The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

80's Cartoons Are Serious Business

Maybe it's just me, I don't know, but I have noticed a trend for a very long time. If you criticize a cartoon from the 1980's, you may as well be kicking someone's grandmother in the stomach.

I tend to blame the nostalgia glasses, as a lot of people will remember the cartoons they grew up with in the 1980's as these dark, brooding, Shakepearan epics. I've seen people say with a straight face that the original "Transformers" is better than "Batman the Animated Series." I wish I was kidding, but I am not.


I've seen people proclaim that "GI Joe" is better than "Gargoyles" and that "Cobra Commander was a badass that could make Xanatos lick his boots.

I've seen a lot of weird claims. Even a good friend and I had a debate about the original "Transformers the Movie" that got pretty heated. I was very critical of it, and at one point he said "it was a delightful piece of our childhood, and you won't speak ill of it."

Now, let me get this out of the way, I love that movie. I can quote it word for word. But I still recognize that the movie is crap. I can do that, and still enjoy it. Why can't other people? Why does it need to be placed on a pedestal next to "Casablanca?" Don't roll your eyes at me, I have seen that.

I'm reminded of something Greg Weisman once said:

I think Batman the Animated Series was a revelation to many of us, and gave us the courage and evidence of success that allowed us to at least attempt to match or better that great series. Simpsons helped too, as did Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Little Mermaid (the movie), and to a lesser extent The Great Mouse Detective. Animation seemed to be in something of a renaissance. But it shouldn't have been surprising. A generation of multi-discipline writers and artists who grew up on cartoons, comic books and genre fiction -- creative types who had learned to be discerning readers and viewers -- began to execute the kinds of shows they wanted to see. As for Gargoyles specifically, the miracle wasn't that people let me do what I wanted, but that they left me alone, which allowed me to do what I wanted. A subtle distinction, I know. But a significant one.

Yeah, this sums up the change. But why are so many dismissing the better shows that came later, and going on about how great the toy commercials of the 80's were? If they grew out of cartoons by then, that's fine. But, I know people who've watched them and proclaim the superiority of the toy commercials.

I will admit, I wonder how many of them have gone back and looked at them again. But, it doesn't matter. 80's cartoons are serious business, it seems. And so few people have a sense of humor about them.


  1. Oh god do I hate the nostalgia goggles. I wish they were physical so I could rip them off people's heads.

    I don't have a problem with people enjoying their childhood but the constant "cartoons today are shit compared to when I was a kid" gets on my nerves. They were shit, horribly animated, and terribly written with an interchangeable cast because none of them had a damn personality.

    Transformers was shit, Animated and Beast Wars were actually trying to do good stories with good writing and not just be a 20 minuet toy commercial. If I really want to stir up fan rage there’s the good old “Rodimus Prime was a more interesting character than Optimus.” ;)

    Dragonball Z was crap, so was the movie but that was a lot better than the series.

    I've also found 90's cartoons to be ‘Extreme’ Serious Business. A friend told me a while ago how 'awesome' "Street Sharks" was. I'm worried about the 90's revival when it comes and what franchise a Bay director will run into the ground. SWAT Kats? Cadillac’s & Dinosaurs? Bevis and Butthead? Bicker Mice from Mars? I hope they stay far away from Gargoyles or Exo Squad.

    Also me and my brother can quote the Transformers movie word for word and it is our pick-me-up movie for when we're feeling down.

  2. There's also "anything not made in the last five years isn't worth watching," which i guess is just "only the cartoons from my childhood are any good" with kids who grew up more recently. And I get equally annoyed by the people who can't fathom why anyone would ever like something that they don't think is good and consider it a personal affront when someone does.

    I came to a lot of the 80s cartoons well after my childhood. I still like a lot of them. I realize that they were made at a different time when the rules about what an animated TV show could and couldn't be were different. Sometimes I find them charming in their simplicity, other times I'm impressed by the occasional really good stuff that did get through. And often, I get caught up in the enthusiasm that my husband and my best friend, who did grow up with this stuff, had for it. It may not be among my all-time favorite TV shows for the most part, but I can enjoy it for what it is.

    There was definitely something particular about the 80s, and the amount and type of television that was aimed at kids at that time. It didn't make it the high water mark for animated TV shows that some people seem to think it was, but its wasn't the festering swamp of irredeemable garbage that others would label it as either. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

  3. I don't like 80's cartoons. I mean, admittingly ThunderCats and Ninja Turtles are guilty pleasures but regardless, they're of lower quality. They had cool ideas but they were never executed to their full potential.

    I argue shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Gargoyles, Cybersix (you might like that one), Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra, many others, I argue they're astonishingly better and lived up to their full potential.