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The Great Cartoon Debate, Part I: Disney, Ducks and goofiness

Perhaps this is the wrong way to go about things, but it's my blog and my chosen topic at hand, so I'll make up the rules.

In the great debate over the best cartoons - which started out as a WB/Disney debate but now includes all the HB stuff as well as some other viewer chosen cartoons - here is how I decide which reigns supreme: How have said cartoons impacted my life in terms of pop culture references?

Silly? Yes. But we are talking cartoons here.

When I say references, I take into account the following:
* Have I ever dressed up as one of the characters for Halloween?
* Did I ever have any household accessories (bed sheets, etc.) with their likeness?
* How many times have I quoted any of the characters?
* If any of the characters break out into song, can I recite those songs from heart?
* How many of the theme songs can I sing?
* How many times in my life have I referenced the cartoons when talking about a completely different subject or used any of the cartoons to make a point in a discussion?
* How much of their "stuff" do I own?
* How many childhood-young adulthood memories involve any of the characters?
* How many episodes of a show can I recite nearly word for word?

There's more, but that should suffice for now.

After careful review of the criteria, it seems that Disney cartoons (remember kids, we are talking about television cartoons and not the Disney movies) had very little impact upon my career as a pop culture referencer. Yes, that's a word and a career. Just made it up, but that does not make it any less real.

It wasn't until the later Disney stuff, after I had children of my own, that had any kind of impact on my daily living and that's only because I now like to walk around saying Let's Get Dangerous! at random times. Darkwing also had a slew of opening lines he used when he appeared in a puff of smoke to save the day, such as I am the surprise in your cereal box! I like to use these sayings at times, though not as randomly, as there is a place and time for each of these quotes.

The terror that flaps in the night singlehandedly saved Disney from being relegated to "not culturally important enough" status in this debate. We had Darkwing cereal bowls, beach towels and t-shirts. We even got his autograph when we went to Disney World.

Darkwing was part of the Disney Afternoon block of cartoons that started airing in 1990. The original incarnation of this series included animated Gummi Bears, which struck me as inane. Talking cats and ducks? Fine. Talking candy? No. There was also Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers, Ducktales, Talespin, Goof Troop and Bonkers. Other shows were added later, but at that point my kids had switched from The Disney Channel to Nickelodeon (save for Gargoyles, which was a pretty neat show) and we missed out on such grand fare as Shnookums and Meat.

I hated Ducktales, mainly because I hate Donald Duck and every single Disney Duck except for the aforementioned Darkwing was really just Donald in a different outfit. Well, at least Scrooge McDuck wore coattails to cover up his genitals. Actually, it's pretty odd the way they handed out clothing to these ducks. Some of them wore pants, shirts, shoes, the whole bit, while others still went around with shirts and no pants. I'm sure there is some biting social commentary to be had here, but I do not want to digress more than I already have.

Enough of you favorite 90's Disney fare, you are saying. What about the stuff from your childhood, or do you just live vicariously through your children all the time?

Well, the two do meet ,you know. Aside from Darkwing Duck, the only other Disney Afternoon show I liked was Goof Troop. This stems from my unhealthy fascination with Goofy that goes back to my childhood. Goofy was the only Disney character I really liked. Perhaps I related to his awkwardness or his ability to turn every attempt at doing something good into a farce.

One of my favorite Goofy roles was in Lonesome Ghosts, pre-cursor to Ghostbusters.. Do you know how I watched that episode? Not on tv. Nope, I watched it with my handy dandy Fisher Price cartoon viewer. Wow! I actually found a photo of the cartridge. Excuse me while I go into memory shock overload. I can literally hear the clicking noise the viewer made as you cranked the handle. [Hold on....someone has it for sale on eBay! Which means I have to get the other computer hooked up today as I don't have my eBay password on the laptop and there's already twenty bids!]

Back to Goofy. While he may not have been quotable or even sourceable, he certainly was loveable and that's a good "able" to be. I believe Goofy was my first introduction to real physical humor, but I always worried about the guy, wondered how he could get into so many mishaps yet always remain happy, healthy and, well, goofy.

So it came to be that I would watch Goof Troop with my kids and eventually, every time, I would find myself alone in the living room laughing at the antics and the strained father-son relationship between Goofy and Max as my kids headed for another tv where they could watch Power Rangers or whatever else was on at the time. I think they even preferred Barney to Goofy. There's no accounting for taste.

What are we left with here? Goofy, Darkwing Duck and some memories that are going to cost me a pretty penny at eBay. I suppose if the thought of Lonesome Ghosts could send me running for my wallet, Disney cartoons must have had some impact on me.

End of Part 1. Feel free to use the criteria above to come to your own conclusions.

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Comments

Ohmygod, I had the Fisher Price cartoon viewer and that exact same "Lonesome Ghosts" cartridge too! I can remember it exactly, and you could even crank the film backwards for extra fun!

Great, you really made me feel old showing that cartoon viewer thing. I had one of those, and that cartridge.

If my kids had one of those it would have been forgotten within 2 seconds ("where is the sound? you have to turn it to make it work? this is boring").

The lonesome ghosts is a short tacked onto the "Ichabod and Mr. Toad" disney dvd. If you don't have it, get it. The Ichabod they show on television around Halloween is edited for time; this is the real deal. And I'm certain the Mr. Toad toon is where those weasels in "Roger Rabbit" came from.

I would say that, in our family, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the single most influential cartoon. We started watching it in Germany, when my oldest son was about three. Then we moved to Georgia, and it was still the big thing. We still have a TMNT raincoat, and there are couple of bowls still floating around the house.

I grew up in rural SW Idaho, on dairy farms. We usually only got one or two TV stations, so the pickings were mighty slim. I think that Quick-Draw McGraw, Bugs Bunny, and similar types of cartoons were about the only thing I ever even saw as a child.

Disney's Gummi Bears must have started in about 1985, as I remember watching it with my infant daughter, while living in Mississippi. I loved that show.

Of the current crop, Buzz Lightyear stands out from Disney, but Rug Rats is probably the funnest modern series.

Yep, I love cartoons. I hate most of the "popular" anime series, but like some of the more obscure one, that are only available on DVD.

Oh, yes. And Darkwing Duck rules ALL of them. You're right, he had the most outrageous quotes, that always seemed appropriate.

Please don't dismiss Donald without considering the comic books. He's clearly way behind Bugs, Daffy, Mickey, et. al. in live action, but just as clearly miles ahead of them on the printed page. Check out the prices sometime for early appearances of those characters in comic books--Donald is by far the spendiest. So many great stories--The Square Egg, Christmas on Bear Mountain, The Mummy's Ring, Luck of the North...

The other day when you were asking about Disney v. Warner Bros. cartoons---and restricted the discussion to shorts, not movies---I thought, "Feh. What has Disney done? Not a damn thing. Their short cartoons are dull dull dull."

Then I experienced a spasm of shame, for I had forgotten---me! forgotten!---about my one, my only, my true love, Darkwing Duck.

Darkwing helped me finish my dissertation. How? By being a raving egomania despite being a complete fuck up. It's tough to admire a competent egomaniac. After all, how difficult can it be for him to maintain that ego? But a guy who continually screws up yet believes in himself---man. I wish I had his ego.

(In fact, that was one of the better bits of the show. I believe it was "Inside Binky's Brain", where they show that everyone has "a little hero" inside him. Darkwing's "little hero" is a tiny knight on tiny horseback. Launchpad notes that he doesn't seem all that scary, and the hero pipes up, "You haven't met my partner!" Just then the wall is caved in by a huge, hulking Neanderthal Darkwing. DW understands immediately, "It's --- it's --- gulp --- my ego!")

I envy your DWD towels and stuff. I have some DWD figurines, including two large ones, one of which is in the bedroom holding up the little American flag. He looks like he's about to storm Mt. Suribachi.

I also thought Talespin was pretty good, but couldn't for the life of me figure out why they'd put half the cast of The Jungle Book --- Balloo, Louie, and Sher Khan --- in this new setting. Why? Why? Why?

Damn, that cartoon viewer takes me back! I think that may be the only format in which I've seen Lonesome Ghosts.

And as for DW...

Don't call me Sparky!!!

I don't think any cartoon character is more quoted that Bugs Bunny, though some other WB toons are close.

I think the one I've heard the most is, "What a maroon."

I just love "disney's halloween treat", it has all those ghost and witch clips.

Goofy moderately less interesting than you, I generally quite agree. Darkwing Duck was the only thing worthwhile in the '90s out of the Disney folks on television, and I probably liked it even less than you. Of their old stuff, Goofy tends to be best, especially the very old Goofy cartoons. I like Donald Duck moderately better than you, but that's probably not saying much.

The thing is that Disney cartoons were intentionally crafted never to offend, never to be sarcastic, and rarely to be satirical except for very, very broad satire ("snooty person" or "angry person"). Mostly they were very goody-goody, very milquetoast. Meant to offend no one, challenge no one, but occasionally to make you go, "awww, isn't that sweet?"

Generally speaking, I despise sweet. As you might guess, then, I truly loathe Mickey Mouse.

You come to the same conclusion I do, and it's no surprise. When I listen to people try to talk about how great the Disney toons are, I generally ask them to quote a memorable line or joke. They almost never can, although once in a while someone will manage to pull something out of the Aladdin movie. As for imagery, there are some memorable things here and there from this or that movie. But plot? Satire? Wit? Zingers? It's just not there.

For people who like easily digested, non-offensive pablum, and syrupy, sappy, cutesy-pooh stuff, Disney is great.

The Warner Bros studios have always produced better.

Well, no, i shouldn't say "always." They were out of the significant cartoon business for decades. That long, horrible stretch from the early 1960s until the late 1980s in animation, they were mostly absent from.

Yet I can give you some lines and have you instantly remember certain cartoons:

"Duck Season! Wabbit Season!'

"Kill Da Wabbit, Kill Da Wabbit, Kill Da WAAABIT....!"

"That's a joke, son, pay attention."

"I'm a coward, but I'm a greedy coward!"

"Wile E. Coyote, SUPER Genius."

Or, frankly, anything related to "Acme."

Let's go to the 1990s. How can you compare any of the Disney output to the remarkable Pinky & The Brain ("Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?"), or the utterly astounding Batman and Superman cartoons?

Hell we named three of our pets "Buttons," "Mindy," and "Slappy," and three guesses where those came from. How can you top Slappy Squirrel when it comes to being a just plain wonderful cartoon?

I guess Warner will never have the universal appeal of Disney, simply because bland, uninteresting people will always love Disney and not quite "get" Warner.

Does that make me sound elitist? Well, a little, at least when it comes to entertainment. But not everyone's into sarcasm and satire, ya know?

My kids had one, I think it had that cartridge. It's upstairs in my attic right now.

Damn, I'm old.

Elizabeth
Imperial Keeper

"Kill Da Wabbit, Kill Da Wabbit, Kill Da WAAABIT....!"
I still can't listen to The Ride of the Valkyries without
getting that stuck in my head.

And I always love finding other people who understand the importance of the
Terror that Flaps in the Night.

And, since we're quoting quotes:

"Him don't know me very well, do he?"

"And I will love him and pet him and love him and squeeze him and call him
George."

 

I was born in 1977 but still recall using the Fisher Price toy as well. I can't recall what Disny stuff I saw on it, but they were amusing. My main memories of Disney were when my Mom would go shopping at some of the clothing stores back in Massachusetts, some of the stores would have TVs with VCRs for the kids that showed nothing but disney movies. I think I saw every single Chip N Dale episode ever . . . man I was rooting for pesticide or some form of owl or hawk to show up.

Goofy was always my favorite, but Darkwing did rule and Gargoyles started off fairly well till they started adding too much Macbeth stuff in (and I like the play as well). Still, Pinky and the Brain, and Animated Batman outweigh almost everything Disney has done of late, not even getting into the classic WB cartoons.

Too me it's like Playstation versus Nintendo. PS seems to want to market to adolescents and adults. Nintendo wants to go after the kids. Anyway, interesting comments and debate.

Of all the Disney cartoons, I think I like the Jack and the Beanstalk send-up and Gummi Bears the best. Gummi Bears had a catchy theme and darn cool characters (Princess Calla was a 7-year-old's dream girl).