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The Great Cartoon Debate, Part I

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It started with this post on my weblog, in which I gave some very sour birthday greetings to Donald Duck. The comments evolved into a Warner Brothers/Disney cartoon debate, so I decided to bring that debate to the front page, which only made the debate more convulted by bringing Hanna Barbera, MGM, Nickelodeon and others into the fray. So I took it upon myself to open the debate to include all cartoons, which is resulting in a rather long series on the topic. This is the first of many.

_______________

Perhaps this is the wrong way to go about things, but it’s my blog and my chosen topic at hand, so I’ll make up the rules.

In the great debate over the best cartoons - which started out as a WB/Disney debate but now includes all the HB stuff as well as some other viewer chosen cartoons – here is how I decide which reigns supreme: How have said cartoons impacted my life in terms of pop culture references?

Silly? Yes. But we are talking cartoons here.

When I say references, I take into account the following:
* Have I ever dressed up as one of the characters for Halloween?
* Did I ever have any household accessories (bed sheets, etc.) with their likeness?
* How many times have I quoted any of the characters?
* If any of the characters break out into song, can I recite those songs from heart?
* How many of the theme songs can I sing?
* How many times in my life have I referenced the cartoons when talking about a completely different subject or used any of the cartoons to make a point in a discussion?
* How much of their “stuff” do I own?
* How many childhood-young adulthood memories involve any of the characters?

* How many episodes of a show can I recite nearly word for word?

There’s more, but that should suffice for now.

After careful review of the criteria, it seems that Disney cartoons (remember kids, we are talking about television cartoons and not the Disney movies) had very little impact upon my career as a pop culture referencer. Yes, that’s a word and a career. Just made it up, but that does not make it any less real.

It wasn’t until the later Disney stuff, after I had children of my own, that had any kind of impact on my daily living and that’s only because I now like to walk around saying Let’s Get Dangerous! at random times. Darkwing also had a slew of opening lines he used when he appeared in a puff of smoke to save the day, such as I am the surprise in your cereal box! I like to use these sayings at times, though not as randomly, as there is a place and time for each of these quotes.

The terror that flaps in the night singlehandedly saved Disney from being relegated to “not culturally important enough” status in this debate. We had Darkwing cereal bowls, beach towels and t-shirts. We even got his autograph when we went to Disney World.

Darkwing was part of the Disney Afternoon block of cartoons that started airing in 1990. The original incarnation of this series included animated Gummi Bears, which struck me as inane. Talking cats and ducks? Fine. Talking candy? No. There was also Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers, Ducktales, Talespin, Goof Troop and Bonkers. Other shows were added later, but at that point my kids had switched from The Disney Channel to Nickelodeon (save for Gargoyles, which was a pretty neat show) and we missed out on such grand fare as Shnookums and Meat.

I hated Ducktales, mainly because I hate Donald Duck and every single Disney Duck except for the aforementioned Darkwing was really just Donald in a different outfit. Well, at least Scrooge McDuck wore coattails to cover up his genitals. Actually, it’s pretty odd the way they handed out clothing to these ducks. Some of them wore pants, shirts, shoes, the whole bit, while others still went around with shirts and no pants. I’m sure there is some biting social commentary to be had here, but I do not want to digress more than I already have.

Enough of you favorite 90’s Disney fare, you are saying. What about the stuff from your childhood, or do you just live vicariously through your children all the time?

Well, the two do meet ,you know. Aside from Darkwing Duck, the only other Disney Afternoon show I liked was Goof Troop. This stems from my unhealthy fascination with Goofy that goes back to my childhood. Goofy was the only Disney character I really liked. Perhaps I related to his awkwardness or his ability to turn every attempt at doing something good into a farce.

One of my favorite Goofy roles was in Lonesome Ghosts, pre-cursor to Ghostbusters.. Do you know how I watched that episode? Not on tv. Nope, I watched it with my handy dandy Fisher Price cartoon viewer. Wow! I actually found a photo of the cartridge. Excuse me while I go into memory shock overload. I can literally hear the clicking noise the viewer made as you cranked the handle. [Hold on….someone has it for sale on eBay! Which means I have to get the other computer hooked up today as I don’t have my eBay password on the laptop and there’s already twenty bids!]

Back to Goofy. While he may not have been quotable or even sourceable, he certainly was loveable and that’s a good “able” to be. I believe Goofy was my first introduction to real physical humor, but I always worried about the guy, wondered how he could get into so many mishaps yet always remain happy, healthy and, well, goofy.

So it came to be that I would watch Goof Troop with my kids and eventually, every time, I would find myself alone in the living room laughing at the antics and the strained father-son relationship between Goofy and Max as my kids headed for another tv where they could watch Power Rangers or whatever else was on at the time. I think they even preferred Barney to Goofy. There’s no accounting for taste.

What are we left with here? Goofy, Darkwing Duck and some memories that are going to cost me a pretty penny at eBay. I suppose if the thought of Lonesome Ghosts could send me running for my wallet, Disney cartoons must have had some impact on me.

End of Part 1. Feel free to use the criteria above to come to your own conclusions.

[ed note, part 2 will be written some time today and will delve into the topic of Nickelodeon cartoons. Reader input always valued and often used]
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About Michele Catalano

  • Vern Halen

    Other than maybe Rocky & Bullwinkle, it’s Warner Brothers all the way!

    For instance:

    “What a gulli-bull! What a nin-cow-poop!”

    “Do you want too shoot him now or shoot him later?” “Waitaminnit – it’s not ‘shoot HIM now,’ it’s ‘Shoot ME now!’ SO SHOOT ME NOW!”

    “There, yer nice and clean,
    Although yer face
    Looks like it might have gone
    through a machine………….”

    “Be vewy quiet – I’m hunting wabbits!”

    “Haussenpfeffer?”

    “That’s the nice big fat opera singer..”

    “Ya da da da da, Abraca Ho-cus!”

    “No not the wed one! DOn’t ever push the wed one!”

    “Fifty thousand Kronkites?!?!”

    “Of course, you know, this means war…”

    Now, Disney:

    “Gee Pluto!”

    “Gawrsh!”

    “!@^#&&#&@#&!!!” (Donald Duck, any series of quotes)

    And everyone else:

    “Casper, the friendly ghost, the friendliest ghost we know….”

    No contest, really.

  • Shark

    THERE IS ‘NO CONTEST’, NO DEBATE: That is an illusion.

    Old Warner Bros. can never be topped. Ever.

    *Kill da wabbit, kill da wabbit~

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    Well, there are the superb Max Fleischer roto-scoped Popeye cartoons and the original Superman cartoons.

    Plus, the bargain-basement efforts of “Rocket Robin Hood”, “The Mighty Hercules”, and the original “Spiderman” (which was responsible for the demise of my brilliant career as a musician.).

  • Shark

    Jim, those Fleischers were technically beautiful, but based on Catalano’s kinda arbitrary criteria, they don’t even approach getting near being considered for an audition on The List.

    They’re all just William Hungs.

  • Shark

    BTW

    Re. those criteria – MY OPINION

    I would throw out the following as sorta ridiculous, and definitely weighted toward Disney and/or any overmarketed, merchandized crap:

    Have I ever dressed up as one of the characters for Halloween?
    Did I ever have any household accessories (bed sheets, etc.) with their likeness?
    If any of the characters break out into song, can I recite those songs from heart?
    How many of the theme songs can I sing?
    How much of their “stuff” do I own?

    MORE IMPORTANT CRITERIA:

    How many times have I quoted any of the characters?
    How many times in my life have I referenced the cartoons when talking about a completely different subject or used any of the cartoons to make a point in a discussion?
    How many childhood-young adulthood memories involve any of the characters?
    How many episodes of a show can I recite nearly word for word?

    MOST IMPORTANT –

    Which cartoons not only best reflected their culture, but were later assimilated into said culture and resurfaced later, created and/or influenced many other self-referential industries, arts, etc?

    Once again, using that, WB wins without a doubt.

    (Note: One can’t even keep count of the writers, actors, film directors, artists, comedians, comic book illustrators, etc. who have Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin, Mel Blanc, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones,
    Bob McKimson, and Carl Stalling)

    whew.

    OH AND BTW: Until the recent demise of old WB on TV, most of the music heard from toddlerhood to teenage years (among boomers, their parents, and their children!) was ‘assimilated’ from old WB cartoons. Pop songs from the 1930s cartoons (“If I Only Had a Hat” – “I Only Have Eyes for You” etc etc) — to classical quotes such as ‘Fingal’s Cave’ by Mendelssohn and Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies.

    Everything I know, I learned from Termite Terrace.

  • Shark

    SORRY, I get excited talking about cartoons!

    That paragraph SHOULD have read:

    “…One can’t even keep count of the writers, actors, film directors, artists, comedians, comic book illustrators, etc. who have mentioned Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin, Mel Blanc, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Bob McKimson, and Carl Stalling… AS INFLUENCES ON THEIR ART…”

    doh.

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