I watch a lot of cartoons, always have, always will. It might not have improved my grasp of physics, but it's always made me laugh. But as I sat in front of the idiot box today, I didn't want to watch any toon they were showing. Ever since Pokemon pointed out the huge merchandising opportunities, the recent trend of toons are mainly intended at making kids buy useless stuff. Sure, there were G. I. Joes and Skeletor toys in the cupboards when I was a kid as well, but watching Beyblade made me sick. Where Pokemon at least redeemed itself by emphasising evolution (for the US bible thumpers), this one seems to be pure merchandising claptrap.
I mean, I'm not asking for a strong story plot here. But it should have something, at least something that stimulates your brain. Most roadrunner cartoons are stupid, but I still ROFL at the Wyle E. Coyote, Genius business cards or anything that's named Acme (with apologies to Leon Brocard). Or to take another example, Tom and Jerry - perfectly predictable, yet funny in some excellent episodes. Even Scooby Doo has its moments of mirth, especially the Let's split up cliches. None of these needed a story to make it funny, it was merely funny because they were.
But there are still some which are for kids of all ages. They go beyond mere physical humour, into word play and referential humour. The moment, Bugs Bunny said "It's baseball season"  or the classic What did you expect, a happy ending ?  were landmark events for any cartoon to follow. Even the background music was borrowed from operatic greats  and a Casablanca spoof with carrots. Not that Bugs and Daffy toons were lacking in the low brow humour either. Those cartoons were loaded with jokes at all levels possible in six minutes.
But that era has passed and passed on the baton to the new overlords of cartoons. I probably won't consider Simpsons or Southpark as cartoons, but as merely animated series. But there were a few glimmers in the pile of shit that got served to me in the late nineties, by Cartoon Network.
First on the list would be Dexter's Laboratory  - the classical mad scientist story, only the mad scientist is just 8 years old. Having a secret laboratory, while living the life of a normal kid in front of the parents makes for some moments which involve the audience in some conspiratorial laughs at the expense of Dexter. Not to mention Dee Dee's meddling of the "Ooooooo. What does this button do?" kind. Nobody with a sister can stop smiling at that. Now, you might laugh at the standard jokes it sets up, but there are a few lines from today morning's episode ( * Figure Not Included ).
Major Glory : So what have you learned today ? Dexter : I learnt the important lesson that you cannot buy friendship with gifts. Major Glory : No, not that. Dexter : Then what ? Major Glory : You're going to learn that you can't get away with Copyright Infringment Dexter : Oh ? Major Glory : Now you'll have to face someone much more powerful than me. Dexter : Who's that ? Major Glory : My attorney.
Or even the referential Mock 5 where Dexter (btw, the name means "Right") races against Racer-D who is actually Dee Dee (remember Speed Racer ?). Yeah, Genddy Tartakovsky is a genius. His other works, such as Samurai Jack or Powerpuff Girls, were excellent as well. In fact, PPG was far more involved than the name would suggest, though it is a slightly acquired taste (you need to watch Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to get some of the jokes).
And then there was Johnny Bravo. For a blonde Elvis clone, who picked up enough Fonzie cliches, comedy comes easy. I for one, love the Kirk Tingblad episodes where Johnny's narcissim is brought to the forefront. Sure I know enough folks who think that it is a stupid show written for stupid people, but the flourishes are there in the details. For example, in Aunt Katie's Farm, Johnny is a pig in the sketch. And after destroying the set, Johnny rolls around in the mud and starts to yell "Four feet good! Two feet bad!". Or even the Prince and Pauper version, except in this one Mark Twain ends up thrown into prison for calling the plot an old chestnut. But my best Johnny line was from the "Panic in Jerky Town" where he comes out of the factory yelling "It's people! Jerky Jake's Beef Jerky is made of people!" , which goes whooshing above most viewers' heads.
What I saw on TV today didn't even come close to any of these. I have a glimpse of the future Bill Waterson saw when he said no to selling cuddly stuffed Hobbes to his fans. I'm sure enough younglings will complain that Beyblade is the coolest, but from what I see, it is all about buying tops. I used to love DBZ, but it was never about buying Dragon balls from the nearest shops. These toons seem somehow different and alien to me.
I suppose, every generation survives on nostalgia. Maybe I'm wrong - all these kids will outgrow all the stupid toons and bitch about the next set of twelve year olds when they're twenty four. I mean, I'll really be scared if they don't
Oh, and to relieve you from the suspense about the deer uncles. That's from a Dee Dee quote - "Deers don't have uncles, they have antlers". Laugh if you can ...--
This is what entertainment is all about ... Idiots, explosives and falling anvils.