Two Animation-Related Examples of RW Culture

A while back, I talked about the idea of the Re-Write (RW) Culture that’s discussed by Lawrence Lessig in his book, Remix. RW culture when it relates to animation is,  for all intent and purposes, going to cover pretty much anything made by fans,

One of the most common things that fans like to make is fan fiction, where they take the characters and create new stories and tales for them. In some instances, like the ones we’re about to discuss, they go even further, and extrapolate them beyond where and when the show took place.

Via: Drunk Duck

The first is this, which sadly, remains in a state of limbo at the moment but is nonetheless a great example of a fan taking a show and creating something quite new. This is about the only thing I can post on it as its, uh, a bit mature for what I feel comfortable posting here (I mean, I get enough Google referrals from weirdos already).

Battery Powered is a well made comic that really plays on the idea that the PPG grew up at some point and basically entered adolescence and never really grew out of it. It takes the characters in a whole different direction from what we’re used to seeing.

Via: Grim Tales

The second example we’ll look at is Grim Tales. A similar concept to Battery Powered but in a very different vein. It’s a much more serious attempt to look at how characters would develop long after the time when a show is set.

It’s not a bad example, in fact, its one of the better ones out there. However, it does follow a lot of fan-fiction lines in that it takes the characters and augments them into situations that would probably not have happened in the universe of the show. A prime example of this the central tennant of the comic: Gim and Mandy get married and have kids.

Grim Tales is quite a long comic so fair play to the writers/artists who’ve kept it going this far.

Both comics are just a small sampling of what fans are capable of creating on their own free time that benefit the show in the long run by keeping it alive.


Shea Fontana On Death in Cartoons


Yesterday, Shea Fontana (talented animation writer) posted over on Tumblr about how she’s finally getting around to reading the final Harry Potter book. She mentions that having gotten this far, she’s noticed that a fair amount of characters are either killed off or die throughout the series, and that got her thinking about how things are quite different in cartoons.

 One S&P [standards & practices] note that has become so common that seasoned kid’s writers usually know to avoid it is that no one can die.  Okay, maybe at the end of the series, the main super bad guy can die.  But everyone else needs to give a good <MOAN> after they fall off a cliff to their (un)certain death so our young, impressionable viewers won’t be too sad.

This is a great observation. Death is a completely natural occurrence, we’ll all go through it without exception. Why then, do networks feel it is necessary to seclude this aspect of life from younger viewers?

Oh sure, it’s scary in some ways, and the oftentimes violent end that awaits a character is perhaps a bit too influential for younger viewers. Disney famously avoided an on-screen death for decades until The Lion King but never shied away from giving the audience a heavy hint about the character’s demise. The kids still knew what happened, they just didn’t get to see the gory details.

Why can’t we see more death in cartoons? Heck, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy managed to feature the grim reaper himself, and he still didn’t kill anyone! Would it really have made a difference to have Grim do his job on-screen instead of off? I don’t think so, and I thought it would have made the show even funnier than it already is.

Kids are spectacularly observant in many ways. They can tell the difference between characters and how and why they die. There’s no reason to hide it from them so blatantly.

Shea is spot on in her assessment:

It’s sad and tragic!  There’s real emotion because real people really die and real kids get that.

Lastly, Shea makes the excellent point that this kind of censorship only exists within the realm of the large corporation. Independent productions and novels are generally free from these kinds of restrictions, and with the advent of the internet, there’s an even greater ability for kids to see content that perhaps doesn’t attempt to hide the realities of life.

Go read the entire post, it’s well worth thinking about and there’s a cool drawing of Harry by the awesome Mike Maihack.

Character Sundays: Mandy

Mandy from Grim and Adventures of Billy & Mandy

Okay Grim, when the rainbow appears, you take me to the end of it, and I’ll shake down the leprechaun for its gold.

I first discovered the Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy way back in 2005 and it very quickly rose to become one of my very favourite cartoons. Yes, the humour is slapstick and sometimes violent, the stories are completely wacky, and even the very premise is rather absurd. I mean, just how could two kids end up “owning” the grim reaper after winning a game of limbo?

The above reasons are not the full story however, as the characters themselves are one of the strongest and most likeable aspects of the show. You have: an idiot (Billy), a beleaguered anti-hero (Grim) and an acerbic, domineering little girl (Mandy), our focus for today.

Mandy’s character is comparative to a black hole in nothing good can ever come out of it. She is selfish, controlling, conniving, intelligent and above all, pessimistic about life in general. These she impresses upon everyone she meets; no-one is safe from her ire.

Surprisingly enough, Mandy does have some positive aspects. She remains friends with Billy despite his idiocy, and while she never displays a lot of emotion towards him, she does see to it that he is kept safe from himself and others. She also displays an odd mixture of tolerance and acceptance of Grim, who in spite of his powers is rendered subservient to her and her will and makes his dissatisfaction known.

Mandy remains somewhat of a loner throughout the series having only superficial relationships with other characters besides Billy and Grim. It is implied that she is equally feared and loathed by others, a situation that causes her some consternation. Although she often tries to bury it as the problematic “nice” side of her character, she still somewhat resents the situation.

What makes Mandy so endearing is that she, in a way represents, the sane voice of the universe of the show. In such a crazy world where a kid can have an Egyptian mummy for a mother (Irwin), there is a need for someone to fly the flag for sanity. Mandy happens to be the one in this case, even if she is notably missing a nose.

It is this apparent contradiction between sanity and uncontrollable rage that makes Mandy such a great character for a cartoon. She engages so much with the other characters and adds a lot of depth to what otherwise could have been just another slapstick cartoon.