Cartoon Cartoon!

Mickey Mouse: A Frequent Guest at Warhol's Parties

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.

Pinocchio—Pleasure Island

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?

9 responses to “Cartoon Cartoon!

  1. TV… the secret babysitter ; ) I spent way to much time in front of the TV, too. Especially on Saturday when they were airing Kids TV in the morning.

    I’m making fun of it today, falsely accusing my parents they put me in front of that babysitter. My mum is totally freaking out when I say that, insisting “We couldn’t get you away from the TV!!!” *LOL …she was so right!

    I watched way too many cartoons… those kind of cartoons they aired almost 20 years ago have become pretty rare though (Hanna Barbera was the man!). 😦

    I didn’t even recoil from films like Jaws or Bud Spencer’s movies… I think they’ve shaped my interest in the movies from the early days on.

    But I also spent a lot of time outside, cycling, rollerblading… that stuff. 😉

  2. Oh man, the whole movie of Bambi is just fantastic. That scene is one of my favorites as well.

    “And for thirty minutes each night, their world became my world, intrigue, drama, humor, and all. And what more could I ask for?”


    Exactly. That’s what a good book, show, or movie does, and that’s why I love them!

  3. I am a big fan of Tom and Jerry. I even watch it still now. Well, I did until we gave up cable. Boo. I love TV!

  4. Ahh, animation. Did you write this for me?

    Disney animation is always top-notch, heart-warming fair that really is great to watch – the only thing is I’m not sure you can gain too much from them outside of models and daring techniques and some contextual information. There isn’t much in terms of subtlety or precision in the beats. Disney toons, literally, are what you get (although the Disney Afternoon cartoons have more substance to them. Oddly enough, only the Daffy/Porky one appeared on CN).

    Contrast to “My Favorite Duck.” The excitement, the crazy, the randomness. Where animation explores the full range of its medium. Why does Porky only fall when he looks down? Because it can only happen in animation, that’s why. It’s a cartoon rule now. Jones (well, really, Tex Avery) defined so many “cartoon” laws that are used today – well, were used, until Hanna-Barbara and/or anime destroyed them. I could go on but I’ll stop for now.

    And Rocky and Bullwinkle, like Roger Ramjet and Super Chicken, were definitely subtle Cold War jabs. R&B, in particular, was rather harsh when it came to its pro-American stances, going beyond casting incompetent Russian villains. It was odd, too, as it seem to comment on the general state of America yet maintain its anti-Communist bent. I wonder if it was trying to say what American “should” be like in order to combat it. Hmm.

    Sorry. I love animation. I should be posting soon about Rocko’s Modern Life.

  5. @ Sarah. Yes, I loved Hannah Barbera! Do you remember the Animalympics?

  6. @ Kristan–I never truly appreciated Bambi until I grew up a bit. It’s a pretty mature cartoon. Bambi’s dad dying still makes me choke up a little.

    @ Rebecca–Tom and Jerry shorts are amazing. The full-length animated movie they did in the nineties, less so.

    @ Kevin–That Disney movies have little subtext is a point I could argue with you. There is depth there. Maybe not Hannah Montana 3d but the earlier features, I think so.

  7. That came out a bit awkward. I don’t mean to say that Disney movies don’t have subtext or depth. They can say a lot about the characters, about the story – but I don’t know if they comment too much on the world outside their movies (with the exception of maybe Pinocchio and, perhaps, Bambi).

    Disney wasn’t particularly ‘meta’. Not to say they weren’t great – they were, I loved their films, especially their underrated classics – but they really did anything that ‘winked’ at the audience, save for the Walt Disney intro clips.

  8. Where is Darkwing Duck?

  9. @ Kevin – I love those intro clips! So much fun…There are gems, of course you’re right, the less subtext for most of these films, the better. Disney certainly never considered himself or his animators artists. Or did he?

    @ EMS Yes to the Disney Afternoon. Didn’t forget, just didn’t know if people would read fifteen-sixteen different entries.

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