The Stolen World of Cartoons

by The Macleod

A previous rant had harkened back to the days of the early – mid 1980s, a time when Transformers and He-Man ruled the cartooning world, Hasbro and Matel were the bearers of toys from heaven, and every child (particularly boys) was really truly alive for a few hours each week: Saturday morning. The anticipation didn’t quite begin until later in the week, but as soon as you opened your eyes at seven o’clock each Saturday it was like Christmas. Time to gather your quilt, shuffle to the kitchen, pour a bowl of cereal containing one part Shreddies, two parts sugar, and park your 70lb. ass in front of the TV for the next five hours for a morning of glorious cartoon heaven. They would start off with a tease. Maybe some Scooby-Doo, followed by My Pet Monster, a little Wuzzle action, Dungeons and Dragons, maybe some Muppet Babies. There was always the one painful half hour when the only thing that even came close to resembling entertainment was Kissyfur. But after that was the gold: G.I. Joe, He-Man, Thundercats to name a few. Every week I hoped the morning would go forever, but after Bugs Bunny and Friends ended at noon there was no hope left. The airwaves were taken over by sports and infomercials, although I never seemed able to remember that WWF came on some time after lunch – always a pleasant surprise.

Each Sunday I would make the same trek downstairs at the same time, hoping against all odds that cartoons would be on – they had to be, I just hadn’t discovered them yet, I was convinced. I would search and search – it became my quest, trying to find the Holy Grail, the mythical Sunday morning cartoons. And what would I find? Nestled between competing tele-churches was a half-hour crap-o-rama called Rocket Robin Hood. It was a cartoon so absurd and sophomoric I was convinced that it had to be alien. We had broadcast out images of Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and in return the aliens sent us Rocket Robin Hood. Honestly, I think we got the short end of that stick.

But as displeased with Rocket Robin Hood as I was, it was still a cartoon, and that’s all that mattered. I didn’t care what I watched, so long as it was animated. And this love of cartoons wasn’t limited to just Saturday mornings. Before school, when I was especially young, there was Hercules (as well as a weird Abbott and Costello cartoon and The Wizard of Oz) and later I had DuckTales, along with the weaker Droids and Ewoks. After school was time for Inspector Gadget, The Real Ghostbusters, and the pinnacle of human animating achievements, Transformers. The cartoons never ended – it was a child’s utopia.

Now we fast forward ten or fifteen years. I’m not sure when exactly it was, but one Saturday morning I happened to be watching TV and I noticed that I wasn’t watching cartoons. I switched channels to see what cartoons might be on. What I found was something out of an adolescent horror movie. A Saturday morning and the only thing on any channel was… action programming! God no!!! There was nary an animation cell to be found anywhere. All I could see were weekend versions of The Today Show and Canada AM. And what few shows I could see that actually tried to appeal to adolescent viewers were experiences so horrible and amateurish they made Saved By The Bell look like Shakespeare. Some time in the last decade we had let our guard down and Saturday morning was taken over by adults. This sacred ritual for kids was snatched from them and replaced with news and anything else that is guaranteed not to appeal to anyone under the age of twelve.

This lack of animation on TV worries me. It really does. Although it’s not so much a lack of animation, as it is a lack of imaginative animation. All of the popular cartoons I see are too firmly based in reality. Shows about kids, getting into kid situations, having goofy and wacky kid adventures. Sure, those shows can be good. But what of the cartoons set in the future, set on other planets, populated with a wide cast of unearthly characters? Where has the adventure gone in cartoons? It used to be obvious that certain shows were geared towards boys, and other towards girls. For every Transformers there was a My Little Pony or a Rainbow Brite. The kids of the new century now have a wide variety of unisex cartoons to watch – indicative of the desire to appeal to the middle that we see in society.

It’s all a shame really, because what I think this may have the tendency to do is rob children of an imaginative outlet. Instead of having their minds stimulated by new worlds and characters they only see literal interpretations of every day kid life. When did kids ask for this? When did they demand that network executives take away imagination and creativity from their cartoons? And if adults think that kids don’t want to see that kind of thing, they simply have to look as far as Harry Potter. A book showing an incredible world, about kids, involving as much adventure as anyone could ask for, and it’s one of the biggest literary phenomenons ever. Hmmmm, a strange concept indeed.

Cartoons have been stolen by adults. What few that actually are on TV either believe that kids don’t want action and adventure and fantasy or are actually made for adults. Not just any adults, but creepy, lonely, seriously in need of a life adults who religiously watch Teletoon in the middle of the night. It’s a crime, it’s wrong, and we need to give the cartoon world back to the kids. Back to the ones for whom it was originally created and who can best appreciate it.

  • The Stolen World of Cartoons
  • by The Macleod
  • Published on April 1st, 2002

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