Saturday, June 30, 2007

Creating Your Saturday Morning Cartoon Lineup

Jenica wasn't feeling great this morning, so Gunnar and I got up together, made breakfast, and were hoping to watch some great Saturday morning cartoons together.

Sadly, the lineup this morning at 7:00AM sucked. So we made our own lineup.

We started with an episode of Teen Titans season 1. Another release from Warner Brothers' adaptations of DC series, once again from the production powerhouse of Bruce Timm. Back in the 90's it was Batman: The Animated Series and Superman, then in the past few years it's been Justice League. These were cool reinventions of their source material, but Teen Titans is almost a revision of its source material. The original Teen Titans comic book was one of my faves as a teenager myself. I related to the struggles of the characters (despite the fact that they weren't really teenagers - they were all young adults except Changeling). So I know the heart of the series; the cartoon definitely captures it, but does it with some of the best visual shorthand I've seen in an ongoing superhero cartoon series.

Done in a mix of Timm's design style and Anime tropes, the cartoon presents the Titans as definite teen subculture representatives. The mystic raven is emo/goth, Robin has a sort of skater-punk sensibility, Starfire is the pretty ditzy girl with a heart of gold, Beastboy is the dorky short kid who tries to be everyone's friend, and Cyborg is like the all-star jock meets computer whiz. They like going to parties and playing video games. They suggest having movie nights and say "I'll get even" instead of "I'll have my revenge!" It's hip, it's cool, and the title music (done in Japanese bubble gum pop-punk) is great for dancing with your kid. We rocked out to the end title credits, our cereal already eaten.

Then Gunnar chose Avatar Season 1 for our second feature (he does pick the movies - I put 3-4 selections out and he picks one). This is the Nickelodeon animated series about a young monk who, after being trapped in ice for a century, is awakened to discover that the world is war, and his identity as the current incarnation of the powerful 'avatar' means he is the one who can save it.

My first intriguing contact with the show came this past Christmas while I was writing my Chronicles of the Magi. Blankpage left me a comment to the effect that my Magi had powers similar to the 'benders' of Avatar: The Last Airbender. I knew about the show, but I assumed that, since Avatar was on YTV, it was like the channel's many other Anime-oriented shows: I figured it was based on a toy and was just one part of a large marketing ploy, as Yu-Gi-Oh! was. So I avoided it.

The show is marketed at grade school children and young teens, but has a scope that is epic and nuanced enough to attract adult viewers, at least geeks like me. I love the score, the pure Anime style and the way that, once again, the characters act like children, which they are. The Avatar is supposed to save the world, but not at the expense of going penguin sledding. Gunnar emulates the bending moves while we're watching, and rocks out to the end title music. I see a pattern emerging.

Our third feature was actually on television; Jakers: the Adventures of Piggly Winks. It's a 3-D animated series of the childhood of an Irish pig who lives with other anthropomorphic animals, namely his closest friends Fernie, a cow, and Danan, a duck. Mel Brooks provides comedy relief as a wise-cracking sheep owned by Piggly's father, Mr. Winks. In many ways, it's standard children's fare; a moral tale told through Piggly's reminiscences. But the past is set in an Ireland of the early 30's or 40's near as I can tell, and the pastoral settling lends a simplicity that makes the show very watchable - no Internet, no cell phones, just a pristine Edenic childhood. Going swimming at the pond on weekends, school projects, and getting in a little trouble. It uses standard children's show elements, but presents them in so effective a fashion so as to make it one of the shows I want Gunnar to be watching.

It seems like as I parent Gunnar, I'm walking down memory lane. Recapturing my childhood, reliving my youth, etc. If this is my mid-life crisis, then it ain't too bad. Saturday morning cartoons instead of a new porsche. Hanging with my son instead of going out with the boys. If this is growing up, bring it on!

No comments:

Post a Comment