04 September 2012

Classic Cartoon Greatness!

Cartoon Greats Because I Just Can’t Help Myself!
By Kristin Battestella

I’m a firm believer that one should never lose the touch of childhood spark that delights and inspires our hopes, creativity, and imagination.  Fortunately, there’s a better way to capture youth glory than trying to squeeze into that itty-bitty kiddie pool.  Here’s a list of animated treats for young, old, and young at heart. 

GI Joe: A Real American Hero – Forget that second season devoted to Serpentor and Sgt. Slaughter! The original 1983 “MASS Device” miniseries, “The Weather Dominator” 5 show follow up,  and the first full-length, 55 episode season with Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Flint, Lady Jaye, Shipwreck, and the rest of the Joes is where it’s at!  You know you know the words to that great, catchy theme music. You know you remember episodes like “Excalibur,” “The Traitor,” and “There’s No Place Like Springfield.”  And you know you know that knowing is half the battle!  Even if Cobra, Destro, the Baroness, and Zartan are always so dang incompetent, they still live to torment the Joes another day. Everyone always parachutes out just in time and no one ever dies.  How cool is that, Tomax? Very cool, Xamot!

Jem and the Holograms – I must confess, the 1985 music here may be hokey, but it is still damn catchy!  These proto girl power Hannah Montana before Hannah Montana was Hannah Montana stories excel in sound and fantasy for little girls then and now.  Of course, in today’s technologically wise ways Jem, Synergy, and all that hologram magic could never possibly fly- the cell phone interference alone! Thankfully, the totally nutty, punk, and bad girl ways of The Misfits are a lot of fun.  Indecisive boy toy Rio and the potential romance between he, Jem, and her true personality Jerrica are, however, really annoying- as are some of the moral of the story girls at the Starlight House orphanage and the lack of proper DVD releases here.  Later Season 2 episodes in which Jem saves the President and finds Shangra-la are also questionable, and my gosh, the fashions are so bad!   Yes, I had the dolls and the keytar playset-I can’t believe those are coming back! The cassettes are still under my bed at my parent’s house, too.  What’s your point? 

She-Ra: Princess of Power – I actually don’t recall seeing all of this 1985 He-Man spinoff back in the day- thanks to my ten-inch black and white television’s fuzzy reception of Philly 57! All the goods of Adorra’s twin brother are here in an obviously female reversal for girls.  The older and cheap animation style may be tough for those unaccustomed to it, but the non-violent problem solving, great rebellion story, and moral messages are still delightful for the 10 and under demographic. Some of the episodes are routine and formulaic fair, relying on guest appearances by He-Man a little too much.  However, the duo is best together, especially in the introductory crossover “The Secret of the Sword.”  Yes, the voice work is unnecessarily high pitched, Madame Razz and the Twiggets get on my nerves, and the mix of magic and evil intergalactic Horde science doesn’t always make sense, but who cares?  The music and opening credits are weak and dated, too; yet I must confess, I like looking for Loo-kee!  Naturally, not all She-Ra episodes are currently streaming, shows are often listed out of order, and the DVDs are always available from Netflix or vice versa depending on their mood it seems. Typical!  Although, I confess, they did offer The He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special- and I watched!

X-Men – I was literally counting down the days until the 92-96 mutant brigade came to Netflix.  My taped off TV VHS were getting a little too jumpy!  The right team, time, and developments taken are taken here with multi part storylines such as “Night of the Sentinels” and “Till Death Do Us Part.”  The solid 13 episode Season 1 builds tremendously to Season 3’s 5 part Phoenix tale and the Dark Phoenix 3 part arc thru Year 4. Plots here don’t always rely on Magneto for antagonism or the ensemble’s tug and pull.  Mutant persecution and fear, alienation, species superiority, and allegorical action standout with touching topics and mature issues- great wit and catches phrases from Wolverine, Rogue, and Gambit lighten serious debates and dialogue, keeping these meaty 76 episodes watchable for audiences beyond the Y7 label. Yes, Jean Grey gets on my nerves, and Jubilee is the cartoon Wesley Crusher. Continuity is not always there, Season 5 design changes become an issue, and episodes like “Mojovision” are juvenile now.  However, serial and long-term consequences, character deaths and romance, previouslies, and great music tie everything together. It makes one speculate why there hasn’t been a live action X-Men series- the depth and complexity here does wonders for the comic fan, older audience, and new youth viewers.

Understandably, I don’t expect adults who didn’t watch these shows then to like them now.  These cartoons are largely too juvenile and simple minded to fly with the wiser audiences of today.  However, the children’s demographic could use some animation education with these classics.  Though tame now in action and intricacy, the hand drawn designs here get all the fun across- unlike the shock and awe or desensitizingly bland CGI dominated cartoons (and more) of today.  Enjoy these delightfully family friendly treats again for a nostalgic evening with friends or in education with the next generation.

In addition to future rewatches of Inspector Gadget, Thundercats, and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, I was tempted to list more Honorable Mentions cartoons both famous and obscure- Denver The Last Dinosaur, anyone? Forget the remakes; there are just so many great cartoons we don’t see anymore.  What’s your favorite? 

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