I love watching cartoons. I can remember Saturday mornings when I was 3 and 4, waking up before my parents and sneaking into the livingroom to watch the gigantic (to me) screen. The set was pre-remote era, which meant it had two knobs on the right-hand side, one for UHF and one for VHF, that you turned to change the channels with a satisfying click-click-click as you made your way up the band. The screen was smokey-gray. The box was covered in faux-wood grain. There were three knobs at the bottom: one pushed to turn the set on or off, one twisted for volume, and one made my parents grumble if I played with it (I think it controlled color or contrast). All the knobs were metal. I don’t think there was a bit of plastic on the whole thing, with the exception of the wood grain.
I don’t remember much about the cartoons of the early 80’s. I can remember He-Man, and later She-Ra. Rainbow Brite and My Little Pony were favorites. Of course there was Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck and Wylie E. Coyote. Other than that, I usually watched television for the commercials. Do you remember the Gravy-Train dog food commercial? The one where the tiny covered wagon drove in zigzag’s across the kitchen floor, enticing the family pooch with curlicues of smelly dog food goodness? We didn’t even have a dog and I wanted that stuff. I was convinced it came with the covered wagon. When my mom refused to buy dog food for our dog-free home, I cried. For a few days. I just wanted to play with the damn wagon!
I’m pretty sure it wasn’t long after that incident that I started getting toy cars for all the various holidays.
Of course, I grew up and grew out of that most basic of kid pastimes. When my daughter was born, I rekindled my love for animated programming. At first it was for her. Then, when I started wishing violent bodily harm on Wubbzy and Kai Lan, I went in search of something I could watch with her that was age appropriate but didn’t make me want to take a hammer to the TV.
There aren’t too many choices. I heard really good things about Phineas and Ferb, but I didn’t give it a chance until recently (two thumbs up, by the way). She loves the new Strawberry Shortcake (very different from what I had) and My Little Pony (updated, and slightly more annoying now).
Then there’s the stuff that I watch, whether she’s with me or not. I’m totally addicted to Teen Titans, Batman: The Brave and The Bold, and ThunderCats (both old and new). Certain cable channels play cartoons from the early 80’s really late at night, stuff like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power (who got ripped off in the catch-phrase department. “For the honor of Grayskull… I am She-Ra”?! That’s the best they could come up with?), G.I.Joe, Ghostbusters. I’m a little sad that they don’t hold up to the test of time, but at least I can still watch and wade through the nostalgia 30 minutes at a time.
What’s weird is I feel like I should be ashamed of my love of animation. After all, I’ll be 31 in a few weeks. I’m a mother. I shouldn’t admit it, much less unabashedly feel it, right? But I can’t help it. Watching cartoons now has the same effect it did back then: for a few gloriously Technicolor minutes, I’m transported into another world where the good guys always win, nobody ever gets killed, the greatest power in the world is friendship, and everything will turn out okay.
Who wouldn’t want to feel that again?