I watch Dora the Explorer, Wonder Pets, Go Diego Go, Ni-Hao Kai Lan. I absorb them by osmosis while my toddler stares mesmerized. I barely watch any ESPN. I should have my man card revoked purely for the reason that I sing this song everyday…
What I’m saying is that I consume as many cartoons now as I did when I was six. And while the cartoons of today teach my little girl how to share and be a good friend and how to say “hi” in Spanish and Chinese, I feel like they are lacking in the imagination department (Backyardagins is a phenomenal exception).
Lenny, Tuck, and Ming Ming (the Wonder Pets) get a call from an animal in trouble, they put their airship together and zoom off to save them. When they arrive there is some problem that needs overcome: the animal is a skunk and they have to free him without scaring him, or the animal is high in a tree. Whatever. They always work it out in the end with Teamwork. (By the way – in our house one of the great ways to stop Harper from crying is to call out: “What’s going to work?” And then she sucks it up and responds with a teary-eyed: “Teamwork!”) Problem solved.
The show like many of the others we watch seem too formulaic. I tell Harper, “Your cartoons aren’t as good as the cartoons when I was a kid.” I worry about what this means for the development of her imagination, and her understanding of story.
But nostalgia can be blinding, so I really started to consider my favorite cartoons of the 80s. And I found that they weren’t as imaginative and non-formulaic as I thought.
Let’s examine a few:
When the shit hits the fan Prince Adam raises his sword to the heavens and hollers “By the Power of Grayskull, I have the Power.” Skeletor proceeds to get his butt whooped by Battle Cat and He-Man. (On a side note: Who the heck thought of the name He-Man? How uncreative is that?)
Voltron(The one with the cats not the cars. Tell me you didn’t like the one with the cars!)
King Zarkon and/or his son Lotor, and their witch buddy Haggar unleash yet another Robeast on the planet Arus. Quick to the robot lion ships! The robot lions get smacked down by the Robeast. Uh oh, let’s form Vol-Tron! Voltron is formed and he holds his own for a bit before taking a few lumps. Now let’s show him how a robot-man made out of robot cats does it! Form flaming sword! And no Robeast is a match for a flaming-sword wielding Vol-Tron. Peace falls on the land of Arus. Hey, geniuses why not just form Voltron with blazing sword from the get go, kick some ass, and then you can all get back to trying to woo the princess in the pink cat?
(Isn’t this Optimus Prime introducing Vol-Tron?)
Trouble. Trouble. Duke Igthorn is at it again with the help of his ogre minions. Oh no Grammy Gummi is captured. Drink Gummiberry Juice. Bounce on helmets of Ogres. Zip down Gummi shoot to underground Gummi lair. Laugh. End show.
See He-Man. Replace “By the Power of Grayskull…” with “Thunder…Thunder…Thunder Cats Ho!” Skeletor = Mummra. Snark = Orko. Toys = Sold.
Exactly like Thundercats but in space with hawks.
And all of the above are basically just rip-offs of Popeye. Poor Popeye can’t defend his lady – not sure why he wants to defend the homely Olive Oyl anyhow – eats some spinach and kicks Bluto’s butt.
They are all the same show!
Granted there were other genre of cartoons back in the day, but they were often similar to others. Transformers = Mask = GI Joe
And that brings me to what I feel to be the best and most imaginative cartoon of the 80s: Duck Tales. Woohoo!
How much of my wanting to explore the world came from watching Huey, Duey, and Luey protecting the fortune of Uncle Scrooge, I’ll never know.
What is your favorite cartoon of today? How about of the 80s? (I’ve left some good ones off the list.)