Showing 1 - 10 of 14 posts found matching keyword: cartoons

In the days before the Internet, it was a rare event to find someone who carried a mental inventory of the same childhood television experiences that you did. For years I tested potential friends by their remembered knowledge of 80s cartoons like the Bionic Six or M.A.S.K.. Like going to war together, the shared cherished memory of obscure cartoons could create an instant bond that was easily built into a friendship opportunity.

For example, while working at Chili's in the mid-1990s, my relationship with one of the other waiters was based entirely on our shared appreciation for Thundarr the Barbarian, a Saturday morning cartoon that ran for only 2 seasons starting in 1980. In addition to being twice my height and weight, he was a homosexual who really enjoyed recreational cocaine and alcohol use. It was so uncommon to find other people who remembered Thundarr (and his Chewbacca-inspired pal, Ookla the Mok), that the memory of the series alone was enough to create a kinship despite our differences.

Of course, these days, Wikipedia and YouTube can provide a quick primer for these sort of things so it's no longer so rare to find someone who remembers short-lived cartoons like Rubik, the Amazing Cube or Turbo Teen. Still, such a mention in pop culture is always sure to get me to pay attention.

Last week, I was playing pinball at a friend's house. (We used to go to video arcades to play those games, but now that arcades have gone the way of automats, we buy the machines and keep them in our houses.) Between the electronic screeches, I overheard an argument between my friend and his woman over the piece of music was played by a children's toy they had found. My friend claimed it was classical music; she insisted that it was playing the theme song from the mid-80s Inspector Gadget cartoon.

Naturally, I remembered the Inspector Gadget theme and was pretty sure that it was not the music played by the toy. Twenty years ago, I probably would have jumped into that conversation with both feet, but instead I waited until I was home alone to ask Wikipedia and YouTube to settle the issue. Oh, how the times have changed! Thank you, Internet?

For the record, the piece of music played by the toy was In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg. That music inspired Inspector Gadget Theme by Shuki Levy (who also wrote the theme to M.A.S.K.!), but they aren't quite the same piece.

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Hanna-Barbera's The Flintstones went off the air in 1966. Its last spin-off series, Cartoon Network's Cave Kids, aired it's last new episode thirty years later in 1996. The most recent original Flintstones content aired in 2001, so it's been a decade since The Flintstones has been culturally relevant as anything other than nostalgic reruns. That being the case, why do they still make Flintstones-themed Fruity Pebbles?

Introduced in 1971, Postâ„¢ Fruity Pebbles weren't introduced to the public until after The Flintstones were canceled thanks to free-falling ratings. Their entire, long-running success has endured without the support of the very product from which they were licensed! That's pretty amusing given that Fruity Pebbles is credited as the first breakfast cereal brand built from the ground up around a licensed property. Since then countless licensed cereals have come and gone, including E.T. Cereal, Mr. T, and Urkel-Os, which had hte the benefit of support from their licensed properties.

My point -- assuming that I have one -- is that I suspect that at this point the merits of the cereal, such as they are, must speak for themselves. Surely no one is buying Fruity Pebbles because of the Flintstones ties anymore, so there must be something in those Fruity Pebbles to enable 40 uninterrupted years of sales longevity. Nothing that The Flintstones actually actively endorsed on their show could have sold this well, right?

Never mind.

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It appears that ACT Fluoride Rinse has a new licensing agreement with Nickelodeon allowing them to put SpongeBob Squarepants on their products. In their commercials they proudly proclaim "ACT Fluoride Rinse, now with SpongeBob Squarepants, is up to 40% more effective than brushing alone!" If adding SpongeBob makes mouthwash 40% more effective, just think what else could SpongeBob could be added to for improved results!

There's nothing new about SpongeBob licensed products. Debuting in 1999, SpongeBob was reportedly the number one licensed property in America by 2007 according to bulk vending supplier A&A Global Industries. A&A also credits SpongeBob as being the number 1 selling Social Expressions brand pinyata of all time; nothing proves a brand's popularity like letting a mob attack it with sticks.

ACT further advertises on their website that the ACT Anticavity Fluoride Rise Kids featuring SpongeBob Squarepants tastes "like an underwater explosion of flavor." I assume that means it tastes like salty seawater. Though given that SpongeBob lives in a place called Bikini Bottom, it could taste much worse. Hopefully SpongeBob will not affect the flavor of his new Ortega SpongeBob Whole Grain Taco Kits. Yuk.

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I've had this commercial stuck in my head all day.

Call me crazy, but I've decided that Barney is really rapping about raping Fred's daughter, Pebbles. Fred must think so, too, for he sure freaks out over the minor theft of some delicious "cereal."

One would think that an archaic cartoon character rapping about child molestation is probably not the best way to sell sugar to children, but Post Cereals doesn't care. Post blatantly uses drug themes to market Golden Crisp, a cereal with so much sugar it gives Sugar Bear hallucinations, and Honeycomb, a cereal that acts as a nutritious sedative for dangerous feral creatures. It's no wonder that after a childhood of ingesting roofies, reds, and tabs, Post wants me to buy boxes of 100% Bran to cleanse my system.

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G.I.Joe's latest relaunch, G.I.Joe: Resolute, aired on Cartoon Network this weekend, and it suffers from all of the same problems as modern comics, I'm sorry to say. (No surprise: it was written by Warren Ellis, once of the writers most responsible for the modern bloodlust of mainstream comics.)

What's new about this G.I.Joe? Not much. Despite a clear and present danger to the governments of the world by terrorist organization Cobra, only the G.I.Joe team does anything about it. It remains unexplained how Cobra thinks they can take control of the world when none of their soldiers can hit the broad side of a barn with a gun. The Joes stay in "uniform" at all times, even if that means that Beachhead wears his balaclava inside an aircraft carrier. No Joe performs the mission for which s/he is most qualified: (Scarlet, not Ripcord, performs a HALO jumps into enemy territory, and Tunnel Rat, not Payload, goes into space to jury-rig a satellite). And Duke is still a quitter and all-around douche.

What's different? Other than the anime-influced style: death. Exactly 10,362,756 die in the first 5 minutes. (How's that for a specific number, eh? That includes the onscreen death count when Moscow is vaporized by an ultra high-tech Cobra particle cannon.) Eighteen deaths later, we see the supposedly heroic Roadblock laugh maniacally as he guns down 7 Cobra guards from behind. And Duke, shortly after ordering his own subordinates to abandon him to die, decides that the solution to the episode's conflict is the assassination of Cobra Commander. (Take note, Duke; if you kill your principal antagonist, it's harder to sell accessory packs for all the environments that you didn't show in the episode.)

No matter how you slice it, that's a lot of animated death for television designed to sell toys. "The new G.I.Joe, now with more armageddon!"

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I've found another great television show: Superjail! Sure, the show's been airing on Cartoon Network since September, but if you hadn't noticed by now, I'm a little slow to accept new things.

It's super-violent, like cartoons ought to be. (I've long maintained that cartoons should always present something impossible in live action, and this show's got it in spades.) It's about crime-and-punishment, like all the best dramas. (Did you ever see Tom Selleck's jailhouse thriller An Innocent Man? Just thinking about it has me feeling a little logey.) It's filled with sci-fi and fantasy elements, like all the best comic book stories. (The Twins, recurring uni-browed characters of mysterious power and intent, dress as Sandmen from Logan's Run. That's enough to get my attention.)

However, I suspect that the real reasons that I like it are two-fold. A.) it is clearly hand-drawn, a rare commodity, indeed, in these heady days of computer-aided animation. (As much as I enjoy a heavy outline, I grow weary of the stiff and stylized Johnny Bravo style.) And 2.) It's always in motion. In many ways, it reminds me of some tortured cross between Itchy and Scratchy cartoons and Ralph Bakshi's work. If you've seen the bizarre, psychedelic action of Fritz the Cat, you know what I'm talking about. (Truthfully, I have to admit that I never really liked Bakshi's work, probably because he took himself and the world a little too seriously. I suspect that he could have used more pointless sight gags involving defenestrations and fewer topless lady-cats. But what do I know? He's a famous director with his own animation school and I'm just some schlub with a blog readership of 7 and falling.)

All in all, it's my favorite new cartoon since I discovered the The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack (also on Cartoon Network) earlier this year. Maybe I should be watching more Cartoon Network. Their programming of imaginary friends, Dial-H-For Hero rip-offs, and Family Guy re-runs is certainly more realistic than that of either Fox News or ESPN.

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The Brave and the Bold on the Cartoon Network may just be the best Batman cartoon ever. I love Batman Beyond, but it's always better to have Bruce Wayne under the cowl (hint, hint, DC).

In these new cartoons, Batman is simultaneously courageous, serious, and nearly omnipotent but still quite human. His guest stars, a who's who of mostly obscure DC Universe heroes and villains (Bwana Beast? Gentleman Ghost? Guy Gardner? Kiteman? Kick ass!), often steal the show without detracting from Batman's presence.

Wait, it took two of you to stop the Rainbow Raider and Dr. Double X?

There's nothing new about The Brave and the Bold. If you were reading comic books before Crisis on Infinite Earths, it'll all seem pretty familiar. (That panel above where Batman and Flash have defeated Dr. Double X and the Rainbow Raider is from The Brave and the Bold #194, published over 25 years ago in 1983!) Several of the episodes have been lifts from previous comic stories, some even from The Brave and the Bold comic itself. But in a modern world in which every story has to threaten the end of humanity opposed by bickering, fallible heroes, it's refreshing to return to a more optimistic point-of-view in which the heroes always win, even if they sometimes need a little help from their friends.

I'm actually quite pleased that in the modern age, where DC's focus is frequently selling sensational stories to a populace demanding death on an epic scale, there are enough people in the business who remember that super heroes used to dress in bright costumes and dole out terrible puns as they overcame Goldbergian death-traps in order to catch common jewel thieves. All to provide readers with some simple, 4-color escapist fantasy for 22 pages. Realism? No. Fun? Yes.

If even Batman can crack an occasional smile, maybe there's still hope that DC comics can survive this modern ("DiDio") era without sacrificing too much of it's colorful classic roster to the bloodlust of it's current editorial staff.

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Through complete happenstance while searching modern history for a cartoon as stupid as Marvel's truly wretched animated Iron Man series from 1994, today I discovered a cartoon from 1967 about a super-powered President of the United States straight-forwardly titled Super President. The premise of this cartoon was that President James Norcross was bombarded by cosmic radiation and granted the fantastic ability to modify his body chemistry. Like all good public servants granted amazing powers, President Norcross donned a costume and fought super-villains as Super President. (Calling himself "Super President" may seem like a really bad way to maintain his secret identity, but what would you expect from someone whose job prerequisite depended on name recognition?)

You can't tell it from the clip above, but Super President was voiced by Paul Frees. You may recognize his voice as the narrator of the animated Disney educational film Donald in Mathmagic Land. Or maybe as the voice of the immoral K.A.R.R. on television's Knight Rider. Or maybe as the voice of the sentient supercomputer in the sci-fi feature film Colossus, the Forbin Project. (I think those pretty much sum up my personal stages of development via popular entertainment.) For those of you who prefer your entertainment less math/science oriented, maybe you know Mr. Frees' voice as that of Boris Badenov, the nemesis of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Anyway, what got me most about Super President is that an acting, elected head-of-state is acting as costumed crime-fighter. Presumably, he can authorize himself to do this, but who's running the country while he's battling space aliens? I would think his term would suffer from a lot of pocket vetoes. And fund-raising would be especially difficult, as, in true comic book fashion, villains would always be stealing from the donated funds, requiring an embarrassing unexplained absence while the candidate looks for an empty bathroom stall to don his tights.

I always figured that despite his moral perfection and unerring ability to make the right choice, Superman could do more good as a freelance policeman rather than a politician because of his unique abilities. Surely, I figured, all that bureaucratic red tape could keep Superman's hands tied. Being a politician means negotiations and diplomacy, two things that I had previously seen as obstacles to getting a job done the Kryptonian way: with super speed. Just being elected requires the super ability to compromise your own beliefs to appease the electorate and the political machines. How can Superman, who is always right and honest, make the necessary campaign promises that will enable his own election? (I don't think the phrase, "never mind that now, Jimmy," is going to work in those confrontational televised debates.)

Um, don't look now, Senator Obama, but you might have some competition.

But maybe I'm wrong; maybe he could do both. If Super President Norcross can pull it off, it should be a walk in the park for Clark "doesn't he look a lot like Superman with glasses" Kent.

(And just in case you're wondering, while Super President may be a bad cartoon, it's still better than Iron Man.)

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I like the new Spectacular Spider-Man show on WB Kids on Sunday mornings. (It airs just before The [incredibly poorly-written] Legion of Super-Heroes and The [Justice League featuring] Batman cartoons. Who thought of this fanboy line-up?). Yet it really bugs me, pun intended, that when the spider bites Peter, the message "DNA Hacked" appears onscreen. I tell you, radioactive spiders these days are a lot more active than they used to be.

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I have now seen Transformers, and it sucks. I mean really, really sucks. For many, many reasons. For example, in all promotional advertising Dreamworks presents Optimus Prime's head with a mask over the mouth just as his movie-inspiring toy version has traditionally appeared. However, in the film, Prime has a visible mouth at all times. Why would Dreamworks promote the film showcasing a design that doesn't appear within the film? Answer: because they know that the masked toy-design is much, much better than the design that they actually used. I only mention this because this proves that the in-house marketing department at Dreamworks knows that their film actually sucks. As I previously posted on May 30, even director Michael Bay publicly stated that he thought the movie sucked. So who the hell paid to see this thing in the theater enough times to make it the 3rd highest grossing movie of 2007 to date? That person is the reason that we have capital punishment in America.

But since I think that so many of my recent posts have been so negative as late, instead of a long post about the abundant things about Transformers that make it very, very horrible, instead may I present two things worth watching instead:

1. Bleach on Cartoon Network. Sure, it's animated anime fantasy about super powers and dead samurai sword fights, but isn't that exactly the genre of thing that you'd go to see Transformers for? Great characterization always produces great entertainment. And this show's got it (whether the pronoun "it" here refers to either "characterization" or "entertainment") AND super powered sword fights set to Japanese pop-music. Sweet.

2. Pushing Daisies on ABC. This is the wonderfully narrated fairy tale of one man who has the power to return the dead to life. Naturally, he uses this power to solve murders and complicate his own love life. This show looks like nothing else I've ever seen on TV. It's getting great reviews, but must have a truly staggering production budget (and rumors circulate that director/producer Barry Sonnenfield has gone waaaay over-budget and angered studio execs), so I suspect that it will get the axe as soon as ratings slip even a little. See it while you can.

It suddenly occurs to me that both of those shows circulate around the concept of death. But then, so do CSI (and most other crime dramas), House (and most other medical dramas), and Law & Order (and most other detective shows). So let's not get carried away with calling me a goth, okay?

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To be continued...

 

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