Childhood Cartoons Revisited

Cartoons from our youth dissected as a young adult

Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon: Which network is better?

Much like the polarizing movie franchise “Twilight” with Team Edward and Team Jacob, the general audience of cartoon watchers has a similar divide between Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. Nickelodeon, more or less, had limited competition when it debuted in April of 1979, as Cartoon Network didn’t come into the picture until October of 1992. But the lack of competition didn’t spell success early on for Nickelodeon, as it struggled for ratings with shows like “Dusty’s Treehouse,” “First Row Features” and “Special Delivery.” All of the shows that premiered on Nickelodeon during that time were live-action. By 1984, the network had lost $10 million.

Ironically, it wasn’t until Cartoon Network was in its development stages before Nickelodeon’s popularity took off. Nickelodeon opened Nickelodeon Studios, a television studio/attraction at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., in 1990, which created the network’s first batch of animated series in 1991. In 1991, “Doug,” “Rugrats” and “The Ren and Stimpy Show” aired on Nickelodeon as the first three nicktoons produced by Nickelodeon Studios. I was one when these cartoons debuted, so by the time I first discovered cartoons, both “Doug” and “The Ren and Stimpy Show” had already aired their respective season finales. “Rugrats” was still in its prime. A re-run of “Doug” was the first non-“Sesame Street”-ish cartoon that I watched as a young kid. If I had to make a list of good cartoons and bad cartoons, “Doug” would go in my good cartoons list. It had some good qualities to it, although a large aspect of the show was pretty bizarre. The cartoon focused on Doug, a high schooler living in Bluffington who recently moved from Bloatsburg after his father receives a job promotion. The best part of the series is the names and how they are drawn. Aside from Doug Funnie, there is Roger Klotz, Patti Mayonnaise and Mosquito “Skeeter” Valentine. Roger is yellow-skinned, Patti has the skin color of a beef patty and Skeeter is blue. It’s the only time I’ve seen a character (besides the Smurfs) that’s blue-skinned. The cartoon dealt with the issues of unfamiliarity, bullying and love, although I was too young at the time t0 understand that.

For every good cartoon, there is also a bad cartoon, and that was “The Ren and Stimpy Show.” Everyone I talked to in elementary school loved that show, but I never knew what the commotion was when it came  to that nicktoon. First of all, the show was stupid and unlikable. I know the creators were going for that, but it was over-the-top stupid. Even someone my age (eight at the time) could notice that. It was trying to deliver cheap laughs, but all it was doing was killing my still developing brain cells. I don’t even know what the two characters were supposed to represent. Ren looked like a rat and Stimpy looked like a blue and white pillow. Nothing in that show was working for me.

As Nickelodeon’s success grew, a new competitor in the form of Cartoon Network emerged in 1992, which started as a network that re-ran episodes of old Looney Tunes and Popeye cartoons. But in 1994, Cartoon Network launched Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast, an animated parody talk show, featuring Space Ghost, a 1960 cartoon by Hanna-Barbera studios. To date, “Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast” has lasted the longest of any cartoon launched by Cartoon Network, lasting 104 episodes over 14 years. This goes on my good cartoon portion of the list. The humor was spot on and the characters of the talk show worked perfectly, mainly because his crew was serving Space Ghost against their will as punishment for their crimes. Space Ghost’s lack of intelligence in certain situations made for a half-hour worth of entertainment.

Unlike Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network had a strong stretch at the beginning of great cartoons. There wasn’t a bad cartoon for several years, as “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Johnny Bravo,” Cow and Chicken,” “Powerpuff Girls” and “Ed, Edd n Eddy” put the network at the pinnacle to the end of the 20th century. All of those shows fell under the good cartoon side of my list. But the turn of the century wasn’t kind for Cartoon Network at first, as “Mike, Lu & Og,” a spinoff of “Ed, Edd n Eddy,” bombed, as did “Sheep in the Big City” and “Time Squad.” They all lasted approximately 26 episodes. As someone who enjoyed “Ed, Edd n Eddy,” “Mike, Lu & Og” was a big waste of time. The plot of three kids being stranded on a deserted island doesn’t show any creative thought and each episode was less memorable than the last. It was the first bad cartoon on my list from Cartoon Network. It was shortly followed by “Sheep in the Big City,” which was about a sheep in the big city. To be fair, I never watched it. There was nothing in any of the commercials that I saw about it that made it seem appealing. And the 27 episodes it lasted was proof of that.

For Nickelodeon, after “Ren and Stimpy,” things turned around and the network experienced an 11-year golden period, starting with “Rocco’s Modern Life” and ending with “Danny Phantom.” In between were some of my personal favorites like “Angry Beavers,” “As Told by Ginger,” “Invader Zim” and “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.” During that 11-year period, 18 of the 20 cartoons that were launched lasted at least 40 episodes, “Hey Arnold,” “Spongebob Squarepants” and “The Fairly Oddparents” have all surpassed the 100-episode threshold. All the above listed cartoons landed in my good cartoon list.

But in today’s society it’s all about what have you done for me lately. And it’s no secret that both networks are struggling to produce quality cartoons. Nicktoon Studios has been shutdown and the masterminds behind Cartoon Network’s “Cartoon Cartoons” have found jobs elsewhere. Every single show that Nickelodeon has produced since 2004’s “Danny Phantom” has been pure garbage. None of the cartoons can keep my attention for more than two minutes before I can feel my brain cells exploding. Even their most successful cartoons of today, “The Penguins of Madagascar” and “Back at the Barnyard,” are awful in my opinion. Talking animals do nothing for me. They are just annoying. “Spongebob Squarepants” is Nickelodeon’s claim to fame and I can’t stand hearing that annoying laugh of Spongebob’s anymore. That show is past its prime and needs to be thrown away. The creativity in that show has clearly fallen apart and it’s more annoying than entertaining anymore.

Cartoon Network has one good show today: “Adventure Time.” Although the show is stupid, it is actually quite funny, as the main character and his pet/friend find themselves in a number of unfortunate situations with some very peculiar foes. It’s one of those rare cartoons these days that are geared toward all age groups. Everything else, including “Regular Show” and “Ben 10” are overrated in my opinion. “Ben 10” just takes concepts of a bunch of older shows and meshes it into one show. “Regular Show” should be renamed to “Below Average Show.”

Although they haven’t produced a good show in quite some time, Nickelodeon gets the nod for me. While Cartoon Network has produced 10 shows I’ve enjoyed throughout my life, Nickelodeon has made 17. With that, Nickelodeon wins the debate.

A history of Nickelodeon:

A history of Cartoon Network up until 2010:

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Digimon: Pokemon’s Younger, Lesser Known Brother

I’m willing to bet that if you asked anybody aged 15-25 if they’ve ever heard of “Pokemon,” just about all of them would say that they are familiar, whether it be the cartoon, video games or trading card game. However, if you asked that same age group if they’ve ever heard of “Digimon,” a noticeable number would look at you strangely, wondering if you meant to say “Pokemon,” but had just horribly mispronounced the name. For as great of a show as “Digimon” was during its prime, it took a backseat to “Pokemon” during the late ’90s and early 2000s. While most people would argue differently, I believe that looking back, “Digimon” was the better show. It was better written and had more human characters that the audience could relate to.

With that said, I don’t feel like “Digimon” was as memorable. Off the top of my head I couldn’t tell you any of the characters’ names or any of the Digimon themselves. All I remember is that every Digimon’s name ended with “mon.” There were no trading cards in connection with “Digimon,” but there were toys and video games to add to the animated series. However, the video games didn’t have the success that Pokemon Stadium, Pokemon Red and Blue and Pokemon Snap! had when they debuted. In the battle between “Digimon” and “Pokemon,” “Pokemon” will be known for generations to come, while “Digimon” will begin to fade out into obscurity. That doesn’t mean that “Pokemon” was the better cartoon. “Digimon” will always be my guilty pleasure.

“Digimon” debuted in Japan on March 7, 1999, and made its way over to the United States on August 14 the same year, premiering on Fox Kids. The show ran consistently for four years before going on hiatus for four years. The fifth season debuted in 2006 and again found itself on hiatus, this time for three-and-a-half years. The sixth season premiered in 2010, and there are currently plans for a seventh seven in the upcoming year.

The aspect of the show that sets “Digimon” apart from other anime shows is that every season was different. Season 2 wasn’t just a continuation of Season 1. The characters got older and new villains and Digimon appear. Season 3 takes a radical turn when it is set in the “real world.” The first two seasons of “Digimon” are portrayed as a cartoon show in the third season and the characters in this season are creating their own Digimon that they saw from the cartoon show. This is a rare feature that just about no cartoon show dives into. There is always a sense of familiarity between seasons. Cartoons like “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” are virtually the same episodes over and over again. While the plot of the episode may be different, each season revolves around the mishaps of an average family. The characters stay the same and nothing groundbreaking changes.

Every season of “Digimon” was in itself a whole new show. Like most anime shows, the first season was the best. The first season focused on a group of seven kids in Japan being thrust into a digital world where digital monsters, or Digimon, reside. In order for the kids to return home, they have to bring peace to the digital world by defeating the Dark Masters, which are four evil Digimon that wreak havoc on the digital world. The seven children, Tai, Matt, Sora, Izzy, Mimi, Joe and T.K., all befriend a Digimon apiece. Tai, the main protagonist of the show, befriends Agumon, who is arguably the most recognizable Digimon in the show. The concept that sets “Digimon” apart from “Pokemon” is that the kids in “Digimon” befriend just one Digimon that fight along their side for the entire season. They aren’t trying to capture numerous Digimon and train them. It is a symbol of friendship between human and animal.

My favorite character in the series was Mimi, a self-described girly-girl whose favorite color is pink. She is fascinated by all aspects of life, and although she complains a lot throughout her journey in the digital world, she is full of energy. She also has the coolest Digimon in the series. Her Digimon, Palmon, a plant-style Digimon, evolves into Togemon, the greatest of all the Digimon. Togemon is a giant cactus with boxing gloves. How freaking bad ass is that?

The cutest Digimon award goes to T.K.’s Patamon, a guinea-pig like creature with bat wings. It’s so cute to look at, which also means that it isn’t the greatest at fighting. It usually tends to hide. But it’s still adorable.

The evolutionary idea of the show is very interesting, as each character is given a crest that allows for their Digimon to evolve into a more powerful form for a short period of time. After a set amount of time, the Digimon resorts back to their original form. I like the evolution idea of “Digimon” much more than “Pokemon,” because once Pokemon evolve, they can never devolve and therefore

the audience loses that connection with that particular Pokemon. In “Digimon,” that is never the case because they will always devolve back to their original form. Each Digimon can go through three evolutions, with each evolutionary form being stronger than the last.

“Digimon” may not have had the success that “Pokemon” had during its run, but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying this great cartoon show. I loved everything about this show, from the characters to the Digimon to the plot to the music, which was way too catchy to be legal. If you’ve never watched “Digimon,” check out the first season and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. n being stronger than the last. The level at which they evolve to is based solely on how strong the Digimon has become through protecting their masters.

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Pokemon: A Kid’s Most Addictive Drug

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who grew up in the ’90s who hadn’t seen or heard of “Pokemon.” There was no way to escape the obsession with the cartoon. It was plastered on commercials, billboards, food packaging, greeting cards, etc. You name it and “Pokemon” was probably displayed on it at some point or another. The one thing that made “Pokemon” so popular was that it didn’t just revolve around a 30-minute television show; it had the immensely popular trading card game, as well as a variety of different video games.

I loved “Pokemon” as a kid. I would watch it every time it was on, regardless of if I had already seen that episode numerous times. It was addicting. I, like so many others, collected the trading cards, although I never actually made trades with other collectors or participated in the tournaments. I drew a line there because competing in trading card tournaments had the potential to brand myself as a nerd for the rest of my life. It was the first step to becoming one of those people who played Dungeons and Dragons in my mother’s basement while chowing down on Domino’s pizza and Cheese Puffs. But I did collect the cards and I actually built quite an impressive collection. I may not have had all 151 Pokemon, which was the original number of Pokemon during what is known as the “1st Generation,” but I had a few rare Pokemon, like a Charizard and a Mew. My brother and I would battle against each other during our free time, but we didn’t exactly know what we were doing half the time.

For me, “Pokemon” will always be remembered for its 1st Generation. The original 151 Pokemon are what I go by when I talk about the show. Apparently there are 648 different Pokemon over four generations. I haven’t even bothered trying to figure them all out because I stopped watching the show when they introduced the 2nd generation of Pokemon. I guess there in lies the problem with Pokemon, although it is still currently producing new shows. It became to large. It tried to stay new throughout the years, but that just made it more confusing to the audience. I know of people who can list the first 151 Pokemon, but ask them to list any others from future generations and they won’t be able to name even one. As is usually the case, the first generation was the best.

“Pokemon” exploded onto the scene in 1996 with the debut of the video game series. It all started with Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue, role playing games for the Game Boy and Game Boy Color. You played the role of Ash Ketchum, a 10-year-old boy who was on a quest to become the greatest Pokemon Master in the world. In the game you would have to catch wild Pokemon and train them to grow stronger and evolve into more powerful Pokemon (if they evolved). The goal of Pokemon Red and Blue was to travel the country looking for Pokemon Gyms, where you would have to battle against Gym Leaders in order to earn a Merit Badge. Merit Badges were required for entry-level Pokemon Trainers to qualify for the Pokemon League, a league in which tournaments were held between Pokemon Trainers to determine who was the best. Each gym had its own theme. One would be water Pokemon, another would be Earth Pokemon, another would be fire Pokemon, etc. In a way, the game inadvertently taught gamers lessons about the elements. Water was strong against fire. Fire was strong against Ice. Lightning was strong against Water. Grass was weak against Fire. As of 2012, there are 25 handheld games and 15 console games.

Pokemon Red and Blue gave way to the Anime series in 1997. I watched the first five seasons, as they were the five that only dealt with the original 151 Pokemon. The series follows Ash on his journey to become a Pokemon Master, and he is soon joined by Misty, a gym leader specializing in water Pokemon, and Brock, a gym leader specializing in rock Pokemon. Ash is also joined by his good friend Pikachu, an electric mouse Pokemon that was given to him before he set off on his journey. The two become inseparable, symbolizing the value of true friends. Ash usually has to protect Pikachu in every episode, as Team Rocket, a duo of Pokemon bandits, led by their Meowth, a cat-like Pokemon, attempt to steal Pikachu and make money. Team Rocket’s existence in the series is needed, but at the same time they are very repetitive and don’t need to appear in every episode, especially with that stupid introduction they always do. The show is currently in its 14th season, but all of the original voice actors from the show’s beginning are gone.

My favorite Pokemon has always been Jigglypuff. I freaking love Jigglypuff! Yet this balloon Pokemon doesn’t really have many qualities that make it a good Pokemon to have fight in a battle. This pepto bismol-like Pokemon is a short, round creature with stubby arms and legs and big blue eyes. Its best asset is its voice, which has the power to lull its victims into a deep sleep. However, the only thing Jigglypuff does to its opponents when asleep is draw all over their faces with black Sharpie. But its high squeaky voice is adorable and it’s hard not to love Jigglypuff. I would never have my Jigglypuff evolve into Wigglytuff in Pokemon Blue.

“Pokemon” has definitely lost its appeal amongst those who used to watch the 1st generation as a kid. There is such a thing as too much and the incorporation of over 600 Pokemon is too much. “Pokemon” has had a great run, but it might be time to shut it down for good. It’s certainly made enough money.

Below are links to Pokemon charts to the first three generations.

1st Generation

2nd Generation

3rd Generation

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Two Angry Beavers Equal One Great Show

Typically, a nature show about two beavers living together would be perfect television for someone desperately seeking to hibernate. But when Nickelodeon launched “Angry Beavers” on April 19, 1997, I, along with several others, were ready to make the beaver the national symbol of America.

Even as a 21-year-old college student, I still love to watch “Angry Beavers” on a regular basis, as inside jokes are present in every episode that would fly over the heads of young kids. In terms of Nickelodeon cartoons, “Angry Beavers” was always my favorite. Even in the later stages of the show when it was replayed only during the early hours of the week on Nicktoons Network, I would wake up at 4 a.m. just for 30 minutes of enjoyment to keep my mind off of just how tired I was.

“Angry Beavers” was created by Mitch Schauer, who won two awards for his work on the show. He won a World Animation Celebration award for Best Animation Produced by Daytime and won a Annie award for Best Individual Achievement: Production Design in a TV Production. The show ran for four season and 62 episodes, with the series finale airing on August 27, 2006.

The show focused on two beavers, Norbert and Daggett, who were forced out of their parents’ dam after the birth of their twin sisters and told to find their own dam to call home. They take residence in the forest near Wayouttatown (way out of town), Oregon, where hilarious chaos ensues in their newly-built dam. Norbert and Daggett are two polar opposites of one another. Norbert is seen as the more mature older brother, who is a thorough thinker and planner. Daggett, on the other hand, is immature and quick to get himself caught in an undesirable situation.

It’s rare that my favorite character in a cartoon series is not considered to be one of the main characters. While I do like Norbert for his level-headed personality and laid back attitude, my favorite character in “Angry Beavers” was one that never moved or even talked throughout the series. He was a piece of bark known simply as Stump. Stump’s whole existence in the show is hilarious, as he becomes friends with both Norbert and Daggett and somehow receives the reputation around the forest as someone who goes out of his way to help others. Despite not being able to move on his own or communicate with others, he is characterized by the beavers as being self-aware and animate. I feel like Stump is one of the greatest inanimate objects to appear either on television or in the theatre, rivaling Wilson in “Cast Away.’

There are a lot of great episodes in this series, but my personal favorite was “Same Time Last Week,” the first episode of season two. The episode involves Daggett constantly annoying Norbert throughout the week by jabbing him with boxing gloves. Norbert stays calm throughout the week, but come Sunday morning, Norbert has had enough and literally punches Daggett back into the week that he had just experienced. Initially, Daggett does not learn from his mistake and repeats the process for several weeks until he desperately seeks to move on with his life. In an attempt to not be knocked back into last week, Daggett buys a calendar with 365 ways to help your brother. However, in his attempt to help Norbert, he ends up making him angrier than he ever was when attempting to bother his older brother. Norbert’s patience runs out when Daggett gives away the ending to a movie he is watching on Sunday morning, causing him to knock Daggett back into the time of the dinosaurs.

“Angry Beavers” put its touch on several different items and events that either the kids or parents would be able to understand. There are episodes on Woodstock, box tops, disco, zombies, bed wetting (called bed biting), relationships and family matters.

“Angry Beavers” had a strained relationship with Nickelodeon, growing worse with each passing season. The success of the show kept it on the air, much to the dismay of the network. The relationship started deteriorated with the 1998 episode “Alley Oops.” When the episode first ran, Daggett tells Norbert to shut up, which is something you don’t usually hear on children’s television. Now I don’t believe that “shut up” is vulgar compared to some of the other words in the English language. It’s become as common as saying “OK.” The fact that I don’t even remember that phrase being said when watching the episode shows just how mediocre of a problem it should have been. I’d agree it to be offensive if he had said “shut the F**k up. But Nickelodeon demanded that “shut” be changed to “shush” when the episode re-aired. It was the first time the network had changed the script between airings.

The show’s staff got the last laugh, as the series finale poked fun at the way the network operated. Titled “Bye Bye Beaver,” Daggett and Norbert receive a letter in the mail saying that they have been cancelled, breaking the fourth wall by acknowledging that they are just mere cartoons and not actually real people in real life. They poke fun at Nickelodeon saying that the cartoon can still be re-run, making tons of money that won’t find its way back to the creators of the show. I applaud the creators for not being afraid to stand up against the network and speaking out against how backward the field of television can be.

“Angry Beavers” will always be on my Netflix Instant for as long as I have an account. A few years ago I bought my father a Norbert windup toy that chopped wood when engaged. My whole family loved “Angry Beavers” and it has made me greatly appreciate the modern-day beaver.

Here is a video clip of Richard Horvitz (the voice of Daggett) at a convention.

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