Sunday, 24 January 2010

The Wartime Cartoons

During my time in the Midlands I stayed one night with the Sylvesters of Coventry, courtesy of Mme. Tan. Though I was never entirely sure how many of Nancy and John's relations lived in the area, I saw one room full of children's toys. Some of these toys were old-fashioned, others were not. With the exception of a beautifully 22nd-century electronic music device, most of the newer toys were based on modern children's cartoons, including a doll of a Boo-Bah. I believe I saw the inaugural episode of that. It was terrible. The Boo-Bah's had ridiculous names, such as Zing-Bah and Zingzingzing-Bah. They are tremendously ugly, the sort of sinister children's doll a phobia might stem from.

Of course, these programmes are designed for pre-school audiences. What about those cartoons intended for older children? Well, they do not inspire much faith either. Most children's television today seems to be fast-paced American and Japanese creations with poor character development and patronisingly undemanding plots, as if children need something unsubtle and quick lest their attention wonder.

I try to be careful not to be one of these people who bangs his fist on the table about how good the past was. The fact is, I was never in the past and am not the past. My formative experiences were in the nineties and I grew up in the 00's. However, it is clear that the modern commercialisation of children's television has resulted in a dearth of creativity.

Take Disney for an example. Most of us, men included, will have grown up with the magical elements of certain Disney films battered into our heads. Classics like Sleeping Beauty and Fantasia, the visual-musical associations of which never die. Can we honestly say the same about Home on the Ranch (2004) or The Lion King III?

I have decided that the golden age of the cartoon was in 1940s America. Here's a little sample of what I mean.

and, probably the best one around:

These are some of my favourites, though obviously I encourage you to browse for yourself.

The fact that most of these are propaganda of some sort in no way detracts from the art. If anything, it produces a more wholesome, beautiful and honest cartoon than anything the electronic-age can produce.

By the way, if the reader is in any doubt as to whether Nazi Germany had a sense of humour, you should watch this cartoon:

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