Once upon a time I used to go with my mother to the local Video Connection and rent the greatest show on earth: Tom and Jerry. I used to rush back home, pester my aunt to turn on the VCR and lay back to hours of pure fun, until my mom forced me to close the TV and do those silly sums kids do in KG II. In the afternoon I turned on to the greatest TV channel on earth, BTV (!) and watch Bananas in Pajamas or Sesame Street. This was a seriously long time back, but then afterwards the cable TV revolution saw the birth of the 8th wonder of the world, Cartoon Network.
Little do we realize, but our lives were shaped by Cartoon Network and its cartoons. Okay, that may be a bit exaggerated, but who can deny their addictiveness and entertainment value? With most forms of entertainment, age makes them lose their 'cool' status, but not with cartoons. Sure, some of them seem pretty lame nowadays, but most of them still bring a smile on to your faces. The rest of them make you gag with the “what-the-hell-were-you-thinking syndromes. Want to take a look back, at the great and not-so-great-but-once-really-'funny'-and-popular? Read on.
Do you believe cartoons have a formula, especially the funny cartoons? Yup! All of them follow a central theme: 'pursuit', 'chase', and the etc. The best example, was of course Tom and Jerry.
Tom and Jerry showed the world a thousand and one ways to catch a mouse (and fail). From using a robotic cat to using a hit-cat (a cat assassin), all kinds of gadgets in existence to the simple cheese bait, Tom was ever creative, never failing to find a way to try to catch Jerry. Unfortunately he was ever ineffective too, constantly failing to catch the brown critter. In the meantime, he displayed a ruthless violence which would now make you shudder, specially if you see it in the proper light. Tom was vicious, chasing a poor little mouse and instead ending up getting diced, spliced by chainsaws, squeezed by rollers, flattened by anvils, squished by grand pianos, burnt in the oven, trampled by trains and in all kinds of violent-death situations. Scary? No wait, there is more. What about all the firecrackers, the bombs, the knives, the big mean dogs with big white teeth? Tom and Jerry could have taught us all about violence, but it was perhaps the inner message, the mantra, the soul of the cartoon which saved us. I don't know about you, but Tom and Jerry taught me persistence (never give up chasing the mouse), it taught me that forgiveness is the key to success (lull the mouse into a false sense of friendliness) and finally it taught me wisdom (mice always ran faster than cats).
The key element of chase also appears in other famous cartoons, but in different forms. The chase may involve catching a criminal, but sometimes the tables are turned and the 'good guys' are chased by the baddies. Remember Penelope Pittstop and her Daring Adventures? A Pink Race Driver who was always chased by the villainous Dick Dastardly and Muttley his hench-dog. In each episode, Penelope Pittstop would get captured and Dick Dastardly would use some hideous scheme to try to kill her, like tie her to a slow moving conveyor belt which will eventually feed her to a furnace. If I may deviate a little, I have no idea why cartoons are full of such slow death situations where the poor victim is subject to a slow wait till the killing is done. Haven't you heard of a gun, which can kill the victim in an instant and still leave you time to make a getaway? Anyway, every time Penelope Pittstop was caught, she was rescued by 11 midgets (or was it 7?) who dressed up in 1930's gangster suits and drove a 1960 Convertible. Stupid isn't it?
However one of the really stupid chase elements were in Josie in the Pussycats! Of-course you remember Josie and the Pussycats Lost in Space, right? That band of three girls and their friends, who 'accidentally' entered a rocket and got lost in space! They keep turning up on some alien planet which is either hostile or in the hands of an evil tyrant who is hostile, because he is evil. Get it? The chase scenes involve Josie and their Friends running from the evil alien beings coming from all directions, left and right, while a retro pop songs hums in the background. However good always prevails, and Josie and her Pussycats invariably capture the evil alien people who oppressed the good alien people. The show ends with Josie and the Pussycats performing a song in English much to the dancing and jubilation of the freed aliens. The good alien people as a thanks to everything (song and saving their lives blah blah) fix Josie's space-ship and reconfigure it so that they can return back to earth. However that never really happens, because every time someone presses the wrong button and they end up lost again to land in a different planet the next episode.
Like I said, the chase seems very stupid, but it rakes in the money. I'd like to present our last timeless classic which also happens to be our last case of “what the hell was I thinking”. Of course I am talking about Scooby Dooby Doo! Amidst all the dog cartoons, Scooby Dooby Doo ruled supreme. He and his gang were always chased by all sorts of weird aliens and evil supernatural creatures, who turn out to be nothing more than criminals in costume trying to steal money by scaring off people. However that doesn't stop Scooby and the gang from getting scared and running away.
Scooby may be very lovable, but he was really, really 'flat'. I mean a dog who says nothing but “Scooby dooby doooo!” and eats, doesn't make much of a hero. And his gang is such a cliché. Worst of all is his family, which includes such weird dogs such as Scrappy Doo, Dada Doo, Humpy Doo, Goo Goo Doo etc
Yup, by now you understand that all cartoons we used to love were mostly terribly flat and made no sense at all. You might think that the new cartoons on the block would be a bit of an improvement over the idiosyncrasies we once enjoyed. However if you haven't noticed, Cartoon Network and indeed all the kiddy channels have been taken over by monstrosities such as Pokemon and Digimon and all the other 'mons' there are and those horrible Japanese animations. I hate 'em! And I want the old cartoon network back! I yearn for the time when there were cool cartoons like Swat Cats or the inspiring Adventures of Johnny Quest. Sometimes I wish that I could see Top Cats again, which is perhaps the slickest toon character ever. YAA UP FOR TC!!!
Like all things cartoons are changing. But maybe it's only our taste that is evolving. Cartoon Network is seen by a new breed of kids, the next gen, who find more thrills in watching tops spin and weird magical creatures jumping out of little balls than say the techno-wonder Swat Cats or Centurions. As for us, older and more worldly beings- we seem to be satisfied with our craving for the Simpsons, Family Guy and the wonderfully sick South Park.