorpossum can never get Packbat's name right. He's called him "Mr Porkerbat" and "Pig food" among other names.
  • An Aesop: Once an Episode. The episodes' plots are triggered by children being sent to the Sylvanian Forest, where they encounter a situation that helps them learn more about a problem they were having beforehand, ultimately resulting in them learning a lesson by the end of the episode.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Jump and Jackrabbit cause their older sister no end of grief by being rambunctious and making a huge mess of the recently cooked sweet and potato pie. However, when the characters are all captured by Packbat, the twins are the ones who find the keys and help them escape. It teaches the child protagonist Katie that younger brothers might be annoying, but they aren't as bad as she thinks.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In "Here Come the Brides", after he starts a fire that the citizens promptly put out, Packbat is looking at Sylvanian Forest through a pair of binoculars and listing off some sinister sounds he expects to hear at any minute.
    Packbat: Ah, I can hear it all now. The delicious crackling of flames... hah hah! The delightful sobbing of sad Silly-vanians... ha ha ha! The strain of a wedding march! Ha ha- WHAAAAAH! The strain of a wedding march?! AAAAUUGGH!
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: None of the Funny Animal characters wear shoes.
  • Big Dam Plot: In "Dam Busters", Packbat's evil plan is to send Gatorpossum to destroy a dam to flood the Sylvanian Forest.
  • Binocular Shot: In "Here Come the Brides", Packbat looks at Sylvanian Forest through binoculars, hoping that he will soon find Sylvanians panicking from a forest fire he tried to start. We get a shot of the Forest through his binoculars as he's looking.
  • Blended Family Drama: The child protagonists of the two wedding themed episodes had this as their problem. One was worried about all the changes that would take place while the other would get new siblings when he prefers being an only child.
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": Donny from the first episode, "Dam Busters", wears a shirt with a "D" on it.
  • Canon Foreigner: The DiC series, again. The Woodkeeper, Gatorpossum, Packbat and the numerous one-off children don't exist in the official continuity.
  • Credits Running Sequence: The end credits show footage of one of the Sylvanian Forest kids, Ashley Evergreen, running to the right. At the end of the sequence, she reaches a hill where she gets a good view of the sun setting.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: The Slydale family consists of fox Sylvanians who work for Packbat and use all sorts of things to get their way. Their debut episode, "Outfoxing the Foxes", has Joey attempting to outwit them when they intend to steal carrots from the carrot bank.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Grace, one of the child visitors who wishes she wasn't this. Myrtle is this as well and the two bond over it quite quickly.
  • Darker and Edgier: The series in relation to the toyline as a whole. It had villains while the toyline was completely devoid of them. Not true for the OVAs and shorts, however, which are just as sweet and gentle as the toys themselves look.
  • Disguised in Drag: Gatorpossum dresses as a woman in the episode "Boy's Intuition" to get to the babies and try to eat them.
  • Edible Ammunition: In "Dam Busters", Donny has the Sylvanian animals use Grandpa Ernest's vacuum device to suck carrots out of a garden and shoot them at Packbat and Gatorpossum.
  • Exact Words: How Grace outwits Packbat. She says she will hand the mailbag over if he releases her friends from the hole trap he's set up (making sure he frees them first). She and Ashley then toss him the mailbag, causing him to fall into his own trap because she filled it with rocks. This exchange occurs.
    Packbat: You little sneak! You lied to me! This bag is full of rocks!
    Grace: I didn't lie. You wanted the mailbag and you got it.
  • Faking Another Person's Illness: In "Daddy's Little Girl", the Slydale family, to retrieve the black bag from the Sylvanian Forest's only doctor for Packbat, pretend their daughter is sick so that he'll come to take care of her condition.
  • Fully-Dressed Cartoon Animal: The Funny Animals are fully dressed. Well, except for shoes.
  • Ironic Name: Grace, who wishes she wasn't so clumsy.
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: Human children visit the Funny Animal-populated Sylvanian Forest.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Packbat frequently calls the Sylvanians "Silly-vanians".
  • Merchandise-Driven: Based on the Japanese toy line known today as Calico Critters in the U.S.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Packrat is part pack rat, part bat. Similarly, Gatorpossum is... well, part gator, part possum.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Gatorpossum is (at least partially) an alligator serving as a villain of the show.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: Packbat and Gatorpossum, the villains, have more cartoony designs compared to the Animesque Sylvanian animals and humans.
  • Oh, Crap!: In "Beauty and the Beast", Lisa, upon realizing that Packbat and Gatorpossum are right behind her, screams in panic.
  • Short-Runners: The initial run was from September 1987 to December of the same year. The series ran for 13 episodes total.
  • Signing-Off Catchphrase: The Woodskeeper wraps up episodes by saying "And so ends another journey to the Sylvanian Forest to visit our best of friends, the Sylvanian Families! Goodbye, all, and may your wishes come true!"
  • Title Theme Tune: The theme songnote  almost says the show's title verbatim:
    (Whoa-oh, Sylvanian!) All your troubles soon will melt away!
    (Whoa-oh, Sylvanian!) Like a bird, you too can fly away!
    (Whoa-oh, Sylvanian!) Wishes will come true and you will be
    A part of our Sylvanian Family!
  • Today, X. Tomorrow, the World!: In "Outfoxing the Foxes", Packbat breaks into the cellar of the carrot bank and gloats "Tonight, the carrots... tomorrow, all Sylvanianville!"
  • Two Shorts: The 22-minute-long episodes consisted of two 11-minute shorts each.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: The original toyline is a pure Sugar Bowl and does not contain villains. The DiC series, on the other hand, features the villain Packbat and his minion Gatorpossum, and makes no attempts to hide the fact that they're legitimate threats. The latter tries to eat babies in one episode, for heaven's sake!
  • World of Funny Animals: Just like the toys the show is based on. All the animals in the Sylvanian Forest are anthropomorphic and act just like humans.

And so ends another journey to the Sylvanian Forest to visit our best of friends, the Sylvanian Families! Goodbye, all, and may your wishes come true!