Running Local

This Train of Thought Makes All Stops

Quoting the Wabbit, Ignoring the Backpack

Posted by Bob Kohm on February 3, 2009

“Eeeeeeh, watch me paste that pathetic palooka with a powerful, pachydermous, percussion pitch.” – Bugs Bunny

As the father of two preschool aged kids, I watch a lot of cartoons and kids’ programing… probably more than any of us should. Aside from the bland animation offered by the finest CGI labs in all of Seoul and Yokohama,  the scripts written by milquetoast scribners and then massaged to death by a battery of Ed.Ds on Noggin or PBS really stand out as a huge change from the cartoons and, ahem, educational programming of my youth back in the middle and late Seventies.

If I said “What’s up, Doc” you’re going to know who said it, even though Bugs first intoned that line nearly 70 years ago. Anybody willing to lay odds on how many people will recall who said “Swiper no swiping!” in 2079? Bugs, of course, was the proverbial quote mill– from “Ain’t I a stinker” to “Do you happen to know what the penalty is for shooting a fricaseeing rabbit without a fricaseeing rabbit license?”. Why was a grey rabbit able to capture the vernacular and mood of his age in ways that we would never dream of letting Woo Woo Wubbzy or Franklin do today? Hell, someone opined that a Teletubbie was gay and we lost our collective minds a few years back; meanwhile Bugs told what, seven generations of kids, “Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out alive”. What a bunch of ultramaroon’s we’ve become.

Maybe the golden age of Warner Brother’s cartoons coincided with an age where the words had more meaning than the pictures, an age we live in the mirror image of today. We do see echoes of Bugs’ smart ass ways in many of today’s feature length animations; watch Madagascar or Shrek and you’re going to come across a hell of a lot of double entendres clearly aimed at the folks paying for the tickets rather than for the little ones. Even that, though, shows a marked departure from the Bunny’s ways; when Bugs said “Well, what did you expect in an opera? A happy ending?” or “Here I go with the timid little woodland creature bit again. It’s shameful, but…ehhh, it’s a living.”, you know the writers weren’t targeting Mom & Dad.

I’m not trying to say that there’s no good kid’s programming– Curious George is actually pretty funny on PBS in a very innocent way– but there’s nothing with the edge that Bugs or Woody Woodpecker brought to the small screen. It’s an interesting question to ponder– in an age where our children would rank as technological geniuses compared to kids of my generation or our parents’, have we dumbed them down so far sociologically that they can’t handle edgy humor? Spongebob is probably as close as we get today, but that doesn’t have anything like the wit of the original Looney Toons despite its crude humor. The Simpsons did a decent job in the early days of its run, but that’s another brand of cartoon entirely.

It seems to me that in the high-def colours of today’s cartoons we’ve lost the nuance that the black & white or scratchy Technicolor ‘toons of old were able to convey. Sure, Bugs didn’t have to deal with political correctness– every cop had an Irish brogue you could cut with a knife and was usually named Clancy– but it went beyond that. When Bugs talked, you learned something about the culture of the day the cartoon was shot– gritty, strapped, lush or worried. After watching Handy Manny on Disney today, I can only hope that my grandkids aren’t sitting around someday saying that you could tell anything about the culture of this decade by watching that.

“Well, goodbye… and don’t think it hasn’t been a little slice of Heaven. ‘Cuz it hasn’t.”

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3 Responses to “Quoting the Wabbit, Ignoring the Backpack”

  1. Piney Boy said

    Ah thank you Bob. Bugs is my favorite of all time. I can sum up why Bugs is so transcendant to even our kids generation with his quotes:

    I know this defies the law of gravity, but I never studied law!

    Ickity Ackity Oop! ACk! ACk! Zickety Zackity Oop! Ock! Ock! Oh Oh Phht! Ah Ah Ah! Flibbedy Flabbidy Floob! It’s yours.

  2. Midnight Otter said

    Bob,

    Do you and the boys watch Batman: The Brave and the Bold? It’s not bad. It’s target audience is about 8 so needless to say, I’m enjoying a great deal. It MIGHT be too intense for your sons (I forget how old they are).

    It’s on Friday night and again on Saturday morning on Cartoon network.

    Steve

  3. B-Fly said

    Bob, if you missed the series, get Animaniacs on DVD and pretend it’s for the kids. It was maybe the only cartoon I’ve seen in the past 20 years that rivaled Looney Toons for sheer cleverness. Yakko Warner is a Bugs/Groucho meld who reels off some pretty great dialog, and all of the shows-within-the-show try to mirror the Looney Toons sensibility.

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