July 21, 2010

  • I noticed an interesting, if pointless, link between the cartoon show The Boondocks and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. In both of these cartoons (or comics, books, whatever) there is a character representing big business, corporate greed, what have you. In The Lorax this character is the Once-ler, and in The Boondocks, well, it’s Mr. Wuncler. Both Once-ler and Wuncler represent the way big business uses the lower class for their own goals and rapes the land of it’s resources at the expense of all those on it. It’s just a nice little parallel, a nod of the head on the part of Aaron McGruder, as both characters’ names are pronounced the same.
    -Contributed by SamRay
  • We’ve all had our suspicions about Spongebob’s sexual orientation. Oddly, being close with a friend of the same gender points to homosexuality but, this isn’t about a relationship with Patrick. This is about the episode of Spongebob Squarepants in which his B.O. fends off residents of Bikini Bottom.
    In the episode, Spongebob confuses his B.O. for “ugly”. Spongebob’s “ugly” is homosexuality. This is backed up by a few events in the episode. Mainly, the scene where he stands on the roof of his pineapple and proclaims his ugly pride. Right after he exclaims his pride, we switch to Squidward alone remarking “Is that what he calls it?” It was right there and then that I knew that this episode was, very subtly, taking on the issue of homosexuality.
    -Contributed by Matthew S.
  • The toy characters in the Toy Story series are shown to internalize what they are made to represent: Buzz Lightyear initially believes himself to be a space explorer, the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots are extremely combative, and the like. However, they are not always equipped to actually carry out their assumed functions: Buzz’s laser doesn’t work, Rex cannot actually eat smaller animals, etc. One key inability shared by all of the toys is the inability to reproduce. Strangely, though, Woody and Bo Peep carry on a low key relationship. What makes this even stranger is that in Toy Story 2, Woody is prepared to leave for Japan and never come back, but does not even mention his relationship with Bo Peep, even though this would jump immediately into the mind of any normal person. This would suggest, then that their relationship is essentially “going through the motions”: they do it because they are “imprinted” to do so, rather than for any biological reason.
    -Contributed by H. Rex


April 20, 2009


  • In Little Bear, the Bear family celebrates not Christmas or Hanukkah or even Kwanzaa, but “Winter Solstice.” This implies that the Bears are, in fact, pagans. It is also curious that the adult bears wear clothes while Little Bear is free to roam naked. Perhaps there is a coming of age ritual (a breeching?) in which younger bears are finally allowed to wear clothes as part of their symbolic transition into adulthood.
    -Contributed by The Editor
  • Several of The Backyardigans can be associated with a different continent:
    • Pablo the penguin (family Spheniscidae)→ Antarctica
    • Tasha the hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) → Africa
    • Austin the kangaroo (genus Macropus)→ Australia

    Tyrone is either a North American moose or a European elk (Alces alces). Uniqua is most likely either a mud salamander (Pseudotriton montanus) or an axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), both found in North America. Thus, Tyrone must be associated with Europe.
    -Contributed by The Editor

  • Handy Manny can be viewed as one man’s quixotic battle against the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
    -Contributed by The Editor
  • I’ve finally figured out a common trait in lovable cartoon dogs: a relatively large nose.
    • debonair dog Brian Griffin has a massive fan base (which I am part of)
    • Scooby Doo has enormous fame, not to mention his face on lots of merchandise
    • Muttley (popular in Britain at least) has a capability to do anything without getting in trouble. i.e. people will feel sorry for him more often than not.
    • Augie Doggy and Doggie Daddy (of Quick Draw McGraw) have a pleasant un-harmful air to their appearances.

    -Contributed by UCH

  • This is more of a question than an observation. Exactly what time period does Batman: The Animated Series take place? Look at the cars (Batmobile excluded) all of them are from roughly the mid 40’s and all the gangsters wear pinstripe suits and use tommy guns. (Including some of the villains look at Scarface and Two-face) But for all these antiquated references the people of Gotham city still use cellular phones, satellite communication, the latest in biological engineering and lasers, not to mention the multitude of nifty gadgets the super villains use.
    -Contributed by Dante Wyrmfoe

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February 27, 2009


  • A long-running – seemingly endlessly iterated, in fact – conflict between enemies known as Tom and Jerry. Where else have we seen this?  That’s right, the First World War, in which the Brits were known collectively as “Tommy Atkins” and they called the Germans “Jerries” (well, when they weren’t calling them “Huns”).  Interesting, then, that it’s with Jerry – the historical loser – that our sympathies lie. Revisionist propaganda? Perhaps. Perhaps.
    Come to think of it, weren’t the majority of these cartoons produced during and shortly after the second World War, in which Jerry (if you will) was once again the enemy?  Posited: a subversive attempt to counteract the “all Germans are Nazis are Evil” propaganda then current – a sort of Don’t Let’s be Beastly to the Germans, without Noel Coward’s sarcasm.
    -Contributed by Jeffie
  • You know, if you think about it, The Muppets were quite a sublime commentary on the human condition. None of the Muppets were good at what they wanted to be. Piggy wasn’t beautiful. Fozzie wasn’t funny. Kermit couldn’t make his show a success. The Swedish Chef could not cook, etc. They all constantly failed, yet kept trying.
    -From Scott Kurtz’s PvP, 12/10/2008
  • There’s one reservation I have about [The Rescuers Down Under]. Why does the villain have to be so noticeably dark-complexioned compared to all of the other characters? Is Disney aware of the racially coded message it is sending? When I made that point to another critic, he argued that McLeach wasn’t dark-skinned – he was simply always seen in shadow. Those are shadows are cast by insensitivity to negative racial stereotyping.
    -From Roger Ebert’s Review of The Rescuers Down Under
  • The Count from Sesame Street shows classic symptoms of OCD.
    -Contributed by Jim W.
  • In WALL•E, the span of years listed for each of the Axiom’s previous captains is ambiguous about whether it denotes each captain’s lifespan or the number of years in which he or she was captain of the ship. It should be noted that there is no overlap in the years for each captain. This leans towards the possibility that each person’s time as captain lasted an average of 133.2 years. Regardless, whatever each captain’s span of years denotes, they just happen to total out to 666.
    From the first captain to the last one before Jeff Garlin’s character:
    143+131+140+124+128 = 666
    -Contributed by Joon K.

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November 18, 2008


  • Has anyone else noticed how the main villains in both Aladdin and The Lion King look like Jonathan Harris, the actor who portrayed Doctor Smith on the TV show Lost in Space?
    -Contributed by Ora S.
  • Popeye seems to be a curious meld of Zen and absurdist philosophies. The Zen nature of Popeye is obvious: “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.” Popeye sees himself as existing neither in contrast nor comparison to any other entity, he simply is. His relationship with Olive Oyl can be read as absurdist. In many episodes, Olive willingly leaves Popeye for Bluto (or Brutus). Popeye goes to great lengths to “rescue” her when the relationship goes bad. The memory of these rescues never impresses Olive because we know she will leave Popeye again and again need to be rescued. (“Who are we waiting for? We are waiting for Godot.” Repeat ad infinitum.)
    -Contributed by Chris B.
  • In Muppet Babies, I feel there are two main reasons why Nanny was only shown from the knees down. These are:
    1. to make a running gag
    2. to make the show seem to be even more from a child’s point of view.
    -Contributed by The Editor
  • Of course this is pointless, but I used to notice frequently on Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids that if they were chasing a member of their group, the ensuing crowd of pursuers would also include the one who was being chased. For instance, if Rudy had committed some offense and Fat Albert and the gang chased him across that junk yard, Rudy would also be in the crowd that was chasing him! C’mon guys, spend a half-hour and ink a new cel.
    -Contributed by Ken G.
  • What is the concept of Pokemon? People capture these wild animals, and use them to battle other people who engage in this activity with a hope to have the strongest creatures and the title of “Pokemon Master.” Now let’s pretend this is real. You would go out and capture wild creatures and force them to fight each other. Now aren’t cockfights and dogfights illegal? And if animals were smart enough to do what they were told, I think most people wouldn’t want to do such a horrible things to them! When you think about it, the whole concept of Pokemon is wrong and evil. So I think.
    -Contributed by Xwonka


September 29, 2008

  • I don’t know if others have noticed, but Pepe Le Pew is a glaringly insulting portrayal of the French people and all things Gallic. The cartoon relies on the stereotype that the French don’t bathe, hence Le Pew being a skunk, a rather malodorous animal. (Some people might think that the cartoons portrayal of the French as oversexed is a stereotype but, as anyone who has been to France knows, this is an astonishingly real picture of the French.) He speaks with a funny accent, too! It is completely galling! Could it get any worse? At least there was never an episode of Pepe capitulating to the Nazis. Vive l’amour!
    -Contributed by Mark C.
  • Brendan S. mentions several characters seen in the feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit? that were created after 1947, the year the film takes place. I read an interview with the filmmakers where they stated their excuse for this was that these characters were hanging around Toon Town in that year until they were “discovered” a few years later by the studios, as if they really existed and shared the same legends as live action movie stars. A bit of dramatic license. I think a bigger problem is the glaring lack of Tom and Jerry in the film. I guess they couldn’t get the rights to these characters.
    -Contributed by Mark C.
  • Is it just me, or does Panthro of the Thundercats seem like a feline representation of a black man?  It’s interesting to me that even when human protagonists are replaced with somewhat more bestial protagonists, that animation directors would feel the need to express racial diversity.  If you ask me, Thundercats was already demonstrating diversity by depicting feline humanoids, which have been grossly under-represented on television and elsewhere.  (I mean, just because they don’t exist doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be represented, right?)
    -Contributed by YHN


July 28, 2008

  • I’m surprised no one has mentioned this: the lack of biological parents in cartoon shows. Think of all the characters who live with someone other than their parents: Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby living with Uncle Donald then Uncle Scrooge in DuckTales. Gosalyn and Darkwing Duck in Darkwing Duck, Robin and Nightwing living with Batman. Also, Penny and Uncle Gadget. No explanation is given about their parents’ whereabouts. When I was a kid I wondered where they were. I think if cartoon creators have a handle enough to show orphans, they should go the full monty and explain where mom and dad are.
    – Contributed by Mark P.
  • Yet another common device that cartoon manufacturers use is to add a character to a show that is there solely for the purpose of comic relief (usually, it backfires, though). This character is quite frequently of some other species, &c. than the main character(s). Examples are Slimer in The Real Ghostbusters, Snarf in ThunderCats, Alexander in Josie and The Pussycats, Blip in Space Ghost, Orko in He-Man, Chim-Chim in Speed Racer, Godzuki in Godzilla, and Needler in The Pirates of Dark Water.
    – Contributed by The Editor
  • What’s the nature of ghosts in The Real Ghostbusters? Are they extra-dimensional critters, traumatic psychic residue, or is the team actually capturing the souls of the deceased with proton lightning and cramming them in a basement nuclear reactor? That seems awfully blasphemous. Perhaps it’s symbolic of people’s willingness to ignore their past, or maybe a commentary on modern urban life being “soulless.”
    – Contributed by Blake


July 8, 2008

  • Anyone else read WALL•E as a sort of white flag between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates? How, in the future, all that’s left is a tough, very primitive PC is all that’s left in the vast wasteland of Earth and here comes this sleek and sexy Mac that is better in every way, and yet at the very end, the two have to band together for the future of mankind? The one damning thing is that WALL•E sounds like a Mac when he boots up. Hmm…
    -Contributed by Doc Happenin
  • After reading the post about WALL•E I just wanted to throw something out there that I’ve been thinking about. I was compelled to contribute to your finely crafted blog when I followed the link and saw him on a pile of trash and in the heap was a discarded doll of Sully. [Ex Situ: Is WALL-E Environmental or Hypocritical?]
    Pixar is very pro-environmental and for this to be stated – “I don’t have a political bent, I don’t have an ecological message to push” – is a slap in the face. If we use Monsters, Inc. as a case study we can prove that they do, in fact, have a political and environmental slant.
    The main premise of Monsters, Inc. is to uproot the current system of energy consumption and production and to find alternative means for generating energy. Fear wasn’t a viable energy source anymore because it was fading fast while, obviously, by the end of the film they made laughter seem to be endless and more efficient. It reeks (no pun) of the fight between fossil fuels and alternative energy – be it wind, solar or whatever. aside from this, the rest of the movie is wrought with big business maneuvers, corporate scandals and cover-ups and a communist finale – Sully, a worker, takes control of the company.
    I think they do push their agendas and do it in a way that most people never fully catch on. It’s propaganda with crayons and celebrity voices and they send it home with your kids happy meals.
    -Contributed by Raymond K.
  • Seven Samurai The Magnificent Seven ¡Three Amigos! A Bug’s Life
    -Contributed by The Editor


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