Remember watching cartoons when there was no such thing as “on demand” or Cartoon Network? Either you were in front of the television when your program came on or you missed it. That’s it. End of discussion. (Yes, kids, it was worse than Grandpa’s story about walking to school uphill both ways! So, so much worse!! The horror.)
As it happened, I was a bit of a latchkey kid. (By “bit,” I mean if you looked up the definition of “latchkey kid,” you’d find a picture of my sister and me. Hopefully neither of us is bleeding.) So, I watched some afternoon television. (By “some,” I mean “all afternoon, Monday through Friday, and most of Saturday morning.) That made me darned familiar and quite enamored with different cartoons. I had favorites, for sure. So, I thought I’d share and let you either reminisce or get crackin’ over on YouTube.
These are in no particular order, so don’t yell at me in the comments about how the Flintstones are ridiculously better than Inspector Gadget. First, I don’t disagree. Second (and more importantly), I loved them all and for different reasons and ranking them would be like comparing trombones to baseball hats. Or something like that.
In retrospect, I think this cartoon must’ve been part of the foundation on which The Simpsons was built. The perpetual conflict between Mr. Spacely and George Jetson springs to mind, as does the family structure (right down to the dog). My favorite parts of this show were always Astro (ruh-roh) and Elroy. Yes, I know that Astro sounds suspiciously like Scooby-Doo. Here’s the thing. Astro was born before Scooby, so Scooby actually sounds like Astro, and Astro and Scooby have the same dad. It’s true. Look.
There’s been some subsequent commentary about how The Jetsons is set in 2062 yet still treats women like it’s 1926. You can be mad, but I just don’t see it that way. You have to remember that the show was created in 1962. Watch a couple episodes of Mad Men, and you’ll see that The Jetsons is not as chauvinistic as you think. (And I heart you John Hamm. So much. So, so much. Just thought I’d throw that in here on the chance you’re reading this. Because you are my Hall Pass. Not Ryan Gosling. Not Ryan Reynolds. Not Anderson Cooper. You. YOU.) Also, as a little girl, the only thing I thought about it – and all that I think of it now – is that it was funny. It made me wonder if the future would really be like that — flying cars, sidewalk conveyor belts, digital assistants. Weird how much came true …
Roadrunner & Wyle E. Coyote
This was probably the first cartoon at which I ever really laughed — that hold-your-side, roll-around-on-the-floor, gasp-for-air, kinda-cry laugh. And, I don’t remember how old I was when I started watching, but I know I was old enough to read. Because, the very best jokes on the show happened in the captions and signs narrating each mishap. Why Wile E. Coyote got all of his Roadrunner catching contraptions from Acme? There is, apparently, no satisfactory answer. Personally, I like the American Corporation that Makes Everything explanation, but the Sears catalogue seems most plausible.
She-Ra and He-Man
By the power of Greyskull!!
I watched these two back-to-back every day after school, usually while eating a salami and peanut butter sandwich and drinking a glass of chocolate milk. (Look, you, quit gagging. I was 12. The LAST thing I thought about was my cholesterol or calories. Even now it’s probably only fourth or fifth on the list. First is, Do I have all the ingredients? Second is, Are there working batteries in the smoke detector?)
She-Ra was awesome. It was a little inspiring to see a chick going all bad-ass comic heroine, but for me watching cartoons wasn’t about finding role models. However, I fully admit that several times in my adult life I have yelled, “I AM SHE-RA!!!! PRINCESS OF POWER!!!” Most of these times were probably when I was alone, in my car or in my office, after winning a motion or dismantling a lying liar I caught in a whopper at a deposition. This is particularly effective if some random dude is suspiciously following you in a dark area of San Francisco, because no one — not even a dude who is thinking about creepy things — wants to mess with a crazy bitch. You’re welcome.
Candidly, what I liked most about these shows were the bad guys. Skeletor? Yes, please. I especially liked MerMan. He always sounded like he was gargling Listerine while he talked. (This might also explain certain dating choices I made in high school. I shall say no more.)
Inspector Gadget himself drove me nuts, actually. As several people in my life have told me, I don’t suffer fools lightly, and Inspector Gadget could never get the hell out of his own way. For the love of Pete, get those gadgets fixed already! That meant my favorite parts of the show were Penny and Brain — the mind and muscle of the operation. I learned researching this post that Cree Summers voiced Penny. I knew her only from her role as Freddie on A Different World — Lisa Bonet’s Cosby Show spinoff. So, I looked her up on IMDB, and – holy crap – she’s done a ton of voice work, including Numbah 5 from Code Name: Kids Next Door (which Nate and I also watched).
I loved Wilma’s sarcastic wit. She was quite well written for the era in certain ways. Betty and Wilma undeniably were more intelligent than either Fred or Barney – a truth demonstrated in nearly every episode. Although, I do remember one episode in which Wilma is furiously cleaning the house trying to win some Better Homes & Gardens spoof magazine competition. I thought, Who the hell competes over a clean house? That’s dumb. It didn’t mean I didn’t want Wilma to win (and, of course, Fred screwed it up somehow), but really?
My favorite part of The Flintstones, hands down, was the Great Gazoo.
I wish my conscience appeared in Martian form. I’d probably listen to it more.
Bugs Bunny & Marvin the Martian
If could be a cartoon villain, it would be a toss-up for me between Marvin the Martian and someone whom you’ll meet down below. (No, not Hell, for Pete’s sake. A couple paragraphs down from here. Calm it!)
Marvin is soft-spoken, smart and ridiculously evil. Essentially, he’s perfect. Case-in-point: My kids will tell you that when they’re in a bit of trouble, I yell. But, when they’re in real trouble, I get very quiet, and it scares the holy crap out of them. Imagine me, whispering, “This makes me very angry. Very angry, indeed.“ When I imagine it, I sound like Glenn Close saying, “I won’t be ignored, Dan.”
Charlie Brown (It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!)
I loved – LOVED – Charlie Brown specials. But, I especially loved the Great Pumpkin. There are sooooo many wonderful things about it. The Vince Guaraldi Trio scoring the music, Charlie Brown uttering “Good grief!,” Lucy taunting Charlie with the football. But, my heart belongs to Linus and his blanket. He will always be the character to whom I most strongly related even if I secretly wished I was as confident as Peppermint Patty. (I keep trying to get my assistant at work to follow me around and call me, “Sir,” but she’s not having it. Spoil sport.)
Hey, hey, hey! This cartoon was groundbreaking in so many ways. But, one of the facts I most love is that NBC and ABC originally rejected Fat Albert for their Saturday morning line-ups because it was “too educational.”
Here’s some others that I would always watch when they were on:
I didn’t watch cartoons for many years after high school. But, when Nate was about three, we discovered Cartoon Network. There were some truly fantastic cartoons on that channel between about 2001 and 2007. These were my favorites, and Nate and I watched them together quite often.
Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends
The premise, animation, character development and dialogue of this cartoon were ALL spectacular. What happens to our childhood imaginary friends when we outgrow them? They go to Foster’s. My favorite episode was “Bus the Two of Us.” Mac’s imaginary friend, Bloo, stole Foster’s bus and tried to take the other imaginary friends and Mac on a joyride. The end up on a toll road, but they don’t know how to stop the bus to pay the toll. Bloo decides they’ll just shoot the change out the window. This dialogue follows:
“Target’s coming up!”
“It didn’t go in. Just impacted the surface.”
If you know what movie this dialogue is from, you will appreciate how funny this is. (I will also like you more.)
The best part of Foster’s Home was that the characters felt like pieces of me: Blooregard Q. Kazoo and I both cannot play paddleball, although we’ll die trying. Wilt and I apologize a lot. Eduardo and I both LOVE potatoes. Duchess was never my favorite (or anyone else’s) but who doesn’t want the name “Her Royal Duchess Diamond Persnickity the First, Last and Only”? I want it. I absolutely want it. I want to put it on my business cards. I want to stand up and say that when I state my courtroom appearances and watch the contortions on the judge’s face.
Samurai Jack is dark as far as cartoons go. Still, I always found myself drawn to the animation. There was something oddly peaceful about watching it. The clip above is a good short on how the cartoon was conceived and made.
Dexter is a young boy genius with a secret lab. His older sister, Dee Dee, knows about the lab and torments Dexter endlessly with her nosy big-sisterness. Dexter’s mortal enemy is Mandark. Eddie Deezen voices Mandark. You might remember Deezen as the nerdy kid in Grease with the wicked pie-throwing arm. He has one of my favorite cartoon cackles EVER:
This cartoon was insanely funny – sometimes inappropriately so. I recall a particular episode in which Dexter sneaks into Dee Dee’s room and just completely wreaks havoc. During Dexter’s destruction, he opens Dee Dee’s dresser, finds her underpants and slowly rips them in half. The Hubs and I happened to be watching this one together with Nate, and we steadfastly avoided making eye contact, because we knew we were both on the verge of laughing like lunatics and neither of us wanted to cross that oh-so-fine line between pretending like that didn’t just happen and having to explain to Nate why it freaking hysterical.
(Utterly unrelated, but why do we call underpants a “pair” of underpants? This is one of life’s great mysteries, and if the answer is 42, I’m gonna be bitterly disappointed.)
I had two favorite episodes of Dexter’s Laboratory. The first – “A Mom and Dad Cartoon” – featured Dexter and Dee Dee eavesdropping on their parents as they played Scrabble. The parents are locked in competitive battle, but from where Dexter and Dee Dee sit, it sounds like Mom and Dad are talking about one of them having an affair. This ensuing misunderstanding is quite funny.
http://embed.trilulilu.ro/video/cartoonlair/56e95108da7802/0×777777.swf (If you click the link, just ignore the foreign language ads at the beginning. The episode is the English version.)
The second episode was called “Continuum of Cartoon Fools.” Dexter is desperately trying to keep Dee-Dee out of his lab but only locks himself OUT of the lab in the process. He then delivers this marvelous monologue over the “The End” credits …
Oh my dear … In my overwhelming zeal to banish my sister from the lab, I have indeed locked myself out! Too blinded was I not to foresee the most piteous of fates. I have thus performed the ultimate tragic irony! Surely I am the fool of fools on a par with no other. I am no better than that stupid coyote or that crazy duck! Look at me, look at me! I am locked in a continuum of cartoon fools! I am doomed to a life of comic mishap adventures and social indignations! And now, here I stand before you, beaten, defeated and alone …
The PowerPuff Girls
Remember how I said up above that if I was a cartoon villain, it would be a toss up between Marvin the Martian and someone else. Well, that someone else came from this show. His name? Mojo Jojo.
Mojo Jojo is the baddest chimp you will ever meet. Why, you ask? Because he ganks his dialogue from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
That’s all just well enough because in reality there is only room enough in this world for one Mojo Jojo. One shall be the number of Mojo Jojos in the world, and the number of Mojo Jojos in the world shall be one. Two Mojo Jojos is too many and three is right out. So the only Mojo Jojo there is room for in the world shall be me, and being the only Mojo Jojo in the world, I will rule the world in which there is only one Mojo Jojo.
I also have a Blossom statute on my desk at work, which I look at while I’m on the phone with someone to whom I really don’t want to talk. I telepathically ask her, Blossom, what would you do here? She usually tells me, Rip his face off and eat it in front of him. True, Blossom overreacts a little, but I keep her around because she’s a superhero and we’re usually thinking the EXACT same thing.