Monday, June 21, 2004

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The golden age of cartoons?

Justin Peters makes a strong case in the Washington Monthly that we are currently experiencing a golden age of animation, beginning with Cartoon Network's Adult Swim:

The Adult Swim entourage is only the latest in a series of consistently witty and original cartoons that have emerged on television in recent years--from "The Simpsons" to "South Park" to "King of the Hill." And this is on top of the plethora of fine feature-length animated films that have graced movie theaters such as Monsters Inc., and the Shrek series. Indeed, if novels, pop music, and live action movies have been going through a bit of a fallow period, we are arguably living in a golden age of cartoons, one that rivals in creativity and appeal to the era of "Looney Tunes" and "Betty Boop" over half a century ago.

Read the whole thing -- indeed, my only criticism of the article is that it failed to mention the renaissance in high-quality superhero cartoons -- X-Men, Batman, Superman, Justice League, and the awesome Batman Beyond.

However, Peters does give appropriate props to Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law, a surreal 15 minutes of genre-busting. My personal favorite -- and the only successful Sopranos parody I've seen -- is when Harvey defends suspected mobster Fred Flinstone. Best line -- "You're dead to me, Barney!! [Actually, the best line is "Ewwww, Gleep juice!'--ed. Well, yes, but understanding why that line is funny requires a knowledge of bad Saturday morning cartoons that the sophisticated readers of should never admit to possessing.]

posted by Dan on 06.21.04 at 05:26 PM


Back Off!

I'm rather fond of Dynomutt Part I, where Harvey is supplanted by his archrival, Blue Falcone. The Sealab 2021 episode on Communism (I think it was titled 'Red Dawn') had to be one of the funniest 12 minutes on television I've ever seen.

posted by: Independent George on 06.21.04 at 05:26 PM [permalink]

Incidentally, I believe the line was, "You're dead to me, can opener!", in reference to one of those little green birds that get used as automatic can openera, which was testifying at Fred's trial.

posted by: Independent George on 06.21.04 at 05:26 PM [permalink]

Hey, you may not like the French, but the Triplets of Bellville is without question one of the best, and certainly most enigmatic, animated movies to come out in years.

posted by: Andrew Brodnick on 06.21.04 at 05:26 PM [permalink]

Two words: Samurai Jack.

posted by: bg on 06.21.04 at 05:26 PM [permalink]

Peters also fails to recognize Futurama, whose incredible humor and stunning contuinity, make it, I feel, the best show on AS -- and maybe even the best show on tv.

posted by: Ed on 06.21.04 at 05:26 PM [permalink]

Nothing's the same since they stopped making Freakazoid (and Warner Brothers was taken over by bean-counters).

posted by: Attila Girl on 06.21.04 at 05:26 PM [permalink]

The article also ignores the great animation coming out of Japan in the last few years. IMO Miyazaki's last two films: Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away are among the very best of recent years. Satoshi Kon ,with films like Millenium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers, is stretching the boundaries of feature-length animation. Some great TV shows like Cowboy Bebop as well.

posted by: Plinth on 06.21.04 at 05:26 PM [permalink]

Where's Teen Titans? That's another brilliant, genre-bending show.

And new episodes of Justice League (rechristened Justice League Unlimited and with a new 30-minute format) will be debuting in August.

posted by: J on 06.21.04 at 05:26 PM [permalink]

Let's all pause to remember a pioneer of this golden age ... "Ren & Stimpy." "Space Madness" is a small classic. And I have never laughed so hard at any cartoon as I did during the "rubber nipple salesman" episode, when the walrus intoned "Call the police ..."

posted by: Anderson on 06.21.04 at 05:26 PM [permalink]

I can't believe you left out "Space Ghost: Coast to Coast". Over the top, twisted and definitely for the over 18 crowd.

posted by: George Atkisson on 06.21.04 at 05:26 PM [permalink]

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