Monday, May 2, 2011

Animation: Where Has the Good Stuff Gone?

Some of my fondest childhood memories are those of Saturday mornings. The sun was up, the birds were chirping, occasionally I would glimpse the beauitful crest of a crimson cardinal perched on the windowbox outside my bedroom. More important than any of this beauty, however, on earlier than my body wanted to wake, was the Saturday morning cartoon line-up. When I was kid, this was the only time outside of Toonami to catch some action shows. Sure, there was some comedy cartoons thrown in here and there, but this several hour block was all about Superman, Batman, and Pokemon.

And of course, the Extreme Dinosaurs.

Growing up, these were the shows that ruled my world. They were the best of the best. As I got older, I watched less and less of them, until eventually I watched hardly any television at all. I had assumed this was because I had merely grown out of such shows, however it soon became apparent that this was not the case. I had not grown out of cartoons, they had simply stopped making cartoons worth watching.

The 1980's and the 1990's was the hayday of action cartoons. These decades had everything, from the old X-Men Animated Series, to Gargoyles, to Sonic the Hedgehog (which has been previously praised.) These shows demonstrated a wide variety of story telling, from the darker tones of Batman: the Animated Series, and Batman Beyond to the more lighthearted and comedic antics of the Tick or Freakazoid. These shows were of a unique quality and breed, with proper time and care taken into the animation. Sure, some shows had a bad premise and there was a bit of chop in the animation of lower budget productions, but for the most part the animation was superb.

Up yours, Fanboy and Chum Chum.
Even shows that had a comedic central focus had better animation, storytelling, and quality than just about anything on the waves today. Tiny Toons Adventures, and Pinky and the Brain, were topnotch programs. And they still are. There is hardly a person alive who won't appreciate these programs. Even the younger generation, forced to absorb the refuse shoveled through their glowing, blue screens prefer to sit through a full episode of the New Woody Woodpecker Show than watch Chowder for any length of time.

I'm not saying that quality cartoons aren't being produced for the modern generation. Man of Action brought us Ben 10, which has ups and downs but is overall a decent show, as well as Generator Rex and Young Justice. Codename: Kids Next Door and Danny Phantom were both shows with thought-out, if sometimes off-the-wall, plots and solid artistic styles, and while Phineas and Ferb doesn't have the greatest art in the world, it does have some incredible humor and a slew of very likeable characters.

Fish Hooks has none of the above.

Unfortunately these shows are falling more and more into the minority, and they were already there to begin with. Most cartoons in the past decade seem to be spawning from a new surge of "screwball" animation. The previous generation of screwball cartoons brought us the likes of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Screwy Squirrel, but it also brought truckloads of garbage with it.

Regrettably, this entire recent generation is a truckfull of garbage, with maybe one barely legitimate exception. The cartoons being produced today are of poor art quality, with an emphasis on either the simplicity or the absurd aspects, with a lack of proper humor. All of these shows are about being gross and more disgusting than the last.

Besides the obvious phallic reference, where's the humor?

Gone are the days of quality plots and decent animation. No, we have Japan to make that kind of show for us. We are now free to focus on making our notebook doodles move and talk, and our worst Sunday comics become our worst animated endeavors (except for Dilbert.)

I'd love it if we could return to the old ways, at least for one night a week. Not just a two hour block, but for a whole night. A whole night of quality television, even if they need to start showing reruns to get there.

Not that old...

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