In the late 80's or early 90's the world was introduced to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This must've been a real interesting one to come up with. Who wouldn't love a bunch of humanoid turtles with a hunger for pizza and training in martial arts? Of course, the show was poorly animated, had very little plot, and the voices often got mixed up, but a seven-year-old didn't notice these flaws. The Turtles all seemed so quick-witted, too. They would constantly make hilarious wisecracks that now, years later, I realize aren't so wise after all. One's sense of humour changes over the years. When you're seven, "You said a mouthful" can result in a good five-minutes of laughter - complete with rolling on the floor and grabbing your sides. Recently, while up at insane hours with some friends, we watched an old episode, which, due to the poor animation, became funny on a whole new level.
The late 80's-early 90's also gave birth to a prodigy child known as the Simpsons. It might as well be a sitcom, but since it's a cartoon, nobody cares about the episodes tying in with each other. This, of course, spawned similar shows, all of which were enjoyed on Sunday nights on Fox, such as King of the Hill, The Critic, and Futurama. Some of the quotes from these shows will live on forever in our hearts, such as Homer's "It takes two to lie, Marge; One to lie, and one to listen" or Fry's "It's like there's a party in my mouth, and everyone's throwing up! This also set off a bit of a revolution in cartoons, showing that you could make a guest appearance on them, and still be cool, if not cooler than before. Sure, it started small, with low brow celebrities like Jon Luvitz... but with the increased popularity the Simpsons has gained, they managed to get former US President George Bush Sr. on for an episode. Now tell me Cartoons aren't legitimate theatre.
The mid-90s gave way for a type of new, more teenager/young adult targeted cartoons, such as Rocko's Modern Life, Ren and Stimpy, Cow and Chicken, 2 Stupid Dogs, Dexter's Lab, and Duckman. Recently, we've seen a few new cartoons continuing this type of mature, yet extremely juvenile, and often gross style, with shows such as Invader Zim and Spongebob Squarepants. These cartoons were all very bizarre, and usually made very little sense. One episode of Ren and Stimpy featured them becoming Firedogs by painting themselves white with black spots. Oddly enough, all of the clips used to make up the opening sequence for the show were taken from this single episode. Though these shows have had some pretty clever lines, such as Ren and Stimpy's "Happy Happy, Joy Joy" song, and Rocko's friend Heffer's creation of a new colour, "Breen", these cartoons revolved mainly around disgusting animation.
In more recent years, we've been seeing a new type of cartoons, Adult Swim Cartoon Network. Great lines include the time Space Ghost stood up to yell "Nobody sleeps with MY grandmother", or Captain Murphy's cry of "Your Lymph nodes are as big as cats!" There are so many classic moments, such as the time Brak sang his Beet song, or when Meatwad said, "You didn't lock that door, it was out in the yard!" Whoever came up with the idea of completely pointless cartoons that keep the viewer laughing the whole time should get some sort of award for his true genius. The especially clever part about this is the animation. Space Ghost, The Brak Show, Sealab 2021, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, all feature very little new animation. They usually just revolve around modifying old animation to give it a new twist. This is especially nice, as it makes the raw animation extremely simple, and therefore, cheap.
The latest development in cartoons is the whole idea of strictly online cartoons. These range from stick-figure action clips such a Xiao Xiao, to comedy series, including College University, and Strongbad. There are even some new episodes of The Critic made for the Internet. There are many advantages to online-cartoons, such as not having to pitch it to some Network CEO fat cat, and complete freedom of speech and expression. Since people aren't trying to make money with an online cartoon, they can do whatever they want with it. Another advantage to online cartoons is that they can be extremely interactive. There are cartoons where the viewer is given a choice of endings and other events, or they can send in suggestions to the creator. The best example of this would be Strongbad. Strongbad is a cartoon from homestarrunner.com in which the potentially evil, yet oddly loveable Strongbad answers emails from readers.
In 30 years, most of us won't remember who won the Super Bowl, or which talent less bimbo won some worthless award on MTV, we'll remember that episode of the Critic where Jay fell down the stairs after being hit in the head with half a dozen potted plants. We'll reminisce when Stormy was banned from the party at Sealab. We'll laugh when we think of Bugs Bunny's classic "What's up, Doc?" Cartoons, in their many different forms have been a part of America's enjoyment as long as they've been around, and will continue to for generations to come.
Links of interest:
http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/ -Has all sorts of great into on various cartoons
http://newgrounds.com/ -A great resource for new cartoons and animations
http://www.homestarrunner.com/ -This site has some great online cartoons, especially letters to Strongbad
http://www.collegeuniv.com/ -College University, a very funny online cartoon about college freshmen
http://www.xiaoxiaomovie.com/ -A popular stick-figure action series
http://www.adultswim.com/ -The official Adult Swim Website
http://www.atomfilms.com/ -All sorts of great animated and live action clips and short films, including new episodes of the Critic
Guide entries on the subject of cartoons:
A767289 A great article on Cow & Chicken
A684416 The Animated Cartoons of Ub Iwerks
A201808 A more formal article on cartoons
A645095 The Laws of Cartoon Physics
A807914 The Aqua Teen Hunger Force