“Children’s” Cartoons: Part 1

27 05 2010

Cartoons. Those colorful fantasies that kept us glued to the television as kids. Hell, who am I kidding? We still watch them now. But for the most part, those animated families that were surrogates to our own were aimed at the little people. No, not dwarves. I’m talking about children, those devilish little brats who we’re led to believe are our future. Looking back, however, I’m thinking some of those “children’s” cartoons should maybe not have been aimed at such a young audience. I’m not saying they had humor that was a little too “adult-oriented,” or that they were too creepy or morbid…. but they did and they were. I’m talking about cartoons like……

#7 The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack

The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack is about a young boy, named Flapjack of course, whose adoptive mother is a talking whale named Bubbie. His best friend is a pirate named Captain K’nuckles, who tells of the fabled Candy Island, and with whom Flapjack embarks on all types of adventures, usually in search of candy but sometimes just for the mere thrill of it.

Seems innocent enough, right? Did you miss the part where I mentioned Flapjack’s best friend is an older gentleman who originally enticed the young boy with promises of candy? Turns out this K’nuckles guy, who sounds an awful lot like Bill Murray’s brother, is addicted to the stuff. He’ll do whatever he can to get a hold of more candy. And he’s a compulsive liar, most of whose stories are either completely false or grossly embellished. Like many fictional pirates, he has a few prosthetic limbs, by which I mean, both arms and both legs are made of wood. Unlike most fictional pirates, however, he is shown to have an ass made of wood, too. Let’s recap. This guy promises little boys candy, has a serious addiction, hardly ever tells the truth, and has had something (I cringe to imagine what) happen to his ass that destroyed it so badly, it had to be replaced with wood. That’s pretty much every kind of person our mothers warned us to avoid when we went outside. And for once, I think they were right.

"He told me he was 18, I swear!"

 

And that’s just the main character’s best friend! Some of Flapjack’s other acquaintances include:

-Peppermint Larry: Owner of a bar of sorts called the Candy Barrel (not a gay porn star, as his name would suggest). His wife’s name is Candy Wife. Probably because she’s so sweet, right? Nope, she’s pretty much a sex doll made of candy. Larry also appears to have no upper lip and a penchant for making puppets out of dead rats.

-Dr. Barber: Hey kids, he’s a doctor and a barber! No matter what part of your body you need cut, he can do it! Then again, he looks like a rapist and once tried to crossbreed fish heads with a pile of hair, so maybe trusting him with a sharp object isn’t the best idea.

-Slippery Pete: The town’s masseur, which means that he will begin massaging anyone that comes into his shop. Unless they’re fat, in which case he’ll just throw an octopus on top of them. Also, he seems to be covered in eel oil at all times, but I don’t really want to know what he needs all that lube for.

-The Inventor: An antagonist to Flapjack. His plans usually consist of him inventing some contraption or another. These inventions are all powered by slave labor. Child slave labor. He’s even used the children as projectiles.

Then there’s this guy:

Good luck sleeping tonight.

#6 Rocko’s Modern Life

Rocko’s Modern Life is about Rocko, an Australian wallaby who immigrates to the U.S. Instead of going on any grand adventures, Rocko mostly just deals with the monotony of everyday life with his friends, Heffer the steer, and Filburt the turtle.

Nothing here that would disturb youngsters, is there? Well, in a sense, no. All the weird stuff that goes on in this show would go mostly unnoticed by its target demographic. Their parents, however, might take issue with certain episodes of the series. Let’s take a look at some of the titles: “Who Gives a Buck”, “Carnival Knowledge“, “Rocko’s Happy Sack”, “Love Spanked”, and “Schnit-Heads”, to name a few. It was one of the first episodes, though (Leap Frogs), that was removed from circulation for a time, as it revolved around Rocko’s neighbor Mrs. Bighead trying to seduce Rocko into having an affair with her.

Wouldn't you?

 

She also appears to be a masochist, often sleeping on sharp objects, and frequently exposes herself to Rocko while trying to woo him. What other quirky characters does the show have to offer? Why, there’s:

-Dr. Paula Hutchinson a.k.a. Hutch: A feline dentist/surgeon/vet/obstetrician/pharmacist with a hook for a hand and a smile bigger than Bob’s from those Enzyte commercials. She marries Filburt and has a number of children with him, though one of them looks strangely like Heffer. Hmmm.

-Gordon the Talking Leg: A severed leg with a face on the bottom of its foot. He was removed from a Revolutionary War veteran, and sounds an awful lot like Johnny Carson.

-Peaches: Satan-like entity who runs “Heck” (see: Hell). His head bears a resemblance to cow udders and he takes joy in condemning Heffer to an eternity in Heck. That’s right, one of the main characters dies and faces eternal damnation. Don’t worry; he comes back –no thanks to the group of doctors that sat and watched as he choked to death in the first place.

-Really, Really Big Man: A superhero. He has the usual powers of flight and super-strength, as well as the not-so-usual traits of having magical chest hairs, and nipples that can show you your future by attaching them to your eyeballs. I shit you not.

That Leap Frogs episode I mentioned earlier wasn’t the only controversy the show encountered. Chokey Chicken, a favorite hangout of the characters’, was renamed Chewy Chicken, since the former sounded too much like masturbation innuendo. Furthermore, individual scenes that had to be removed include one where Heffer is “milked” and quite enjoys it, and another where Rocko is camping, and, when he grabs a hold of what he assumes to be berries, a bear leaps out of the bushes, holding his balls in pain. See if you can figure out why this next scene only aired once before being pulled:

Oh, to be young again.

#5 Courage the Cowardly Dog

 

Courage the Cowardly Dog is about Courage, a dog who lives in the middle of nowhere with the doting, elderly Muriel and her mean-spirited husband, Eustace. Despite his name, Courage is, in fact, frightened by many things, a fact which poses a bit of a problem considering the family is constantly running into monsters, aliens, demons, and flat-out bad people.

On the other hand– wait, actually, that’s already pretty scary. This poor little pup, who’s done nothing wrong to anybody, finds himself constantly tormented by a multitude of terrifying personae. It’s up to him to save the day in pretty much  every one of these situations since Muriel is completely oblivious up to the point where she’s actually kidnapped (which happens frequently) and Eustace is usually preoccupied with scaring or abusing Courage. He has a computer that occasionally doles out a bit of advice, but it mostly just calls Courage a twit in a snobbish, English accent.

 

Google images result for "twit in a snobbish, English accent"

 

Some of Courage’s antagonists include:

-Katz: An evil cat who cons people into paying for his services, whatever they may be, and then tries to kill them.

-The Great Fusilli: A thespian alligator who turns people into puppets. Kinda like reality TV………Get it?

– Lisa and Elisa Stitch: A two-headed woman that seeks immortality by sewing people’s souls into a quilt. This combines my two biggest fears, quilting and women named Elisa.

-The Snowman: A snowman (imagine that) who is doomed to melt because of global warming and tries to harvest human specimens to find a cure. He also sounds like Sean Connery, which is actually pretty damned awesome.

I feel like these descriptions don’t accurately portray the general creepiness of the show. It’s really something you just have to watch. Here’s a scene, for example, that I still can’t watch without getting goosebumps (the chase scene from 1:40 to 2:46):

It’s the music. Chills me to the bone.

#4 Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs

That’s right, the Animaniacs. Steven Spielberg’s foray into the land of cartoons which brought us the literal Warner Brothers, Yakko and Wakko, and the Warner Sister, Dot. It combined classic slapstick humor, pop culture references, and general cartoon zaniness into an instant classic. And it was educational, too, often delving into various academic subjects or even teaching generic lessons via the Wheel of morality. This is pretty much my childhood incarnate! What could it possibly contain that wasn’t meant for us kids?

As it turns out, quite a lot. The show frequently parodied movies and events that only adults would pick up on. For example, one recurring sketch was The Goodfeathers, an obvious spoof of Goodfellas, a movie which made the top ten in a list of movies that use the word “fuck” the most. One of the show’s characters, Minerva Mink, was downgraded to a minor character for being too sexually suggestive, having appeared nude (as a silhouette, mind you) on more than one occasion, and many other female characters became the targets of both Yakko’s and Wakko’s advances and frequent innuendos.

Hello-o-o-o, sexual harassment suit!

The Animaniacs’ adult humor worked to the shows advantage, as it proved to be popular with older audiences as well as the youngsters. This led to the production of such spin-offs as the educational Histeria!, the enduring Pinky and the Brain, and, well, Freakazoid!. Still, despite its success, it’s a bit surprising that some of what made it past the censors…… made it past the censors. You would think parents might be a tad concerned about their children seeing something like this:

Mom, Dad, what the hell?

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 OF “Children’s” Cartoons”

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