Friday, March 31, 2006

Animated Nostalgia

I've always been very interested in cartoons. To my parents' embarassment, I still watch a select few, although I have narrowed the field if that makes them feel any better. I've grown up with cartoons, and it's always fun to look back at them all and commiserate with other University students on the old, cheesy ones we all watched when we were kids, the surprisingly adult ones we'd all like to see again now, and the ones we just hated. Here's a few that I remember:

Barbie:
I barely remember this show, which is a good thing. This was the one based on the dolls, and I can't even find it on TV.com so good luck trying to find an episode guide. I have foggy memories of the opening sequence, which had Barbie riding a sparkling dolphin, if I remember correctly. Anyway, the only episode I can remember was, in hindsight, so repulsive I'm not surprised I never watched any more. It concerned one of Barbie's friends who thought she was fat, and had a nightmare about being morbidly obese (and the size of Godzilla), and had her knocking down buildings and eating planes. Who in their right minds would show this to children?

My Little Pony:
Again, based on a line of toys that are currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity, despite the logistical redundance of having ponies ride scooters and bikes, when, they're ponies, for Pete's sake, they're a source of transportation! Anyway, again, I only remember one episode - where one of the ponies cheats on a test by writing the answers beforehand on her pink hoof. I can't remember how they were able to hold pencils in their hooves, but I don't think that problem would have concerned the producers overmuch.

Captain Planet:
I loved this show, and a lot of other students my age remember it with a mixture of fondness and ruefulness. It was sort of like the Cartoon UN, with representatives from five of the seven continents - all teenagers who were given special magic rings that gave them power over Earth (the guy from Africa had that one), Fire (North America's contribution: a red-headed New Yorker who, hilariously, is the oblivious jerk/asshole of the show and keeps trying to hit on the Russian chick, what, five, ten years after the Cold War ended?), Wind (the Russian girl, although the show said she was from "The Soviet Union", that's how old the show is), Water (a girl from China who has a thing for marine biology, go figure), and the rather lame-ass Heart (given to the South American representative, the youngest boy in the group, who has a thing for animals).

I must have really loved the show, because I remember a lot of it - how Whoopie Goldberg played the voice of Mother Nature for the first few seasons, the episode where the American gets amnesia and lives like a Squigee kid, or goes back in time so that he doesn't accept the ring and become a Planeteer, or accidently uses his fire powers while he and his buds are Fantastic Voyageing it through the African's body to stop a virus ("It feels like my insides are on FIRE!" screams the African) or hits on the Russian girl and she almost accepts because they think they're both going to die but then they get saved at the last minute which, apparently, is a total bonerkill.

However, the episode that stuck the most in my mind was the one they did about AIDS - a kid gets diagnosed as HIV positive, and suddenly people don't want him drinking from their water fountain or playing on their basketball team, and Captain Planet has to come and set the record straight about AIDS and HIV. Wow - I mean, this show was made in the early '90s, and they were showing it to kids. Brave stuff.

Thundercats:
I saw one episode, and kept hearing it wrong because I remember wondering why everyone was refering to them as the "hat people".

The Mighty Ducks:
This was a far cry crom the actual movie - this one was about not only ducks, but alien ducks from another planet where they played nothing but hockey, so they came to Earth to be the best anthropomorphic duck hockey team EVAR!!1! Ahem.

Darkwing Duck:
This, like The Mighty Ducks, is another Disney TV cartoon. Sure, he's a bumbling superhero duck, but that's easier to swallow than alien ducks from Planet Hockey Puck. Plus, his theme song is still catchy today. "Dark-wing DUCK! When there's trouble you / call D.W.!" He also had an episode that spoofed Spider-Man, where he gets bitten by an irradiated spider, grows eight arms, and becomes, temporarily, Arachno-Duck. I kid you not.

Chip n'Dale, Rescue Rangers:
It's the same Disney Chip n' Dale, only this time they wear clothes (Chip wears the fedora and leather jacket Indiana-Jones-Style, Dale prefers Hawaiian shirts, neither wear pants)! And solve mysteries, along with a fly, and two mice, one of whom has to battle a serious addiction to cheese.

Bonkers:
This was a weird show, as it seemed to be an animated spin-off of the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, only with Bonkers the wildcat instead of Roger, or Jessica, or anyone from the actual movie. Bonkers is a 'toon, and Police Officer Pickle (pronounced Pick-el) is, supposedly, not. The show wasn't all that entertaining, and also somewhat weird, seeing as they refer to 'toons as different people even though the whole show is a cartoon, so you can't really tell the difference.

Reboot:
This is one of those shows that has gained a HUGE cult following, and in subsequent seasons became aimed more at adults and teens then children. This show was special for two reasons. 1) It was the first completely computer-animated television show. 2) It was Canadian. It was all about the inner workings of a computer, where the "inhabitants" (with names like Enzo, Dot, and Bob the "guardian") have to play games against the "user" (the guy who's using the computer). If the user wins, then the citizens who are stuck in the game get "nullified", which is a bad thing. Bob is a "Guardian" whose job it is to get into the games and help the Mainframers win, so that no one gets "nullified" and, presumably, the dude on the computer gets laughed at by his friends for totally sucking at computer games.

There were so many injokes in this show, which explains why it garnered such a cult following. I mean, they started out by making fun of computer games, then went into making fun of Bugs Bunny, Austin Powers, Star Wars, James Bond, Pokemon, Braveheart, Sailor Moon, The X-Files (where they actually snagged Gillian Anderson as a guest star!) and more. It was an excellent show, but it did get kind of weird and complicated near the end, but I guess that's only to be expected.

Animaniacs:
This was another show that was aimed primarily at kids, but was full of adult in-jokes to entertain the parents watching the show. I mean, they had the requisite anvil-dropping and mallet-smashing, but also an episode where a retired cartoon squirrel blows up Siskel and Ebert's house, Bill Clinton references, Citizen Kane jokes, and LOTS of digs towards characters and films made by Warner Brothers (technically, the Animaniacs are the Warner Brothers Yakko and Wakko, and Dot, the Warner sister).

Gargoyles:
This was a dark little cartoon, another one that became more aimed at adults as it continued. It was all about gargoyles (who are the stone statues everyone recognizes by day, but living creatures by night), who, thanks to a curse by an apprentice wizard, are frozen in stone for 2000 years until an insanely wealthy man named Xanatos breaks the spell by transplanting their entire castle onto the top of his skyscraper. They go through the necessary culture shock, and (other than Goliath), proceed to name themselves after parts of NY: Brooklyn is the rebellious second-in-command, Broadway the gentle giant, Lexington the technogeek, Bronx is their, er, gargoyle dog, and Hudson is the retired old fogey who still has some guff left in him.

There were no holds barred in this show, which mixed sci-fi technology with fantasy myth. We had human cyborgs, gargoyle cyborgs, Arthurian myth, African myth, evil scientists, werewolves, flying mutant cats, time travel (backwards AND forewards), Norse gods, robots, Shakespearan troublemakers MacBeth (whose preferred method of fighting is shooting people from a flying jet-glider), Oberon, Titania, and Puck, retired TV stars hoping to make some extra cash, Coyote the Trickster, aliens who inspired the statues of Easter Island, gangsters, the FBI, and an alternate dimension with gargoyles both male AND female - so Brooklyn, Lexington, and Broadway don't have to worry about nookie anymore. Also, this show got points for having a multi-racial heroine named Elisa, who's half American Indian, half Ethiopian, and has a thing for gargoyles named Goliath. Rowr.

There other cartoons I remember watching - Gummi Bears (where bears drink a juice that makes them bouncy, and makes humans who drink it super-strong), Teddy Ruxpin (I remember when he finds his long-lost dad, and the alchemist who longs to be able to turn things into gold), The Raccoons (said animals who try to protect their forest from, I dunno what they are, pink anteaters? They had funny noses...), Care Bears (*sigh*...), and others. But I don't have the space to list them all.

Do you remember old, cheesy cartoons you used to watch? Post them in comments!

5 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:42 PM

    Do you like ANY toons that were made before the 80's product based animated tv shows?

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  2. Sadly, I wasn't old enough to -_-;;...What toons did you like before the '80s?

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  3. A big fan of the weird and complicated trend in Reboot. I haven't thought about the show in years. Thanks for surfacing it. Those were the days. Reboot...and The Tick!

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  4. Ah yes, the Tick - I never got into that show, I think it was on too late for me to watch it when it was on.

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  5. Anonymous10:36 PM

    I wasn't around when the old WB, Disney, MGM, HB, Rankin/Bass, Fleischer, Bros. Quay, Tezuka, etc., films were made but somehow I found them and enjoyed them. Not that I didn't enjoy some of the 80's toons. I was a big Thundercats and Gummi Bears watcher. I'm just saying that if all you watched in the 80's was 80's entertainment then you missed out on the 70's, 60's, 50's, 40's, 30's,...They did have cable and videos and movie theaters and museums and festivals in the 80's. Or did all that stuff start up in the 90's?

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