Animation in the New Age: Where’s the Creativity?

The cartoon industry: one of the biggest parts of many of our childhoods.  Remember waking up every morning to catch the new episode of “Spongebob” or “Fairly Odd Parents”? How about tuning into Cartoon Network’s Friday Night for all new episodes of “Ed, Edd n Eddy,” “Dexter’s Lab,” or “The PowerPuff Girls”?  Or maybe you’re an old school kind of person, and you had the greatness of the “Looney Tunes,” “Popeye the Sailorman,” ” Woody Woodpecker,” and “The Jetsons.”

Back then, kids had a whole plethora of fun shows and cool characters–whether good or evil–to look forward to every Monday through Friday night at 8/7c. Indeed, back in the golden years, kids and parents alike could all sit down together and enjoy a good, wholesome show–one that would touch the hearts and imaginations of the kids, but also throw a few mature punch lines into the mix to entertain the adults. Seems so long ago, doesn’t it?

Think about this for a second. Let’s say you were a fanatic of action, so you would never miss an episode of “Samurai Jack.”  There wasn’t much dialog in the show itself, but that didn’t matter because the whole story was told through Jack’s determination to return home and take down those that stood in his way.  Maybe you enjoyed a good comedy, but you weren’t into talking animals and miscellaneous objects. Well, Johnny Bravo had your back.  How hilarious was it listening to his banters with countless women only to have him thrown through the air or end up on his back following a punch to the face? It was awesome! Did you know both those shows originally aired over 10 years ago? It’s alright, though.  Times may change, but the animation industry wouldn’t leave you hanging, right? Well…

Let’s start with Nickelodeon. Recently, some of the top shows that have aired over the network didn’t really fit the bill as a “top” performer.  You’ve heard of Dreamworks, haven’t you?  Hard not to with all the movies they’ve made over the years. “Madagascar” and “Kung Fu Panda,” for example.  Those were good movies for their respective times. But really, couldn’t we have just left it at the movie theater? Instead, we were introduced to Nickelodeon’s new series “The Penguins of Madagascar”and “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness.” Seriously? We understand the box office treated the franchises nicely, but keep your success at that. The TV shows aren’t necessary. It’s using the same old tired premise from the movies and just adding different situations into the mix. Where’s the creativity, guys? I don’t have to tune in each week to know the penguins will have a “mission” that’s accomplished in the end. As for “Kung Fu Panda,” it’s the same as the movie. There’s no creativity in it either; same plot each episode, narrow success in the end.

But, Nick hasn’t been out of the game entirely.  Its new sequel to its Avatar series, “The Legend of Korra,” which has recently concluded its first season, has become a booming success in the pop culture world.  The story keeps you engaged each week, and nothing is too predictable. The characterizations of Korra and Amon develop smoothly, and the side stories and love interests add flare to the equation. The eager wait for season two gives Nickelodeon a chance to really make something special out of this opportunity.

CN’s Ed, Edd n Eddy

Now, on to Cartoon Network.  Back in the day–circa. 1997-2005–Cartoon Network dominated the weekend block.  So many great characters have spawned from this one network. Ed, Edd, n Eddy, Billy and Mandy, Dexter, Johnny Bravo, Powerpuff Girls, the Imaginary Friends of Foster’s Home, etc. The list could go on forever, filled with memories and laughs of days past. You’d imagine the new age would be equally as great, right? Well, let’s discuss. Cartoon Network has created two new cult followings with “Regular Show” and “Adventure Time.”  As for the rest? Not so good. First off, “The Amazing World of Gumball.” The animation choice for the show is interesting, but the characters aren’t relatable, and the jokes fall short. It’s got the potential, but it needs some serious changes. Next up, “The Annoying Orange.” Yep, that fruit from YouTube has a legit show on primetime. Long story short, not the best choice. The show is mediocre, at best.

Disney’s Gravity Falls

And now, we move on to Disney. Let’s focus on three shows. The good: “Gravity Falls”–fun characters, nice punch lines for both kids and adults, and intriguing story with a stellar cast. The bad: “Fish Hooks”–zero interest points and lame dialog. The unsure: “Phineas and Ferb”–it started off as a fresh new idea to the whole “summer vacation” thing, but has gone downhill. It’s been stale, and the show doesn’t have that enticing factor it once did.

The Hub’s My Little Pony

Last but not least, The Hub. The Hub, owned and operated by Hasbro, is brand new, beginning its broadcast on 10/10/10. If you missed the internet buzz, here are the pros of this network. Apart from being very nostalgia-friendly by airing original episodes of “Tranformers” and “Batman,” Hub also introduced the world to the fourth generation of “My Little Pony.” No, that’s not a typo. “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” has sparked a worldwide spread of many adult fans–male and female–known as “bronies.” With good reason, though. The characters are very in-depth, and each episode creates a feeling of adventure. Now on to the negatives: “Pound Puppies” and “Dan Vs.”  While Dan has some nice humor, it and the Puppies need a bit more “umpf.” (Although, the target audience for The Hub IS a bit younger, evidenced by shows like “Care Bears” and “Strawberry Shortcake.”)

In summary, although creativity is mostly banished these days, and the money-making aspect of characters may be the main priority, there is still a chance. We’ll just have to look forward to the new age of cartoons like “Adventure Time,” “ Gravity Falls,” “Korra,” and MLP. On the horizon, a new wave of good programming is arriving with the debuts of “Xiolin Chronicles” and “Teen Titans GO!” in 2013 on Cartoon Network.  So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the adventures approaching.

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