Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Non-Disney Television Shows

A couple weeks back, tryanmax came up with a stellar list of non-Disney cartoon movies of note. This got me thinking. Disney dominates the cinema, but when it comes to television, Disney is notably absent as an important player. It's not to say they haven't produced some good cartoons like Duck Tales, but they haven't really had any major hits with the general public. Here are the shows I would say have been the biggest and most important hits.

Looney Tunes: The Looney Tunes were original on film, but transferred very well to television and became THE staple of syndication. For generations, there wasn't a single child in America who didn't watch Looney Tunes at some point during the week. Because of this, names like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn are better known that George Mason and Daniel Shays.

The Flintstones: The Flintstones were the first real prime time hit for cartoons. They were basically the animated version of The Honeymooners and they showed that cartoons could reach a wider audience on television than children. That said, they were the only ones to do it with any real success until probably The Simpson's.
The Jetsons: A nicer version of The Flintstones set in the future rather than the past, I'm not sure there's anything significant about the show, but it's as well-known as The Flintstones and many Americans grew up watching it.

The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show: I list this one because it is the first example I can think of where you start to see a niche market develop. Bullwinkle is not an easy show for general audience to like. It is packed with political references and very clever, but not obvious jokes. This is the first attempt to serve smarter audiences than sitcom viewers and kids.

Scooby Doo: Scooby Doo seems to have ushered in a new age of cartoons. These were more lifelike in story and image than the Looney Tunes before them, they were episodic, and they had lower production values. It strikes me that Scooby represents a generational shift away from the WWII generation to the ME generation, a generational shift that will remain until The '80s Show.
The '80s Show: Ok, there was no '80s Show. What there was instead were a series of cartoons in the 1980's that entered the culture, sold products, and eventually spawned films. These shows include The Transformers, He-Man, G.I. Joe, Thundar the Barbarian, and other product placements shows, and they represented a new generation of cartoons that were more realistic in terms of story and imagery, but used toys as their main characters. In some ways, these were great cartoons because they had a good deal of substance in their stories. In other ways, these were just commercials. In either event, they killed off the old styles.

The Simpson's: The Simpson's started small as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show before getting their own show and, arguably, helping the FOX Network survive to maturity. The show has run for 15,000 years now past its time. But back in its prime, The Simpson's was edgy, must-see television. Bart became a national icon and even an object to attack for certain small-minded types. The success of The Simpson's showed that cartoons could attract adults and in prime time, and it spawned others like Futurama and the Seth McFarlane empire.
Ren and Stimpy: Ren and Stimpy was the first cartoon I recall that seemed to spark the attention of young people in my generation once they became adults. This one was loved by college students and mechanics alike and everywhere I went you could hear little references like "Happy, happy, joy joy." In terms of significance, I would say that this opened the door for other poorly drawn, snarky, satirical cable cartoons like Bevis and Butt-head and South Park and SpongeBob, and other less memorable, though interesting, cartoons like Duckman and most of Adult Swim lineup.
South Park: This is the BIG conservative cartoon. That alone makes this memorable. Even more to the point though, South Park has become deeply engrained in our culture and has become a strong social critic of much of the crappulance in our system and society. This isn't quite at the level of The Simpson's in popularity, but it's probably more important.

Family Guy: This show proved that Seth McFarlane could get rich selling nothing the least bit clever. No, I can't be kind about this dreck.

Batman: Finally, this show, in my opinion, represents the takeoff of the hardcore "graphic novel" fans exerting their muscle. This show represents the beginning of the superhero craze that has flooded our cinema as these caped and costumes characters become grim avengers, and you would be shocked at the people who have done voices for this show. Essentially, this show represents the new world of Hollywood, which is catering more to fanboys.

27 comments:

Kit said...

I'm going to add a few.
Avatar: The Last Airbender. I've reviewed this. An amazing show. I highly recommend it.

Animaniacs. Hilarious, funny, genious, witty, clever, and sometimes educational. Good night everybody!

Pokemon. Good? Debatable. But I think you can at least partly credit it with the fairly sizable number of anime fans my age. "I wanna be the very best! Like no one ever was... "

Jason said...

LOL...for a moment I thought you were talking about that very short lived sitcom “The 80s Show.” But yeah, I’m not sure you can pull out one or two shows from that era. They all seemed to have the same or similar impact.

Man, I remember Ren and Stimpy in its prime. As much as it’s quotable, the sheer weirdness of the animation is what drew a lot of viewers to it.

For influential cartoons, I’d probably add in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It debuted in 1987, but lasted a full ten years after and was the longest running U.S. cartoon until the Simpsons beat it. It spawned a lot of mutated/alien animal hero shows in its wake (Biker Mice From Mars, Street Sharks, SWAT Kats, etc). I’d say TMNT introduced protagonists to action cartoons that were younger in spirit and more carefree than say, Optimus Prime or He-Man.

Batman is an awesome choice, but I think the 1990s X-Men cartoon deserves as much recognition. It brought in continuing, almost serialized storylines along with a large cast of superpowered characters and treated it all seriously and with dignity. While Batman was a darker, more noirish show, X-Men was more colorful, sci-fi and epic. It also helped spawn the Marvel animated boom of the 1990s (Spider-Man, the Marvel Action Hour, etc) and probably influenced Marvel cartoons for years to come.

I could also add in the late 90s era of the Toonami bloc on Cartoon Network. The one-two punch of Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon showed that anime could be successful on American television (Kit already mentioned Pokemon, so I’ll throw that in there, too). Americans or Europeans began using anime tropes in their shows as a result.

Collin Chersi said...

I going into the obscure here: NASCAR RACERS on Fox Kids.

This was on during 1999/2000/2001. The animation wasn't that good, the CGI was okay, and many sequences often got repeated. That and it only lasted two seasons.

BUT....

The character were memorable, the racing scenes were engaging, and a lot of the episodes, particularly the entirety of the second season, were suprisingly adult for show meant to plug for NASCAR.

Here's a link to the YouTube Channel with all the episodes:http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZs0gQed9tMSLhHXasmy0gSjgs_vv9sU5

Dwizzum said...

For your consideration....Star Blazers!
It was like nothing on TV at the time. An epic story arc told over an entire season, serious characters (with some comic relief), and cool space battles. No other show I can think of at the time dealt with death of family members, loneliness, genocide, and other things like honor and indomitable spirit. I remember one entire episode was devoted to the crew of the Argo saying their last goodbyes to family on Earth. There was some heavy emotion going on. For a kid watching cartoons at the time it was so different to what I was used to watching.

tryanmax said...

Good call on not singling anything out from the 80s. There were a lot of great cartoons (and a lot of crap, too) but there is really not one that stands above the rest. He-Man perhaps stands out as a template. The only common thread was product placement. Just so we don't look like sexists here, let me add My Little Pony,Strawberry Shortcake, and the arguably unisex Care Bears--all of which are still around. Seems the girl's toys had better longevity.

Jason said...

Tryanmax, actually that reminds me of another cartoon I probably should have brought up: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic . Make a cartoon show aimed at young girls…and you get a lot of high school and college-age males. I don’t think anyone saw that coming!

KRS said...

"Water go down the hole."

Kit said...

Jason,

Good pick on X-Men.

I remember Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon but never really watched them.

Kit said...

KRS,

"We're tiny, we're toony, we're all a little loony." :)

Another good pick, the predecessor to Animaniacs.

KRS said...

Kit - Glad to see I'm not the only one whose ellelator goes up!

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Pokemon should definitely be on the list. I see them as a gateway cartoon to anime.

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, Excellent additions. I agree with each. :)

AndrewPrice said...

Collin, I've actually never heard of that. Interesting.

AndrewPrice said...

Dwizzum, I first saw Star Blazers about three years ago and I loved it. I still haven't been able to find all of it.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Thanks! When I thought about it, there just wasn't a single unique cartoon that drove things in the 1980s, but there were all of these cartoon/commercials that had very similar production values and signs, and as a group, they really changed the cartoon world.

Nice additions! Good point about the girls toys having longer lives. I wonder why?

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, You mean the Bro-nies? Yikes.

AndrewPrice said...

KRS and Kit, I have no idea what you're talking about! LOL!

KRS said...

Andrew - Here ya go:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HW7YTWeg20

Jason said...

Andrew: Yep.

Also, I think you can get Star Blazers on DVD off Amazon, but they’ll bite you $100+ per season.

Kit said...

"KRS and Kit, I have no idea what you're talking about! LOL!"

Andrew, You just gave me a heart attack. Darn you.

Kit said...

Andrew,

This 6min Tiny Toons sketch might clear a few things up: LINK

ScottDS said...

Thankfully, I managed to grow up when The Jetsons and The Flintstones still aired every afternoon. (Believe it nor not, there are only like a few dozen episodes of The Jetsons - we were watching the same ones over and over again this whole time!)

There's a great write-up of the show here.

Family Guy I just stopped watching after a while. No particular reason. It happens.

Batman: TAS I need to watch again, like yesterday. :-) It's been too long.

Ren & Stimpy was appointment viewing for me. If we had the Internet at the time (AOL was just a year away for us), maybe we would've known about all the behind the scenes turmoil.

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, Actually, I've stumbled upon them at youtube. :)

AndrewPrice said...

Kit and KRS, I guess you had to be there! ;-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Knowing about behind the scenes turmoil usually just ruins a show.

Kit said...

Andrew,

Just watch the clips!

Outlaw13 said...

Jonny Quest. It's been discussed before, but it's still an awesome show and it started out in prime time.

Aeon Flux. Someone mentioned weird animation, This had it in spades and damned if I could ever figure out what was going on, but I watched it every time it came on MTV.

Bevis and Butthead was popular enough to merit a motion picture and spawn the Mike Judge empire which includes Office Space and another cartoon that hasn't been mentioned King of the Hill. I don't know how it plays for non Texans, but King of the Hill has more spot on Texas jokes than I have ever seen anywhere else. "That boy ain't right."

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