Funny is Not a 4-Letter Word
Let’s talk for a bit about Genre Busters, shall we?
“Who ya gonna call?”
Now that we’ve gotten that obligatory joke out of the way, GENRE BUSTERS. I’m talking about cartoons like Avatar: The Last Airbender, Adventure Time, Steven Universe, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Over the Garden Wall, shows which operate on several levels, incorporating comedy with drama, action, adventure and mystery, pushing the envelope and offering something beyond what many have come to expect from your typical ‘cartoony’ cartoons.
Now while shows of this ilk aren’t my particular cup of tea, as a lifelong devotee of art and animation I can’t help but applaud these genre busting shows for showing us all what animation is truly capable of in the hands of skillful and talented people when given the chance.
However, the success of these shows, while noteworthy and commendable, is also a…..
On the one hand, it’s good that shows like these manage to get on the air, but on the other hand, the successes of these genre-busting cartoons has created a new subculture of animation snobs who now turn their collective noses up at straight-up ‘funny cartoons’ and deride them as somehow being “inferior” and “insulting the medium”. “Bah!” They’ll snort. “That show’s just a comedy!” As though there’s something wrong with a show being a comedy. Not too long ago, a message board poster actually laid out these words of wisdom upon viewing a brief preview clip of the upcoming Wabbit: A Looney Tunes Production:
“I am wondering who exactly is WB catering too (yeah, that’s really how he spelled it). they did an amazing job with stuff like Tiny Toons and Animaniacs but The Looney Tunes Show had little to no emotional moments or depth to their characters, they act as though literally no human being alive liked Loonatics Unleashed and this seems like a return to the shorts that were nothing but animated puppets making jokes.”
“Animated puppets making jokes??”
“Exsqueeze me? Baking powder??”
“You got a problem with puppets making jokes, pal? That happens to be our bread and butter, man!”
OK, where to begin? First, Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs were zany shows which were occasionally sentimental, not sentimental shows which were occasionally zany. Selective memory much? It’s also worth mentioning that those so-called “deep and emotional” segments such as “Puttin’ on the Blitz”, “Smitten with Kittens”, “Homeward Bound”, “Whale’s Tales” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo Clock” were not only few and far and between and the exception, not the norm, of those shows’ usual fare, but they were also largely HATED by the general fanbases of said shows. Second, why the flaming heck are you watching a clip of a show called “Wabbit: A Looney Tunes Production” expecting depth and emotional moments anyway? It’s the freaking LOONEY TUNES. The Looney Tunes are FUNNY. They’ve always been funny. If you’re expecting something akin to Sophie’s Choice from a Looney Tunes cartoon, you’re living on a different planet than the rest of us and only setting yourself up for disappointment.
This same towering intellect of our time was also displeased by the recent Sonic Boom cartoon, as it commits the heinous crime of not being the 1990’s Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon from 1993-1994. he opines:
“This show is an insult to Sonic fans. Sonic SatAM should be revived, because it had drama and sadness, like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic which is the super-duper bestest show of all time and will one day replace oxygen as the thing we need to breathe in order to stay alive. Sonic Boom has no moments of drama, sadness, tragedy or angst, so it turns Sonic into a bland character on a show for babies.”
Unfortunately, I’ve encountered attitudes like this far too often recently. I find it’s common among teens and in teen media to mistake angst for depth. They seem to think that if a character is depressed all the time, then they must have really deep thoughts about the world. It’s what we call Emo Disease.
In regards to the Sonic point (aside from the one on this guy’s head): I really get tired of this whole “characters who don’t cry or suffer a ton of angst and drama = bland and childish” rhetoric that genre-buster snobs now hold so dear. Yes, in some cases emotion and poignancy can do a lot of good, but just piling on cheap tragedies one after the other is an empty way of compensating for proper character development. There are other ways to develop characters and make your audience care about them besides just putting them through some contrived emotional wringer.
“If sadness equals character development, then I must be the deepest character ever conceived. Lucky me.”
All too often in this day and age, it seems that the wacky cartoons like Looney Tunes, Sonic Boom and Uncle Grandpa are looked down upon because they don’t meet these animation snobs’ standards of the supposed “right way” to make a cartoon, as if now every single cartoon now has to be Avatar: the Last Airbender or My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. What these chinless wonders fail to realize is that there is no one right way to make a cartoon. It genuinely angers me how people constantly want everything to be the same, and bash something simply because it doesn’t fit their narrow definitions. Cartoon creators typically make what they want to see and what they think is entertaining, which is how it should be. If you don’t like it, fine, but don’t act like every cartoon needs to follow some arbitrary checklist of your very specific desires. Seriously, get over it and yourself.
Right now I’m collaborating on a new cartoon show that I hope can get made one day, but it’s not going to be the next Avatar: the Last Airbender, Adventure Time, Sonic SatAM or Steven Universe. Quite frankly I’m just not interested in making that kind of show. Depth, pathos, drama and heart are fine if that’s what you’re into, but we can’t all be Miyazaki. Someone’s gotta just provide the belly-laughs, and that’s what I plan to do. Some people are going to like the kind of cartoons I plan to produce and some aren’t. I know not everyone out there is gonna share our tastes, and that’s ultimately going to be what we build our show around: OUR tastes, not those of a perceived majority. You can’t please everyone, and you never need to.
I can’t think of better words of wisdom than those of J.G. Quintel, creator of Regular Show, who said this:
“Make the things you want to see, not what you think other people want to see. It’s way too much work to be making something that you’re not even into.”
Well said, man.