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American Cartoons

April 29, 2009

As a child of the 1990s I had a plethora of cartoon goodness to grow up with. Sure, I didn’t have the Thunder Cats, He-man (eh), and Transformers of the 1980s but I like to think that the 1990s provided some decent cartoons from American producers. 

It seems that lately when I go home all the kids and my siblings are watching Japanese anime. Don’t get me wrong, I like anime, to an extent (I’m very, very picky about what I pick up from Japan as far as anime goes). 

For me, it’s a little depressing because when I was in elementary and middle there some great American cartoons on television, as well as, a few Japanese anime to balance things out. 

Off the top of my head this is a rundown of what I watched as a kid:

Doug, Rocko’s Modern Life, Transformers (and the various sub-titled Transformers), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joes, X-men, Spiderman, Batman The Animated Series, Rugrats (pre-Dil and all that bullshit). Kablam! I do and do not count that show.

Disney even had some gems during the 90s, like Bonkers, Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck (Loved it), Duck Tales, Gargoyles (I had the game) and those are just the cartoons I watched. 

In the late 1990s Nickelodeon had Rocket Power, The Angry Beavers, and the Wild Thornberrys. I enjoyed them a little bit. 

Since about 2000, Disney’s cartoons have just blown I mean look what they did to Doug…it still hurts. They’ve had three cartoons that I’ve actually enjoyed since 2000 and those are Kim Possible, Recess, and well, actually that’s about it. Nickelodeon isn’t much better. They have Danny Phantom and Avatar. 

Although, Nick is getting better. They just added a new X-men show called Wolverine and the X-men. Like it’s 1990s predecessors this one is actually taking chances with its story telling. I’ve enjoyed its first season.

My biggest complaint against Disney and Nick is that after about 2000 they stopped taking chances with story telling in cartoons, hell, their live action shows stopped being interesting too. Remember Boy Meets World? Clarissa? Family Matters? Those shows were actually funny. Now, it’s all just stupidity and forced acting. 

I miss the Fresh Prince on that note. 

Gargoyles and the 90s Batman cartoon were willing to take chances with their stories and loved being dark and gritty. When did that stop being okay? The reason I loved those shows as a kid was because they weren’t some Care Bear fluff. It was fun and scary to watch Batman and Gargoyles as a kid. 

Unfortunately, the most recent show that I’ve seen that goes even semi-dark is Avatar and they like to ruin moments with that bullshit Japanese habit of putting stupid “crying” faces in when someone gets hurt or something happens that’s too much for them. 

I hate that so much, but it’s a rant for another day. 

What this boils down to is that I’m sad that cartoons have been pushed back into the realm of children, and dumbing it down for them. No one ever misunderstood Batman or Darkwing Duck even in their darkest moments. Why does Disney, specifically, think that kids are just stupid these days and want fluffy bullshit like High School Musical Whatever and cartoons like Brandy and Mr. Whiskers? 

It’s depressing. 

There are three categories that American cartoons fall under today:

Disney-lite: The High School Musical and Hannah Montana crap that they produce today. Man, if I ever have kids I’m just buying DvDs of some of the good shows from 80s and 90s and having them watch those. 

Adult Comedy: As much as I enjoy Family Guy, The Simpsons, SouthPark, and American Dad no one is doing anything else for adults really. This is it and all it is is comedy. Animation can do so much more. 

Adultswim: I hate Adultswim. First, it’s directed at high schoolers and stoned college kids. Second, half of it is anime and they aren’t very good ones. 

Even still you do have some cartoons like Futurama (which I do like), Family Guy (above), and Robot Chicken and that stupid Metal show. Robot Chicken is hit or miss but I do appreciate their stop-motion, it’s pretty good. 

That metal show is just stupid. It’s like cyanide and happiness with better art but the same worthless jokes. They also have Venture Bros. or Venture Co.? I don’t know. I’ve heard that it’s good but it’s on Adultswim so I don’t put too much stock in to it. 

It’s really too bad that a dark, or not dark just a cartoon with good story-telling, compelling characters, and no fluffy crap can’t make in the States anymore. It’s unfortunate that I have to sift through the 90/10 anime that comes out Japan just to find a good cartoon these days, and even then the ration is still 90/10 (90% shit/10% decent). 

Here’s to hoping.


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