I like cartoons. I’m not alone. Robin Williams has this same addiction. The more ridiculous the better, in fact!
When I was a kid, we got a channel and a half of television, so we were rather restricted on the varieties of Saturday morning fare. I watched Scooby Doo, of course, and Speed Buggy. Also, Captain Caveman, and the Superfriends. I vividly remember Schoolhouse Rock (minute-long introductions to history, math, grammar, etc.) and can even sing most of the songs. Truly ridiculous cartoons didn’t exist then.
Then I had a break, for about fifteen years, when I grew up (a little bit) and graduated from a couple schools, and finally had sons.
I admit it. I watched cartoons with them. I had to make sure they weren’t getting into anything awful, right?
Cartoons had changed from the time I was young. I remember the first time I saw my son watching SpongeBob Squarepants. It must have been 1998 or so. He was at his grandparents’ house, and I thought they were out of their minds for letting them watch this show. I mean, come on! SpongeBob? Squarepants? I watched a couple episodes and quickly saw the ridiculous anarchy that Stephen Hillenburg produced. It was like a Jerry Lewis movie, where the main character was charmingly ridiculous, only he was a sponge, and he wore square pants. It struck me almost immediately as funny, and just surreal enough for me to enjoy: A grouchy bicycle-riding octopus who lives inside an Easter Island head. The inhabitants of Bikini Bottom (hee!) have snails and worms as pets. Undersea nails meow, by the way. SpongeBob’s snail is named… wait for it… Gary. I know, right? Hilarious! OK. Hillenburg’s sense of humor isn’t for everyone. My point is, I enjoyed it. I’d never seen anything like it. Rugrats was ok. The kids looked creepy. Seeing the world through infants’ eyes was interesting and occasionally comical, but certainly not surreal.
Enjoy this bit with Tiny Tim (yes, THE Tiny Tim) singing to a SpongeBob episode. In case you’ve never, EVER seen him before. Just a bit more surreal, for those of us who don’t get enough.
Ed, Edd and Eddy was vaguely based on three best friends, the muscle-bound idiot, the brainiac, and the devious schemer… each named Ed, of course. Judi hated this show, and I tolerated it. What I liked is the eccentric neighbors: Ed’s truly evil kid sister, The mostly-insane neighbor Rolf, from an unknown European land, and of Course, Johnny Two-By-Four and his best friend plank, a piece of wood with a smiley face drawn on him. My kids still occasionally greet one another with the line “That’s My Horse!”, taken directly from this show, even though, to my knowledge, the show has been off the air for a number of years.
My most favoritest cartoon, though, was probably Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, where imaginary friends, who were given up by their older “creators”, lived in a creepy old mansion waiting to be adopted. By far the most odd, and by far my favorite, of these Imaginary friends, was called Cheese. He is your annoying three-year old brother, only yellow, with a head on hinges.
We still call my son Alex “FredFredBurger,” after a green underworld elephant in the show “Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.” Don’t ask why. Explaining isn’t worth the time. Neither is the video, really. But if you wanna watch, go ahead.
To add to my pathological cartoon addiction, I am also a “voice watcher.” I know who has done which voices in which cartoons. It’s an awful habit that I’ve passed on to my kids. I know that Casey Kasem did the voice of Shaggy, for example; still does, at least for the movies. And Frank Welker does animal voices, and has for 30 years. The classic voice performers Mel Blanc and June Foray are my vocal heroes.
And that’s all I have to say on the subject right now. I hope I haven’t warped my kids too much.