100 Greatest Cartoons, Channel 4

by | Feb 27, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say if you like it?

An underrated but much loved art form gets a well deserved evening to run through all the wide and varied examples of the genre and how it has delighted all ages for almost as long as film itself.

What to say if you didn’t like it?

An excuse for immature adults to relive the childhoods they wasted watching silly and expensive-to-produce drawings – and waste four more hours of their life.

What was good about it?

The choice of clips was excellent. Judging by the massively long list of credits, getting the rights to show such a great and diverse range of clips must have burned an o-zone layered size hole in Channel 4’s pocket, but it was well worth it.

• Seeing talented voice actors such as Casey Kasem (Shaggy in Scooby Doo), Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson), Joe Alaskey (who is the new Mel Blanc – he now voices Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck/Sylvester etc), Seth McFarlane (Peter Griffin in Family Guy), Elizabeth Daly (Buttercup in The Powerpuff Girls), and Cheryl Chase (Angelica in Rugrats) appearing in the flesh and doing the voices of their famous characters. The bonus was finding out how much like cartoon characters they look in real life as well!

• It was a perfect excuse for the audience to indulge in a lot of guilty pleasures – getting sentimental at all the romantic scenes in Disney films, blokes going on about how much they fancied Jessica Rabbit and Betty Boop (and it seems Lister and Cat from Red Dwarf aren’t the only ones who’ve had fantasies about Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble).

• We also got excited at singing the theme tunes and watching the excellent title sequences of the likes of The Flintstones and Thundercats, plus we could laugh at the warm, cosy cuddliness of Wallace And Grommit, the cruel slapstick of 1940s cartoons such as Tom And Jerry, Looney Tunes and the Tex Avery canon, and also be shocked by explicitness of the adult cartoons and the beautiful but gratuitously violent Japanese anime.

• There were a lot of interesting titbits of trivia eg the 1954 animated version of George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm was rumoured to be funded by the CIA; at the height of the Pokemon craze an eight-year-old boy tried to swap his baby sister for a Pokemon card; and the initial idea for A Bug’s Life was a variant on the Aesop fable of The Ant And The Grasshopper.

• Critic Leonard Maltin knew a lot about cartoons history, and his obvious love for the subject came across as well-read rather than geeky.

• They covered just about everything – CGI films, stop motion animation, satirical adult cartoons, crude cartoons, Japanimation, kids TV shows from every generation.

• The interviews with Pixar, DreamWorks and Disney animators, who told of the painstaking technical detail they had to go into to make these films, especially in the pre-CGI days when everything had to be hand drawn. The best interviewee was writer Brad Bird who said of The Incredibles that he put together American TV family clichés with superhero clichés: the Super Strong dad, the multi-tasking Elastic mum, the insecure Invisible teenage girl and the hyperactive Super Speedy 10-year-old boy.

• Queer Duck. We’ve never seen it before, but we were in stitches. It’s an adult animation created by Simpsons writer Mike Reiss about a duck who is also a male nurse and declares he is “as gay as a goose”. His friends include Bi-Polar Bear, Openly Gaytor and Oscar Wilde Cat. It was eerie how similar a lot of the scenes were to popular British shows – the scene where Queer Duck came out was very similar to Daffyd’s coming out to his parents sketch and the scene where he plays Abba at a friend’s funeral was a lot like the playing of D.I.S.C.O in the Queer As Folk funeral scene.

• Some funny comments about how these kids cartoons look to cynical adult eyes – Penelope Pitstop having a vibrator in her car, the homoerotic undercurrents of He-Man and The Pink Panther and how much Alice In Wonderland, Fantasia and The Magic Roundabout look like a fun acid trip.

• The lovely Jane Horrocks, who hit the nail on the head by declaring: “I think cartoons make us all feel like a kid again”.

• The rubbishing of the Captain Pugwash myth that the character names were all sexual innuendoes.

• Our views on Dick Dastardly (he’s have won if he’d carried on the race instead of stopping to cheat) and Scrappy Doo (awful) were corroborated.

• Presenter Jimmy Carr’s two funny jokes of the night – an optimistic take on the ending of The Snowman (“don’t see it as losing a friend, more as gaining a carrot!”) and his suggestion that if a live action version of TinTin was made, Prince Harry could play the “crop-haired Aryan youth who may or may not have been a Nazi.”

What was bad about it?

• The smug, nasty, self-satisfied comments from unfunny comedians no-one has ever heard of and pointless Z-list celebrities you always get on these shows.

• Apart from two jokes, Jimmy Carr’s presenting was simply not funny.

• These Top 100 rundowns remain totally irrelevant. This was proved here when Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny had separate entries to The Looney Tunes as a whole and Chicken Run was given a separate entry to the rest of Ardman Animations.

• Caprice saying: “There’s nothing attractive about French people. They stink”. We don’t know about that, but there’s certainly nothing attractive about brainless, lemon-faced plastic enhanced past-it models trying desperately to cling on to their diminishing youth and fame by appearing on TV at any opportunity.

• The annoying Joel Stein, a columnist for the LA Times. He had a whiney voice and a smug demeanor that made even the most tolerant and mild-mannered viewer want to kick the TV screen in. “You have to watch OUR Wacky Races. You people can’t make you’re own TV? That is sooooo wrong!”. And after Charlie Brown was praised as “the first kid existentialist” and “a philosophical genius” by other commentators, he dismissed him as “just a loser, right?”. Stein cropped up several times in the show offering what probably is considered irony in America but what is actually being just plain obnoxious.

• The trashing of Yogi Bear. “He’s a bear, why does he wears a bow-tie!?”, “Why isn’t the bear being more violent and killing people?”, “Why doesn’t the ranger just shoot him?” The obvious answer to all those questions is “because it’s a children’s cartoon.”

• Rob Rouse making the tired old joke about Snow White sleeping with the Seven Dwarves, which has been around since at least 1937 when the film was released, and taking it to a grotesque level, saying how the dwarves must have been like “love ants writhing all over her”.

• Hal Cruttenden saying how the Pink Panther couldn’t have been gay because he was “a gentleman a scholar, an acrobat”. If the Pink Panther was gay, he claimed he’d have been “a hairdresser, an actor, a chorus line of cats”. Which is essentially saying that gay men can’t be anything other than camp, flamboyant queens who will only have superficial attributes to offer.

• The whole ‘adult themes’ thing was taken too far, especially during comments about The Magic Roundabout. Paul Tonkinson said: “No wonder we all took Ecstasy in the 1990s. It was subliminal messaging to kids.” No it wasn’t. Children’s programs are made to entertain children with bright, exciting colours which they are only likely to take on a literal level.

• Jonathan Clements, author of Anime Encyclopedia, got a bit too pretentious, saying how “incredibly complicated” the plots were and not as simple as just “Mickey Mouse falling over”.

• Predictably The Simpsons won. As well-deserved as this was, we had a sit through yet another ten minutes of the usual praise that is lavished on the show, hearing the same things we’ve heard what seems like 10 million times before.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

27/02/2005

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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