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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Afternoon Delights- Or, let's talk about Cartoons (Part Two: The Impactful Shows)

In my (not much) younger days, I watched television quite a bit. Mainly, cartoons. That's no surprise, considering my current interests and plans. There are very many cartoons that influenced my storytelling, artistic style, and the way my mind functions. Here's the cartoons that I highly recommend and reasons why. Each cartoon will have a "recommended for" subtitle, for those who want a certain type of experience. I also have included how I believe each cartoon has left its mark on me, and what hopefully to expect when I start posting my own comics. So let's take a ride, shall we?

First, the essentials. If you're watching cartoons, you sure as hell better be watching these. I know I did-

Looney Toons (1930 to 1969)-
Recommended for quick, funny bursts of silliness, iconic personas, appreciators of animation

It seems silly to explain why these shorts would be included on an aspiring artist's "must watch" list, but I'll do so anyway. You don't really need to know about any of the characters, really- they all speak for themselves. In fact, I shouldn't have to convince you to watch Looney Tunes, so I'll just explain why they mean so much to me.
It's probably the most amazing cartoon series of all time, if only because they blend situational slapstick comedy with insanely polished and engaging animation. The characters changed greatly from their creation to later cartoons, but their ability to make me laugh never changed. All the episodes are outright ridiculous, taking even the most mundane of circumstances and putting a madcap twist upon them. Whether it was a parody of Buck Rodgers or a classic bout of "Rabbit Season, Duck Season", Looney Tunes never disappoints. The slapstick is never overdone- it is the central focus- and it is alwas executed in a hilarious manner. There was a noticeable decline in quality in later years, but that shouldn't sway you from watching them- they still work better than the majority of current animation.
This show inspired my sense of humor and depiction of violence. I can't really say if that's a good or bad thing, seeing as it was kind of desensitizing... but this show definitely has had its lasting effect on me.

Cartoon Cartoons-
Recommended for hilarity, distinct art style, weirdness, slapstick, clever storytelling (in certain cases)

Cartoon Cartoons were simple, yet extremely versatile characters that could be put in a variety of different situations, and were easily exploitable and always charming. They dominated my childhood, filling my head with over-exaggerated silliness and fun. However, I am not going to say that each of these cartoons are created equally- not by far. If I had to pick the cream of the crop, I would say Johnny Bravo, Dexter's Lab, Powerpuff Girls, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and KND are the best. Johnny Bravo is hilarious because of the main character and his obliviousness. Dexter had a massive amount of clever ideas in story concepts and telling, as well as Monkey and The Justice Friends. Powerpuff Girls is essentially the same as Dexter, but for a Superhero show, while also including some kid-friendly issues. Courage the Cowardly Dog was weird, plain and simple- and it relished in its creepiness and charming main character. KND was a very clever way of approaching the life of children, and featured a continuous story arc with characters that grew and deepened. It feels a bit unfair to lump all of these cartoons into a single listing, but I'm doing so in order to save space- I will elaborate later in another blog post. There's way too much to say about these five cartoons, and I'm not really sure I have time to explain them all. Now, though the aforementioned cartoons are highly recommended, I am not saying the others shown (Ed, Edd, 'n Eddy, Grim and Evil, Whatever Happened to Robot Jones?, Sheep in the Big City, Cow and Chicken, I Am Weasel, and Mike, Lou, and Ogg) are bad cartoons. Grim and Evil went on to become one of my favorite shows of all time as the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. I am saying that the "best" cartoons listed are a great mix of varied storytelling and humor that always seems to be on its 'A' game. Keep in mind, later episodes of Dexter and Powerpuff Girls suffered a decline of quality.
These shows further affected my humor, pacing, and personal art style. Having such individualistic characters and shows made me realize how vast and varied the world of cartooning could be. It also helped me slim my ideas down- eleven minute episodes will do that for you.

Dragon Ball Z-
Recommended for big damn heroes

If you're a guy, you can't say you've watched any anime before watching Dragon Ball Z. You don't even NEED to watch Dragon Ball before it. They pretty much establish the "story" from the first episode- Saiyans. FIGHT. The most action-packed show ever, Dragon Ball Z is ultra violent, weird, and downright awesome. The animation is pristine and improves as the series moves on, and you're guarenteed to enjoy one of the ten billion fights that exist in it. Look at that picture- why are there people with yellow hair? Why is everyone either smiling or really serious? That's because in the world of Dragon Ball Z, those are the only two emotions you CAN experience.
This show helped me formulate my idea of dramatic pacing, continuous story arcs, and character-specific dialogue and movement. Though many characters possess similar traits, they are all clearly individuals with life of their own. Also, redefined the meaning of violence that Looney Tunes had once taught me.

Batman- the Animated Series
Recommended for everyone. Because Batman is everyone's hero

"I am vengeance. I am the night. I. AM. BATMAN." To hear those words echo through your living room as a kid, you crapped your pants. However, if you ever went back the Batman: the Animated Series as an adult, you would realize that it is an incredible show that appeals to both kids and adults, tackling dark aspects of the hero's psyche and having fun with its characters at the same time. Though it has its odd-moments (the laughing fish...), the voice acting, action, and writing make it an undeniably amazing ride. Come on, who doesn't love Batman?
This show has atmosphere- probably one of the most important things that it does right. Atmosphere is what this show taught me.

Now, onto the less-obvious choices. These are shows that may or may not have universal appeal, and are truly picked by me for your viewing pleasure. Not all of them will be your kind of show!

Danny Phantom-
Recommended for those who enjoy becoming immersed, vivid characters, character development

Danny Phantom came at a good time for me- I was entering high school as it started showing. It's pretty much the classic Spider-man origin- teenager blessed with powers attempts to cope with superhero life and teenage angst- but with a fantastic supernatural/scientific twist. It deals with teenage issues surprisingly well and with a good deal of heart, despite its sometimes hokey delivery. The characters grow into their roles and the universe is fleshed out extremely well. An important aspect of the show, which it shares with Powerpuff Girls, is that the protagonists are far from perfect and the villains are always deliciously evil. The first season will rope you in, and the second season will blow away your expectations. Another impressive part of the show is that it is able to establish status quo and then grip viewers by sending the story in a completely different direction. You can watch the first episode and the last one after another, and you'll be surprised to see how different life in Amityville Park changes. Anyway, enough gushing. This show also has a distinct "Hartman" visual style that his works seem to share.
This show helped me pinpoint my favorite style of continuity and dramatic pacing- having episode-specific villains as well as recurring characters and plot elements. Truly an impressive piece.

Xiaolin Showdown-
Recommended for those who like the fourth wall thin, enjoy wacky characters, gotta catch 'em all with a twist

Xiaolin Showdown, upon first look, may seem silly and shallow. It's about collecting various artifacts and karate. It doesn't really get much deeper than that. But let that character degeneration sink in, and you have a show that enjoys poking fun at itself so much that you can't help but enjoy it. Not only at the Shen-Gong-Wu (said collectable artifacts) clever and used in a variety of ways, but the characters and their stories are silly and quirky. That's not all, though! There's also awesome fights and challenges included. The two- and three-part episodes are really the best part of this show, as are its endearing characters. The humor is very quirky, but in a fantastic way. Overall, it's cool to miss an episode or two, but always watch the end of the season. You'll eventually want to see each Shen-Gong-Wu anyway, as their appearance almost always creates the episode conflict. You will love Jack Splicer.
This show assisted me in fourth-wall breakage and conceptualizing a world and its culture. Its humor is very campy at times, but never fails to make you grin- something I aspire to achieve.

Blue Submarine No. 6-
Recommended for the post-apocalyptic junkie, those who enjoy getting weirded out, Submarines

I really don't know how to explain this series. I first watched it when I was eight years old. Which was a terrible idea. Never, ever show an eight year old post-apocalyptic OVA with half-animal people and scariness. Thanks a lot, Toonami.
But actually, thank you. Because I would have passed over this upon seeing it years later had I not seen it at that age. Luckily, I didn't, and I was treated to a still-strange but much more profound series with a good heart at its center. I won't go any further. I recommend it, though.
Once again, this show heavily impacted my sense of dramatic pacing and what a lack of dialogue could do for a show or scene.

The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy-
Recommended for the horror fan, the hilariousness, quirkiness, dark comedy

The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy embodies the Cartoon Cartoons titles, but in its own unique way. It pokes fun at every hellish creature and horror story you may have read about, from Cthulu to Christine. It also takes recognizable mythic characters and turns them into wonky caricatures- half the fun of the show comes from wondering what they'll do with the next supernatural creature. The fantastic thing about the show, though, is that it takes previously established characters and rewrites them into new episodes with even more hilarious results. Some episodes are gross-outs, but I've yet to see a Billy and Mandy episode that didn't make me laugh. They eventually throw Evil Con Carne characters into the mix once again, but it makes the show better. Also, there was a massive crossover event at the end, possibly signifying the end of the Cartoon Cartoons era, in which they team up with the Kids Next Door. It's awesome.
This show is extremely aware of itself and its successors, and takes time to poke at them whenever it can. Self-awareness is something I hope to have in creating my own pieces of art. It's also hilarious. Have I mentioned that?

Part three coming soon. It will most likely be a continuation of this article.

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