Wednesday, May 25, 2005

With all the trouble in the world at the moment--and a sneaking suspicion that Bush's falling approval ratings and slaps upside the head on Social Security, the filibuster, and stem cells might lead to a wag-the-dog attack on Iran sooner rather than later--I'd rather write about cartoons.

With entire channels devoted to cartoons 24/7, plus VCRs and DVDs, kids (and adults) can live on nothing but cartoons now if they want to. Not so back in the day. You had your Saturday mornings, and maybe an hour in the late afternoon, and that was it. There was a time when almost every local TV market had a locally produced kids' show featuring cartoons. In my case, it was Circus 3 with ventriloquist Howie Olson and sidekick Cowboy Eddie, which ran from 1961 to 1972, but you probably had your own, and at about the same time. Circus 3 made me a fan of the classic Warner Brothers cartoons--Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Road Runner, et al. The Flintstones, which ran in prime-time during the early 1960s, was also an afternoon staple, on a different local station. At some point, I was turned on to Rocky and Bullwinkle and the Pink Panther, too. I have watched many of these into adulthood (well, maybe not The Flintstones so much), and I'd love it if somebody would start running Pink Panther cartoons again.

The cartoon experience was about more than the cartoons, of course. It was also about the commercials. Eagle-eyed kids (like me) knew that the same people who produced Rocky and Bullwinkle made the ads for Cap'n Crunch cereal, and there's not a kid alive who, if you say to him, "They're g-r-r-r-eat!," doesn't know who and what you're talking about. And speaking of which--Thurl Ravenscroft, who provided the voice of Tony the Tiger and hundreds of other cartoon characters (and sang the songs in How the Grinch Stole Christmas) died this week at age 91. And the guy who provided the voice of Fred Flintstone since 1979 (and thus not in the original TV episodes from the early 60s), Henry Corden, died as well. What this means is--if you're a TV cartoon voiceover person, the rule of three says you should be very afraid. It also means, especially in Ravenscroft's case, that we're losing icons of various sorts on a fairly regular basis now, and there's nobody coming along to replace them.

And now, they used to say on Star Trek, "Mr. Herbst, you have the com." I will be on hiatus until June 1, but guest blogger Tom is more than capable of flying this thing, so I'll see ya.

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