The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posted by Matt on March 14, 2011

Okay, first thing’s first: I’ve been watching a lot of Teletoon Retro lately (for any American readers who may or may not exist, that would be the rough Canadian equivalent to Cartoon Network’s Boomerang. It started up a year or so ago, and has thus become the object of affection for ironic twentysomethings who don’t want to evolve their entertainment palates past third grade) and have to ask, what’s with my obsession with shitty cartoons? I watch the shit on this channel, and removing the old Looney Tunes shorts and the odd episode of The Real Ghostbusters it really is just a sea of shit, why? And it’s not just this, either. I braved the grating, unfunny Nostalgia Critic just because I kind of enjoy hearing someone talking about these shitty cartoons that I often remember as well. (And before you question why I waste so much of my time, remember that this is the age of multitasking. I am usually coupling these pointless adventures with something far more important, like…I don’t, sorting some files I have alphabetically. Something like that.)

They’re not interesting to think about, other than in a “I can’t believe real, adult people spent hours of their lives producing this, what the fuck”; the vast majority are the definition of pure mediocrity, a wisp of a thing (for whatever reason, animation does not seem to have a large number of fascinatingly/entertainingly-bad oeuvre like live action does; the bad stuff is by and large painfully boring), obviously developed for sugar-addled 7-year-olds who have time to be subliminally advertised to. Or maybe that’s not true….well, not for me. The fact that animation is not limited in its imagery, capable of so many thing, that sort of draws me to it. So…I guess it’s the fantastic stuff that endears to me? Or maybe part of me is secretly one of those dreaded nostalgia-driven nerds, and the dominant rational nerd part just keeps it under wraps most of the time? Who knows.

But yeah, I keep watching this shit. Here’s a list of observations that have developed over this time:

He-Man is really, really, really bad. Like, I think calling it animation might be giving it too much credit. It’s only a few steps above Clutch Cargo. I’m sure the people at Filmation did the best they could with the zero budget they had, but still. We really have had an television animation renaissance once the 80s ended; sure, some stuff is still stiff and ugly, but at least they seem to have enough money/skill to animate scenes where the characters actually interact with each other. (And yet Paul Dini and Bruce Timm would move on from this crap to much better things.)

The Real Ghostbusters is much better than pretty much everything else on the channel in terms of both animation and writing (which isn’t saying much, really); some of the stuff still plays up my folklore/weird monster love. However, it has that weird “Obviously outsourced to Japan” aesthetic that I often find pretty jarring. (And yet J. Michael Straczynski would move on from this okay stuff to become a rather mediocre comic book writer)

-The main difference between the G.I. Joe and Transformers animated spin-off movies? The Joe one is one of the few exceptions to my “animation doesn’t do interestingly-bad” observation from above. Even with just some cursory knowledge of that property, you are led to question every single story decision on display. It’s amazing in its ability to make both fans and people who have never heard of G.I. Joe have no idea what is going on. I still don’t recommend ever watching it, though.
The Transformers movie, on the other hand, is just a slog, with the only point of interest being the way it attracted a bunch of C-Level ‘name’ actors and Orson Welles in his dying days. It’s written almost as if they expect us to actually care about a story with characters named Hot Rod and Ultra Magnus, Weird Al Song Out Of Nowhere or no.

The Raccoons is quintessentially Canadian; who the hell else would think that kids would be interested in watching what is essentially a bog-standard family drama with cartoon animals? Heavy moralizing, a complete lack of excitement…yet this show was on television for 8 fucking years. It looks alright, but man, what the fuck?
Of course the breakout star of the show was the primary antagonist (most of those ironic twentysomethings I mentioned before all know the name Cyril Sneer), and this is of course because the protagonists were so boring that we really do cheer for the unrepentant cartoon capitalist to just bulldoze them all into oblivion. Yes, it’s one of those things.

I swear, one of these days I’ll actually have something worthwhile to write about.

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