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!

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.

These Characters Are Some of the Best Ever Created

Of course we already knew that, how could we not? It’s a show about imaginary friends, the kind that are uninhibited by the realities of life or the sober self-awareness of adulthood. Such a diverse range of characters are exactly the kind that kids are likely to invent and animation turned out to be a superb artform to showcase them.

It’s fascinating to me to see how such superficially simple characters can often have many, many different levels of personas and traits. Of the core group, not one of them could be considered ‘simple’. What was even better was that they all bounced off of and into one another which made for some very entertaining stories.

I suppose that’s what eventually got me hooked. Yeah, the visuals are wonderful (courtesy of Boulder Media in Ireland) and the stories are top notch (thanks to Craig McCracken and Co.) but it is the interraction and interpolation of the characters and their distinct personalities that made me watch it religiously when I lived in Richmond for the year.

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 🙂

How The Online Video Revolution Could Signal A New Era for Animation

Yesterday, it was announced that YouTube/Google had acquired Next New Networks. While this may not be of huge interest to those of you who tend to skip the business pages, it is nonetheless significant and will likely have some bearing on entertainment for years to come.

The reason is outlined in Fred Seibert (the co-founder of NNN) in his blog post announcing the sale. In it, he draws a lot of similarities between the current state of internet broadcasting and the fledgling cable networks back in the early 80s.

The similarities are, in fact, eerily similar. Back then, no-one really know how to make money, the established players were (extremely) wary of the new medium and the content that’s being offered wasn’t all that great (at least back then it wasn’t).

What does all of this have to do with animation? The answer is plain to see. Without cable, it is highly unlikely (impossible even) that we would have seen the explosion in animation that we saw with the three original Nicktoons, followed by the proliferation of creator-driven shows with (I suppose) a bump in animation at the movies too.

The originial Nicktoons didn’t come around for about 10 years after MTV. The reason for this was basically the lack of cable customers, which has a direct effect on the revenue of a network and as we all know, animation ain’t cheap.

Fast forward to today, and there exists a similar situation. People are embracing the internet but overall penetration is still way below cable, content will be king even more so than in cable and last but not least, even more money will be made by those who get it right.

Next New Networks may not be focused solely on animation (although it does broadcast Channel Frederator) but I think it is extremely likely that within 10 years, we will see a channel devoted solely to animation. Joe Murray is off to a great, early start with KaboingTV, which launches next month.

As the optimistic type, I think animation will continue to be a part of the entertainment landscape long after Comcast has been de-throned.

Animated TV Idents

Hands up, who knows what an indet is? You’re probably already very familiar with them, you just don’t realise that’s what they’re called. There’s an example below:


They are, in fact, the short little segments normally broadcast before the start of a TV show to remind the viewer what station they are watching. A practice that has sadly disappeared over the years here in the US where it has been deemed necessary to ensare the viewer in the next show before the current on has even finished! Thankfully, full idents are still very much alive in Europe and The TV Room has a full collection with videos that can get pretty additive.

Idents can also take the form of identifying the studio or producer of a show or film. Perhaps the most famous in this regard is Luxo Jr. who appears at the beginning and end of every single Pixar film.

It got me thinking though. These extremely short segments almost always feature animation of some sort. OK, so it’s normally not the kind of animation that we’re all used to, with slapstick humour and cookie characters, but it’s still animation in some form. There might not be a lot to say about them, but they do have a habit of working their way into the public’s consciousness, which is of course, not surprising seeing as that is what they are meant to do.

There’s not much of a point to this post except that idents have a very specific responsibility in presenting and reminding the viewer of the station’s identity and I think it’s worth pointing out that a lot have historically relied on animation to do the heavy lifting. Why this is so? Who knows, but I’m willing to bet that the ability of animation to defy the ageing process is as good a reason as any.

As a bonus, check out this fully-animated ident for London Weekend Television from the 80s


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.