Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rating Game Redux 17: Cereal Viewing

The latest newspaper Rating Game involves "classic" Saturday morning cartoons. Well, many of the cartoons I consider "Saturday-morning classics" actually began life during Prime Time, sometimes twice a week. Even the Warner Brothers cartoons of the 1950s were presented as evening fare--"Overture, douse the lights, this is it ..." But as I made the first turn of childhood--ten years old in 1966--many of those dim but animated memories had seeped down to Saturday morning--which was already being calcified with Hanna-Barbera stopped-motion animation, ha-ha, cartoons with clever one-liners and fine voice characterizations, but whose aesthetics were pasted on like last-minute addenda to a committee meeting, bland and featureless.

Nonetheless, the '50s and early-'60s Prime Time soldiered on, scratchy reminders of the years before my second decade rolled inevitably, no turning back, and on into extended childhood. Spongebob, anyone?

Crusader Rabbit
The first TV cartoon series, a near-parody of superhero comics. Co-developed with Jay (Rocky and Bullwinkle) Ward, the series proves that, even at the onset of TV culture, kids found irony entertaining.

Jonny Quest
Best. Theme song. Ever. And a grand wish-fulfillment--for Boomer boys, at least--of life as one Ripping Yarn after another. Originally aired during prime time, it eventually made its ways to Saturday morning and immortality--The Venture Brothers notwithstanding.

Winky Dink and You
An interactive ‘50s cartoon: 1. Purchase special plastic sheet for TV screen plus crayons. 2. Draw on plastic sheet whatever Winky needed--a staircase, for instance. 3. Most kids drew right on the TV screen. 4. Winky was deeply hated by parents.

Of course, so many more, eyeballs popping, feet propeller-ing, explosions reverberating. As a kid, I had a fey love of Caspar the Friendly Ghost; all its sins remembered, I still hold a dark fondness for the cartoon that taught me that one could be sensitive and feared. Machiavelli without tears.

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