November 19, 2004


James Lileks -- who's already confessed his Gilligan's Island preferences -- now reveals a profound Coyote bias:

Who is the Road Runner, anyway? An idiot bird blessed with speed, he personifies not ingenuity but luck. You can’t tell me that he somehow figured out how to avoid triggering the Coyote’s various traps. If anything, he didn’t set them off because he was light and / or fast, and I concede that the Coyote should have taken those things into consideration. But. But. We’re talking about a dog here, a canine capable of constructing explosive devices one day, pantomiming elaborate deceptions the next, to say nothing of operating – however inexpertly – complex machinery. If he’d been up against something stupid and slow, he would have been fat and happy.

I once spliced together hours of Road Runner cartoons into a single, seemingly endless horror tape, and played it to stoned students at a party. They enjoyed it, at first, but by the end of the first hour several were visibly traumatised; as the second hour concluded, some appeared to be crying. "Turn it off!" one of them begged.

Stupid Acme haters.

Posted by Tim Blair at November 19, 2004 01:51 AM

Tim, you didn't quote the best bit:

In an alternate universe there is one Road Runner cartoon, because at the end the Coyote brought him down with a revolver at 30 paces, and roasted his meat for a light midafternoon snack. It would be a less amusing universe, but perhaps one more just. That said, I’ll take this one.

Posted by: William Bowe at November 19, 2004 at 02:05 AM



Posted by: zeppenwolf at November 19, 2004 at 02:09 AM

In cartoons, there is a general prejudice against carnivores. It's not that they're depicted as killers; that's just accurate. It's that they're depicted as being dumber and less competent than their prey -- which, let's face it, is not the case. And we need not mention Disney: What is Bambi but a steaming pile of Reifenstahlian disinformation characterizing deer as sympathetic characters, when, objectively, deer are nothing more than gargantuan rats, brainless walking hamburgers too dumb to come in out of the rain?

There's also a general prejudice against cats in particular: Consider Ren and Stimply, for example. The cat is fat and stupid. The dog is relatively intelligent. Anybody who's known both cats and dogs can see what an insane and dangerous libel this is.

I wouldn't hesitate to suggest that the entire animal rights movement (not to mention those goddamn vegetarians) is a product of decades of deliberate, irrational anti-carivore hate propaganda disseminated by corrupt and ruthless media.

Posted by: Aarrgghh at November 19, 2004 at 02:37 AM

Road Runner, Woody Woodpecker, Donald Duck, Heckle and Jeckle--they're all jerks. Rude, disrespectful, sneaky. Even Tweety-Bird is pretty much just a bedwetter--and still sneaky and underhanded at that. Seems to suggest a strong undercurrent of anti-bird sentiment among cartoonists in 1950s and 60s.

Posted by: ak at November 19, 2004 at 02:42 AM

Aarrggh got a point (Yes, I know.), but I think he's got the last bit backwards. The bunny-huggers planted these messages in the popular media to promote their agenda.

Posted by: JP Gibb at November 19, 2004 at 03:17 AM

Wile E. Coyote is a mythic fusion of Sisyphus and Tantalus. He is doomed to labor eternally at a task that he can never complete, tormented all the while by the presence of the sustenance he craves (the Road Runner) just outside his reach, but close enough to see, hear, and even smell. He is continually subjected to agonizing pain and massively crippling injuries, but he can never die; instead, he heals instantaneously and is forced to continue his hopeless efforts.

In short, Wile E. Coyote is in Hell -- a Hell as cruel and sadistic as anything that Dante envisioned. Is it any wonder that the students at Tim's party were traumatized by being forced to watch video footage of the Coyote's unending torment? Who wouldn't beg for it to stop?

Posted by: Harry at November 19, 2004 at 03:41 AM

and you could say that deep down they didn't have a sneaky liking for that daffy duck. What I would have given as a child to see him win out against that smug bugs bunny.

your your your despicable!!!!

Posted by: mike.a at November 19, 2004 at 03:42 AM

Regarding the anti-carnivore message of cartoons:

Well, yeah. If Elmer shoots Bugs Bunny, they can't make any more Bugs Bunny cartoons. A series needs to preserve the status quo.

Man. I've got the first volume of that set. Some of those cartoons, I swear, are coded directly into my DNA by cathode rays.

Posted by: John Nowak at November 19, 2004 at 04:00 AM

I always wanted to buy stock in Acme Products.

Love that coyote.


Posted by: jim at November 19, 2004 at 04:03 AM

Jeez... did I miss something here?
All these people downing the winners.
Sounds like the chatter on the Democrat circles after it became clear their boy lost.

"He's just lucky"
"The voters are stoopid"
"Bush cheated"


Posted by: Bithead at November 19, 2004 at 04:52 AM

Man, I hate Tweety. If ever I came across a Japanese website selling crush videos where screaming Tweeties were skewered by high heels, I would bookmark that sucker so hard it showed up in the favorites list of browsers not yet invented. You have to feel for Sylvester, too - once he finally gave up on the bird, he settles down, has a kid, then spends his declining years plagued by hallucinations about a giant mouse. Poor bastard.

Posted by: Lileks at November 19, 2004 at 05:08 AM

What have cartoons and especially Disney done to American culture? At West Point, USMA, where my husband taught Middle Eastern studies and International History AND where he also headed the International Club, Armor (tank) Club and the Rod and Gun Club, this is what we encountered:

A fellow officer's family complained to post authorities that our cats looked at birds in their yard and had chased the squirrels nesting in their government quarters' attic! Later they told us that cats are evil animals because they killed and ate other animals and that my husband was immoral because he hunted Bambi in the woods around post. Rather increduously, I asked whether they ate meat and they righteously told me they obtained meat from the store, and not from killing things. Also, please note: they owned and raised dogs, which apparently are gentle herbivores--

A Bambi and twisted TweetyBird mentality, if there ever was one. Too bad Wile E. didn't study Sun Tzu and Karl or attend SAMS, Ft. Leavenworth.

Posted by: A at November 19, 2004 at 05:09 AM

You have to feel for Sylvester, too - once he finally gave up on the bird, he settles down, has a kid, then spends his declining years plagued by hallucinations about a giant mouse.

Something I've always wondered...who does he have the kid with? Maybe its that female cat that Pepe Le Pew is always chasing...

Posted by: Quentin George at November 19, 2004 at 05:46 AM

The old WB cartoons are some of the greatest films ever made. For example, consider Sylvester and Tweety's Birds Anonymous, a harrowing and sensitive portrait of addiction. The "Rabbit Season/Duck Season" series is a masterpiece of comic timing. The sensitive and delightful Feed the Kitty earned an homage in Monsters, Inc. One Froggy Evening is a classic exploration of greed and obsession. Duck Amuck is wonderfully surreal, yet accessible in a way Fellini could never achieve if he wanted to. And who can forget What's Opera, Doc, which compressed Wagner's "Ring" cycle into seven minutes.

Plus, the're just flat out screaming hilarious.

Posted by: Mike at November 19, 2004 at 05:52 AM

Perhaps they're just discussing art, Bithead.

If we must read leaden political messages into the classics, how about this--it is possible to find a clear split in the philosophy of individualism versus collectivism by comparing the sort of Saturday morning fare available when I was a kid (the 1960's) and what was available twenty years later.

Saturday morning for me, after slurping up my bowl of Fruit Loops, was centered on the Bugs Bunny and Road Runner show, Tom and Jerry, and Jonny Quest (original JQ was the only Hanna Barbera product which didn't prompt a rush to the set to change the channel).

In the seventies and eighties, I felt sorry for kids having to suffer through Scooby Doo and anything else made by the two-frame-a-second Hanna Barbera crap factory. And I noticed that the payoffs to the gags (howitzers and safes and the like) in the old Warner Bros. and MGM theatrical cartoons were being edited out. This was about the time all the long-haired men and short-haired women began flapping their hands and squawking about violence on television.

Captain Planet and the f****** Smurfs, among other loathsome offenses, came around in the Eighties. Around this time, I spotted-something. It would be paranoid to claim that there was a consious effort to indoctrinate the Children™, but damned if it didn't seem as if all the new stuff seemed to involve groups, all staying together as a group, with no good thing ever done by an individual. Always, these groups had to face a problem presented a single enemy. Any member of the Smurfs, acting alone, usually got his comeuppance if he did something without consulting the other Smurfs, or the Planeteers, for instance. And let's never forget, any desirable outcome was achieved only in a non-threatening, let alone violent, manner.

The old Warner Bros., Paramount and MGM cinema classics? The best ones involved an individual (Bugs,Popeye,etc.), minding his own business, who is set upon by some enemy, and has to come up with a way to triumph, alone and with no help. Frequently, assailed with violence, resorting to like means to bring about a peace for himself which is different from a peaceful resolution--nice if you can get it, but not always possible.

Bugs Bunny is my favorite example of this. Always inoffensive, but Elmer Fudd usually comes to regret shooting at him, because Bugs Bunny is clearly a devotee of Walter Russel Meads theory of warfighting Jacksonianism. Tweety Bird, once attacked, had no compunction whatsoever about waving goodbye fondly to someone who he has just given an anvil to hold in midair, it never bothered Bugs Bunny to jerk the lanyard on a howitzer after getting Yosemite Sam to look down the muzzle, and Popeye, once provoked, routinely dealt out Attica prison-grade beatings to Bluto. And Jonny Quest? A place of honor for being singled out by the professional cry-babies because of its' violence, a sort of last hurrah for the sort of chidren's entertainment deemed appropriate by the generation which fought the Japs and the Nazis, without apology or public lip quivering. The only Saturday morning cartoon I can remember, ever, where characters got killed. (Before anyone deeming themselves clever or educated chimes in with the whole JQ homoerotic element thing, try to resist. I know about it, I was just a little kid at the time and thought the show was cool.)

The grand characters of the Golden Age of cartoons never needed to work together in a group, cooperating with a bunch of candy-arses like the Smurfs, or that heroin addict Shaggy and his lesbian friend Velma, to get something done. Never bothering anyone else,once attacked they were merciless in attaining peace for themselves, on their terms. If Sylvester didn't want to find himself in a yard with a pit bull and no escape, he shouldn't have chased Tweety there, should he?

There's other stuff I could add, but I hope I've made my point, so I'll go now, having myself probably read way too much into kids' cartoons.

Posted by: Neuroto at November 19, 2004 at 06:08 AM

"I hope you enjoy this cartoon. It's the sad, depressing story of a pathetic coyote who spends his life in the futile pursuit of a sadistic road runner who MOCKS him and LAUGHS him as he's repeatedly CRUSHED and MAIMED! Hope you ENJOY it!"

One thing I just realized with the new Looney Tunes DVDs is that Bugs and Daffy were not above committing capital crimes, unlike those law-abiding sissies Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck :)

Posted by: Attmay at November 19, 2004 at 06:09 AM

Actually, in the US the decline of violence in cartoons is due to fascist groups like Action for Children's Television. That horrid woman Peggy Charren is responsible for mandating that the FCC curb the amount of violence in children's programs, especially cartoons. Just an excuse to turn these kids into liberals with a bunch of crummy cryptoMarxist cartoons (look at a Smurfs rerun and damned if you can't try to make it look like a socialist parable if you try hard enough).

Captain Planet was the worst of them all; a Saturday morning junk science extravaganza put out by the former Mr. Jane Fonda (Ted Turner) and starring the voice of Red...I mean Ed Asner.

And now even Disney, the studio with the reputation for wholesomeness, sweetness and light (unwarranted if you've seen some of the black and white Mickey Mouse cartoons) gets censored on a regular basis by the PC fascists who took over the studio in the 80s. The recent DVD releases of their classic short cartoons have patronizing intros by film historian and critic Leonard Maltin, basically to distance themselves from the un-PC concept that Donald Duck threatening a baby penguin with a rifle, or Mickey disguising himself an Indian chief, or a character with a funny foreign accent, might actually be entertaining to someone.

All the studio founders were conservative Republicans, and most were Jewish except Walt Disney and Darryl Zanuck (of 20th Century Fox). They refused to mock their audience's values with their films.

Today they're all narcissistic, cocaine-snorting liberal Democrats whose "entertainment" today could qualify as paid advertisements for the Democrat party.

Posted by: Attmay at November 19, 2004 at 06:23 AM

Lileks is *so* frigging right. Everybody thinks the dumb birds are cute.

*Thbbbbbbbbbth* :P

Posted by: Matt Eric at November 19, 2004 at 07:59 AM

The thing that REALLY steams Me about the RR cartoon is not just that the coyote always loses (though that's annoying to this canine fan), but that he's an engineer or at least a technician. You get the message that technology will never solve any problem.

I think the USSR had a cartoon which had a wolf chasing a rabbit, but the rabbit was the inventor and his inventions WORKED.

Why did the damned commies do something right that we didn't?

Posted by: Gary and the Samoyeds at November 19, 2004 at 08:04 AM

Lileks is wrong. Even stranger, he's wrong about a popular culture detail. That wasn't a hallucination; check the fourth paragraph from the bottom.

Posted by: triticale at November 19, 2004 at 08:22 AM

I received my copy of the 2nd 4-disc Looney Toons set from Amazon the other day. Incredibly it took until the second volume to give us "What's Opera, Doc", "One Froggy Evening" and the immortal "Three Little Bops".

The commentary track for "Three Little Bops" confirms what we knew all along - "these cartoon were not made for children, they were made for adults".

Posted by: GoodFace at November 19, 2004 at 09:12 AM

Simmah down nah... if the coyote ever got the stupid bird, would you really have come back for more?

Those Warner Brothers weren't Hollywood kings for years for nothing. They KNEW we hated that fucking bird, and would keep coming back, hoping against hope that we'd finally get to watch him getting eviscerated by a smugly satisfied Wile E... "The last thing his eyes registered was the sight of those terrible jaws tearing into his flesh..."

So glad we can throttle back on politics and get down to some of the things that REALLY matter.

Posted by: geezer at November 19, 2004 at 11:33 AM

What about Top Cat ? He was great. OK there was a group of cats, but he was the leaderand knew how to bend the law and use the law.

No doubt though, those old WB cartoons are easily the best ever. Liked Foghorn Leghorn a lot. Sometimes he won, sometimes he lost, but always very funny.

Posted by: Fluent Idiot at November 19, 2004 at 12:22 PM

This nation owes Peggy Charen and ACT a profound debt of gratitude.

Because of them, cartoon producers today simply cannot show real guns, or the consequences of using them. Instead, they have to use "stunners," "blasters" and other colorful euphemisms, from which no one ever dies.

From this, the children learn an invaluable lesson: that you can shoot guns without consequences.

THANK YOU, Peggy Charen. That Marine in Fallujah acted just the way you raised him! Well done, that woman!


BTW, do any of those DVD's have the "Dover Boys" cartoon?

Posted by: richard mcenroe at November 19, 2004 at 12:30 PM

Top Cat?

Top Cat?

Sgt. Bilko, except with cats. Who lived in trash cans. And wore hats and vests. And stood erect. And had those dinky H-B legs that are absolute evolutionary impossibilities.

I'm leaving now, before someone makes the case for Magilla Gorilla.

Posted by: Lileks at November 19, 2004 at 12:42 PM

"cartoon producers today simply cannot show real guns"

Yes indeed, richard mcenroe - but did any screen character anywhere, anytime, fire off more rounds than Yosemite Sam? - it all left me unwarped

I love YS - also Foghorn Leghorn and the Tasmanian devil

WB cartoons should rank equally with Shakespeare's plays

Posted by: hollygoheavily at November 19, 2004 at 01:22 PM

You want a comment on Violence in Children's cartoons!
The one, the only, the incomparable...
'Biggsy Rat!'... You know, from Leonardo Lion... King of Boingo Oingo.
What about, 'The Hunter' from the same series.
Good times.

Posted by: kevin at November 19, 2004 at 01:27 PM

"You have to feel for Sylvester, too - once he finally gave up on the bird, he settles down, has a kid, then spends his declining years plagued by hallucinations about a giant mouse.

Something I've always wondered...who does he have the kid with? Maybe its that female cat that Pepe Le Pew is always chasing..."

I loved those episodes. Yeah it could be that female cat. I can see it now, Slyvester goes to a meeting for cats with "problems" and meets a young french feline who has moved to the states to get away from an obsessive "fan." The two of them talk, get close, fall in love, get married and have a kid.

Slyvester spends the rest of his life in relative happiness, despite hallucinating about giant mice.

Sadly, I only have vol. 1 of the Golden collection, and with my bills it may be awhile before I get volume 2. "sigh"

Posted by: Matt Taylor at November 19, 2004 at 01:50 PM

Pepe le Pew was the only cartoon character that ever made my father laugh. But then, he'd been to war in Europe, and was well acquainted with the French.

I loved the old Disney cartoons, and the later Looney Toons (Lileks does not always know whereof he spells). But he is correct that the Roadrunner was the beginning of the end. Rocky and Bullwinkle were a last gasp (loved Bullwinkle, thought Rocky was an adequate straight man... er... squirrel, thought Dudley Dooright so-so, hated Boris and Natasha, would kill to see just one more Fractured Fairytale).

I don't understand today's cartooning at all. What's made for children is pure trash, and what's made for adults is Japanese. The one exception I'd make (purely personal opinion) is Samurai Jack, which I consider high art.

Posted by: Rebecca at November 19, 2004 at 02:26 PM

I have a hard time believing the great lileks would actually be here at this hour, but if he is, he better f'ng lay off of Top Cat...

Posted by: geezer at November 19, 2004 at 02:29 PM

jeez, all this erudite commentary by beings who only know the cartoons from TV or recordings.
As an aficianado from the late 40's early 50's Saturday matinee's, the finest entertainment for children in the history of the world, a cartoon is just that.
A matinee usually consisted of "the" cartoon, WB's were the favorite, a 30's serial episode and the feature, Roy Rogers if our prayers were answered.
When the Roadrunner series began it was akin to the Star Wars phenom of the 70's. We kids couldn't get enough. Every time one of Wile E.'s Acme schemes failed, our laughter could be heard outside the "neighborhood" theater.
Yes, they really did exist.
I'll still watch and enjoy the cartoons from those days, but only because they remind me of the joys they brought me as a child.
BTW, the best Wile E. film is the one, title unremembered, wherein he goes up against the all time hero, Bugs Bunny.
To remember and to laugh.

Posted by: Mike Daley at November 19, 2004 at 02:46 PM

As child , I detested children's cartoons, they lacked the happy ending as William Bowe lines out:

` `...because at the end the Coyote brought him down with a revolver at 30 paces, and roasted his meat for a light midafternoon snack.''
And Elma fudd shoots Bugs and pops him in the crock pot for a bit of yummy rabbit stew, a fat rooster is eaten by a predator, the pirate keel hauls the rabbit , the cat eats tweety bird...

yah, the cartoon endingswere, blunty. p.c. limp wristed affairs. Children enjoy blood and gore, they want to watch it, they want to see the `good guy' stuffed into the oven for Sunday roast and what do the script writers do instead, bung in some leftoid's vision of a happy end. Bah.

Posted by: d at November 19, 2004 at 02:59 PM

I have a vague memory of the Coyote catching the Road Runner in one cartoon, hauling him back to his cave, and then the Road Runner escaping somehow. Anyone else remember that, or is it time for my medication again?

Posted by: Siergen at November 19, 2004 at 03:24 PM

Yes, Wile E actually beat Road Runner in one cartoon. I seem to remember it ended with him walking towards the camera with feathers coming out of his mouth.

...or was that a dream?

Posted by: Quentin George at November 19, 2004 at 03:44 PM

Bugs influenced my political thinking. In one of the early B&W cartoons, Elmer puts a plate of vegetables in front of the cute little rabbit, and Bugs curses him out while cramming food into his mouth.

I think of that image everytime some well-fed American complains about some minor problem as if it were the f***** end of the world. They just don't know how good they have it.

Posted by: Bill Peschel at November 19, 2004 at 03:45 PM

Of course, none'a you young whippersnappers remember Colonel Bleep and his sidekicks Squeak and Scratch...

Posted by: richard mcenroe at November 19, 2004 at 03:52 PM

Actually, there's a cartoon where the Road Runner is indeed defeated, but it's Hamilton Burger who does it, not the Coyote.

Posted by: Lileks at November 19, 2004 at 04:43 PM

"Because of them, cartoon producers today simply cannot show real guns, or the consequences of using them. Instead, they have to use "stunners," "blasters" and other colorful euphemisms, from which no one ever dies.

From this, the children learn an invaluable lesson: that you can shoot guns without consequences."

Even worse: there are quite a few shows (GI Joe was a particular offender) where people do shoot real guns, missiles, lasers, etc., and STILL no one dies.

That's the one problem I have with Samurai Jack: the only things that he actually kills (well, at least until he gets to do the deed to Aku in the series finale) are robots.

Posted by: David Perry at November 19, 2004 at 04:55 PM

That's what I love about anime- consider the first 5 minutes of "Cowboy Bebop"- at least 8 deaths on screen.

Posted by: Mr. Blue at November 19, 2004 at 05:19 PM

"I don't understand today's cartooning at all. What's made for children is pure trash, and what's made for adults is Japanese. The one exception I'd make (purely personal opinion) is Samurai Jack, which I consider high art."

You should watch some more of the Cartoon Network. Codename: Kids Next Door rules the earth and takes no prisoners. They use lots of technology and weapons (even if the tech is 2x4 and the weapons only shoot water balloons or Skittles) and their chief enemies are officious bureaucrats, public school teachers, politically correct parents, and possibly the most collectivist villians in the history of animation, the Delightful Children From Down the Lane (they even TALK in unison.) As the deconstructionists would say, it subverts the dominant paradigm (which is their paradigm, and not ours.) Not to mention, it works in some incredibly poignant moments about being a kid and growing up.
Dexter's Lab and Powerpuff Girls were also great early on, although they're both mostly mediocre these days. On Nickelodeon, Spongebob is the SCREWIEST thing since the glory days of Tex Avery.

Also, on the subjects of violence and political correctness, give credit to The Incredibles for being quite clear that the villian has killed an entire boatload of superheroes, as well as for saying that it's good to have special abilities and to use them to their fullest.

Posted by: David Perry at November 19, 2004 at 05:23 PM

One of the funniest things I ever read was a short essay by Ian Frazier, Coyote vs. ACME, which I reccommend to all who read these words. It is the purported opening statment for the plaintiff, Mr. Wile E. Coyote, in his suit against the manufacturing giant. Wish I'd thought of it.

Posted by: hammer at November 19, 2004 at 06:00 PM

And for the truly age-challenged: Crusader Rabbit, Courageous Cat (and Minute Mouse,) and Deputy Dawg ("Come down, you old hen-house... you are defying the laws of gravity, there, Boy!")

Beat that, Rich Mc and supposed Lileks person!

Posted by: geezer at November 19, 2004 at 06:41 PM

"After watching the "Lion King" for the 250 th time you are itching to tell Disney th shove their "Hakuna's" up their "Mutata's""

/Stephen Fry.

Posted by: Evert V in NL at November 19, 2004 at 09:40 PM


Invader Zim

'nuff said!

ZIM: Why is there bacon in the soap?!


Posted by: Alan in Louisville at November 19, 2004 at 10:11 PM

when in this world the headlines read
of those whos hearts arte filled with greed
and lie and steal form those in need
the cry goes out with blinding speed

speed of lightning
roar of thunder
fighting all
who rob or plunder

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at November 19, 2004 at 10:45 PM

bugs is the embodiment of yankee ingenuity and drive, in that he always perseveres and is infinitely flexible in how he approaches a problem; the point is to solve the problem. fire a cannon? no problem. bark like a dog? no problem. dress in drag and kiss elmer fudd? again, no biggie if it gets the job done.

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at November 19, 2004 at 10:54 PM

One current cartoon with a bit of an attitude is Cartoon Network's "Megas XLR." Lots of destruction, less-than-heroic heroes (Coop belches, looks surprised, then says "Hmmm, I don't remember eating *that*."). One episode spent several minutes doing bits straight out of "The Blues Brothers." The epic battle against the Department of Motor Vehicles was also fun.

David Perry's comments about "Codename: Kids Next Door" were on the mark. A very smart show. The KND parody of "The Second Renaissance" from the Animatrix was brilliant. A couple of the recurring villains are based off of two hitmen from "Diamonds Are Forever."

Posted by: cirby at November 19, 2004 at 11:43 PM

As a southerner I identified with Foghorn Leghorn and the Tex Avery wolf that was always whistling Dixie (the hungry billygoat cartoon is one of the best toons ever). Next time you are in a serious business meeting, preface your comments with "Boy, I say Boy!" and see how impressed your boss will be.

Cobra Commander was good for a larf too.

Posted by: Rob at November 19, 2004 at 11:47 PM

Roar of thunder
Speed of lightning
The bad guys were
Never frightning.

I still wonder what a derdog is, such that he was the un-example.

Posted by: triticale at November 19, 2004 at 11:49 PM

Some other great current Toons:

Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius. (Pie!)

Kim Possible (I'm 34, married, have kids, and I crush on her. Plus, "Cheese!")

Fairly Oddparents (well, good anyway. Beats spongebob's lame rear. Boy, he stinks.)

My Life as a Teenage Robot.

None of these comes close to WB though. Those are pure, true art.

Posted by: greg zywicki at November 19, 2004 at 11:56 PM

There were specific rules to the Road Runner universe, and they were never broken. Some of the key rules included:
- Wile E. could only be harmed by his own incompetence.
- The audience's sympathy must always be with the coyote.
The full list is here:
Link to Warner Brothers

Posted by: Andrew at November 19, 2004 at 11:56 PM

Ahem. You want edgy? Goes against the mainstream? Bizarre?


Pinky And The Brain

They're Pinky and The Brain
Yes, Pinky and The Brain
One is a genius
The other's insane.
They're laboratory mice
Their genes have been spliced
They're dinky
They're Pinky and The Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain
Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain

Before each night is done
Their plan will be unfurled
By the dawning of the sun
They'll take over the world.

They're Pinky and The Brain
Yes, Pinky and The Brain
Their twilight campaign
Is easy to explain.
To prove their mousey worth
They'll overthrow the Earth
They're dinky
They're Pinky and The Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain
Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain

Posted by: The Real JeffS at November 20, 2004 at 12:19 AM


I must admit to a certain nostalgia for the original Johnny Quest series. Surely JQ must be in the top ten cartoons of all time.

And, as an engineer myself, I always rooted for Wil E. Coyote. But I remember one cartoon where the Coyote had purchased a large number of items from Acme, all of which failed. The final sequence revealed that Acme was owned by.....the Roadrunner.

There's a message there. I've never figured it out. I was too busy rolling on the floor, laughing.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at November 20, 2004 at 12:26 AM

What everyone is forgetting is the Road Runner cartoon where they zoom in on the ACME label on the catapault. ACME industries is a subsidiary of Road Runner Enterprises. Kind of explains it doesn't it?

Posted by: Joe at November 20, 2004 at 12:32 AM

My Dad used to own ACME Cleaners ("two locations to serve you beter")he wasn't a very good speller. I didn't know what the word meant until I was 30. The ol' man was smarter that I thought.

Can anyone tell this recovering Idiot why I keep getting error messages when attempting to log on to Lileks' site? Just that one, none other.

For the record, it was better when Bug's filled in for R.R.

Posted by: Doc at November 20, 2004 at 12:53 AM

Here's a bit of a tengential aside. During World War II, there was a series of cartoon put out for our soldiers, warning agaisnt such things as fraternization, telling secrets to strangers, and so on. The two men who did those films were Theodore Geisel and Chuck Jones.

Dr. Seuss and Chuck Jones - together on one project. Wow. That still boggles my mind. I somehow need to get my hands on those.

Oh and cartoons? My childhood world revolved around the Holy Trinity of Cartoons: Warner Brothers, The Flintstones, and Scooby Doo. I also really liked Johnny Quest (and have that as my next DVD set to buy), but my local TV stations only carried it once in a while - it was never a regular part of the rotation.

And then there was always the pretty good Banana Splits Show. It wasn't truly a cartoon show, but it did have some good stuff, especially Danger Island.

Posted by: Jimmie at November 20, 2004 at 01:28 AM

And whatever happened to Yosemite Sam in his Blacque Jacque Shellacque from Montreal role? As far as I can tell, absolutely gone, disparu, pfft; especially here in Canada.

Posted by: Fred Z at November 20, 2004 at 01:33 AM


Scooby-frickin'-Doo? *Ptui!*

Scooby-Doo was one of the worst offenders in the Cycling Hallway School of Animation, where Shaggy and Scooby would pass the same lamp and chair again, and again, and again... no, no, my friends, Scooby-Doo was, as the French say, "le crap."

And none of you people have yet mentioned "George of the Jungle." Oh, for shame!

Posted by: TPK at November 20, 2004 at 01:43 AM

I never watched Scooby-Doo. He had the dorkiest circle of friends, and every single episode was about a frickin' ghost. And they ran well into the late 80s.

Posted by: Attmay at November 20, 2004 at 01:54 AM

Jimmie — There are several collections of banned or censored cartoons that feature these Private Snafu cartoons you're talking about. WB won't release them mainstream because they're mean to the Japanese.

Jack Warner's doing about 3000 rpm, I figger.

Posted by: richard mcenroe at November 20, 2004 at 01:55 AM

geezer — What about Rod Rocket? Space Angel? Clutch Cargo?

Posted by: richard mcenroe at November 20, 2004 at 01:59 AM

Geezer, I'll see your Crusader Rabbit and raise you a Linus the Lion-Hearted.

Posted by: ak at November 20, 2004 at 02:04 AM

The best of the new stuff is put out by Genndy Tartakovsky. Samurai Jack, Dexter's Lab (Old series). SDB explains why:

Posted by: RPD at November 20, 2004 at 02:07 AM

If I remember correctly, there was one RR cartoon where the Coyote chased him down a series of shrinking pipes, and they both came out the end tiny. Then they turned around and raced back up the pipes, the Road Runner had returned to normal size and the Coyote was still tiny. With the huge bird standing over him, the Coyote turns to the camera and holds up a sign saying "You guys always wanted me to catch him - NOW what am I supposed to do?"

And there was another one with two kids watching the cartoon and the Coyote starts talking to them - I forget how that one ended.

Posted by: Devin McCullen at November 20, 2004 at 02:13 AM

I will pay someone $1000 to make this song dissapear from existence:

The Berenstain Bears

Somewhere deep in Bear Country
Lives the Berenstain Bear family
They're kind of furry around the torso
They're a lot like people, only more so

The bear fact is that
They're just like you and me
The only difference
Is they live in a tree

The Berenstain Bears

When things go wrong as things might do
The Berenstain Bears will find a way through
Mama, Papa, Sister and Brother
They'll always be there for each other

The bear fact is that
They can be sweet as honey
Sometimes you'll find
They might be just plain funny

The Berenstain Bears
The Berenstain Bears

Posted by: js at November 20, 2004 at 02:17 AM

Dr. Seuss and Chuck Jones - together on one project. Wow. That still boggles my mind. I somehow need to get my hands on those.

jimmie, they also did a little thing you may have seen called how the grinch stole christmas

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at November 20, 2004 at 02:19 AM

Star Blazers. Good art, great story, and people actually got killed. When I was eight, it was the best cartoon ever. It was everything that Scooby-Doo was not, and not anything that Scooby-Doo was.

Posted by: Grant at November 20, 2004 at 03:05 AM

When it looks like you're in danger
When you're threatened by a stranger
When it looks like you will take a lickin'
There is someone waiting
Who will hurry up and rescue you
Just calllllll on Super Chicken.

Fred, I'm afraid you'll have to overlook it
Besides, you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.

He will drink his super sauce
And throw the bad guys for a loss
Then he will bring them in alive and kickin'
There is someone waiting
Who will hurry up and rescue you
Just calllllll on Super Chicken.

I will dispense with the Tom Slick theme. But what about all the proto-anime, such as KIMBA the White Lion, Rocket-Boy and 8th Man!

And if you want a real interesting eye into the 50's and the so-called conformity of the time, check out one of the early Dr. Suess movies: "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T" (as opposed to the 4,000 Bling-bling of Mr. T). A must have/keep/steal on DVD.

Posted by: Harvard@Cal at November 20, 2004 at 03:15 AM

Chuck Jones and the Warner folks like Clampett and Avery were and still are the absolute best. The tripe that came after them for so many years (Hanna Barbara - excepting original Flintstones) should be burned. The Yugio crap should die as well. Johnny Quest and Scooby Doo is animation wasteland. Scappy Doo is vomitous.

"That Voiceth!!! Where did you get zthat crathzy voieth?!!"--Producer Leon Schlessinger upon seeing the first Daffy Duck cartoon.

Posted by: Catracks at November 20, 2004 at 03:50 AM

I have two videotapes of Private SNAFU. A collection is available on Amazon. They make fun of all Axis powers and are funny as hell. It's great that those guys spent the war in the capacity that they were best trained for.

Posted by: Catracks at November 20, 2004 at 03:58 AM are so right! I just passed a stand of throw-away tabloids. One of them was a "New Age" themed bit of nonsense aimed at releiving the mentally questionable among us from some of their "Old Age" cash. On the cover was a smiling grizzly-bear surrounded by happily swimming (in the air) salmon; and...get this...the bear is hugging a little native American child who is sleeping on the bear's belly. My thought: the bear is happily remembering the fish he just ate and he sure doesn't have to worry where his next meal is coming from either. I'm pretty sure that's not what the Roadrunner-worshipping artist that drew him intended...but sometimes reality is funnier than the cartoons.

Posted by: Pat Rand at November 20, 2004 at 04:24 AM

Many have suggested anime shows as modern highlights, and I admit to a fondness. (I own all the Bebop soundtracks, for example. Yoko Kanno is a no-holds-barred genius.) But after a while, I need a break from the clichés. Example: "The Big O," in which an intriguing premise is nearly scuttled by oodles of stranded plot threads and way too many 15-second shots of people gasping with wide, quivering eyes, because somebody said their name accusingly. Bonus cliché - the hero drives a great big honkin' ROBOT.

But dittos to the commenter who suggested "Star Blazers." I used to run home from school every afternoon at top speed to watch that and "Battle of the Planets" on channel 5, New York (the pre-Fox days).

Since nobody is confessing their guilty cartoon pleasures, I'll start. Behold - SPEED RACER, an all-time classic theme song attached to horribly-drawn characters (proto-anime) who speak entirely in exposition or gasps. (And what's with that homoerotic subtext between Speed and Sparky?) Watching them now is like being in your own Satellite of Love, but yes, I still enjoy it. Adventure's waiting just ahead!

Posted by: Nightfly at November 20, 2004 at 05:04 AM

Kimba was on right after Speed Racer and the Adams Family was on after that. I couldn't help but keep watching.

I had a crush a Racer X. How sick was that?

Posted by: Catracks at November 20, 2004 at 05:16 AM

Catracks - forgiven. He was invariably billed as "the mysterious" Racer X, and what girl could resist that? (PS - did you know that he was secretly Rex Racer, Speed's older brother?!?)

I also forgot Guilty Pleasure #2 (and 2a) - Aqua Teen and Sealab 2021. The Mooninites rock.

"The bullet is of enormous magnitude! Jumping is pointless; there is no escape!"

Posted by: Nightfly at November 20, 2004 at 05:28 AM

Sealab is too cool, even without Hesh and Cap'n Murphy. Venture Brothers is sweet too. It's like Johnny Quest on acid.

Posted by: JP Gibb at November 20, 2004 at 05:32 AM

Oh yes, I remember. On thing that always bugged me is how serious they could play some characters and others you just wanted to slap (The fat kid, the monkey/ape/chimp thing, "Pops.") I think it has been more than 30 years.


Does anyone remember the surreal, funny Mighty Mouse? I don't know if it was an 80s redo or what. It was more funny than the original. Weird, satirical funny.

Guilty cartoon pleasure: Underdog, Fractured Fairytales and Commander McBragg.

Posted by: Catracks at November 20, 2004 at 05:48 AM

Sorry, forgot. Old Felix the Cat (Professor. Master Cylinder, etc. I want a bag or tricks.

Posted by: Catracks at November 20, 2004 at 05:52 AM

Astroboy? ...anyone? ...anyone at all?

Posted by: nofixedabode at November 20, 2004 at 05:59 AM

Anyone remember that Cool McCool cartoon? Now there was a weird one.

There was one outstanding feature of all the cartoons I watched during the 80's Saturday mornings. None except Looney tunes were anywhere nearly as funny - quite an achievement really.

Posted by: Rob at November 20, 2004 at 06:00 AM

Astroboy? ...anyone? ...anyone at all?

There used to be an urban legend that he had rocket jets coming out of his arse.

Funny, thats the way I remember it.

Posted by: Quentin George at November 20, 2004 at 06:21 AM

Ah, the simple joys of quality 20th-century animation. (Which includes the original Astro Boy, but not Gigantor. What was up with that remote control anyway? The kid just yanked the joystick back and forth!)

These days I find as much enjoyment in identifying the voice talent behind the characters. Amazing how many Hollywood types pop up in TV animation series. (Easy one: which late 90s animated series featured, at one time, the voices of a number of latter-day Star Trek actors?)

Posted by: Paul in NJ at November 20, 2004 at 06:23 AM

aw, but paul you had to love how gigantor helped that whale off the beach every episode...oh wait, that's 'cos it was in the credits...

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at November 20, 2004 at 06:29 AM

Interesting reading... Any comments on "Tom and Jerry" and the MGM crowd? My kids are watching them on Boomerang, and it's amazing how well I recall every episode. Yeah, I always supported the mouse, and I'm very glad Gene Kelly had the good taste to choose Jerry as a dance partner over that other boring Mouse.

Posted by: Leland at November 20, 2004 at 06:38 AM

Ah, Paul (in NJ, as am I) - that would be Disney's "Gargoyles." I thought they'd bought Paramount or something.

The original Speed Racer was from the mid-sixties sometime. The remade Speed Racer ('92?) NEVER HAPPENED.

Posted by: Nightfly at November 20, 2004 at 07:04 AM

Funniest RR ever was the one where the coyote released of bunch of flying grenades or dynamite on boomerangs. They kept coming back and throughout the whole cartoon and exploding on contact. You could hear 'em coming.

Chuck Jones did some Tom & Jerrys, but they were surreal and oddly drawn.

Another weird cartoon: The ant and the aardvark. It was almost RR and coyote like, but the ant was oddly smart with a dry sense of humor.

Posted by: Catracks at November 20, 2004 at 07:12 AM

Catracks, didn't they show the Ant and the Aardvark with the Pink Panther cartoon?

Posted by: JP Gibb at November 20, 2004 at 07:35 AM

Yes, on Pink Panther. I never liked De Patie/Freling.

Check this site out. They have old Felix clips and old records to play. Lots of stuff to keep you from actually working, ... ahem!

Posted by: Catracks at November 20, 2004 at 08:08 AM

Anyone remembers A Pup Named Scooby-Doo? A pretty funny send-up of the original. "The gang" was now all kids (and Scooby a puppy.) The characters changed, too: Fred became a complete moron, Daphne was channeling Thesesa Heinz, etc.

As for Tom and Jerry, I always hoped Tom would finally eat that annoying mouse.

Posted by: ti at November 20, 2004 at 08:19 AM

Rebecca and Catracks above remembered Fractured Fairytales, which I recall were part of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

It was not animation, except for the credits, but Jay Ward also made a show called Fractured Flickers, which was a sort of proto-Mystery Science Theater 3000. Old silent movie clips, with a voice track added. I laughed like hell at this stuff in the early 60's.

Posted by: Neuroto at November 20, 2004 at 08:49 AM

Commander McBragg, etal. were part of Tennesse Tuxedo.

Bullwinkle had FF and well as Peabody & Sherman and the Aesops Son thing.

Dudley DooRight? Belonged to which?

Sorry to unload websites on you, but you all need a blast from the past?? Who remembers Kaboom Cereal and King Vitamin, etc.

Haven't even seen the homepage yet. Surfing is weird business. Got here through the cartoon one. Lileks would like this site I think.

Posted by: Catracks at November 20, 2004 at 09:18 AM

Quentin George -- The rockets were in his feet. He had a pair of some sort of lightning guns in his ass. I remember that because I wrote my first fan fic around it when I was six...

I notice everyone is ignoring Filmation... well done, you men!

But now let's get into some real cartoons and their theme songs...

When Captain America throws his might shield,
All those who chose to oppose his shield must yield!
For the red and the white and blue come through!
Yes, the red and the white and blue will come through--
When Captain America throws his mighty shield!

Posted by: richard mcenroe at November 20, 2004 at 10:36 AM

From the rainbow bridge of Asgard
Where the booming heavens roar
We behold with breathless wonder
The god of thunder--

Posted by: richard mcenroe at November 20, 2004 at 10:46 AM

Tony Stark makes you feel
He's a cool exec with a heart of steel.
But as Iron Man, all jets ablaze,
He fights and fights with repulsor rays!
The amazing power of Iron Man!
The amazing power of Iron Man!

Posted by: richard mcenroe at November 20, 2004 at 10:57 AM

How can anyone mention that stupid Rooster without mentioning the Chicken Hawk!!!! Especially the one where he pulls the bulldog out of his doghouse! Fratured Flickers-Hosted by Hans Conreid.

Posted by: YoJimbo at November 20, 2004 at 11:14 AM

And just where are Sheriff John, Engineer Bill, Captain Jet(Zoom!) and Soupy Sales when we need them most?

Posted by: YoJimbo at November 20, 2004 at 11:20 AM

I've got a tape of the old Superman cartoon "Japotuers", anyone want to offer me a million dollars for it or anything?

Somewhere I wrote that the low quality of the animation had little to do with what sucked about Hanna-Barbera, but I can't find it now. The stories were no good! They could have done all the Looney Toons with hand puppets, still would be a superior product to the Flintstones.

Re:Collecivism in 80s toons- A lot of these "our only hope is to submerge all of our egos within the giant death robot" things came out of Asia, so what do you expect? The more western version of this is Fantastic Four style groups where each member has a specialized function, as in the Body of Christ. Who can tell the Power Rangers apart? The pink one even appears to have a penis in some of the action shots.

There were some laws passed (in the early 80s, I think) that required every episode of a children's show to have a moral, and I think they even had to turn in a little report to someone. I think this encouraged them to follow a formula where the moral is always the same, so they can just turn in the same synopsis every time, so for awhile, the moral was always something like "teamwork is good" or "sometimes you can stop a bad guy without killing him". Things you can re-use a lot without screwing up the action too much. Mighty Max got around this admirably, but I think I'm the only one who liked that one. He'd just give a little talk at the end about something that didn't have much to do with the episode at all.

Things have gotten a lot better since the 80s. Lots of the sentiment in favor of older cartoons is left over from that "program length commercial for overpriced piece of plastic in the shape of adenoidal bisexual cyborg" era. Spongebob will be remembered as the Bugs of our time.

Posted by: Dave Munger at November 20, 2004 at 11:33 AM

That second link should have been this.

Posted by: Robin Roberts at November 20, 2004 at 11:44 AM

The legendary (and sadly, now departed) David Potter, aka "Gharlane of Eddore" on Usenet's rec.arts.sf* hierarchy, had a wonderful post about the Coyote vs. the Road Runner.

I shall reprint it here.

From: (Gharlane of Eddore)
Subject: Re: The trouble with Gunmen
Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2001 04:24:56 GMT

In , Rich Canuck Software Wizard
Travers Naran wrote:

> I always rooted for Wile E. Coyote. To me, he was the pathetic
> ( in the original Greek dramatic sense), tragic hero of this
> Homeresque black comedy. As a child, I kept hoping that each plan
> would be the plan that snares that @#$! Road Runner.

What could be *more* noble than unshirking courage, unrelenting
innovation, refusal to admit defeat under any circumstances?
I see nothing "pathetic" in the Coyote at all; he is the
archetype of endeavor, the explorer, the seeker, the Hero
With A Thousand Faces who never falters in his quest, never
bends to the assaults of a cruel universe.

> In retrospect, I empathized with the Coyote because I always had
> an engineering bent as a child. To me, the Coyote was being true
> to the spirit of the human struggle: technology and ingenuity to
> overcome a very painful, violent Universe.

You're hedging close, here to the single most fundamental aspect
of the primary focus of human existence; humans were most strongly
selected as cursorial hunters, runners with the endurance, the
focus, the *obsession*, to fixate on a goal and pursue it until
the end. This is why, even though a cheetah can run 70 mph for
a time, a human hunter can run one down and kill it; the cheetah
needs recovery time, but the human has a built-in cooling system,
and once switched all the way over to fully aerobic fat-burning
metabolism, can run at a reasonable speed for fifty or sixty
miles without undue risk of cardiac infarction. By the time
the hunter catches up to the cheetah, it's half-dead from the
metabolite toxins of a dozen shortening sprints in its attempt
to escape.

The *psychology* that had to evolve along with the physiological
characteristics that made it possible for the early man-monkeys
to run down game carry over into all of human endeavor, at its
best and at its worst. ( At the low end of the scale, we have
serial killers, sociopathic Net-morphers from Atlanta, federal
civil servants in Arlington, even fat bullies from Los Angeles;
people who find some simple feeble thing they can do, and then
insist on doing it without reference to whether it will accomplish
any good in the world, or indeed, even feed them --- and at the
high end of the scale, we have people like Marie Sklodowska, who
was willing to spend years searching for and isolating a sample
of something no one else was willing to purse at that cost, at
that level of devotion. We have General Billy Mitchell standing
a court-martial because he knew he was right, we have Sir
Ernest Shackleton's trip in the 'James Caird' and his trip
over a relatively impassable island with Crean and Worsley,
by dint of which not a single man of the crew of the "Endurance"
was lost.... a trip which very few sane men would have begun,
much less completed. ) This is the hallmark of what it is
to be on the leading edge of the teeming mass of lesser scum
that sits home and watches TV, or posts to the InterNet; this
is what it is to be above and beyond mere humanity.

And this is why the Coyote is one of the most fundamentally
Heroic Archetypes in our current era's pantheon of mythic
figures, why he is ineluctably appealing to anyone with the
slightest bit of drive and focus, the slightest tendency to
seek, to explore, to *try*, to ignore defeat and rise above it.

And no stupid bird whose best coping skill is to Run Away could
ever contrive to approach the level of nobility achieved by the

> I think the other reason I loved the Coyote was because every time
> *I* tried an experiment or invention, it never worked. The most
> bizarre things would happen, but I perservered.
> In a sense, that's why I loved Coyote because he was the ideal
> science fiction hero. The tireless, eternally-optimistic
> scientist/inventor/engineer struggling against the laws of physics.
> See, I managed to make it an SFTV reference after all. :-)

*PRECISELY*. It is this nobility of drive, of spirit, of *ENDEAVOR*,
understood at the gut level by even our least technically-skilled
proponents of Speculative Fiction, that is the single most universal
defining aspect of what it is to be nobly human, what it is to seek
to rise, to excel, to accomplish new and unique things in the universe.

" ....Tho' much is taken, much abides, and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

--- Tennyson, "ULYSSES," 1842.

Posted by: Chuckg at November 20, 2004 at 11:58 AM

Geisel also drew a whole bunch of propaganda cartoons (the non-animated variety) during World War II that are reflective of their era.

They've been released in a book- I think it's called

"Dr. Seuss Goes To War".

Politically correct heads will explode if exposed to more than just a few of these drawings.

Posted by: WWW at November 20, 2004 at 01:36 PM

Sometimes I think Usenet was the internet at its height, and after that the rest should have been silence but instead is all noise. Then I wake up.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at November 20, 2004 at 02:10 PM

Oo! Felix the Cat! I remember him from comic books, though, long before the animated version, and I loved him because they always drew him in a kind of surreal, prickly-pear, clay-pot, American Southwest alternate reality. My kind of country.

Posted by: Rebecca at November 20, 2004 at 02:18 PM

Doc Bruce Banner
Belted by Gamma Rays
Turns Into the Hulk
(Ain't he on glamor-rays?)

Beckon and pound
With the power of a bull
Ain't no monster now,
Who is that lovable
And ever-lovin' Hulk?
Hulk! Hulk!

Posted by: richard mcenroe at November 20, 2004 at 04:42 PM

Felix the Cat!
The wonderful, wonderful cat!
Whenever he gets in a fix,
He reaches into his bag of tricks...

Posted by: richard mcenroe at November 20, 2004 at 04:44 PM

Dave Munger — And indeed, those cartoons and programs did manage both to have a profound moral and completely miss their own point...

"Well, Billy, now do you see why it's wrong to set winos on fire?"

"Gosh, yes, Captain Marvel! Tommy burned his hand real bad! I'll never play with matches again!"

Posted by: richard mcenroe at November 20, 2004 at 04:48 PM

So much here has been about the art work and, um, deeper meanings of the 'toons, but the one constant about so many of them (excluding RR) is the voice (Mel Blanc). Just hearing "the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator" always has and always will crack me up.

BTW, since we're listing other cartoons, one of my favorites is the fairly recent, very short-lived (perhaps rightly so, but...): "Earthworm Jim."

Posted by: cardeblu at November 20, 2004 at 05:23 PM

I enjoyed alot of Jay Ward Productions like the George of the Jungle package that included Tom Slick and Superchicken and of course the Rocky and Bullwinkle package of Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties (with Snidley Whiplash, Inspector Fenwick and his daughter Nell), Aesop and Son, Fractured Fairy Tales and Peabodys Improbable History (with Sherman).
My other favorites include Total TVs King Leonardo and Odie (with the Biggy Rat, Itchy Brother, Carlotta and Prof. Messer) which was packaged with The Hunter and Tooter Turtle (which had the Wizard, "Trizzle, trazzle, truzzle, trome, time for this one to come home").
Total TV also produced Tennesee Tuxedo w/Commander McBragg and Underdog w/Klondike Kat (an inept Canadian Mountie cat chasing his antagonist mouse, Savoir Faire) and Go Go Gophers (with Running Board, Ruffled Feathers as American Indians and Col. Kit Coyote and Sgt. Okey Homa as US Army Calvary soldiers).
Now I have to find Fractured Flicks to complete my Jay Ward education.

Posted by: torchy at November 20, 2004 at 07:53 PM

The cartoon world really messed a few generations up. The early cartoons are really ghoulish. It was like the artists were channeling the 2nd dimension or something. Skeleton's dancing and creepy interpretation of nature just really make one's skin crawl. Some of this creepiness was captured in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I don't know if they did it intentionally or not. This contrasts highly with the quality artwork and impressive draftsmen who put out ads in the 30's and 40's.

The sexually disturbed artists that drew the stuff were fixated on transvestism and Bugs Bunny and most cartoon characters were perpetually found in drag or reversing gender roles. All the kiddies watch this and only really think about how messed up it was when they get older. The artists managed to get away with a lot of stuff slipped in most cartoons and the real joke was on the kids who watched it.

As for 80's onwards to today, the cartoons now are just product placement advertisements. Shows like Yu-gi-oh are so insipid and brainless you have to wonder what bumper crop of adults they will produce, since in this day the television, and all the garbage showed on it, is the unpaid babysitter for America's kids.

Posted by: SDAI-Tech1 at November 20, 2004 at 09:14 PM

Dude! You read to much into it. Yes, the early cartoon are creepy just as much as Chaplin & D.W. Griffith were. To me, it adds to the allure. The art was evolving. Have you seen the German expressionism stuff? Creepy max! You want to talk creepy? Look at Polar Express. The charaters look like the undead or never really were alive. Somebody likened them to unfinished pod people.

I take exception to the sexually disturbed theory. It only bothers people who feel threatened. I grew up on the stuff and watched Monty Python from age 10 up. One person doesn't a survey make, but there is no creedence to the idea that Popeye cartoons and Looney Tunes caused massive pathology. Yeah bud, the joke's on me. /shakes head

Please lighten up before you blow a gasket. This was a cool nostalgic walk down cartoon lane. Don't you have ANY fond memories?

/posts really, REALLY late.

Posted by: Catracks at November 21, 2004 at 04:49 AM

Torchy — "Calvary soldiers," eh? No doubt more of those redneck homophobic religious right types... but I liked the Ben Johnson joke they did with the Sergeant...

SDAI-Tech — They were still working out movement techiques in the early days, a lot of the reason for the weird representations and movements of the early cartoons ("hey, look, guys, elbows! Look what they do!") and the dancing skeletons and creepy nature et al come right out of the folk culture of the European immigrant population that made up much of the audience for the earliest films and cartoons. Remember, this was the time of Otto Shrek in Nosferatu, not Bela Lugosi in Dracula.

As for being fixated on transvestism, you're way oversimplifying. Sure, they did cross-dressing humor, but transgender was so far out of the social consciousness back then it's simply not a reasonable allegation to make. It wasn't a sexual statement, it was burlesque. And there was plenty of good glean wholesome sexism in those classic cartoons, as the punch lines, "So, it's mechanical!" and "I'd like to report a genie with light brown hair chasing a flying sorceress!" should remind any animation fan.

Posted by: richard mcenroe at November 21, 2004 at 04:50 AM

Stronger than a whale
He can swim anywhere!
He can swim under water and go flying through the air!

It's the noble Submariner!
Prince of the Deep!
For Namor of Atlantis is the Prince of the Sea...

Posted by: richard mcenroe at November 21, 2004 at 04:53 AM

Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips, I remember Buckskin Bill showing that on air circa 1973 in Baton Rouge but funny, you can't get ahold of it nowadays. Go figure.

Posted by: USMCKen at November 21, 2004 at 05:36 AM

I think I am around the same ages as Lileks and have similar obsessions. I would so wish I could get a hold of the Jazz soundtrack to Johnny Quest (BY the Hoyt Curtin Jazz Combo), but it's nearly impossible (for legal reasons, though it almost came out). I am an animator, but of the 3D variety, but have been obsessive about cartoons since the late 1960's. MGM I can watch, and used to watch the broadcasts on cartoon Network every night as I went to bed, and they would recycle all fo the Tom & Jerries inside of 2 months so you could see Tom going from a bowlingball headed pseudo tabby and a much cuter Jerry Mouse, evolve into slick "advertizing design" characters in the 50's (Thanks to the designer Ed Bennedict, who is responsible for the pear shapes and stubby legs that Lileks hates so much.) Then into a short foray into Eastern European styles directed by the lamentable Gene Dietch, to the bizzare, and poorly paced Chuck Jones directed and produced ones of the mid 60's. Bill & Joe always played to what the audience expected, though there were variations in the formula. Always quality. Warners was prefered, though, and Disney shorts, for me were always a dissapointment to me. Donald Duck just was never funny (Confession I had a father with Donald Duck's temperment, though being over 6 feet, he was terrifying when angry). Goofy was on occasion, Mickey Mouse was a Milquetoast mama's boy.

As to my preferneces? Johnny Quest, Warners, and the Space Ghost/Herculoids.

The beststuff out there now, are Genndy Tartakovsky's cartoons (Samurai Jack, Clone Wars, Dexter's Lab), Some Anime, and anything by Pixar.

Hope this helps


Posted by: Scott Ruggels at November 21, 2004 at 07:27 PM

I think Warners could reall set Lileks' hair on end in the next Golden Collection if they included "The Jet Cage" in the set. Not only is it A.) a Tweety cartoon, but B.) it's a Tweety cartoon that almost has a Road Runner-Coyote format, with Sylvester trying and failing for six minutes to catch a flying cage, and C.) it's also the cartoon during which Milt Franklyn -- who worked for years with Carl Stalling before succeeding him as musical director -- died in the middle of production and was replaced by the dread Bill Lava.

The changeover from the Franklyn-Stalling house style to Lava's trademarked bangs, dings and screetches which James plans to warn Gnat about in the future would make this short a Trifecta from Hell for him, even while it does show how important the music of Stalling and Franklyn was to the overall success of the cartoons (though I still like Lava's opening theme for "F Troop". Sue ma.)

Posted by: John at November 22, 2004 at 12:35 AM

The difference between the WB and the HB or Jay Ward, etc. cartoons was the sustained humor. Underdog had a great theme song, but the cartoon wasn't great; Yogi Bear had a few good lines and sound effects; The Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons had great names for so many characters. But the WB productions were a cut above, with few filler moments. Great facial expressions, great timing, great sendups of serious literature. Fantastic.

Linus, So-Hi, et al had no redeeming features however.

Now I'll take deeper into cartoon history (set the way-back machine for 1956, Sherman). Clutch Cargo and Paddlefoot -- great theme music. Tom Terrific and Manfred the Wonder Dog -- great villains. Beanie and Cecil -- great midcartoon songs.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at November 22, 2004 at 12:40 PM

Oh, if it's lyrics we're wanting:

Spider-Man, Spider-Man
Does whatever a spider can
Spins a web, any size
Catches theives just like flies
Look out! Here comes the Spider-Man

Is he strong? Listen, bub
He's got radioactive blood!
Can he swing from a thread?
Take a look overhead -
Hey hey, there goes the Spider-Man

In the chill of the nights
At the scene of the crime
Like a streak of light
He arrives just in time

Spider-Man, Spider-Man
Friendly neighborhood Spider-Man
Wealth and fame he ignores
Action is his reward

You should still be able to find a CD called "Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits," in which a number of these songs are re-recorded for our edification. The Ramones do the Spidey theme (it's magnificent). Others mentioned here - "Underdog" by The Butthole Surfers, an incredible "Jonny Quest" from The Reverend Horton Heat, and Matthew Sweet doing a decent "Speed Racer" (though I prefer the original). Lots worth hearing, including The Violent Femmes doing "Eep Op Ork Ah-Ah" from the Jetsons. (Alas, the "Happy Happy Joy Joy Song" gets utterly ruined.)

Posted by: Nightfly at November 23, 2004 at 03:53 AM