4 Steps to Saving Old Cartoons With The Internet

I make no bones about my love for Felix. If in doubt, read this post!

Last week, Jerry Beck over at Cartoon Brew lamented the disappearance of old cartoons from the public airwaves. He’s right too, the broadcast of all the old favourites isn’t near as frequent as they used to be in the past. The reason is absurdly simple; back in the day there was a need for programming, but that was quite expensive. Old cartoons were all too cheap and plentiful to cobble together into a half hour show and throw on whenever the need arose.

Unfortunately the advent of cable and satellite heralded a boom in programming production so much so, that there is now far more programming than there is time to show it all. The result is that all the really old stuff is pushed out in favour of stuff that isn’t so old. Hence all the old Hanna-Barbera shows getting shunted on Boomerang in favour of the first wave of Cartoon Network originals. Nickelodeon has more than enough stuff in their back catalogue thanks to the channel’s 30 year history. Disney half-heartedly airs older shorts but in a pseudo ironic “here’s a real oldie” kind of way.

So all that sounds a bit depressing. However, the advent of the internet has opened a whole new plethora of opportunities for old animation. Here’s just a few ways that fantastic old cartoons can be brought back into the public consciousness.

1. YouTube Channels

This should be the first and most obvious choice. A quick search fails to reveal a dedicated channel. Oh sure the videos are already uploaded and playlists exist, but from what I could see, there was nobody making a concerted effort to promote old cartoons through a dedicated channel, replete with a community of fans rallying around it. Such a concept did exist in a previous time with sadly defunct ReFrederator site, but that does not preclude somebody from starting another one. With over 40 years of cartoons that barely take you into the 60s, there should be more than enough content to “release” and promote older content for many years to come. This is by far the most promising solution.

2. Continuing the Conversation

Like everything in life, continual conversation keeps memories alive. It’s how all the legends and fairytales were passed down from generation to generation. Entertainment is no different and older stuff only disappears only because people either a) stop talking about them or b) they’re left to rot in a storage warehouse somewhere. Surprisingly enough, Lawrence Welk is still in the public consciousness thanks to reruns of his shows on PBS.

Keeping the conversation about old cartoons going is necessary to keep them alive too. Thankfully in the modern era, the internet and blogs in particular are a superb way of attaining this. Site like Steven Hartley’s Likely Looney Mostly Merrie are a great way to engage anyone and everyone who are interested in seeking out the classics.

3. Better Merchandise

Some of the more well known classics out there continue to command a considerable marketing presence (the Looney Tunes, anything Disney and obviously Tom and Jerry come to mind) others have fallen by the wayside thanks to a number of factors. Loss of copyright, ownership by individuals not well versed in the characters they own and general obscurity continue to blight a number of classic properties.

However, characters like Betty Boop continue to thrive despite not having any new content in decades as well as having entered the public domain a long time ago. So how do you explain it? It’s easy actually, what keeps Betty popular is the merchandise. She’s everywhere and can be had on many good quality products too! Compare a search of Amazon for two very popular characters:

Notice something? Betty pulls in almost 10 times the amount of products that poor Felix does. What does that tell you about how merchandise for the latter is being handled. Lack of familiarity isn’t a factor either. Felix is still a character that almost anyone could instantly recognise. As you can see, Felix is also synonymous with that famous clock so there is a strong correlation between a character and the merchandise they appear on.

4. New Content

Admittedly a last resort attempt here but it is possible. Back in the day, new shorts were pushed out on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. As a result, they were designed to knocked out quickly and cheaply; limits that are synonymous with how content destined for the internet is published today.

New versions of classic cartoons could easily follow along similar lines and if anything, could reverse the startling trend gripping some sectors that involves carbon copying Family Guy’s excessively stiff animation and adult-oriented plots. The opportunity to loosen things up a bit would not be lost on John K. and has been embraced wholeheartedly by Aaron Long and his series of Fester Fish shorts (although as a one man band, his output is considerably slower than a weekly schedule).

So there you go, what do you think? In what other ways could the internet help old cartoons? Share your ideas in the comments.

Favourite Cartoons Described In A Single Sentance

Spotted on Tumblr today is this list of popular cartoons by Aisha Thani who reduced their descriptions to a single line.

  • South Park: Four friends try to ignore the fact that 1 of them is a dangerous psychopath by swearing a lot and learning stuff
  • Camp Lazlo: A happy monkey ruins camp for everyone by being friendly and outgoing.
  • Courage the cowardly dog: a horror show about a cute pink dog trying to save his owners from terrors
  • Cow and Chicken: a cow and a chicken are harassed by a naked red demon
  • I am Weasel: a weasel and Baboon are harassed by a naked red demon
  • Avatar TLA: Kung fu action jesus saves the world with the help of his friends
  • Invader Zim: an alien is banished to earth. He is too insane to notice.
  • Ed Edd n’ Eddy: 3 boys are so engrossed in each other they forget all social skills and boundaries , also scams
  • Xiaolin Showdown: 4 elemental monks collect mystical objects and keep them in a poorly guarded vault. Jack Spicer is cute
  • Kick Buttowski: An adrenaline addict endangers himself regularly and makes the rest of the cast jealous
  • Adventure Time: in a post apocalyptic world the last living human being has lots of adorable adventures with his radiated dog
  • Regular show: a Bluejay and a Raccoon regularly awaken the elder gods
  • Phineas and Ferb: Two boys of superior intellect entertain people with their powers while their schizophrenic sister tries to stop them
  • Fanboy and Chum Chum: a 90s cartoon in disguise, slapstick everywhere
  • My Little Pony FIM: 5 friends regularly experience mental break downs and save the town, also some ponies have facial hair
  • Dan vs: A small angry man narrowly avoids ending up in a psychiatric ward with the help of his best friend Chris

Should You Trust The Mainstream Media When It Comes To Animation?

 Via: Times Union Online

The quick and dirty answer is no, you shouldn’t. Over the years, I’ve found that animation is, in fact, located in quite a niche of the media and entertainment landscape. Plenty of people know what it is, they can name their favourite examples and they can also rattle off a few of the larger studios. However, when it come down to details, most people are helplessly lost and/or ignorant.

Unfortunately, what I’ve found is that the [mass] news media is no different. While it is easy to understand that they must cater for the lowest common denominator, that is not a particularly compelling excuse for laziness or just plain poor journalism.

An example popped out at me yesterday, but now is as good a time as any to bring up an appearance on FOX News back in 2009 by Amid Amidi (of Cartoon Brew) and Michael Sporn (of, y’know, Michael Sporn Animation). ostensibly. they were discussing the rivalry between Pixar and DreamWorks however calling it a discussion is perhaps taking things a bit too liberally.

I think the best way to describe it is that Michael was waaaay over-qualified to be there and poor Amid was simply trying to get the presenter to understand the real differences behind both companies. Either way, neither of them could compete with her as she clearly had no interest in discussing the facts of the situation for the benefit of the viewers.

Anyway, the second example was yesterday. Now this is by no means an isolated example nor does it represent the standard of the animation presence in the media. However, when one sees the title “How cartoons ruined our lives” they are apt to sit up and take notice.

Well, you would think so, except this is a fluff piece from the Times Union of Albany, NY. It’s not so much how cartoons ruined our lives as it is about philosophically trying to find the hidden messages that cartoons appear to send out.

Example 1: Wilma Flintstone

I remain frustrated that I can’t find a substantial beaded necklace for outfits that call for bold statement jewelry. Damn you, Wilma.

Example 2: He-Man

Spent childhood thinking She-Ra was He-Man’s girlfriend. Learned in adulthood that they’re twins. Trying to decide if I just wasn’t paying close attention or if growing up in the sticks gave me a warped perspective on relationships.

Example 3: Josie & The Pussycats

I still wish I were in a girl band. Also, taught me to dress inappropriately. What, you never wear a tail?

So, as you can see, it’s not a particularly interesting or funny piece, yet it was still published on the Times Union website. I’m not ragging on the author, God knows the papers have it tough these days, but why would you even allow something like this to be published?

It’s just somewhat disappointing to see animated TV shows and films treated with such disdain compared to live-action films, which are almost revered by the media as the bastion of American culture.

It partly goes back to the whole “cartoons is for kids” attitude but even the success of The Simpsons, Family Guy, etc. have done little to improve the impression of animation among middle America.

Thankfully, the proliferation of the internet means that you can read about animation all you want from the people who are actually involved in the industry as well as fans, voice-actors and one civil engineer.

Follow-up: 80s British Cartoons That Americans Missed (Or Not)

Chris Sobiniek was kind enough to write in to fill in some background information on my recent post about 80s British cartoons that I thought never made it across the Pond. Lo and behold, some of them actually did! Below is what was sent over detailing where and when they made it on the air.

Thanks Chris!

In the US, many of these shows aired first on cable TV. There wasn’t much of a chance for any of ‘em on regular TV much during that time, and the new cable TV market proved to be a great ‘dumping ground’ for foreign toons on channels like Nickelodeon (further picking up the interest of those of us who were tired on the domestic Saturday morning junk). Cable/satellite TV in those days wasn’t quite as proliferated as it was in the 90?s, so there was plenty of room for experimenting and trying different things than what was seen before from “The Big Three”.

Danger Mouse premiered as early as 1983 over here and lasted up to probably 1988 or ’89, but also made a faint appearance in the early 90’s I think too.


Count Duckula would premiere also on Nick in 1988 and lasted for a good number of years as I recall.

Bananaman on the other hand, aired on Nick in the 80’s as well, though I can recall it mostly coming on right after Dangermouse as I think they had 5 or so minutes to kill and just stuck it there anyway, in later years it showed up on a program called “Total Panic” as one of the cartoons shown Sunday mornings.

While Nickelodeon back then was part of the “basic tier” of cable channels one could get, The Disney Channel use to be a premium channel on the same platform as HBO or Showtime, and thus you had to beg your parents to get that so you could watch SuperTed they played too (I think it use to be on around 1984-86). Home Video releases of the SuperTed series also were made available from Walt Disney Home Video (which came in handy for those that didn’t get the channel).

Not sure if we ever got Postman Pat back then, though I do recall videos of it being released here anyway (home video often was the scapegoat for things that may see little or no airings on TV in those days). I’m certainly the later Postman Pat stuff when they got the puppets mouths moving probably did air here anyway.

I don’t remember The Raggy Dolls or The Family Ness showing up here (let alone “The Trap Door” for that matter, and that one surely could’ve hit it over big here too), I do recall this show popping up on Nick featuring Spike Milligan’s wit and narration…

Thomas The Tank Engine had a rather interesting history over here, as we didn’t get quite the same type of program you guys had. Instead, and probably as a means of testing the waters for this guy here, Britt Allcroft co-created a program as a springboard for Thomas that aired on PBS stations beginning in 1989 called “The Shining Time Station”. Thomas’ adventures were told from a little character the kids could see named “Mr. Conductor” (who was either played by Ringo Starr in the first season and George Carlin for the remainder of the show’s run).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shining_Time_Station

Pretty much the way I view that show today is really just that, we had to get up to speed on this Thomas thing like the Brits and then go from there (such as with that movie)!

So yeah, we Americans weren’t too far behind, but we certainly did miss out on a few stuff now and then.

British Cartoons From the 80s that Americans Sadly Missed

I suppose it’s a sign that I can safely say I remember a time when there wasn’t 24 hour cartoon channels. Yes, I am a child of the 1980s, and I have very fond memories of not only watching cartoons, but waiting for cartoons to come on.

Anyway, here’s a couple of my favourites that I don’t believe made the transition across the Atlantic, which is a shame. However, thanks to the wonder of YoutTube, you can (well, at least the openings anyway). Enjoy!

Count Duckula (which rocks a very thriller-esque theme)

Bonus! The end sequence, which in all likelihood has yet to be bettered in terms of effort.

Danger Mouse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nf8bInp52sE

Bananaman

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hq2KXudEjkI

The Family Ness

Raggy Dolls

Superted

Thomas the Tank Engine

And my very favourite, Postman Pat

What Makes A Strong Female Character?

It’s no secret (or maybe it is) that I find much to celebrate in female characters, especially lead female protagonists who are also strong female characters. There is much to commend a show with a female lead, especially one that does not pander to traditional ‘girly’ notions.

Which is important to note because there is a certain belief that boys are not attracted to content with a female slant. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are no reasons why a boy can’t also watch the same shows as girls, there is just a very strong societal pressure when it comes to these kinds of things. Boys do ‘boys’ things and girls do ‘girls’ things. There is no or very little middle ground around the crucial ages.

What are the crucial ages you ask? They are the ages of 6-10, where children are most ripe for commercialisation. They are of course, subject to and receptive of more advertising than any other age group, and advertisers are in no mood to alter the status quo. That’s why you get girls toys and boys toys with unisex toys limited to board games and the like.

There are a few female protagonists out there that can serve as role models, the one above is one, below is another one.

What makes these characters strong? How about some of these traits:

  • Decisiveness
  • Independence
  • Resourcefulness
  • Leadership
  • Companionship (with boys too!)
  • Intelligence
  • Understanding
  • Vulnerability
  • Thoughtfulness

Do Jenny and Kim share a few of these? You bet! You’ll notice that I did not mention looks nor did I mention interests. As much an emphasis as our society places on looks, they are not the be all and the end all when it comes to characters. Look at Bessie Higgenbottom from the Mighty B (below). Being attractive ain’t her strong point but her character as a whole is.

What interests the character isn’t important either. Female characters can be quite capable of enjoying or not enjoying girly things. There is also the other extreme to consider where the character is a tomboy. Nothing wrong with that (it worked for Helga in Hey Arnold) although pulling off takes care. Sam from Danny Phantom is a good example, she hangs out with the boys but also enjoys her own, more girly  things in private.

The point of this post, I suppose, is to challenge the notion that female characters and protagonists must conform to certain boundaries when portrayed on TV or in films. That is not to say we need to ban all girly shows, far from it, they have their place too. Just that we should be able to see more of a balance when it comes to content. Boys and girls do enjoy different things, but they also enjoy a lot of the same things too. Something for you, and the networks, to think about.

 

 

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.

Do Cartoon Characters Work Their Way Into Your Life?

Via: Cartoon Brew

While reading Amid’s post about the upcoming exhibition of so-called street art at MOCA in Los Angeles, a thought occurred to me. Is there a reason why there is animation in it at all?

What I mean is that, why on earth would such street artists choose to use animated characters? As Amid points out, some have graduated to using their own characters, but the majority will use well known characters (from perhaps some big, evil corporation).

If you think about it, it seems somewhat obvious. We do seem to have a strong attachment to the cartoons and cartoon characters from our youth. Is it a subconscious yearning for the old days? I’m not sure (but feel free to post your theories in the comments below).

I would argue that characters do tend to work their way into your life as a child and they do tend to reside in the ol’ noggin for the rest of your life. They also represent a certain time that you may like to hold dear or perhaps you identified with the character as a youngster. For artists like the ones in the exhibition, cartoon characters can represent a whole host of things, either from their own personal lives or from their work. Either way, they seem to find artistic value in the characters far outside their original purpose.

What is clear is that cartoon characters pop up all over the place. I’ve seen plenty of 18 wheelers with a Tinkerbell sticker on them! I’ve also seen plenty of old folks wearing a Disney sweater or baseball cap. They are surely well outside the target demographic for such things, right? But is it really that surprising to see such things?

All of this is a sign of the relationship that animated characters form with ourselves. If you need any proof, just think about the last time you saw someone some Saved by the Bell merchandise. Such stuff is pretty hard to come by. Now compare it with all the Ren & Stimpy stuff out there. I think the answer speaks for itself.

Ten Rock Solid Reasons To Read Floyd Norman’s Blog Every Day

  1. Floyd’s been around a while, so he knows just about everything there is to know about animation.
  2. His Disney knowledge is exquisite and magnificent in it’s depth and detail.
  3. He keeps things short and sweet but never skimps on the details.
  4. He has plenty of stories to tell about the old days, which make for very worthwhile reading.
  5. His website has a ‘gag wall’ filled with incredibly funny pictures.
  6. In addition to his daily posts, he has a special section for longer stories.
  7. Every post has a lovely photo or sketch to go along with it.
  8. Plenty of learned people read his blog too, so the fun doesn’t stop with the posts, it continues in the comments!
  9. Floyd also stays right on top of all the latest happenings in animation, he’s not stuck in the past.
  10. The blog’s title is “Mr. Fun”, how much cooler can you get than that?

Convinced? Head over here and start reading.

It’s Comic and Cartoon Time This Weekend in NYC!

Via: MoCCA

Starting tomorrow at 9am and continuing through till Sunday evening, the Lexington Ave Armory in New York City will pay host to the annual festival of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, better known as MoCCA.

I’ve never been before, but from listening (and eavesdropping) on twitter, it seems like its going to be a blast. The exhibitor list has been posted contains many, many artists whose work I am dying to see along with plenty of folks I’ve met before and am looking forward to seeing again. Besides that, there will be literally a ton of art on display and for sale.

I will be there on the Saturday (tomorrow) rambling about chatting to people. If you are about the festival yourself and you happen to see me, come up and say hi. I’ll be the tall fella with glasses wearing the brown cap. Don’t worry, I don’t bite (much) 😛

The Mythical Banned Episode

Via: The Golem Universe

During a quick perusal of my favourite bookmarks this morning before I began typing this, I read a remarkable post over on Fred Seibert’s Blog concerning a “banned” episode of the hit show Dexter’s Laboratory. Apparently even Fred didn’t know about it, so he called up the one and only Genndy Tartakovsky (someday maybe I too will have a famous person in my phonebook [sigh]).

As it turns out, it does exist and wasn’t broadcast because of the amount of (bleeped) swearing. Now what the swear words were, I do not know. I doubt they were the really serious kind although they probably weren’t suitable for a an audience of children.

Which leads us to the whole mystery of so-called banned episodes of shows. Why would an episode be “banned”? Why would the creators even be allowed to make the episode in the first place, if there is even a slight chance that it wouldn’t make it to air?

It’s hard to tell. Sometimes a script will appear OK but once it is finished, it might seem worse. A more likely culprit is that the people directly supervising the show are fine with it but once someone higher up sees it, they might use their superior executive powers to veto its broadcast.

Some people wonder how a company can afford to lock-up these episodes, especially considering that animation is not the cheapest form of production. The reality is that one episode does not a series make and the company will often take the hit because if the episode were broadcast, it could face untold fines from the FCC. Remember the whole Janet Jackson SuperBowl™ incident? Yeah, we all had a good laugh at that in Europe; the lawsuits are still ongoing over here. That pretty much speaks for itself.

The rumour-mill also seems to have this ability of elevate such episodes to near mythological status among fans. Titbits of information here and there is often interpolated to mean that it is the most awesome episode ever in a holy grail kind of way. Of course once these episodes eventually make their way onto the airways or internets, they are of no better quality than the ones that were broadcast.

The interesting thing is that when people call a show or episode “banned” today, they really mean that it simply wasn’t broadcast by the network. This is not the same as being banned. In the past (and especially for those poor folks in a non-free country) a banned piece of property or information meant that you were not supposed to have it under any circumstances and you were likely facing some jail time if you were caught.

Ditto for many old cartoons considered “banned” today. A few examples come to mind in the form of Coal Black and De Seben Swarfs, which is due for potential release next year, Song of the South, which is not really considered “banned” but is widely known to be a regrettable reminder of the past for the Walt Disney Co. Contemporary examples include the aforementioned Dexter episode as well as numerous South Parks and Family Guys.

Another aspect to consider is that all of these were withdrawn by their respective studios/parent corporations. None were deemed by the government to be offensive (although during the war years, the government did air concerns about the vulgarity of some of the shorts emanating from Hollywood and Termite Terrace).

In the grand scheme of things, “banned” episodes of TV shows are rareity, although they are far more prevalent in the US as a result of the diversity of the population and the relatively strict nature of broadcast regulations. Sometimes they really are worth trying to see, but it is good to remember that they are often over-rated and have often hidden away for good reason. Having said that, I kind of would like to see Dexter cursing now 🙂