Friday, September 22, 2006

The Best Cartoon Character

I've got babies on the mind, so you'll have to allow me to indulge in categories that are absorbing my thoughts nowadays. But, while I'll use little A & B as an excuse, the truth is that cartoons are never very far from my mind.

Cartoons have changed nowadays. They're all over the place, and they're nothing special anymore, it seems. When I was a kid (here we go with the nostalgia again...) Saturday mornings were for cartoons. There were some cartoons on Sunday, but they generally were religous-themed and so, of course, sucked. While I enjoyed the stop-motion animation of Davey & Goliath, it was too moral and too boring to enjoy for real. It might have been better if it had been more like this:

But it wasn't, plus the fact that we had to get ready for church took away the pleasure of watching cartoons.

But Saturday! Oh, Saturday! With its plethora of cartoon shows that changed slightly every year but always had my then-favorite, the "Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show." I still know the theme by heart and Bugs & Company had some of the greatest cartoons. They introduced me to some classical music ("The Barber of Seville") and had wonderfully existential episodes, like the one where Daffy was having trouble with the animator and it turned out Bugs was drawing the cartoon? Or the one where a hat truck crashed and as the hats landed on them they took on the personality of the hats (that was a favorite of mine and my brother's for a long time.) Or "Rabbit Season?" (

Shoot me! I'm a fiddler crab!).
You can see it made an impression on me. I still love them. And I love the other older cartoons: Tom & Jerry, which is almost completely forgotten now but which were great cartoons (I plan on making A & B watch them.)

Those were the classics that live on in my mind, and when I see cartoons nowadays, they hardly compare. There are great cartoons -- Family Guy, The Simpsons up until a few years ago when they stopped caring about being funny, South Park -- but those are more aimed at adults and don't quite fit this category. Plus they do not have any iconic characters and the general zaniness that fits, in my mind, into a "cartoon." The mood of each of those is such that they could just as easily be sitcoms as opposed to cartoons. Maybe it's because they feature people as the main characters. It's hard to picture a bunny being the main character of anything.

And cartoons that do aim for cartooniness are rarely good. I watched a free episode of Invader Zim, and liked it , but it didn't make me want to watch more (very much.) Other cartoons on the air now just suck or are too weird.

Except for one, and you probably already know who I'm talking about. There's only one new cartoon character I can think of since I was a kid who absolutely perfectly captures the spirit of a kids' cartoon while being entertaining for adults and, in fact, updating that feeling and improving on it. I give you...

Spongebob Squarepants.

Spongebob is GREAT. I heard about him a few years ago when The Boy was young enough to watch him and so I checked it out, and I was hooked. Here was the natural successor to Bugs Bunny: funny, weird, breaking the fourth wall, but, to top it all off, while he had the same mischievous bent as Bugs had, he had none of the secret malice.

Let's face it. Didn't you always think that Bugs was only pretending to be innocent? It's like he was setting everyone up and then enjoying watching them fall, and because he wasn't overly mean about it, and because he was picking on people who had it coming, we didn't mind. But Spongebob doesn't have that. He doesn't dislike anyone. So when he's making them miserable, he's doing it out of love.

I have watched nearly every Spongebob episode to date. I am proud to say, at age 37, that I own more DVDs of Spongebob than I do of any other TV series, and that I pop them in and watch them. But Spongebob doesn't really need me to say all of this; he'll win you over himself. So here's a series of Spongebob cuts. Watch them and agree with me: Spongebob Squarepants, the Best Cartoon Character.

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