Childhood Cartoons Revisited

Cartoons from our youth dissected as a young adult

Go Go Gadget OK Cartoon

It has been quite awhile since I have watched Inspector Gadget, but its influence on both myself and the rest of my housemates in The Village is clearly evident. Anytime we want something done, but don’t want to do it ourselves, one of us usually orders it done by saying “Go Go Gadget…” It never actually works, but it still gets a good laugh out of all of us. A few days ago I posted “Go Go Gadget Sports Journalism Job Opportunity” on my Facebook page as a joke and one of my housemates mentioned that Inspector Gadget had recently been put on Netflix. I decided to check it out for myself, as I hadn’t watched any reruns of the show since it was taken off the air for good in 2000. I probably stopped watching it sometime in 1998, but I don’t know for sure. All I know is that after re-watching a few episodes of the show, I have mixed feelings about it. It had its clever, funny moments, but it also had its dull, boring moments as well.

Inspector Gadget debuted on CBS way back in 1983 and was the first syndicated show from DIC Entertainment. It featured the main protagonist Inspector Gadget, a clumsy, dim-witted cyborg with seemingly everything imaginable stored somewhere in his body. He had the ability to choose his device of choice by uttering the words “Go Go Gadget” followed by the name of the gadget. For example, if he wanted a kitchen knife, he would say “Go Go Gadget kitchen knife” and his arm would turn into a kitchen knife. Inspector Gadget also has the responsibility of taking care of his niece, Penny, and her dog, Brain. Penny serves as the brains of the family, as she is the one who usually foils the plans of the evil Doctor Claw, the leader of M.A.D. organization. Yet, Inspector Gadget never realizes that it is Penny and Brain who have stopped Doctor Claw’s devious plans.

The best part of the show was the running gags that occur in just about every episode of the show. One such gag is the notes that Inspector Gadget receives from his boss, Chief Quimby. The notes themselves are not the gags, but the note’s end, which always reads “This message will self destruct.” However, after hearing the message, Inspector Gadget nonchalantly tosses the note away, always landing near Quimby, who is stealthfully hiding somewhere in the background. Quimby bears the brunt of the explosion, having never learned from past episodes. The other running gag is Inspector Gadget’s misfortunes when summoning some of his gadgets. There is always one point of the show where Inspector Gadget gets screwed over by his arsenal of gadgets. For example, if he was falling from a tall building and called for a helicopter blade, a flower pot would instead appear. He usually gets saved by luck or by Penny.

The one thing I didn’t like about the show was the majority of the characters. I found Penny to be an annoying, brainy little girl that becomes more of a headache with every scene she appears in. Inspector Gadget’s dumb nature grows old after awhile and it makes me wonder how he ever became an inspector in the first place, as he’s clearly not qualified for the job. That’s another thing that bothered me about the show: it’s just too unrealistic. I know that sounds stupid to say because it’s a cartoon show, but most cartoons have aspects about the show that are somewhat realistic. Inspector Gadget has nothing. Penny, a young girl, is smart enough to foil the plans of the most evil organization on the planet on a regular basis, with absolutely no help from her uncle, who is supposed to be trained in situations like that. How is a little girl and her dog smarter than an investigator, somebody who is supposed to be extremely smart? Wouldn’t they just hire the girl and fired Inspector Gadget? That always irked me because there was nothing I could relate to when watching this show.

I didn’t have a favorite character nor did I have a favorite episode. Doctor Claw was kind of cool because he had a pet cat that he showed a lot of empathy toward. I’m a cat person myself so I liked seeing the cat for the ten seconds it appears in each episode.

Inspector Gadget ended on Feb. 1, 1986, but was re-run on Nickelodeon from 1987 to 2000. Perhaps the best parody of the show was the one done by Robot Chicken. It makes me laugh every time and I wish the show was more like that.

Leave a comment »

Hey Arnold!: Obsession, Stereotypes and Elementary School

While As Told by Ginger almost flawlessly portrayed life through the eyes of a junior high school student, Hey Arnold! did the same for the younger kids in elementary school. There are many different themes that this Nickelodeon cartoon entertains, including life as an orphan child, bullying at school and even love. The messages Hey Arnold! tried to convey was apparent even as an elementary school student myself when I first starting watching this show. While it wasn’t my absolute favorite cartoon show on Nickelodeon, it definitely ranks up there in the top five. If it was on, chances were good that I’d be watching. Days where they ran marathons of Hey Arnold! were all the more sweeter.

Hey Arnold! first appeared on Nickelodeon on Oct. 7, 1996, with the airing of “Downtown as Fruits.” The episode features Arnold, the main protagonist, and Gerald, Arnold’s best friend, who end up getting on the wrong bus on their way to the elementary school for their part in the school play about nutrition and get dropped off in the back ally of downtown. Arnold is dressed as a strawberry and Gerald as a banana. The strength of the episode paved the way for five strong seasons totaling exactly 100 episodes. The show was produced by Snee-Oosh, Inc. and Nickelodeon Studios and created by Craig Barlett. Barlett also worked on writing scripts for Rugrats.

The greatest strength of Hey Arnold! was the characters and how each of them stood for a different stereotype. Arnold was the voice of reason and seen as the golden child who always tried to make the best of a bad situation. Gerald was the African American character who grew up in a rougher part of town and had dreams of making money through a variety of different schemes. Helga was the emotionally unstable girl who liked to boss everyone around, but at the same time didn’t want anyone to know about her secret crush. I have to admit, Helga was my least favorite character of the show, as I’m sure she was for many other fans. Her moodiness annoyed me and her insane love affair with Arnold was borderline psychopathic. I sure hope girls that age don’t act similarly to her when it comes to boy crushes. Herald was the powerful bully who had secrets he hid in his mistreatment of others. There’s Phoebe, the nerdy smart girl; Rhonda, the girl obsessed with fashion; Curly, the troublemaker; Lila, the female equivalent to Arnold; Sid, the paranoid; and Eugene, the nerdy kid with horrifically bad luck.

Hey Arnold! is one of the only Nickelodeon shows in the ’90s to feature an interracial friendship. Arnold and Gerald’s friendship lasts through thick and thin, from cleaning out a vacant lot filled with all sorts of garbage to create their own baseball diamond to saving their neighborhood from being torn down and turned into a mega-mall. There are no racial issues that are presented in the show, but having an African American character that is featured in the majority of episodes was a strong enough theme in a positive sense.

My absolute favorite episode is episode three of season five, titled “Arnold Visits Arnie.” The night before Arnold is set to visit his cousin Arnie, a hillbilly-like portrayal of Arnold, he dreams about his impending visit, except that everybody is the polar opposite of who they are in the real world. Most importantly, Helga is like Lila and vice versa. In the real world, Arnold has a crush on Lila and Helga has a crush on Arnold. In the dream, Lila has the crush on Arnold, but is a jealous, bossy reincarnation of herself. Arnold meets dream Helga and instantly develops feelings for her, but she does not feel the same way about him. The dream quickly turns into a nightmare as Lila hunts down Arnold in the corn stalks, jealous of his new-found affection for Helga. The episode is the most creative in the series because it takes the characters that everybody has come to know from the inside out and gives them a snippet of what they would be like if they had the exact opposite personality.

As for a favorite character in this show, you can’t go wrong with choosing Arnold, but I tend to shy away from the main protagonist. That’s why my favorite character was Eugene, the nerdy, clumsy kid that tended to be the butt of many of his classmates’ jokes. It may sound strange to have Eugene as my favorite character, but I feel like he is someone that we have all seen before. You know, the guy that never gets the sarcasm in your voice. The guy that never understands any of the sexual innuendos during a conversation. The guy that tucks his shirt into his pants. We all know someone like that and I felt like he was a very likable character. Despite his lack of popularity and mistreatment by other kids, Eugene always kept a positive attitude and that’s something I envy in a person.

The show ended on June 8, 2004, but that hasn’t stopped people from making some unique videos about Hey Arnold! That includes the one below.


Spongebob Squarepants: Nickelodeon’s Lifeline

For you to have never of heard of Spongebob Squarepants, you must either live in a pineapple under the sea, under a rock or in an Easter Island head. Since 1999, the little yellow sponge that is Spongebob Squarepants has become an American icon. His face has been plastered on everything including clothing, food, beverages, stores, jewelry, etc. Simply put, if you have a pulse, you’ve seen Spongebob Squarepants sometime during your life. The show is impossible to avoid, which has become a problem over the years. As is the case with just about everything in life, the longer something goes on, the worse off it becomes until eventually it dies off. Like every kid growing up, I adored Spongebob and would watch it anytime it was on the television. However, now that it’s been spamming my television screen for the past 13 years, I have grown tired of the show and just want it to end already. Unfortunately, Nickelodeon does not agree with my viewpoint.

Spongebob Squarepants made its debut on Nickelodeon way back on May 1, 1999, following The Kids Choice Awards. The show centers around the crazy happenings of a yellow sponge who wears square pants and lives in a pineapple in the sea city of Bikini Bottom. That was one of the strong points to the show; the names of the characters were so direct, but at the same time creative. Spongebob’s best friend, Patrick Star, is a pink starfish that lives under a rock. As a young kid, I glanced over some of the details of this show that were so obvious to me now as a college student. Patrick was portrayed as the least intelligent character on the show, constantly saying or doing extremely dumb things that the average person would never think of. But the symbolism in Patrick’s character is the idea that he lives under a rock. The old saying of someone living under a rock is used when someone hasn’t heard of a something that is well-known to the rest of the world. In Patrick’s case, it’s logic that he’s never heard of and it’s perfectly fitting that he lives under a rock.

My favorite character in the show was without question Squidward Tentacles. Squidward, an octopus who lives in an Easter Island head, neighbors both Spongebob and Patrick, and hates both of them with a passion, although they believe that they are all best friends. Squidward is the show’s pessimist, offsetting Spongebob and Patrick’s severe optimism. He finds himself desperately searching for peace and quiet, attempting to live out his dream of being a famous clarinet player or artist, even though he is terrible at both. I see a lot of Squidward in myself and that is why I like him as much as I do. We both have a sheer disdain for those who are overly cheery and want nothing more than to be left alone the majority of the time. We both take comfort in being alone or being surrounded by others that share our same values. Of the 320 episodes that have aired, Squidward has made an appearance in 270 of them.

The secondary characters in Spongebob Squarepants is what has really allowed this cartoon to air as long as it has. They open up a plethora of different story lines to delay the feeling that the show has grown stale. Most notably is the business rivalry between Mr. Krabs, the owner of a fast-food burger joint called the Krusty Krab, and Plankton, the owner of a failing restaurant called the Chum Bucket. Again, great names that are both simple and creative. Several episodes center on Plankton attempting to steal the Krabby Patty secret formula using a variety of evil schemes, but in the end are foiled. The funniest episodes of the show come when Mrs. Puff, a puffer fish that is the driving instructor in Bikini Bottom, is a central character. Mrs. Puff secretly despises Spongebob because of the misery he has instilled upon her, as she has experienced 38 failed driving tests of his, usually ending with her being sent to the hospital on a stretcher. I always got a laugh when Spongebob would hit a wall or an obstacle and crash the boat, causing Mrs. Puff to puff up. I still laugh when I think of that image.

Now I used to absolutely love Spongebob Squarepants growing up. Don’t get me wrong; it was a great show. But all good things must come to an end and Nickelodeon is crazy to think that they can get by with showing 10+ hours of Spongebob Squarepants everyday. A network cannot rely on a cartoon lasting forever and Spongebob is clearly past its prime. Everything has an ending point. If a cartoon as great as Rugrats can’t last forever then there is no way Spongebob can escape the same fate. As of today, there have been 204 30-minute shows produced with 168 of them already aired. In total, there are 320 individual segments within those 168 episodes. Spongebob Squarepants has won 27 awards, including its fifth straight “Favorite Cartoon” award at the 2012 Kids Choice Awards. There have been 16 special episodes of the show, three television movies, one theatrical movie back in 2004 and a second movie that will premier on the big screen sometime in 2014. The eighth season of the show debuted on March 26 and the network has already announced that it has picked up Spongebob for a ninth season. It doesn’t look as if Nickelodeon is ready to pull the plug on Spongebob just yet, which is bad news for those of us who have had enough of his annoying, high-pitched laugh.


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:


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.

1 Comment »

Butch Hartman: Fairly Successful Career

The 1990s was a period of great success for Nickelodeon. With shows like Rugrats, Rocco’s Modern Life, Hey Arnold, etc., Nickelodeon was striving as one of the top cartoon networks across the globe. But soon into the new millennium, those cartoons had run their course and closed up shop. By 2004, every cartoon that debuted in the late ’90s, excluding Spongebob Squarepants, had aired their series finales. A year later, Nickelodeon Studios closed down. But luckily for Nickelodeon, there was a glimmer of hope to revive the television network back to its glory days. That glimmer of hope came in the form of Butch Hartman.

Born as Elmer Earl Hartman IV, Butch was born in Highland Park, Michigan before spending his childhood in Roseville, Michigan and his teenage years in New Baltimore, Michigan. After graduating from high school, Hartman went on to California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, where he sought to become an animator and a writer.

Hartman’s career started in 1986, when he worked as an in-between artist for the film “An American Tail.” For the next nine years, Hartman focused on television, becoming the storyboard artist for the show “Dink, the Little Dinosaur” in 1989 and the key model designer for “Piggsburgh Piggs” in 1990. His career got off the ground in 1991 when he landed a job with “Tom and Jerry Kids” as a character designer. He would remain with the show until 1993. The following year, Hartman did the design work on a couple television specials, “Yogi the Easter Bear” and “Scooby-Doo in Arabian Nights.”

The first cartoons that he could call his own were created in 1995, which debuted on Cartoon Network’s “The Cartoon Cartoon Show,” a television show that launched the beginnings of “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Cow and Chicken,” etc. Hartman’s two shows, “Pfish and Chips” and “Gramps” ran for two years, but were not picked up by the network as their own shows.

For the next few years, Hartman remained with Cartoon Network, working as storyboard artist/layout artist for “Dexter’s Laboratory,” writer/director for “Johnny Bravo,” and model creator for “Cow and Chicken.” But in 1998, he made the switch over to Nickelodeon when the network launched a similar cartoon show to Cartoon Network’s “The Cartoon Cartoon Show,” known as “Oh Yeah! Cartoons.” While “Oh Yeah! Cartoons” didn’t have the same success at creating new shows as its Cartoon Network rival, it did launch three brand-new cartoons, one of which belonged to Hartman. “ChalkZone,” “My Life as a Teenage Robot” and Hartman’s “The Fairly OddParents” sprouted from “Oh Yeah! Cartoons” and “The Fairly OddParents” is the only one of the three that is still airing on Nickelodeon today. “ChalkZone” ran from 2002-2009 and “My Life as a Teenage Robot” ran from 2002-2006. The two cartoons combined for 82 episodes. “The Farily OddParents,” running since 2001, has aired 136 episodes to date, fourth-most in Nickelodeon history.

Prior to its success, “The Fairly OddParents” were signed on for six episodes by Nickelodeon that began airing on March, 30, 2001. Originally titled “Fairy Godparents,” the show revolved around 10-year-old Timmy Turner, a boy who was neglected by his parents and tormented by his evil babysitter Vicky. As a misunderstood pre-teen, Timmy was granted fairy godparents, Cosmo and Wanda, who had the ability to grant his wishes, as long as they fell in the realm of the oversized rule book, called “Da Rules.”  A couple interesting notes from the cartoon is that Timmy was never meant to have the trademark pink hat he wears every episode; it was supposed to be blue. The reason for the change was the Hartman ran out of blue ink and instead went with the color pink. Wanda was also supposed to be named Venus.

To date, “The Fairly OddParents” is in its eighth season, 14 special episodes, eight movies and three crossover episodes with “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.”

During his time working on “The Fairly OddParents,” Hartman launched his second cartoon, “Danny Phantom.” While not as successful as his first cartoon, “Danny Phantom” ran from 2004 to 2007 and lasted for 53 episodes. However, despite its cancellation in 2007, Hartman has recently said that Nickelodeon will celebrate the show’s eighth anniversary and new episodes may be made. It’s unknown whether or not “Danny Phantom” will become a regularly featured cartoon in the Nickelodeon lineup.

Hartman’s third and final cartoon creation to this point debuted two years ago on Nickelodeon. “T.U.F.F. Puppy” is currently in its second season and has already been picked up for a third season, guaranteeing at least 60 episodes.

Hartman currently resides in Bell Canyon, California with his wife and two children.


As Told By Ginger: A fairly accurate portrayal of junior high

OK so this cartoon may have not occurred in the 1990s, but I’m going to let it slide because I believe that this cartoon is one of the more accurate depictions of the themes that it is trying to relate to. I’m talking about Nickelodeon’s “As Told By Ginger,” which debuted on Oct. 25, 2000 and ran until Nov. 21, 2009, although the show was in hiatus for long stretches of time toward the end.

Created by Emily Kapnek, directed by Mark Risley and produced by Klasky-Csupo, “As Told By Ginger” is the story of a girl named Ginger Foutley (voiced by Melissa Disney), who has to deal with the far-too-real experiences that every junior high schooler can expect to endure. There are the popular kids, the jocks and the nerds that rank among a traditional school hierarchy, with the popular kids and jocks near the top and the nerds at the bottom. “As Told by Ginger” is about a girl who finds herself somewhere in the middle; she wants to be popular, but at the same time doesn’t want to abandon her way of life, which more or less resembles that of a nerd.

By Ginger’s side is her friends Dodie Bishop (voiced by Aspen Miller), a gossip-seeking girl that tries, and fails, to be one of the popular kids at school, and Macie Lightfoot (voiced by Jackie Harris), an intelligent, yet nerdy, asthma-plagued girl. On the other end of the spectrum is Courtney Gripling (voiced by Liz Georges), a popular, attention-attracting blonde, and Miranda Killgallen, a cold, heartless sidekick to Gripling.

When this show first debuted on Nickelodeon, I was only ten years old and was not yet in middle school. While I did enjoy watching the show, I did not appreciate just how accurate of a depiction “As Told By Ginger” was to the world of junior high. It consisted of love triangles, population demand, betrayal, etc. The show spent the majority of air time visualizing the social aspect of what it’s like to be a junior high student in a low-income household instead of focusing on the academic portion of school. Ginger’s character can be related to a majority of kids, as she has a devious younger brother, Carl (voiced by Jeannie Elias), and lives with her mother, Lois (voiced by Laraine Newman), who is a divorced single mother. Ginger’s father is rarely mentioned.

As the show progresses, Ginger is hit with challenge after challenge that typical junior high girls go through at some point in their lives. As Courtney begins to befriend Ginger, she is left with the painful decision to choose friendships based solely on popularity or remain loyal to the true friendships she’s already created. In one of the first few episodes where she is invited to Courtney’s birthday party, she is willing to steal a welcome sign because Miranda tells her Courtney has always wanted one for her bedroom. She ends up getting caught and arrested as a result.

Love begins to play a crucial part as season two and three begin. As a camp counselor at Camp Caprice, Ginger develops feelings for a boy named Sasha (voiced by J. Evan Bonifant), only to later discover that he has a girlfriend. Romance becomes a central issue in the first movie, “Far From Home,” where Ginger is offered to spend a semester at a prestigious art school. It is then that her long-time neighbor, Darren Patterson (voiced by Kenny Blank), realizes his feelings for Ginger and embarks on a journey to find her and tell her the truth. A relationship ensues, which is noteworthy because Darren is African American and Ginger is white. It’s rare to see an interracial couple in cartoons.

The underlying theme of the TV show is relationships and how one deals with them. Throughout the show’s air time, Ginger’s relationship with her mother, friends and Carl are tested. There is plenty of drama that one would expect from a junior high schooler. Her mother eventually begins dating again and in season two’s “Ms. Foutley’s Boys,” Ginger finds herself in a miserable situation having to deal with her mom’s love interest, Buzz, and his wild three kids. But she keeps quiet because she wants her mom to be happy and is willing to sacrifice her own happiness to achieve that.

“As Told By Ginger” is a cartoon that every junior high student should watch because of how spot on it really is at depicting what life is like at that age. Social hierarchy, friendships, relationships, family issues are all stressed in this cartoon. Unfortunately, Nickelodeon put “As Told By Ginger” on hiatus several times during the third and final season. It debuted Aug. 9, 2003, and ran through Jan. 20, 2004, before being put on hiatus for the first time. It  returned on Nov. 14, 2006, for one episode before being put back on hiatus. This on- again-off-again scheduling continued until the season finale movie, “The Wedding Frame,” which aired on Nov. 21, 2009.

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: