This is a ‘self-made’ prompt, as it were. I made it myself!
I was thinking about how the kids of today find the childhood programs of my era to be weird. The cartoons of the 80s and 90s certainly have some unique qualities, but then again, to me, the cartoons of today’s era have some quirks all their own.
Yes, Bananaman was real. A boy eats a banana and becomes a superhero. The not-so-subtle message is ‘eat your fruit and veg to be big and strong’. Not a bad message, but it was delivered in a terrifying way. There is something profoundly strange at how Bananaman looks. He is very unnatural. His transformation was faintly disturbing. Somehow, this was allowed on air.
Button Moon was quite a sweet, gentle show, aimed at small children.
Now this was a show I loved. It was called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles here, due to negative connotations with the term ninja. The show, about four teenage, erm, mutant turtles, named after famous Renaissance artists, became a huge global success, and I remember the immense excitement of waiting to see the live-action movie. The TV series was formulaic; the evil pair of Shredder and Krang would attack, the turtles would thwart them, they’d escape and try again. On rare occasions, there’s be a two-parter, but each episode was usually standalone.
Darkwing Duck, like TMNT, was largely around standalone episodes. It was fun, it was pretty daft in places, and as with nearly all cartoons of the early 90s, actions and consequences of one episode did not carry over into the next. All that would begin to change with…
Gargoyles could have been called a ‘TNG‘ reunion. Several cast members from Star Trek: The Next Generation had recurring roles, including Jonathan Frakes as the self-centred Xanatos, and Marina Sirtis as the villainous Demona. Brent Spiner turned up as a couple of characters, and other Star Trek alumni appeared too (David Warner, Kate Mulgrew, Avery Brooks and Michael Dorn all starred, as did Nichelle Nichols.
Gargoyles also broke the mould. Here was a darker, more serious show, that was still intended for children, but older children, and teens. It did not dumb things down. Actions had consequences. Characters made bad choices. There were story arcs lasting several episodes. It was a masterpiece, and it is a crime that Disney have not revisited this show.
Modern cartoons now tend to have long-running threads, married to standalone episodes that might weave a thread into them. Kids are treated with respect, with a lot of ‘kids’ shows being quite sophisticated. Take for example, My Little Pony, which despite being aimed at small children, garnered a lot of respect for its storytelling and style. Sometimes kids TV can be very preachy (there was a Stargate show, Stargate Infinity, that was painfully over the top for this), and this can be be very off-putting.
Some modern cartoons for older kids are, to me, surreal (then again, Bananaman is surreal to today’s generation).
This is an insane show. It is filled with deliberately different forms of animation, and features some crazily different characters, in an eclectic world. It is bright and colourful on the surface, but some of the stories stray into grim territory! There is a wry sense of humour that underpins the slapstick element, and one of the characters – Richard – can give Homer Simpson a run for his money in the stupid dad stakes. I have laughed out loud several times at this show. It is quite brilliant.
Star vs the Forces of Evil is a show I myself sorely underestimated when I first saw it. Underneath the bubbly, zippy façade is a deep, cultivated show, with lore and history and creativity. There are long-running arcs, romances, themes of discrimination and oppression, and it’s one of the most sophisticated shows out there.
The original DuckTales was an entertaining show with a catchy theme song. I enjoyed it. DuckTales 2017 is an absolutely superb show, a champion of gorgeous animation, great characters, and so many different ways of entertaining the audience. There is not a bad episode of this show, which both pays homage to the original show, whilst updating the characters and setting. I love this show so much that I have a tattoo of Scrooge McDuck on my arm, and I lamented its early demise in a lengthy post last year.