Friday, December 02, 2011

Red Fox Racer, Early Memories of Saturday Morning Cartoons

Abigail Samoun asked all the artists she represents to do a small drawing of a fox for the holiday calendar. I haven't seen any of the other foxes yet, but all the artists at Red Fox are extremely talented, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the calendar turns out. For my own fox, I decided to draw a  fox in a foxy race car. The race car looks a little stern, but I'm thinking of it as more determined than angry.

The Laugh Olympics and other Horrible Cartoons 

When I drew this, a part of me was thinking about one of my favorite cartoons as a kid, The Laugh Olympics. All of the Hanna Barbera cartoon characters would compete in a variety of olympic competitions, and there was always a race where each character would have some personalized wacky car to drive. I always liked the unlikely combinations of characters, like Snidely Whiplash with Batman, or Grape Ape with Mutley. I think Snaggle Tooth and Sour Puss were the announcers. I can't remember. Anyway, I'm sure the cartoon would be completely unwatchable now.

 Most of those late 70s Hanna Barbera cartoons are pretty awful, though I think most adults my age who grew up with them have a lot of nostalgia for them. Hanna Barbera pretty much owned the airwaves back then. That was when Saturday mornings were always a big deal. My brother and I would sometimes get up so early we'd stare at the test pattern, waiting for the cartoons to start. Back then, the network TV stations crapped out sometime in the very early morning, and if you got up early enough there would be a color bar test pattern, followed by the National Anthem with an image of a flag whipping in the wind. That was back when some TV stations would air an image of a burning log in a fireplace on Christmas, or Christmas eve. TV was generally pretty awful and pretty weird back then. But even though the cartoons by and large, were pretty awful (aside from a few rare exceptions, like The Bugs Bunny Road Runner show), Saturday mornings-- before there was a Cartoon Network, when cable offerings were pretty meager--was something to look forward too.

Back then, everyone watched the same TV shows. When you went to school, everybody had seen Scooby Doo that weekend. During the week we'd watch Happy Days or All in the Family. I remember when everyone in my second grade class was talking about the Fonz jumping the shark, back when "jumping the shark" only meant that the Fonz was about to jump over a shark. I always seemed to miss stuff like this. Like when The Six Million Dollar Man fought the Yeti, or when The Battlestar Galactica ship actually made it to earth. TV really sucked unbelievably then. There was no Mad Men or Deadwood. But we all watched the same shows religiously. 

I think the quality of TV cartoons is also lot better now, and Nostalgia is pretty much all those old cartoons amount to, for me. I can't bare to watch stuff like Scooby Doo or the Flintstones, though I know they still have their appeal to a lot of people. I still like stuff like Jonny Quest and Bullwinkle, but I don't think I'll ever want to watch Turbo Teen, or Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels ever again for any other reason than childhood nostalgia.

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