Four Thoughts on Seth MacFarlane Rebooting The Flintstones

Yoinked from Cartoon Brew

I admit I was disappointed when I read the news yesterday. Why someone felt the need to let Seth MacFarlane reboot one of the greatest TV shows of all time is beyond me. Since we haven’t even seen or heard anything yet, I cannot have an opinion on the show either way. What I can have, are some thoughts on the whole idea, which I present to you below.

1. Why bring it back?

The old saying “let a sleeping dog lie” is apt. There is no shortage of original concepts out there just waiting to be made. Instead, in this age of sequels and prequels, we get an existing property that just has to be brought into the modern age.

Don’t get me wrong, The Flintstones aren’t sacrosanct. Remember the kids version from the 80s? Hanna-Barbera themselves weren’t as nice to the characters as they perhaps should have been. The difference is that they knew the jig was up in the early 90s and began making original content.

Why now? The Flintstones is 50 years old and the only new content being created is the Fruity Pebbles commercials. That’s pretty bad, but also appropriate. The show itself is only shown on Boomerang and merchandise has been gradually retracted over the years. The show is losing its audience (as they regrettably die off) and there aren’t enough new ones discovering the show.

My beef with the whole idea? Can you imagine if, back in the 60s, some network decided to bring back some vaudeville act from 50 years before? They’d be laughed out of town. Sadly that is not the case today.

2. Why Seth MacFarlane?

He already has three ‘winners’ on the network that pull in hundreds of millions of dollars a year for FOX. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Besides, he did work on some of the H-B cartoons of the 90s like Johnny Bravo, which was very much in the retro style. He is (or should be) familiar with the characters and the style of the show.

3. Will the reboot return animation to the glory of prime time?

No. That era is well and truly dead. The proliferation of the audience among the vast number of cable channels and the internet has meant that the audience necessary to sustain a top quality animated prime time show is gone. The days of the The Simpsons and Family Guy itself are rapidly drawing to a close. Don’t expect any big surprises.

4. Will you and I watch it?

I don’t know, will you? I’ll probably watch  the premiere but to be honest, I haven’t watched FOX on Sunday night in months. The quality of the evening has sunk to the point that I would rather invest my time in a film or TV show on Netflix than get let down by The Simpsons and the MacFarlane shows. It’s sad but it’s the truth.

Just How Low Was the Cartoon Nadir of the 1970s and 80s?

Via: ComicMix

Just ask Joe Barbera:

I can’t even have a character throw a pie in someone’s face anymore.

Or how about Bill Scott (of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame):

Hyperbole is so out, which seems strange to me because animation in itself is a hyperbole medium.

That’s pretty low. In fact, it was so low, that the only way TV cartoons could go was up, which they did, thanks to the Nicktoons.The funny thing is, people look back on these shows with such nostalgia, you wonder whether they’ve got some rose-tinted glasses on!

Were the 1980s the Golden Age for Girl Cartoons?

Ultra, from Dan Meth's Meth Minute 39 series. A parody of Gem and described by Meth himself as: "a loving tribute to 1987, when cartoons were just badly animated toy commercials and women who rocked were outrageous."

Over at Fanboy.com they have a post that counts down some of the top (in their opinion) girl oriented cartoons of the 1980s, the supposed golden age for the genre.

The list includes the likes of:

  • She-Ra
  • Strawberry Shortcake
  • Punky Brewster
  • My Little Pony
  • Jem
  • Gummi Bears
  • Care Bears

While it is admirable that such a list be compiled, it does seem to miss the point when it comes to animation and who it is aimed at. Just because a show has a female lead does not automatically make it a ‘girly’ show. For examples, see Kim Possible and My Life as a Teenage Robot, two shows with very prominent female leads but far from girly (both contain numerous shots of people getting punched in the nose).

The same goes for the content, just because it isn’t all guns, lasers and fast cars does not mean that no boy is ever going to watch it. I got plenty of mileage out of both the Gummi Bears and Care Bears when I was young, and I certainly didn’t think they were aimed at girls in the slightest.

The post does kind of lament the decline of these kinds of shows, but that is not without reason. Firstly, the majority were created to sell toys, and you can’t really sell a girls toy without a girly show to go along with it. A fine example is My Little Pony, you might as well make that about as girly as they come.

Secondly, the rise of cable networks and the subsequent re-emergence of creator-driven programming eliminated toyetic shows like these almost overnight. This caused a bit of a shift in thinking wherein the shows became the source for toys and not the other way around. As a result, the nature of children’s broadcasting changed dramatically and the quality increased accordingly.

Nowadays you see shows that can appeal equally to everyone and that are of far superior quality to those we were accustomed to in the 80s. In retrospect, the ‘golden age’ was just a fad.

There’s a Good Chance You Weren’t Aware of This Documentary on Animation.

There’s no picture for the simple reason that I couldn’t find any! So instead, here’s the theme tune, courtesy of the composer, Mark Pringle.

[audio:http://animationanomaly.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/tv_stay_tooned_theme.mp3|titles=BBC Stay Tooned Theme]

It was called Tooned In and I watched this series when it was originally broadcast way back in the day on the BBC. It was a good thing I did because it would seem that with all the usual copyright nonsense that seems to lie around these kind of shows like a pair of concrete shoes, the series will never see the light of day again. It hasn’t been re-run at any point and even the internet is turning up a blank. It would appear that ripping a VHS tape takes a bit more work than a DVD.

Which is a tremendous shame because I certainly remember, as do others on the internet, that it was a fantastic little retrospective show that was broadcast on Saturday evenings. I particularly remember the Hanna-Barbera episode but there were others on Tom and Jerry, Tex Avery, Betty Boop and of course, the Looney Tunes.

If you think about it, the fact that the show even exists is spectacular. Now, granted, it was produced by a public broadcaster with a remit and all that, but I cannot imagine one of the major TV networks or even one of the cable networks over here in the States deciding to produce a documentary series on animation, and broadcast it during primetime on a Saturday evening!

Sadly, extremely little info seems to exist out there so it is a shame that I cannot share more with you on this apparently great show.

 

The 12 Stages Of Personal Hell When A Show Gets Cancelled

Via: Savage Chickens

We’ve all been there, one of our favourite shows on TV gets canned. It may have been on the air for a long time or more likely, not a long time at all. We all know that TV shows get cancelled for a reason, normally it’s low ratings, failure to find its target demographic (e.g. Futurama on FOX) or just general crapiness of the show.

In any case, devoted fans continue to hold the candle for many years after the shows passing. For the rest of us, we go through a series of stages as we slowly realise that our favourite escape from this cruel, cruel world will no longer be a part of our lives, well, new episodes anyway.

So, for your personal benefit, below are the stages. Know them, prepare for them, because at any moment you may find yourself having to go through them. It could be anything, your favourite drama or the Cruft’s Dog Show, you just never can tell. For your gratuitous pleasure, I have added some enlightenment for each of the stages in the form of the potential inner monologue you may have as you go through the stages.

Stage 1: Disbelief

I can’t believe it, they did it, they really did it. How could they, I mean, it was a good show. At least I liked it, doesn’t that count for anything any more?

Stage 2: Denial

They didn’t cancel it, it must have been a mistake. Networks make them all the time, like paying huge bucks to evening news anchors even though no-one watches the evening news any more. Ha ha, I bet it’s all a big joke and that press conference they’re having tomorrow will say so.

Stage 3: Fear

What if it’s true though, maybe they really did cancel it. What will I do now? What can I possibly fill the half hour/hour of my life with now? I might have to read a book, or worse yet, talk to the wife! AHHHHH!

Stage 4: Anger

Wait a minute, how DARE they put me through this. it’s not my fault the show got binned, it must be some stupid writer somewhere in Hollywood. All those network types are eejits anyway, they wouldn’t know a good show if it bit them in the ass. I ougha write them a letter an tell them a thing or two. I’ll sho ’em who’s boss, that’s right me!

Stage 5: Bargaining

Perhaps I can reason with them, y’know strike a deal. You put my favourite show back on, and I’ll agree to continue watching your network. Otherwise, I will be forced to watch my DVDs for comfort and not, I repeat NOT, be seduced by what you’ve put in my favourite show’s place.

Stage 6: Shame

Oh man, what if people find out I watched that show? I’d better not let them find that out. I’ll just stick to the forums on the internet. No-one knows who I really am there. I mean, it’s OK for a middle-aged, single guy to like Dirty Little Liars, right?

Stage 7: Depression

[sigh] Maybe it’s just not going to come back. My life has lost all meaning now. I mean, that show was the one thing that kept my life together, gave it meaning and truly spoke to me. Where can I find a source of psychological nourishment now? I may as well pack up and move back in with my parents. I’m sure my wife will understand, even though she doesn’t watch TV and thinks it’s the spawn of Satan.

Stage 8: Self-pity

I’m so pathetic, I don’t even know why I like stupid shows like that.

Stage 9: Out-of-body Experience

Man I really need a haircut and some new jeans, just look at that hole just above the knee.

Stage 10: Empty Feeling

Stage 11: Looking Ahead

Well, I suppose it isn’t all that bad at all, I mean, I had a favourite show before this one, and it was cancelled, then I found this one. So I’m sure a new one will come along and be better than ever, with better writing, hotter actors/actresses and plenty of American optimism that just doesn’t seem to exist in foreign programming.

Stage 12: Secret Hope

I think they’ll bring it back, I mean you just can’t keep a good show down. Family Guy did it, Futurama did it (and who the hell watches that, only the geeks and the nerds, that’s who) so there is surely a chance for Midwest/California Angsty Teen Drama With 20-Something Actors/Actress.

For fun, why don’t you list your favourite, cancelled TV shows below 🙂

EDIT: You may notice that the steps above are identical to another series of steps as outlined in a certain comic artist whose surname rhymes with complaining. I intended this as an in-joke 🙂

Happy 50th Anniversary to Yogi Bear!

Via: Yowp

I must admit, it completely flew over my head that yesterday was the actual date, so it’s a bit of a belated celebration over here on the Anomaly blog. Nonetheless, we all make mistakes when it comes to this kind of thing and I was in fact, distracted by the review I wanted to do for Mary & Max.

So, yes, the Yogi Bear Show is 50 years old. My, my, it doesn’t seem that long since we celebrated the 50th anniversary of another famous Hanna-Barbera show. Clearly these were busy times for the studio, and it would shortly add another one to the mix with The Jetsons.

As usual when it comes to such cartoons, I must direct you all towards the Yowp blog, which has once again provided an excellent, concise piece on the show and its beginnings. There is little if anything I can add to an already well-written piece except to say that I did watch the show as a kid and although the distinct memories are a bit foggy, I can say with certainty that they are fond ones.

Happy (Belated) Birthday Yogi, here’s hoping that we may continue to be entertained by you pic-a-nic basket stealing antics.

OMG It’s The Ricky Gervais Show Season 2!

Via: RIckyGervais.com (duh)

So, yes, I got a pleasant e-mail from Mike last week informing me that the new season of the Ricky Gervais Show will premiere tonight (Friday, Jan. 14th) at 9pm on HBO. Not that this post is some unabashedly promoted one (I am still waiting on my cheque after all), I happen to like Ricky Gervais and while his brand of comedy can be sometimes cringe-inducing, it is nonetheless funny.

What the show does highlight is the ability of animation to adapt to real-life situations rather well. It’s been done before by Aardman Animation with the very successful Creature Comforts, in which conversations with members of the public are turned into claymation scenes featuring animals, all in a very British style of course. The Ricky Gervais Show is similar, except that is uses irreverent podcasts from the man himself where he discusses various bits of nonsense with his partners in crime, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington.

I bring up all of this because it harks back to the early days of animated shows on TV and the derogatory label they gained as a result of their move to this new medium: illustrated radio.

Basically, illustrated radio was a way of looking down on the kind if limited animation that Hanna-Barbera became known for. Of course they had a good reason for using it as they couldn’t afford anything else! Critics, however, pounced on this and were keen to point out that there wasn’t much to be gained by adding some moving pictures to the sound.

The Ricky Gervais Show is basically an animated conversation, which in a way, is exactly the accusation that was levelled at Huckleberry Hound all those years ago. The difference now, is that the writing has improved and takes centre stage over the animation.

Although podcasts allow the listener to let their imaginations run wild, a show like that of Ricky Gervais’ has proven to be successful as animation and is proof that good writing and inventive, companion animation can go along hand in hand. Below is the obligatory video that features the trailer for the second season.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWcYW8pmGaI]

Classic Children’s Stop-motion Animation: Postman Pat Goes Sledging

As a kid, perhaps my favourite TV show was Postman Pat, the classic, stop-motion series about a British postman with the catchy theme tune and his adventures in Greendale. I was reminded of it today because we got some snow here in Baltimore and the fact that one of my favourite episodes of Postman Pat revolves around snow.

The gist of it is that there’s been a heavy snow in Greendale and as a result, Pat’s round is a bit different than usual, involving snow fights, digging out ploughs and delivering straw to sheep.

I mention this episode not only because it is a wonderful piece of stop-motion animation, it also displays some great slapstick moments. The two I mention come later in the episode and revolve around Pat and Alf Thompson delivering supplies to a snowed-in farm high on a hill.

The journey up is pretty straight-forward, but the journey down is anything but. Suffice to say, things do not go as planned when they hit a bump which knocks them flying. Now, as an adult, you might think, “that’s not very funny”, but as a kid, I thought it was absolutely hilarious. The way they sail through the air and then tumble in the snow is superb, and when you think it was all done in stop-motion, it becomes all the more amazing.

At the end of the run, they slide straight into the barn, complete with a crashing noise that suggests another comedic catastrophe, until both characters walk out as if nothing had happened.

The series has remained popular over the last 25 years and it’s not hard to see why. It may not be educational in the contemporary fashion, but it is extremely entertaining, even more so if you’re in the target demographic. It’s what I grew up with, so I might be seeing things through some rose-tinted glasses, but you cannot deny the skill inherent in the animation. The episode is embedded below for you to watch (14 mins. total) in all it’s YouTube glory.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKMyyAGleSQ]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VEO3chtaqU]

An Adventure Time Title Card That Caught My Eye

Today is a short post, because I spent all day yesterday putting together some new furniture (hence no post) and this morning, I have to get a craigslist ad out for the piece they replace. Seriously, if you live in Baltimore and want a TV entertainment centre, check out the ad and get in touch, mention this blog and get it for free!

Below, is something that caught my eye last week and this seems like as good a time as any to post it. The dense layers of artistic skills in Adventure Time continue to stun the mind of viewers and fans alike, and the title cards are no exception.

So much so, that Fred Seibert has put out a whole book on the art of the title card (from his own series’ of course) and brings to attention how they have been criminally overlooked by historians over the years. It is available on Amazon and there is a preview available on Fred’s blog.

It is therefore satisfying to see that the title card I am sharing today is also a Frederator production. It’s a mysterious piece and a bit of a play on the usual situation. Instead of Finn hiding in the background, it is Princess Bubblegum that is the one in the dark. There’s a great sense of foreboding about the whole thing, and one can’t help but wonder what terrors await Finn and Jake when they take up the scissors for the job at hand.

Via: Fred Seibert on Flickr

The episode premieres, uh, tonight (January 10th), at sometime in the evening on Cartoon Network. Check it out and report back please, I still have to re-arrange all the furniture I messed up yesterday!

Why Did Disney Stop Making TV Shows Based on Their Films?

Via: Wikipedia

Whatever happened to all the TV series’ that Disney used to put out after a theatrical film was released? Is it a practise that died off with the turn of the century? It’s hard to tell, but the untimely death of the traditional animation unit may have been something to do with it.

The fact occurred to me this morning as I was scrambling around for something to write about. My postulation is that they simply don’t make the kind of films that lend themselves easily to such treatment any more. For one, CGI is now king, and creating a CGI TV series can be much, much harder than a traditionally animated one, especially if you are geared up and staffed for the latter.

Disney has decided that it either isn’t worthwhile creating a CGI TV show, or that the kind of movies they have put out recently do not lend themselves easily to the concept (read: CGI). Films like Chicken Little, Bolt and The Princess and the Frog are not quite flexible enough to be capable of the tweaks that are necessary for the small box. Tangled has a similar problem, but that could be overcome in a way not unlike The Genie in Aladdin. I am quite certain that the closure of the traditional animation department also contributed to the end of such programmes.

As much as I abhor the practice and its nagging habit of denying the place of an original, creator-driven show, you can’t deny that the quality of the Disney movie-shows was decently high, both animation and story-wise. It also kept costs that wee bit lower and the studio was able to eliminate the risk of a series if they used a successful film that came with a ready-made audience.

I am not advocating a return to the practise, I’m just pointing out that it did provide some benefits to the animation industry as a whole. DreamWorks must have recognized this as they have taken up the mantle in recent times, with shows based on Madagascar 2, How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda. Of course, DreamWorks is an independent studio, so there is much more pressure on them to maximize their creations to the hilt and TV can be a very lucrative way of extending the life of your films.

As I’ve mentioned before, ideally, theatrical films would be much easier to make and to predict the performance of if they were based on a TV show. SpongeBob did it to great success so why can’t someone else replicate the same? That is something studios should focus even more on in this day and age.