When I was young, while other kids were playing outside, I was watching Cartoon Network. While I regretted that at the time, I realize if it weren’t for all of that time in front of the TV, I could have turned out a pretty normal person, which would have been a shame. I could even be working at a bank, or something equally tragic. So, without further explanation, here are five of those cartoons I watched that kept me indoors and antisocial as a kid.
I have been thinking about and reflecting on this sequence a lot lately. What exactly was Walt on when he conceived Pleasure Island? This scene used to terrify me as a kid; whenever I had fun with more than two or so other kids, I immediately grew guilty (thanks Walt!). But re-watch the establishing shot—Pleasure Island looks more like a modern amusement park, not something from the nineteenth century. The kids, too, have a modern feel; they use modern slang and take pleasure in things that seem more natural to a child of the forties than the eighteen-forties. And when Pinocchio’s friend turns into a donkey and bleats “Mama!”—I still am terrified. Is this Walt’s comment on Roosevelt’s post-Prohibition America? A prophetic taste of Disneyland? Condemnation of European fascism? Does this have a greater message at all? Whatever this scene means, Disney’s idea of pleasure’s terrible price—what Shakespeare called “the wages of sin” stays with me.
My Favorite Duck
My dad used to bring home Warner Brothers cartoons on VHS. These are just about my earliest cartoon memories—at least on the small screen. Watching these this weekend brought back a flood of thoughts. Was this truly the greatest slapstick ever? How did the animators communicate so much with so few words? Why does Porky fall only when he looks down? Where else does this law of gravity apply?
Bambi—Little April Showers
When I watched Bambi as a kid, even though I couldn’t sit still, I knew it was something special. I have grown to appreciate this part especially, and the animators’ seamless melding of song and sequence (before editing software!). Disney’s Nine Old Men, the animators behind this film, were as close to geniuses as animation has ever had. Bambi was such a capable example of storytelling in such a simple, quiet package. All of the pyrotechnics of Avatar couldn’t match one frame of this masterpiece.
A Good Time for a Dime
Here’s a little gem from the animated short’s golden age—1941. If some people are for Elvis and others are for the Beatles, I have always been a Donald fan. Like Donald, I always wanted to know “what’s the big idea;” Also, as a kid, I was just about this flustered. Of course, Donald’s communication skills were a little better. Mickey’s cartoons may have inspired me, but Donald’s shorts provided emotional support. At least one duck understands!
Rocky and Bullwinkle
Look, I could pick anything here, but I’m going with Rocky and Bullwinkle. If you remember, back in the day, before Nick at Nite put everyone to sleep, Nickelodeon would end with this cartoon. Thanks to the randomness of reruns and my own bad memory, I never understood the arc of the series, but, really, who cares? Cold War spies Boris and Natasha hate Rocky and Bullwinkle. They create silly traps that seemingly never work. What more could you possibly need to know? And for thirty minutes each night, their world became my world, intrigue, drama, humor, and all. And what more could I ask for?