I was watching the first episodes of Rainbow Brite a couple of days ago and it hit me how lacking pop cartoons are. Where are the adventures? The storylines? The shit that doesn't involve middle-school-level drama like Kim Possible?
I've lamented this frequently. Think of all the great, narratively coherent cartoons from the 1980's and 1990's. Where are today's Darkwing Duck, or He-Man? But perhaps more importantly, where are today's Rainbow Brite and She-Ra?
Back then, girls had lots of great role models that still catered to girly fantasy. Both Rainbow and She-Ra had BEAUTIFUL horses. Both had lots of hair and literally coruscating wardrobes. Yet, along with this pandering, they were strong characters who took charge, lead to victory, and solved problems when others were cowardly and bitchy.
Girls today get shows that have been Bratz-ified to the point of nearly encouraging prostitution. Either that, or they've been replaced with good, but incoherent sketch shows like Spongebob.
I can appreciate that the "'tween" psychosocial group entered the mainstream, but as with Michael Eisner claiming that traditional animation was dead simply because Disney's cartoons were failing, it's not that people (and kids) don't want cartoons, it's that they don't want BAD cartoons. And, man, back in the 80's, cartoons were bad with style. Turbo Teen, anyone?
And as this great article discusses (bottom of page), the 'tween model is only part of the problem. You are not being a curmudgeon who simply thinks anything new isn't as good as what you had as a child. Saturday morning cartoons are getting worse.
But the internet is the saving grace! Now, kids who ARE your market can find your work wherever it may hide. I know I rant about letting go of the old revenue models and embracing what the internet can offer, but seriously, LET GO! Give your work away! Put it up on YouTube, offer DVD's, publish blogs, do anything to get your stuff out there!
Bring back great cartoons! Let our kids experience the same great fantasy worlds that kids from not-that-long-ago were able to experience. Don't distill it down to whizz-bang-shit-exploding-Marlon-Wayans-being-an-idiot like they did when they raped my memory of GI-Joe this past summer. Saturday morning may be dead, but the internet is just starting.
I'm going to start this as a call to creators to dig back into the zenith of saturday morning cartoons and try to use it as inspiration to give quality cartoons a rebirth. The internet, and even tools like Flash, can bring quality cartoons to a massive audience with small budgets.
My first vote goes to Rainbow Brite.
The Disappearance of Saturday Morning (AWN.com)