Has anyone ever heard of the 80’s cartoon “Flaming Poodle”?
It would air on Saturday morning like any other cartoon. The only difference is that it would come on only after every other cartoon in that block of time had finished. There was no real introduction to speak of. Just two blazing eyes that seemed to be staring straight into the viewer, and then the show began.
The very first episode revolved around a smallish poodle named Henry. It was just normal dog stuff-playing with other dogs, lifting his leg on lamp posts and car tires, going to the park with his owner. Nothing very unusual. I suppose the normality was to throw the viewer off-guard so that the Flaming Poodle’s origin story would hit harder.
In the middle of the episode, Henry was estranged from his owner. There were a series of frantic barks and chases, but Henry could not seem to find his owner no matter what he did. I remember wondering why the show was called Flaming Poodle when the show had nothing to do with fire whatsoever when the really bad part happened.
Henry had run into a house to find his owner when somebody’s cigarette fell to the floor, causing the house to catch on fire. Henry was unfortunate enough to be stuck under a couch that was going up in flames. I figured he’d escape and be fine. That was not the case. Instead, Henry caught on fire too. The thing I remember most about this episode was how graphic it was. It was more graphic than most cartoons of that time would dare to be. I saw the fur going up in smoke, the realistic burn wounds, the blisters on the skin. It was so terrifying that to this day I still can remember the sequence in vivid detail.
After that, firefighters searched the house to check for any survivors. After a thorough search of the house, they returned outside and declared that there were no survivors. They drove away from the smoking ruins of the house. I began to cry. What had I just watched? Where was the Flaming Poodle? What was the purpose of all this? To scare children?
Then a silhouette rose from the flames. It was a poodle, surrounded by fire. I was afraid to keep watching. Two blazing eyes came into focus, and the Flaming Poodle began to speak. Its voice was deeper than Henry’s, full of anger intense enough to make my hair stand on end.
“No other living being will have to suffer the fate I did when I died. From now on, I shall be known as the Flaming Poodle, and I shall do my best to rescue burn victims and prevent fires from happening in this town.”
I felt relieved. This was clearly some kind of superhero show. We had just been shown the Flaming Poodle’s origin. Surely the rest of the show would be as harmless and nonsensical as the other superhero shows I watched.
I was wrong.
All the episodes after that were just as spooky as the first one had been. The next one after the introduction involved a child with horrible burn scars. Again, they were startlingly realistic and I had a hard time looking at them. I figured this episode would either involve rescuing the child or telling him there was nothing wrong with him just because he was disfigured. Instead, the Flaming Poodle set the child on fire and threw him into a house, setting it ablaze. He then made a show of ‘saving’ the child from the fire, and he was praised as a hero. Unfortunately, his victory did not last long, as in the very next episode, we were told that the child had died.
I don’t know why I continued to watch the cartoon when it was so clearly traumatizing to me. I just had nothing else to do, I supposed. Each episode was worse than the one before. All sorts of horrifying fire-related crimes were committed by the Flaming Poodle, yet he was constantly hailed as a hero. Not once did he ever do anything to earn this reputation. Killing children, burning down community buildings, harming other dogs-the Flaming Poodle was clearly a sadistic villain. The show wanted us to root for him for some reason, but after each episode had finished, I only wanted a kindly firefighter to put out this flaming menace.
That never happened. The worst was the penultimate episode. At the end of that episode-where the Flaming Poodle commenced to burn down a church with innocent elderly people inside-the Flaming Poodle turned to face the audience. Something in those black eyes felt like they were real, and wanted me dead too.
Then the Flaming Poodle spoke. “If you’re watching, know you’re not safe.” Then the episode ended with the poodle producing a ball of fire around itself and cackling menacingly. This wasn’t any old cartoon villain-this one was real. At least, it felt that way to me.
I never saw the final episode because it made headlines for being banned. The reasons cited for the ban included graphic injuries, easily imitable acts, and swearing. I can only imagine what it must have been like, since I have never met anyone else who saw it, or even any other episodes of the cartoon.
Anyway, I was wondering if anyone else had heard of or seen this cartoon. I’ve searched for it a few times on the web, but I get very few results. I know it’s real; I remember it far too well for it to have been made up. Is this some kind of Mandela Effect thing? Or do you remember it too? Whatever it is, I’m not giving up. I will track down the source of my childhood nightmares and I’ll watch that final episode. You can find anything online. I’m sure this cartoon will surface at some point or another. I just hope I can find it safely...