Cartoons

index

Cartoon Copy(Samurai Pizza)Cats

According to Kirby Ferguson’s Everything is a Remix, 74 of the 100 top grossing films from 2002-2012 are either sequels, remakes or adaptations. “Perhaps audiences just prefer the familiar (Ferguson part 2).”

As Ferguson showed us, many Disney cartoons are based off Grimm fairy tales and various other sources, but traditional Saturday morning cartoons also caught on to the reiteration of successful shows to keep their audiences coming back for more. Preston Blair, cartoonist for Disney and Hanna-Barbera, showed how to draw character archetypes in many of his how-to books on, most notably Cartoon Animation.

Heavycutecharactergoofy

If we examine the some of the characters in the Hanna-Barbera universe, we can see that many characters across shows share many of the same traits, often to convey something about their personalities. In 1969, Hanna-Barbera introduced the world to the crime-solving great dane Scoobert-Doo and the Mystery Machine gang of Fred, the All-American hunk; Daphne, the red-headed vixen; Velma, the bookworm, and Shaggy, the scruffy slacker.

scoobydoo

After the success of Scooby-Doo! Where Are You?” Hanna-Barbera premiered a new cartoon in 1977 called Jabberjaw. Notice any similarities?

Many of you may also remember the Hanna-Barbera classic Yogi Bear and his little sidekick Boo-Boo, two pic-a-nic basket thieves who find themselves getting in trouble with Ranger Smith, the park ranger of Jellystone park.

That was in 1961. In ’62, audiences were treated to Wally Gator, an alligator who lives within the confines of the zoo and must be kept in check by zookeeper Mr. Twiddle. Are you noticing a pattern?

While these are examples of in-house copycats, there are plenty of instances through time of animation studios swiping character types from established shows. In 1990, John K. introduces us to Ren and Stimpy, a volatile chihuahua and stupid cat duo, the two always prying at each other’s nerves.

The_Ren_and_Stimpy_Show_Title_Card

In 1993 with the launch of the Animaniacs, we get Pinky and the Brain, a pair of lab mice, the former a genius, the latter insane.

pinky-and-the-brain-cartoon-nice-wallpaper-1024x768

And then, a few years later, we get CatDog, a … yeah.

CatDogHeader

Just by looking at these images, without even watching an episode,  we can deduce which characters in these pairs are the goofy half of the equation. The off-kilter eyes, hanging tongues and the buck teeth convey the stereotypical dopey look we’ve seen time and again.

With the popularity of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, animators try to jump on the bandwagon of anthropomorphic fighting animals. Case in point: Street Sharks and Samurai Pizza Cats.

With the overnight success of Pokemon, we got arena-battling anime like Digimon

Pokemon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcfdoSuC6MI

Digimon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUihzNN0ees

And then we get to the other half of the equation with the reimaginings. The 1960s The Adventures of Johnny Quest got a ’90s iteration in The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest. Tiny Toons was a spiritual successor to the 1940s Looney Tunes. Muppet Babies were exactly that to the original Muppets. The Rugrats became teenagers in Rugrats: All Grown Up. A Pup Named Scooby-Doo took us back in time with the gang before they were old enough to drive the Mystery Machine. James Bond Jr. And adaptations. Garfield and Friends brought the tabby cat to the small screen after finding success in the funny papers. Street Fighter and X-Men both got their own cartoons in the ’90s. There are so many it would actually take forever to list them all. So, I think this provides a good-enough picture of the highly iterative nature of cartoons.

And, finally, truth-bomb: SpongeBob SquarePants is just Rocko’s Modern Life underwater.

Rugrats

The Invisible Repetition of the Cartoon Theme Song

Cartoons are everywhere we turn.

It’s hard to believe the medium of cartoon animation is only roughly 100 years old, given how ubiquitous characters like Mickey Mouse, Scooby Doo and Spongebob Squarepants have become. We have backpacks emblazoned with Dora the Explorer’s face, vitamins made with Wilma Flintstones visage and even entire theme parks inspired by classic animated features. Baby boomers, Generation X and millennials all have cartoons from their youth that they remember fondly, and I posit that the tried-and-true intro/theme song combination that begins every episode plays a heavy role in reinforcing our connection to those viewing experiences.

While I could analyze the excellent intro sequence to Batman: The Animated Series, sadly, it’s already been done (and I highly suggest you click that link), so I’ll move on. One of the most successful cartoons in history, the Looney Tunes still appear in various incarnations even to this day. Predating the first commercially viable TV sets, the Looney Tunes animated shorts debuted in 1930 in theaters on film reels. Because animated features were still relatively new during the World War II era, producers modeled these shorts after existing entertainment structures, most notably Vaudeville and orchestra. Now heralded as one of the most influential cartoons of all time, many Looney Tunes shorts begin with the recognizable (blank) song in much the same way an orchestra would play an opening song before the curtains rose in a play.

In the first second of the intro bumper, we can see the Warner Bros. logo come into focus on the screen as if we were seated in a theater and the lights slowly adjusted in brightness to spotlight the beginning of a performance. Once the WB logo fades off, we then get a close-up of Bugs Bunny, the star and ringleader of the Looney Tunes. What’s important here, which differs from many cartoons intros of today, is that by showing us a large disembodied bucktoothed Bugs Bunny on screen, we’re being told that we’re not in attendance to watch a story necessarily, but rather a character. Then, as if the red rings around his head didn’t already resemble curtains, we see Bugs lift the projection screen right before our eyes, revealing that we’re very much about to watch a tongue-in-cheek, self-aware farce featuring anthropomorphic animals. Bugs lounges on top of his own name, reading “BUGS BUNNY in,” reinforcing that the character is about to get himself into some bizarre antics.

As TV sets became affordable and began to fill homes all across America, studios like Hanna-Barbera ushered in a new era of cartoons as the golden age of animation entered its twilight. With classics like the Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, Where are you? and The Flintstones, the studio gave us countless cartoons classics that became pieces of TV history. Once the most successful, longest-running animated TV series in history (an accomplishment since taken by The Simpsons), The Flintstones popularized many paradigms animated shows still follow today, perhaps most of all the use of a theme song with catchy, unforgettable lyrics.

Before the lyrics begin, we see main character Fred operating his dino-crane for just a split second. The camera then pans to his supervisor as he glances at his watch, waiting to sound the klaxon for ending the work day. But how do we know in these first three seconds that Fred is a construction worker? For one, we see his boss wears a hard hat, but, perhaps more importantly, he is standing next to his office, which has conveniently been labeled “office” on the outside wall. One simple word provides all the context we need for the first few shots of the intro.

And the very first lyric of the show’s theme song is “Flintstones,” a no-nonsense primer to prepare the audience to join the family for their newest episode. After we “meet the Flintstones,” the next line in the song fills us in on the entire pull of the show: “They’re the (not a) modern stone-age family.” This is it; this family is the seminal satire of modern America through the frame of the stone-age. The song culminates in Fred’s catch phrase “We’ll have a yabba dabba doo time/a dabba doo time/we’ll have a gay old time,” injecting a catchphrase that once meant nothing and bringing it to the forefront of pop culture references.

Flash-forward to the ’90s, when dedicated childrens’ entertainment stations like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network found their stride. Branded as Nicktoons, Nickelodeon’s original programming defined a generation of kids, providing millennials with a group of friends to grow up alongside of in the Rugrats.

The intro theme begins with a drumroll as an airborne diaper falls into place on main character Tommy Pickles’s bare baby bottom. As he regains his balance after this handstand maneuver, the animators pull a clever little trick by panning the camera to Tommy’s 1-year-old perspective, making his living room seem 10 times bigger than it would appear to our adult perspective. We go on a journey with him for just a few baby steps toward his bottle, steps that would seem insignificant to us but are larboriously coordinated by little Tommy. Just before reaching his milk, he takes a tumble to the floor, and we take that sudden plummet with him. We not only see the world from his perspective, we also feel it. As he attempts to touch his lips to the lid of his bottle that is just outside his reach, he is approached by one of his father’s toys (Stu is an inventor), and the camera pans out, revealing that, to Tommy, his living room is actually so large that it rolls over into the horizon because he is so small he can’t see the whole thing from his prone position on the floor.

Perhaps the best part of the whole intro is the very end, when the camera reverses from the baby perspective to that of the adult characters (in this instance, Tommy’s parents Stu and Didi). Didi lifts her son from the floor and sees the whole gang, her son nearest her in her arms, with her niece Angelica beside him, and his three best friends, Chuckie, Phil and Lil in the background. The children only speak to each other when the parents are out of the room, and they take those opportunities to go on adventures. but, when adults are present, they revert to behaving like unsuspecting, harmless babies. To encapsulate this conflict, we see Tommy freeze for a bit on screen, as if he’s mulling over in his head whether he wants to do it or not, and then, after a few seconds, decides to squeeze his milk bottle all over his parents and the camera (us, the viewers), demonstrating how unpredictable his childish behavior really is.

 

Super Saiyan Goku

Dragonball Z, nu metal and the rise of the online mash-up

In just a few days, on April 5, the world will observe the memory of  singer/songwriter Kurt Cobain, who took his life 20 years ago. As the frontman for Nirvana, he brought muddy, sonic riffs and screaming until your voice was hoarse into the forefront of popular music, influencing every rock band to come after him. But, whereas Nirvana was known to intersperse reserve into their songs as part of their quiet verse/loud chorus formula, the bands that followed in his wake took a more aggressive route. When post-grunge bands like Bush and Live fell off just as quickly as they appeared, they were soon followed by the Korns and Limp Bizkits of the world, establishing the genre we’ve come to know as nu metal. For better or worse, this hyper-masculine fusion of metal and rap/rock ruled the world in the late ’90s and early aughts, celebrating excess in noise and adrenaline.

Also making waves in the years before and after the turn of the millennium was Dragon Ball Z, an anime by acclaimed cartoonist Akira Toriyama, which had just been localized for western audiences. The show, adapted from the popular manga, proved popular in the States, as well, featuring, again, hyper-masculine heroes and villains, excessive screaming and plenty of martial arts-meets-sci-fi violence. In conjunction with the advent of Napster, fans of the show were able to download both nu metal songs and Dragon Ball Z episodes and movies and fuse together the sweaty defiance of western MTV hits with the melodramatic choreographed fighting sequences the show was known for (they just cut out the many scenes of comic relief). With Napster now shuttered, the legacy of the Dragon Ball Z mash-up lives on on Youtube. Perhaps it’s only appropriate to start with the most popular nu metal band of all, Linkin Park.

Though many critics and pop music fans now lament the nu metal wave, it wasn’t too long ago audiences couldn’t get enough of it. Linkin Park’s 2000 debut Hybrid Theory is one of only 20 albums in the past 23 years to go diamond (10 million copies sold) and was also the best-selling album of 2001. The hit single “In the End” became an anthem for the millennial generation, and finds its way into many DBZ montages, including this one:

Though many characters in the show sport spiky hair, this particular character highlighted in the video is Vegeta. In Dragon Ball lore, he is a prince of the endangered Saiyan race, obsessed with his own pursuit of power and besting fellow Saiyan and series protagonist Goku. Though Vegeta and Goku were once mortal enemies at the show’s outset, they’ve since sworn a truce in the interest in preserving their race (though that doesn’t mean their rivalry isn’t revisited every now and then). Despite his royal lineage and his dedication to becoming the strongest warrior in the galaxy, he can never best Goku, fueling his rage even further. How fitting, then, that the song’s chorus echoes the internal strife Vegeta faces throughout the series:

I tried so hard

and got so far

but in the end

it doesn’t even matter

We can see, in both the first and second verse, Vegeta’s mouth synched to bits of the lyrics as if he is singing them himself, suffering one crushing defeat after another. Particularly poignant is the lyric “Remembering all the times that you fought with me” as the camera cuts from Goku’s face to his over the monosyllabic rapping, conjuring all the memories of their bad blood. Fans of the show will recognize the lyrics “Things aren’t the way they were before/you wouldn’t even recognize me anymore” play over the shot of Vegeta grinning during his possession by villain Majin Buu. Finally, during the bridge, once the power chords come back in full effect, Vegeta transforms into a Super Saiyan, waves of light energy rising around him as Chester Bennington returns to wailing. Speaking of wailing, let’s move on to a no. 1 billboard hit with plenty of screaming, “Headstrong” by Trapt:

This particular sequence in the anime shows the end of the Majin Buu saga, with Goku and Vegeta teaming up to defeat the titular foe. The song perfectly suits the animation not only because the characters do plenty of grimacing and howling (which you’ll find plenty of in a nu metal music video), but also because this particular battle features plenty of headbutts, perhaps most notably at 3:14 and 3:26. The heavy chugging of the guitars aligns with each blow delivered, and the video ends with the reverb of the final note fading out as Goku launches the tried-and-true spirit bomb and obliterates Buu into tiny pieces. Let’s move on to tribute video to another series mainstay, Gohan:

Gohan is Goku’s son, who viewers watch grow up from child to teen to adult as he continues his father’s legacy across the series. As is a common theme across these videos, Gohan emits a powerful swirl of energy at the bursting first note of the chorus, but unlike other videos, we get a touching look at his relationship with his father. At the bridge, as Gohan is about to be crushed by his foe (whose name I don’t know, I haven’t seen the film in question), Goku frees him and holds his injured son in his arms as the Evanescence leader singer Amy Lee sings “Frozen inside without your touch/without your love darling/only you are the life among the dead” in their hit single “Bring Me to Life.” On more than one occasion, Goku sacrifices himself for his son (and he is revived just as many times with the power of the dragon balls, which can grant their possessor any wish, including resurrecting the dead), so the words lend themselves to the history the two share. With the help and compassion of his father, Gohan then finds the strength to vanquish his foes.

The list goes on and on, as the breadth of both the series and nu metal tracks is larger than you might think. Even though some of these videos have timestamps from six years ago, I can remember watching similar videos before the days of Youtube through downloads or on sites like ebaumsworld back on my family’s first PC in 2001. I could keep going with analyses, but the amount of DBZ mash-ups are so numerous, dare I say they’re … over nine thousaaaaaaand!

Youtube_Poop

Youtube Poop: Perverting your favorite cartoons since 2007

Disclaimer: Please note that the videos here are actually some of the cleaner Youtube Poop videos I could find. Though they contain some NSFW language and bizarre images, they are relatively tame compared to some of the other videos of their ilk. Should you choose to search for more videos like these, please be warned that many contain racist, homophobic and misogynistic language and imagery.

The Internet is wonderful place where you can connect with friends, learn anything about anything and find entertainment with the click of a button. The Internet is also the home to dark, weird and sometimes horribly offensive content, the kind that makes you question the nature of existence. Youtube Poop is one such place, the corner of the world’s most popular video service that serves as nightmare fuel.

A Youtube Poop is a video that remixes animated cartoons into clips through sound distortion and video editing, creating a new, unusual, and usually unsettling story. The source material for the videos consist mostly of shows like The Super Mario Bros. Super Show and Spongebob Squarepants, but the other popular shows have since made their way into the Youtube Poop lexicon. Take, for example, this remix of King of the Hill called Boggle Crunch.

See? I told you it would get weird.

The crux of any Youtube Poop video is to subvert our expectations of the PG rated source material to the extreme with a host of different techniques: layering dialogue from other shows, distorting the color saturation, increasing the volume at particular moments for shock value, introducing vulgarity and jumbling the most innocuous of frames into a confusing mess.

In this particular episode, the school nurse diagnoses Bobby Hill with ADHD, prescribing him medication to help him focus in school. When he first takes his drugs, he feels … different. User durhamrockerZ highlights Bobby’s mental state, slowing down the frames of animation and increasing the size of his eyes to show us how strongly Bobby is reacting to his pills (followed shortly after with a shot of his face melting at around 2:05). Zoom-ins of characters faces in slow motion highlight the moment-to-moment focus of Youtube Poops.

This video features common Poop techniques, including looping sounds and finding ways to make the characters say “shit,” which, when you think about it, is pretty easy, given you just need to find an audio clip of the character making a “sh” sound and saying “it” and put them together. In addition, we hear characters speaking their dialogue backwards and stammering at random points in their lines. By adding a simple sound clip of a fart into Peggy’s scenes, the creator has betrayed our expectations of her character and completely changed our interpretation of her.

Next, we have one everyone’s favorite yellow sponge doing … God only knows.

… Right.

We have characters getting hit by unexpected trains, random explosions and a whole lot of uncomfortably loud screaming. The highlight of this video, for me, is when Hurricoaster superimposes the shot of Spongebob skiing over Mountain performing “Mississippi Queen.” “I’m listening to you, mountain!” he yells before careening down the slope, bringing together a ’70s rock band and a Nickelodeon cartoon through our familiarity with two seemingly disparate ideas. We create the closure in our minds, and suddenly Spongebob rocking out to heavy metal seems totally reasonable.

Finally, let’s take a look at a staple in the Youtube Poop community, Sonic the Hedgehog.

This video is the king of the non-sequitur. First, Sonic begins by singing the national anthem, while later his face randomly turns into a transformer. The sounds clips from Big Daddy and Looney Tunes also come from nowhere, but their absurdity probably got a laugh from you anyway.

Stonecutter Homer

Why is Homer Simpson Yellow (And Why It Doesn’t Matter, Kinda)?

“Narf!”

“OK I love you buh-bye!”

“Hellooooooo, Nurse!”

You might recognize these catchphrases from the ’90s cartoon series The Animaniacs, a show about the three Warner siblings who were so zany that they had to be imprisoned in a water tower to ensure they couldn’t annoy anyone. Modeled after the Warner Brothers classic Looney Tunes, Yakko, Wakko and Dot were a trio of animals known for smooching everyone from Michaelangelo to Albert Einstein and breaking out into song on a whim. When you look at their jet black fur, clownish white faces and maraschino red noses, one can’t help but wonder: what the heck are they supposed to be, anyway?

The Animaniacs logo (wikipedia)

Recognizing the ambiguity in their own character design, the writers had a little fun with leaving us guessing. In an early episode, the Warner Brothers are in a session with their psychiatrist Dr. Scratchansniff when he poses the question to them. The brothers then segue into “What Are We?”, postulating all the potential animals types that might fit their description.

Ultimately, we realize the question is erroneous, and, in trying to deduce their identity, the joke is on us (“what we are, dear doctor … is cute”). According to Sean Hall’s “This Means This, This Means That,” “Adults often have to have things explained to them … because while the meaning of the drawing is often transparent to the child it is frequently opaque to the adult (68).” The visual interpretation of the protagonists is a gag itself.

Perhaps the most popular cartoon ever made, The Simpsons rose also rose to prominence in the ’90s, setting the precedent for primetime animated sitcoms. My mom let me watch it until she learned that Bart says “sucks” a lot, but I still managed to catch episodes when she was busy preparing dinner. Before she cut me off, she would always ask me, “Why are they yellow?”

After all these years, I’m pleased to finally have an answer to this question myself. In “Understanding Comics,” Scott McCloud describes a phenomenon called amplification through simplification. “When we abstract an image through cartooning, we’re not so much eliminating details as we are focusing on specific details (30).” Let’s use the lead character, Homer, as an example.

Homer Simpson of Sector 7G (boston.com)

Once the viewer acclimates to his skin tone, she will soon realize that Homer’s design is intentionally unremarkable; he is meant to represent the average middle-aged white collar middle class (as evidenced by his white-collared shirt). He has a squiggly line around his crown and only two remaining arches of hair on top of his head, representing his baldness (and therefore his age). His scruffy face isn’t animated with bristling hairs swaying with each turn of the head, but rather a flat, light brown circle painted around his mouth, suggesting lazes-faire attitude. Finally, his belly bump shows us he is a couch potato who worked hard to earn his beer gut. And, really, do we need to know anything more?

The modern cartoons of my youth have since been succeeded by the postmodern, perhaps most notable of all Adventure Time. A buddy cop-style series featuring the adventures of Jake the Dog and Finn the Human across the land of Ooo, Adventure Time scales higher up (toward the abstract) on McCloud’s picture plane than either the largely iconic Animaniacs or the Simpsons. Though many of the characters, including Jake and Princess Bubblegum, are very much on the iconic end of the spectrum, they often break from their default configurations into the realistic spectrum, creating a level of irony that the show has become so well known for. For example, you may have seen this clip of Finn trying to overcome his fear of the ocean:

Or, maybe the finely detailed contours of Ricardio’s face creep you out just as much as they do to me, signifying his nefarious nature.

Ricardio, heart of the Ice King (deviantart)

I used to think the fairly simplistic, iconic characters of my youth were drawn so as a way to cut the costs of animation, but, clearly, there is intentionality behind every tongue-wiggling scream.

Why you little!