Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Carrying a Toon

I was emailing with blog and Real Life friend Bea the other day and we ended up delving into cartoons.  I think it started when I said she’d better hope I didn’t suggest that she take responsibility for another department’s documents:

bluz: You better hope I don’t recommend that!  (… twirling moustache and rubbing hands together in an evil manner…)

Bea: Snidely Whiplash, is that you?

bluz: At your service, um… (What’s the girl’s name that’s always getting tied to the tracks?)

Bea: Nell Fenwick

bluz: Right!  Nelllllllll.

It must have been really uncomfortable laying on the hard, bumpy track.  I mean, what if the train wasn’t supposed to come by that day?  She’d be out there a really long time.  There has to have been a better way of whacking someone.

And the poor engineer… I can just see him coming home after a long day… “Geez, there was another one out there today… I sure wish someone would hurry up and invent brakes.”

Bea:  Kind of like the MARC Train… all the passengers would be mad because Nell got hit and it held up their daily commute.

bluz:  Right… they all have places to go and gold to pan for…

We veered off the tracks ourselves right about there but it made me start thinking about the cartoons of my youth, and where some of the clichés came from.  I mean, was that really a thing back then?  Murder by simultaneous decapitation and double amputation, via locomotive?  If Snidely Whiplash really wanted her dead, why not put a simple 2 in the back of her head.

Ooh, maybe he really WANTED to get caught by Dudley Dooright.  He might have had a “thing” for the big Mountie and wanted to volunteer to be his "mountee."

And it’s not just the cartoons.  Even as a kid, I used to wonder why all the super-villains felt the need to set these elaborate traps to kill Batman.  If the Joker would just put one minion behind a door with a .45, suddenly Gotham City would be a free-crime zone.  Obviously the cops didn’t know what to do, besides huddle up in the Mayor’s office and ring up the Bat Cave.  Even I knew that all they had to do was go out and arrest anyone wearing an elaborate costume or a long-sleeved t-shirt with horizontal stripes.

But every week, the crook would set up some ridiculous death machine that was more complicated than a Mousetrap game and just as reliable.  Maybe they wanted to be caught, just like Snidely.

Catwoman was another story.  Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.  She used to tingle my loins and make my hormones fizz like a Mento in a bottle of Diet Coke.  Even in 3rd grade, I wanted to do things to her of which the ASPCA would not approve.
Me-yow!  Julie Newmar, call me.  I don’t care if you’re old, OR dead.

Batman wanted her bad; you just know it.  I noticed she seemed to get away more than the other villains.  That was good, because I wanted her to keep coming back.  (But to stop trying to kill Batman.)  And she totally could have kicked Batgirl’s ass.

But cartoons were always a big deal.  We used to live for Saturday mornings.  Rocky and Bullwinkle were cool, but once I saw them as an older guy, I realized that most of the stuff went right over my head.

Like Boris Badanov?  Yeah, I got that it sounded Russian and he was bad.  I obviously had no idea it was a reference to classic Russian literature.  If Boris had any sense, he would have spent less time chasing moose and squirrel and more time trying to peel Natasha out of that slinky purple dress.
“Oh boy, she’s wearing a thong!”

But I always liked the college they’d mention, “Whatsamatta U.”  They must have had a good debate team, since their name was in the form of a question.

Ultimately, I was always a Loony Tunes boy.  I loved me some Bugs Bunny, especially the ones with Yosemite Sam or the Tasmanian Devil.  At the time, I was never partial to Foghorn Leghorn, but later I grew to really appreciate his one-line insults:

That boy’s about as subtle as a hand grenade in a barrel of oatmeal.”

“Nice girl, but about as sharp as a sack of wet mice.”

Classic.

When I was in college, Mel Blanc, the voice of the Looney Tunes, came to campus for a lecture.  No way would I miss that.  Nor did many other students there at the time.  He packed the Student Union ballroom with young adults that were dying to hear him talk about Bugs, Daffy, Foghorn, Tweety and the rest of the crew.  I tell you, he held that ballroom in the palm of his hand… just totally killed.

It sad that kids cartoons nowadays, suck.  And I mean that literally.  All the fun, mayhem and anarchy that characterized the cartoons of my youth has been sucked right out and replaced with sound moral values and product tie-ins.  Where’s the fun in that?  Tom and Jerry used to beat the living shit out of each other.  Same with the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote.  Now cartoons have to be about something redeeming like not hitting your sister, staying away from strangers, or learning Spanish.

Dios mio!

The only decent cartoons left are for the grownups.  To me, South Park is the gold standard; kinda like the Simpsons on steroids.  Plus, they’re timelier.  If a big story breaks on Sunday, South Park has an episode on the air by Wednesday.

And any cartoon whose portrayal of Jesus that not only gives Him his own cable access show, but also shows Him in a pay-per-view boxing match against Satan, busting the boys out of an Middle Eastern jail and singing a medley of Christmas songs with Santa Claus, just doesn’t care about convention.

But on further review, maybe there was more to the old cartoons than met the eye.  As I was looking for a pic of Snidely Whiplash to use, I found this:

What I never understood as a boy is apparent here.  Snidely wanted to be walked on by Dudley.  Dudley was feeling up Nell, and she only had eyes for the horse.

Old cartoons were the best!

21 comments:

  1. If you haven't seen it already, you MUST watch Archer...*snort*

    And speaking of elaborate traps, I believe no one had Wile E. Coyote beat for elaborate - Acme Missle Company for the win.

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  2. Bea,
    Never heard of Archer. Is that, like, "Archie's" full name?

    Wile E. must have had major a credit line with the Acme Corporation.

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  3. I think I was a few years after you, as I was into Scooby Doo and Mr T and DnD and Captain Caveman and what the heck was that one called with the superheroes with the wonder twins? And, yes, I liked the Smurfs and the Ewoks. I actually always hated T&J and Bugs - I hated that they never really accomplished anything. Ah, well. Different tastes and all that. I do miss Saturday mornings. It just doesn't really exist anymore, does it?

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  4. I used to like the older Scooby Doo's, but they lost me when they started bringing in celebrities to help them solve the mysteries.

    Bugs was always good at sticking his thumb in the eye of Authority, and for some reason, that appealed to me from my earliest age.

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  5. Archer is the new take off on James Bond...it's totally for grown-ups...and it cracks me up! It's on FX.

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  6. Oh, my friend, I couldn't agree with you more. Same cartoons I grew up on.

    Now tell me the truth, is it me or doesn't Bill O'Reilly remind you just a little bit of Leghorn Foghorn? How about Beck as Elmer Fudd?

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  7. I'm with you - the old Looney Tunes were the BEST. They were actually funny!

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  8. Jayne,
    I think you're onto something there. Except O'Reilly is Foghorn Leghorn AND the Chicken Hawk at the same time.

    Mrs. Bachelor Girl,
    Yeah! What ever happened to cartoons that were actually funny?

    GONE...

    You know what else I used to hate? Cartoons with laugh tracks. I swear, even as a kid, I used to think, "Why the hell would a bunch of grownups be sitting around laughing at this dumb cartoon?"

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  9. I am a fan of Phineas and Ferb, which is on the Disney Channel (maybe Disney XD or something). The first time I saw someone with a part of its ear bit off, I laughed out loud, thinking of the Mike Tyson thing and knowing a kid who was watching it would not have a clue. "Evil" Dr Doofenshmirtz is hilarious. It is the one show I will happily watch with my seven-year old.

    I DID love the celebrity Scooby-Doo eps. In fact, I think it is great that the Cartoon Network plays that, the Flinstones, Wacky Races, and other childhood faves.

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  10. And if it weren't enough that they're ruining cartoons, they've now taken old classics (ok, 80's classics for me) and revamped them into a new computer generated terrible version. Why did they have to go and mess with the Ninja Turtles?

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  11. They were the best! And you're right, there are no good cartoons these days. I miss moose and squirrel.

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  12. Whatever happened to "Curly"? He never accomplished anything either, never DID anything but be very cute.

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  13. Facie,
    Bea was also a big fan of the Wacky Races. She did her own post on her cartoon favorites right after our email conversation. I meant to, but there was this football game…

    Cartoons can mess a kid up, too. Like, I remember the first time my dad brought his boss home for dinner. As far as I knew, bosses were all little guys with volatile tempers that went around screaming, “You’re fired!” I was kind of surprised to see that Dad’s boss was just a normal guy.

    Jessica,
    The Ninja Turtles were “classic?” OK… just about 15 years after my prime cartoon-watching days. I’ll take your word for it.

    Raven,
    No wonder kids spend so much time on video games… no more good cartoons.

    Mary Ann,
    I let “Curly” die a peaceful death, because I could never think of anything for him to do (that I could actually draw.)

    Note: “Curly” was a cartoon I used to draw when I was in Jr. High, the style of which I basically stole from another friend who could draw really well. Unfortunately, I could not; all I could draw was the head, so that pretty much limited the scope of my fledgling cartooning efforts.

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  14. Bluz, I think you have totally mastered the art of cartoonery in the 21st century! You always make me laugh out loud!!

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  15. Hot Arizona Auntie Judie,
    I think maybe you mean “buffoonery.”

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  16. I never watched many cartoons as a kid. I guess I was odd, even then! But I did watch one, and for the life of me, I don't know the name of it. There was this little guy who carried around a bucket of invisible paint. Whenever he got in trouble, he would simply dip his paintbrush into the can and voila! He was invisible. When I learned that didn't really exist (per my mother), I was more devastated than when I learned there was no Santa Claus. To this day I wish for invisible paint!

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  17. Cher,
    You take the invisible paint, I'll take the movable black spot that makes a hole in whatever you put it on.

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  18. I happened to watch some of The Dark Knight last night, and The Joker talks about how he can never kill Batman because it's too fun messing with him. I can't remember why he said Batman doesn't kill him, though. Maybe Batman would just lose his entire sense of purpose.

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  19. Makes perfect sense. Why do away with your favorite amusement?

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  20. Look at the expression on that horse!

    And don't even get me started on Batman. I was never a comic book kid, but I watched the deliciously lame TV show religiously. There were no good girls to be had. All Batman had was sliding up and down poles in tights with the Boy Wonder, and then, chasing the bad girl he could never have. Freud would have a field day.

    Only cartoons from my youth you missed were Underdog, The Flintstones, Clutch Cargo, Space Ghost, and Speed Racer. For some reason, I rarely watched the Jetsons.

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  21. Bagger,
    When Batman was on TV, that was very serious business to my brother and me. It was very important to us that Batman and Robin got out of those traps. Then we’d run outside and play Batman. You should have seen us in our little dishtowel capes and utility belts.

    When the Michael Keaton Batman movie came out and they started showing the TV show again, I couldn’t believe how funny they actually were. So hokey, but so many gags that went right over our little heads the first time. Catwoman was still fiiiiiine, though. Me-yow!

    I also used to watch Underdog, Flintstones and Space Ghost. Never liked Speed Racer though, probably because a neighbor girl that I liked was in love with him and not me. Jetsons, I could take or leave. Never heard of Clutch Cargo. Sounds like a fancy extra on a new SUV.

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