Feb 17, 2009

"Thu" I miss good Cartoons

If you couldn’t tell, I feel especially strong about cartoons. 66% of kids watch more than 2 hours of TV a day, and I imagine a good chunk of that is cartoons. And today that means possibly 14 hours a week of Ed, Edd, and Eddy, Codename Kids Next Door, Fairly Odd Parents, or at best Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. What are these shows? How could they possibly be helping kids grow as people? The cartoons I grew up not only were so entertaining that adults usually watched, but they also taught kids something. For example:

Idea:Scrooge McDuck is the richest Duck in the world and he travels the world with his nephews Huey, Dewey, ,and Louie looking for ancient artifacts, new technology and other ways to keep his giant money bin full. Along the way they had to avoid traps from the Beagle Boys who wanted his money, Magica De Spell who wanted his lucky dime, and Flintheart Glomgold who was basically the exact opposite of Scrooge and #2 on the world’s richest ducks list.
And it taught kids…:I would say it taught kids about the importance of family. In a couple episodes I can remember Scrooge having to trade all his money or his lucky dime for the safety of his Nephews. It also taught kids that if they were misers they would one day have a giant bin of money they could swim in. That lesson didn’t really seem to take.

Name: Darkwing Duck
Idea: Darkwing was a spinoff from Duck Tales. It was basically a junior version of Batman for younger kids. He didn’t have any powers, just a gas gun, a sidekick named Launchpad, a high IQ, and a super long intro (it always started with “I am the terror that flaps in the night…” then kind of digressed from there.) Darkwing had to battle a bunch of decent villains including Taurus Bulba (who was a giant bull and had henchmen named Hoof and Mouth), Steel Beak, and Negaduck.
And it taught kids…:About justice, bravery, and that brains is better than brawn.

Idea: A cartoon sketch show for kids, with a ton of pop culture references and hosted by the puppy/cat looking things that lived in a water tower.
And it taught kids…:Everything. They sang songs about Geography, and Astronomy, they had mice that dabbled in politics and science, they had pigeons that explained street smarts, the show was a 12 year old’s guide to life.

Idea: Doug Funny is an awkward school kid who journals about his mediocre life. Many kids really connected with this premise
And it taught kids…: Along with the usual shows that taught about being yourself, importance of good friends rather than popularity, and that good family is not to be taken for granted, Doug also taught kids to be “color-blind”. Doug was white, his best friend was blue, his girlfriend Patty Mayonaise was orange, and the mis-understood bully Roger was green.

Idea: Bonkers was a police officer in a world where cartoons and humans co-exist. He had a human partner named Lucky Piquel (They had a “one of us, one of them” policy way before Heroes) who found him annoying yet ultimately through many adventures tracking down cartoons that were breaking cartoon laws, grew to like him.
And it taught kids…: Hating people that aren’t like you is wrong. There was always a kind of racist tone about how the humans treated the cartoons, some of them hated cartoons for no good reason. The show explained that different is good and we should celebrate our differences.

Idea: It was the comic books, except it was a cartoon. Probably one of my favorite cartoons ever, it had some really elaborate and complicated stories usually based on a comic book arc.
And it taught kids…: Another racism is bad show (racism must have been really rampant in the early 90’s), but also the importance of integrity. X-men only fought when they had to, in defense of someone who couldn’t fight. They worked as a team to accomplish something together that none of them could accomplish alone. It also touched on consequences of time travel, privacy issues (Professor X reading minds), Sacrifice (the Phoenix Saga), and the evils of big government (Sentinals and evil senators).

Name:Environmental cartoons (Capt Planet, Widget, Denver the Last Dinosaur)
Idea: The planet is dying, kids can save it, but only with the help of a green guy in a belly shirt, a purple alien that could shapeshift, or a dinosaur that skateboards and ime travels.
And it taught kids…: Adults are killing the world, you are going to have to clean it up when you get older, and global warming is imminent. I’m not really thrilled with that message exactly but the shows were entertaining and I’m not wholly against recycling.

These were just some of the amazing cartoons I grew up with. Back when cartoons were good, they taught you something; they entertained you and challenged you, they blew today’s cartoons out of the water.

So my favorite class so far 5 weeks into the semester has been my pop culture communications class. The teacher takes it really seriously, in a good way though. I kind of thought we would just end up talking about how movies and music affect people, that sort of thing. And it’s possible we’ll still go there, but the professor so far has approached it like an anthropology or maybe sociology class. It's been really interesting.

One of the things he pointed out last week was that the pop culture you grew up with will always be way better than whatever follows it or came before it. He couldn’t explain why that is exactly, but it seems about right. 40 year old women chase down Bon Jovi, 30-somethings always talking about how awesome movies in the 80’s were, and kids today actually sit down and watch whatever garbage cartoons that are popular. So even though I feel that this list contains some of the pinnacles of cartooning goodness, there's a good chance I'm more than a little biased.


  1. "EARTH!"

  2. besides x-men..all of these were great favorites for me! good choices gabe! and way to go society!

  3. I think you are being a little harsh on today's cartoons. Are there any that you think are OK? I like STAR Wars clone Wars, X-men Evolution, and Teen Titans not to mention a whole slew of Veggie Tales cartoons that have been produced. I'm thinking this is a case of only remembering the good things about the past and forgetting the dreadful cartoons that were out there (like the abomination that was "Scrappy Doo")

  4. You forgot one nugget of awesomeness in describing Darkwing Duck: there was no cooler rhyme than "When there's trouble you call DW."
    And Fairly Oddparents isn't that bad. Now, Spongebob Squarepants and Jimmy Neutron... don't get me started, don't even get me started.