Monday, April 22, 2013

A-Z Challege: T is for Toons.

By: William G. Muir
No this article is not about the short lived and virtually unknown fantasy role playing game Toon. Though I did own a copy of the Player's Handbook and one of the companion books, at one time. It seemed like a pretty cool concept for a game. The players got to role up and play there characters in a universe governed by the laws of cartoons. How could that not be fun? If I could get my hands on a copy of the books and find some people willing to play I would like to give the game a try.

It would be something different.

No, what I want to do is jump back in the WABAC machine and travel to the 1980s. Why do I want
to go back to the 80s, you might be thinking to yourself? Cause that was when I was boy and watched cartoons. Ok sure I still watch cartoons today, (I'm never growing up) but the cartoons were different back then. At least they were to me.

One way cartoons were different, when I was a boy, was the way you watched them. There were not cable networks that were dedicated to showing cartoons all day long. If we wanted to watch cartoons there where two ways to do it. You either watched them before or after school during the week, or you woke up early on a Saturday morning to watch them. There was no Nickelodeon, no Cartoon Network, no Disney Channel to turn on whenever you pleased. These were the only times you could watch cartoons.

I remember the first think I would do everyday after school was head either straight home, or to my
buddy Matt's house. Once there we spend the next two hours in front of the TV watching He-Man, Transformers, Go-Bots and G.I. Joe. Everyday it was the same thing. And once we finished cartoons it was time to grab our action figures so that we could  create our own adventures.

Sure those shows were all about selling the toys, but we didn't care. They were entertaining.

As good as the weekday cartoons were, Saturday morning cartoons were even better. Or at least they seemed that way! Saturday was the only morning you didn't mind getting out of bed early. Not to early mind you, then you would be stuck watching the boring old news. Yuck, that is for old people. '

Maybe the reason Saturday morning cartoons seemed better was because they only came on once a week. And when you are a kid the time between the weekends seems to drag. It would seem like forever since you had last seen your favorite shows. Or maybe they were that good. I can remember every year that the networks would put on a special once a year to showcase their Saturday morning fall lineups. They use to that with their prime time shows as well. But for some reason they stopped doing that.

I miss those fall lineup specials.

Oh well.

Back then you didn't get the same cartoons in every TV market. The afternoon cartoons were all in syndication. I remember when I lived in Manhattan, KS the cartoons I was watching were those that I mentioned above. But when I went to my grandmother house for Christmas (she lived in Belleville IL) the cartoons were totally different. There I would watch Voltron and Ghostbusters (not the one based on the 1984, no the one based on the 1975 live action tv show. The one with a gorilla in it.)

What we also got back then were classic cartoon mixed in with our regular cartoons. Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry and the classic Hanna Barbera could be found right along side The Smurfs, Garfield, and Alvin and the Chipmunks. These were the cartoon that exited before parents groups put pressure on the networks to reform their standards on what they would show on Saturday mornings. Before the regulations that slowly suffocated the life out of cartoons.

Today's cartoon, for the most part take themselves way to seriously. Sure you get the rare Spongebob Squarepants every now and then, but they are few and far between. Spongebob is the exception not thec rule. Cartoons use to be about entertaining children, about being silly and goofy and not being caught up in the world of homework and chores. It was a way for us kids to escape into our own little fantasy worlds.

That is why Spongebob has managed to last for ten years. It gets it. Kids want shows that focus on adventure and storytelling. They don't want cartoons that are trying to teach them morals. Not to say there is not a place for moral lessons in cartoons, but if you want kids to watch them you need to focus more on the story and less on the morals. Today's cartoonist might want to take a look at  Aesop & Son and their Fractured Fairy Tales  to see how it is done.

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