CultureMass Roundtable: TV Cartoon Nostalgia

Editor’s Note: Cartoons. Most adults think cartoons are for little kids. I’m a childless woman in my mid 30s and I think nothing of showing up with my date of popcorn to cry my way through cartoons like Toy Story 3. Recently, I was at a porch party when one of my friends mentioned that Jem and the Holograms was on Netflix. My cartoon nostalgia went into overdrive. I immediately pulled out my phone and as the dulcet tones of the theme song began to play it was almost like I was that awkward, gangly young girl who wished for her own star shaped earrings. I was surprised that I remembered almost all of the theme song since it’s been more than 20 years since I last watched the show. It made me think about the cartoons that I used to love; Thundercats, He-Man, She-Ra, G.I. Joe and others. Rediscovering these shows caused so many reactions. On the one hand, was I truly a dumb-ass, because He-Man was just a piece of gosa. Thundercats was the same. When I watched again, I couldn’t begin to see what made me rush home to watch it. I was afraid to watch Jem and the Hologram for this very reason. There are some elements of the show that only works if you’re a child, but the storyline was still engaging and I still got a little thrill when Jerrica said, “Showtime Synergy!” As I was watching, I wondered what cartoons the others writers of CultureMass were nostalgic about as adults. Be prepared to go on a ride through your childhood and let us know which cartoons bring out a little cartoon nostalgia in you. – Angel Collins

Looney Tunes – Daniel Castro

Looney Tunes -1While I watched a few action cartoons back when I was a kid, not many of them “grew up” well with me since my brother and I always felt bothered that no one was ever killed no matter how much they shot each other. That’s why I cared a lot more about comedy cartoons, then and now, and my cartoon nostalgia takes me back to Looney Tunes as the show that stood up the most.

Not only did I love the Looney Tunes back in the day, this is one of the few cartoons I can still watch as an adult and still have a good time. Their comedy is the milestone I use to compare many  newer cartoons that fail to make me laugh like Bugs and company still does.

Looney Tunes’ art and animation is genuinely timeless. Just like many other cartoons from the Golden Age of Animation, the Looney Tunes weren’t design just for kids. They were displayed to amaze a wider audience, and that’s were those award-winning opera and classical music satires come in. My current deep appreciation to classical music, like Beethoven and Richard Wagner, started with the Looney Tunes, and I’m really thankful for that.

GI Joe: A Real American Hero! – Boyd Reynolds

gijoeWhen I was in elementary school, my friends and I had a pact: try as hard as we could not to get a detention. We all had to be home right after school to watch the cartoon double power hour: He-ManGI JoeJem and the Holograms and Transformers. I loved them (except for Jem – it had too many girls in it). But looking back, GI Joe was clearly my favorite. There were many facets of that cartoon which worked specifically for me. There were maniacal villains: Cobra Commander, Destro, Major Blood, Zartan. Each had his own brand of cool. Each had his own crazed laugh. There were the heroes – not as cool as the villains, except for Snake Eyes, but full of truth, justice and the American way. And for a Canadian obsessed with everything American, that was pretty good. There also was the five part original series, which hooked me in completely. Titled A Real American Hero, the series lasted an entire week, which for a child is happily an eternity. But most of all, GI Joe was my first introduction to the cliffhanger. Each episode had a cliffhanger before every commercial break. When it came to the five part mini-series there was a nail biter awaiting at each episode’s end forcing us innocent children to wait until the next afternoon. Can kids today imagine waiting a whole 23 ½ hours until the next installment? In a world of instant gratification, I believe kids have lost out on being forced to wait. It was the anticipation that I remember most. Salivating, mulling over the possibilities, and then talking about GI Joe during recess and lunch break was what made surviving elementary school that much easier. Yo Joe!

The Mysterious Cities of Gold – Brian Martin

My childhood was fueled by cartoons. Picking one that stands out among all of them is a bit daunting to say the least. Nothing screams “childhood” to me more than He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Transformers, and Thundercats, but none of these shows left quite the impression that DIC Entertainment’s The Mysterious Cities of Gold did. Running for a mere 39 episodes, which were introduced to American audiences via Nickelodeon, The Mysterious Cities of Gold followed a young Spanish boy named Esteban as he traveled to South America in the 16th century. Accompanying him on this adventure are Zia, an Incan girl trying to return home, and Tao, a boy they meet after traveling to the New World.

Two things really made this series stand out to me as a young viewer immersed in the imaginative fantasy and absurd anthropomorphic animals that dominated cartoons at the time. The first was the historical element of the series. The Mysterious Cities of Gold took its inspiration from real folklore and legends of South America, and the characters encountered the Olmecs, Incas, and Mayans over their journey. Then there was the series’ antagonist—the very real conquistador Francisco Pizarro.

The most significant element of the show, however, was its narrative. The Mysterious Cities of Gold began in Spain then continued across the South American continent. There was no “home base.” There were no self-contained episodes. It told one long story over the course of its run, with a distinct beginning, middle and end. I had never seen anything like it. The Mysterious Cities of Gold, along with Robotech, was my introduction to continuity-driven, serialized animation.

I remember tuning in the day after I watched the finale, wondering where they would go from there, only to find that the series had started over. That really WAS the ending. I felt a sense of remorse initially—sad that I wouldn’t be seeing any more adventures with these characters—but this was soon followed by a sense of satisfaction I had never experienced before. I’d never see Dr. Claw’s face or the demise of Skeletor, but I had seen the END of The Mysterious Cities of Gold.

And then there’s that theme song. I’m still humming it, even after all these years. Like all the best cartoons.

The Bruce Timm Justice League Universe – Dustin Sanson

justiceleagueSo many cartoons made up my childhood and so many today are able to take me back to that feeling of awe and goosebumps. But there is a particular cartoon universe that I will always love because no matter how old I get, it can take me back to that same place.

That universe of course is Bruce Timm’s Justice League. I grew up with comics and have always been a huge Superman fan. Timm was able to somehow capture (with the help of George Newbern of course) the best qualities of Supes from all incarnations and bring them together for the simplest yet profound Man of Steel. But it doesn’t stop there. This show explored stories behind the leaguers in a way that everyone could appreciate which is important when it comes to introducing new generations to the DC universe. I certainly plan on showing my future (imaginary?) kids this series when introducing them to the league.  I recently went back and re-watched the series and still enjoyed it as much as I did the first runs.

What I like about the show the most though was all the epic fight scenes! I know I know, but hear me out. When good people can do something about the bad people, we like it. Like the scene where the league is fighting Darkseid and Batman gets his two cents in, Darkseid scoffs and is perplexed so Superman explains to him that Batman won’t ever quit but he has a different problem. Clark explains how careful he has to be all the time, right before handing Darkseid a beatin’. It’s that kind of attention to detail that made this show so amazing. That’s why the Timmverse is so standard to me.

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