.....A little over a hundred years ago, two revolutions in entertainment began (besides the obvious cultural revolution that allowed people to seek out "recreation" and "fun" on their "days off" from work). One, in print journalism, was the introduction of the world's first comic strip. The other, was the "moving picture", or as we know it now, the motion picture (or movie, if you will). Shortly after the turn of the century (in 1906), a short feature named Humorous Phases of Funny Faces was produced. It was the
first animated feature in film history. Naturally, the film was simplistic, and
the baton of creativity was passed to two gentlemen: Emil Cohl and Winsor McCay. The films of
these two people (Cohl being a French animator, and McCay an American cartoonist
best known for his Little Nemo in Slumberland series) basically created
the animation genre, resulting in most of the standards that exist in cartoons
to this day. In fact, by 1920, filmed cartoons were as popular, if not more so,
than both comic strips and live action features.
.....By 1928, many of the bigger names in early animation (McCay, the Fleischer brothers, Paul Terry, and a gentleman named Walt Disney) were very much established in the business, and were raking in the dough. However, when Disney was stripped of his Oswald the Rabbit character by producer Charles Mintz, it set the stage for the greatest era of animation in history. Within a year, Disney had created a new character: Mickey Mouse. After two not-so-successful silent features, Mickey became insanely popular upon the release of Steamboat Willie, the first fully-synchronized sound cartoon.
.....The Golden Age of Cartoons, which is exactly what the following 25 years or so should be called, were essentially a testament to Walt Disney's visionary work, and the work of the other major studios (Warner Bros. and MGM being the primary rivals) to keep up with Disney's great works. As a result, most of the best shorts and feature films (the very idea itself being a Disney creation) were made in this period, as well as a rather large number of the more familiar characters (which range from the enigmatic Mickey to the wise-talking Bugs Bunny and the perpetually dueling Tom & Jerry).
.....However, as advances were made in animation, the costs rose-big time. In 1949, a technique known as limited animation (more simply referred to as the use of stock footage) was devised by United Productions of America, the makers of the Mr. Magoo series of cartoons. The technique, while useful, was not enough to save the filmed animation industry after the Supreme Court ordered an end to "block scheduling", a practice used by studios to attach filler material (such as cartoons) to movie releases, a decision that ironically came about the same year as the practice of stock footage. With the death of animation in theaters (which actually took until the early 1970s, believe it or not), the animation industry needed a new medium for their work to be viewed.
.....Enter television. As TV came into precedence, many stations (and even the major networks of the time) needed something to fill the airwaves. Amazingly, it was decided that the old cartoons from the Golden Age should be shown-to children. As the cartoons of yesteryear proved to be highly popular (both on Saturday mornings and in prime time), it was obvious that some cashola was to be made-by making cartoons specifically for TV.
.....Using the stock footage technique (as well as a number of other cost-cutting strategies), studios such as Hanna-Barbera and Jay Ward Productions sprung into action. New characters such as Bullwinkle and Rocky (in addition to old favorites like Felix the Cat) permeated the airwaves, and even as costs still rose, profits rose even higher, so much so that the fierce competition on Saturday mornings became almost legendary.
.....However, all great eras must come to an end, and so it was with the TV era of the '50s and '60s. As the '60s ended, the market became over-saturated, and the concepts so weak it was enough to make everyone question on how long the cartoon "fad" would last, as just about everything was being animated, even music groups (although the Beatles' Yellow Submarine still stands as an animated classic). Despite the success of the many feature films (especially the ones handled by the now-deceased Walt Disney's studio) and holiday specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas, cartoons were in deep ca-ca (although shows like Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids were very much exceptions to the rule). The '70s was an ugly decade, with re-used plots, bad animation (which at this point was being done overseas now), inane network meddling (caused primarily by protests over the "rampant" violence in animation), and a total lack of quality control being the norm.
.....Now, we go to Central Vermont on July 20, 1978. After being 16 days late, a child I know well was born: me. (Who'd you expect, Spider-Man?) Like any child, my first few years were influenced by many of these cartoons, particularly Disney and Warner Bros.' stable of cartoons (same goes for my little brother, Lance, who showed up two months early on April 27, 1979). As far as life goes in a small state like Vermont, it was pretty good, I'd say.
.....As with all kids, I was influenced heavily by one of the best parts of childhood: the toys. By the summer of 1983, a whimsical line by Mattel, Masters of the Universe, was taking my imagination by storm. Featuring such characters as He-Man, Skeletor, Trap Jaw, Teela, and Man-At-Arms, the toys were very fun, and were an instant classic.
.....What was missing, however, was a strong storyline with all the classic good vs. evil elements one would expect (a feature that was somewhat lacking in the small comics included with each toy). Thankfully, Mattel knew this, and decided to do something that no other toy company had done: sponsor a regular cartoon series. The result, produced by Filmation Associates and premiering on September 12, 1983 in syndication, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, was a success of amazing proportions. No longer a Conan the Barbarian-style adventure, the cartoon focused on Prince Adam, heir to the throne of Eternia and keeper of a great secret: upon raising his sword and announcing, "By the Power of Grayskull!" Adam became, as best stated by Adam's own father later on in the series, ".....Eternia's champion, the mighty He-Man." Aided (among many others) by his pet tiger, Cringer (who reluctantly became the equally powerful Battle Cat), the well-intentioned but usually failing Orko, the wise inventor Man-At-Arms, the steely and resourceful Teela, and the all-knowing guardian of Castle Grayskull, the Sorceress, He-Man set off on a 130-episode run unmatched by any series before or since. While eventually chastised for being violent, this cartoon was anything but violent, with the series' star being the epitome of the saying, "With great power comes great responsibility." He-Man was, and is, the Most Powerful Man in the Universe, but not because of his strength; his mind was his greatest weapon, and for that I am eternally thankful.
.....If any cartoon could ever think about surpassing the wonder, joy, and overall quality of Filmation's new masterpiece, it seems fitting that CBS, at the time the predominant network on Saturday mornings and just about everything outside of sports, would be the group to unveil perhaps one of the best televisions shows ever, the immortal Dungeons & Dragons. Based very loosely upon the well-known pad-and-paper RPG series, Dungeons & Dragons told the tale of six children (and the spirited and eternally innocent unicorn, Uni) trapped in the Realm of Dungeons & Dragons as they try to find the way home while attempting to fight off the evil of Venger. Aided by magical weapons (each one complimenting the personality of its owner), the children suffered some of the most painful set of ups and downs possible in any dramatic work I've seen before or since. (Author's Note: Expect me to elaborate very much about this in my reviews of this classic series.) Unfortunately, Hank, Sheila, Bobby, Presto, Eric, and Diana never came home, as CBS cancelled the series before the third season finale, "Requiem", could be produced.
.....As the adventures of He-Man and the Young Ones (as the heroes of Dungeons & Dragons were generally referred) lit a bonfire the size of Giants Stadium under the well of my imagination, a five-part miniseries flew past the reach of my cartoon-watching radar. Both more daring and more traditional than the other two new additions of 1983, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero stands as the beginning of the animation empire of the 1980s: the Marvel/Sunbow family of cartoons, all of which were based on a Hasbro toyline of some sort (no coincidence since Sunbow Productions was formed by Hasbro's longtime ad agency, Griffin-Bacal). What started as a series of toy (and comic book) advertisements quickly became an astounding success that changed the televised animation industry forever. In addition to airing a rather large number of multi-part episodes, G.I. Joe used both the services of Toei Animation (the Japanese animation studio) and full animation. Despite costing a fortune, G.I. Joe inspired a whole host of shows, both within the influence of Marvel and Sunbow and without. The "universe" inspired by the initial miniseries (known in fandom as "The MASS Device") was huge, even if you only count the 95 episode run (and the direct-to-video film). The The Transformers, Jem, and The Inhumanoids all co-existed in the world of the Joes (Geraldo Rivera-like reporter Hector Ramirez appeared in Jem and The Inhumanoids, with none other than Cobra Commander appearing in the latter series as well), and there are many sub-references and similarities shared by the other two series. Upon seeing the second Joe miniseries (titled "The Revenge Of Cobra"), as well as the first season of The Transformers, I was hooked on the styles used by Marvel Productions and Sunbow Productions. In the five years that G.I. Joe aired in Vermont, I can remember missing but one episode of G.I. Joe, sometime during the first season due to a dental appointment. We taped the episode.
.....The goal of this website is to capture the feelings of joy, wonderment, suspense, sympathy, love, hate, and admiration that came about while watching the shows mentioned above, as well as many others I didn't mention (like Inspector Gadget, Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends, and Dangermouse, for instance), as well as show people just what it is that made them great, or not-so-great when I come across a sucky episode. That, and the reasons why a 21 year-old is still watching cartoons, especially after the hellish days after all the good shows were canceled (which seems to boil down to me being an unrepentant optimist and lover of all things just plain good). That doesn't mean that every series will be reviewed; if I did so, I'd go nuts from watching episode after episode of pure shit (and that's the only word for some of these series). No, I will review (and in some cases, discover) the best cartoons, leaving mindless junk like Thundercats and Pokemon and boring, drawn-out bore fests like Gundam Wing for somebody else. But isn't that the point? This site is very personal, and the main thing I wish to gain (besides fame and fortune ;)) is a library of what I like, and an episode-by-episode (and a film-by-film as well) basis. Lastly, I wish to thank you for coming to my little corner of the web, and that I hope you enjoy the ride. :)