Dr. Toon responds to his fans on a number of his most recent — and controversial — topics.
This column needs no introduction, since you, the fans, largely wrote it. What follows herein is a compendium of selected comments regarding my columns over the past year, with some replies of my own. Thanks for your opinions; I now turn it over to you.
Copy? Right! (4/15/02): This examination of the Copyright Extension Act (aimed at keeping studio properties out of the public domain ad infinitum) drew a fifty-fifty mix of responses from the readership, with viable arguments on both sides of this admittedly heated issue.
Marcus la Grone: "...Imagine what it would be like if the Estate for the Brothers Grimm was still enforcing copyrights...Or maybe even the estate of Homer."
Mmmmmmmm.....copyrights.....copyright extension acts.....D'oh!!! Huh? Ohhh...Thaaaat Homer! Yes, Marcus, you've certainly got a point.
Spec (New Hampshire): "This article is typical democratic ramblings. The "mean ol' corporations" out to get us innocent hardworking people..."
Guess the ex-employees of Enron wouldn't get much sympathy from you, eh, Spec? And sure, it is "democratic ramblings," since the public domain laws are clearly stated in the Constitution. You were expecting maybe Moosylvanian ramblings?
Dalton Ames (citizen, Hollywood, California): [quoting the article]: "'Those who retain their idealism hope for a victory on behalf of the people.' That's Communism."
Don't ever tell that to the Founding Fathers, Dalton. They are the authors of the Constitution (not Commie-tution), which contains the original copyright provisions. I don't believe they intended a Red nation, and besides, they predated Marx and Engels by a century. I know that history is sometimes played fast and loose in Hollywood, but that's going a wee bit too far.
I Am Scamp (8/17/01): The response to this rant against Disney sequels was virtually unanimous. So how is it that these nefarious knockoffs continue to rake in so much cash?
Jen Finlayson: "If Disney really wanted to make oodles of cash, why don't they keep ALL their masterpieces in constant release for purchase?"
Say what, Jen? Give up all the coveted shelf space that could be reserved for Cinderella II: Dreams Come True? Somebody move those $%#@*&&! Pinocchio and Dumbo videos outta there!
Ed (Cleveland, Ohio): "If anyone would like to see the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS error list, please email me. I'm considering turning the entire thing into a presentation because I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."
So, Ed, aside from that, how did you like the video?
Daryl Holt (Tampa, Florida): "And to you animation fans who are parents that feel compelled to buy these lame sequels because you think your kids need the new stuff to watch -- I say bull!"
And I say yea verily, Daryl! Parents, why don't you skip the Diz sequels and purchase your children The Best of Zagreb Film: Laugh at Your Own Risk and For Children Only. This exceptional compilation, available on video (and most recently DVD) is sure to entertain the little ones and serve as an introduction to nontraditional international animation. As long as we have the money and the choice, we have the power. Use it!
June Bugged: Cartoon Network's Controversy (7/11/01): This controversial piece concerning the exclusion of twelve questionable cartoons from the annual "June Bugs" marathon drew comments from every angle of the controversy, including some from Thomas E. Reed and Amid Amidi, two of the heavy hitters in modern animation commentary. I enjoyed the hell out of writing this column.
Peter MacWhirter (producer, Some Entermedia, Seoul, Korea): "...the argument that suggests we view these animated works now in the context of 'their times' could quite easily be used to endorse the continued use of the Confederate flag (an interesting design) or even multiple wives for men (a biologically driven behavior)."
Peter, I could not disagree more strongly. To begin with, these cartoons were never used to "endorse" or indoctrinate anything or anyone. They were made for the purpose of entertainment, tainted as that entertainment may have been. The reason that cartoons today are not used in the way your examples illustrate only proves my point; we have come a very long way. I continue to believe that we can handle some of the more objectionable material from our past in a mature manner. Those who forget the past may be doomed to repeat it, but those who learn from the past will not. Your view seems to suggest that we remain stuck in a paranoid, politically correct mindset lest we somehow endorse and disseminate the "wrong" viewpoint. Free your mind. Trust in our ability to learn and grow. Lighten up and give your sweetie a big hug...
Sam Tallman (Arizona): "You cannot erase discrimination and racism like they never existed, but you can help to prevent it in the future, through awareness and knowledge."
You got it, Sam! (I could mention at this point that Sam, using twenty-four words, summed up what took me four pages to write. But since I don't want Heather and Dan to replace me, I won't.)
Thomas E. Reed (http://www.off-model.com, Orlando, Florida): "This kind of political correctness is bound to happen more often, as larger and larger conglomerates start producing our entertainment, news, and media. If Warner Brothers Animation were still a fairly small entity, a few people in charge could decide to take a chance with the Bugs cartoons running unedited. But this is...AOL Time Warner, who can't afford to upset anyone in even a slight manner."
Because of their high moral standards and sensitivity to issues of diversity, right, Tom? Eh? What's that you're saying between gasps of laughter? Boycotts? Yeah, sounds like "boycotts"....
Amid Amidi (http://www.animationblast.com): "It's the mentality of calling this humor regrettable [as quoted from the article] that further makes it impossible to see these shorts. Ethnic humor is a staple of comedy, as time-honored as the pie-in-the-face...Some of the humor may be crass by our modern day standards, but is it any more crass than the caricatures of Indian people (from India) on THE SIMPSONS...it's hypocritical to criticize the past so vehemently when we create equally harsh ethnic humor in modern times."
Amid, with all due respect these cartoons filled with racist imagery are regrettable. They were made at a time when blacks had neither the voice nor the political power to protest their portrayals. Blacks were living in a country that was segregated de facto, Civil Rights laws were nonexistent and lynchings were still an option (so was reporting them). That is precisely the difference between then and now. Today, at least, people can question whether or not the depiction of Apu is racist. Let's also define your terms: The object of ethnic humor is to laugh at the foibles of one's own people, and to share a bit of the humor with those of another faith or culture. Racist humor, on the other hand, involves stereotyping, dehumanization and presumed supremacy over whomever is unfortunate enough to be the butt of the jokes. You cannot compare the writings of Shalom Alecheim, for example, with humor found in The White Supremacist Weekly. The cartoons referred to are much closer in spirit to the latter. Secondly, I never said that lampooning Apu was particularly acceptable either. Amid, I'm sure you know the powers-that-be at The Simpsons. If you detest the treatment of Apu, you know who to tell and how. You certainly have my blessings. My bet is that you'd be listened to more carefully than any black protester would have been had he or she taken issue with cartoons in 1945.
Readers killed Atomic Betty even before they saw the pilot! © Atomic Cartoons 2001.
Atomic Betty (3/18/02): So I try and write a piece about a show in production, and half the respondents blow it out of the water before it even has a pilot! It used to take studio executives to do that...
mcdiddy obrien (MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, t.o.): "This looks like a couple of chimps threw together the power puff girls and dexters lab and shat it back out."
dawk mc farlane (Stone Clonez Studios): "tisk, tisk, tisk...how SAD, to see this article...if those people only knew ...how bad a concept they have developed...i have developed over 200 characters-single-handedly, for my project and I can literally...KICK ASS on this...'crap' everyone calls the best concept."
Jimmy Meat Characters (Mangrove Anime, Sarasota, Florida): "Dawk is right...his skill at sculpting meat into characters is truly a unique gift...we have a show called
Meat Characters about a little meat boy named Maximum Meat Monroe...Dawk, if you're reading this...we'll sign you on ASAP, Baby!"
I find myself wondering, guys, if you have refrigerated sets and follow established USDA guidelines for the safe handling of meat. Germs are everywhere, y'know. Anyway, I have a proposition for you: Let's go into business together! After you finish filming, let's take your characters, grill 'em and sell 'em to the public with a choice of toppings. Our venture could be a cross between collecting original production art and scarfing down a good meal. Whaddya say, guys? While you decide, I'll take a Monroe, medium well, side of onions. All kidding aside, here's hoping you steak your claim in the animation business and meat with success.
Thomas Reed (TOON Magazine, Orlando, Florida): "As the entertainment business is now owned by about five megacorps, small animation companies are becoming desperate. People who might be comrades a few years ago are starting to backstab each other...Slamming each other in the hope that you'll sell your project before the other guy is fatal to the creative spirit. It's also no good for your soul (or, if you'd like a less loaded word, your peace of mind)."
Blessed are the peacemakers, Thomas, and Amen to that (or, if you'd like a less loaded statement, You'll be a much happier human being if you grant any studio the right to freely create projects without taking nasty cracks at them, and that's a fact, Jack).
And The Winner Is... (9/21/01): An imaginary history of the Academy Awards. At least I think it was...
Sandee Chamberlain (Pencil Milage Club, CSUF Chapter, Cal State University Fullerton): "Don Bluth's animated film Secret of NIMH -- should have been awarded an Oscar."
Jarle Bernsten (Freelance, Norway): "I think not mentioning the 1982 Don Bluth film
The Secret of NIMH is quite outrageous..."
Thomas Reed (Tom Reed's Off-Model/TOON Magazine, Orlando, Florida): "Sadly, my friend, you missed a few points. There would be no rivalry between anime and American animation since in the Oscars all foreign films compete in the 'Foreign Film' categories."
People, people! This was an imaginary history! Akira never won an Oscar, and Robert Mitchum was never really kicked in the ass by an animated horse (All right, wink, wink!). Although in the past I have chided some of Bluth's films, this gentleman is a true artist and has given the utmost effort on every film he's ever done. Therefore, I am going to honor your requests and award the 1983 Academy Award for Best Animated Film to The Secret of NIMH. I am also revoking the awards of all anime winners I listed in the article. Now for the bad news. Changing history has set off a terrible chain of events attributable to the vagaries of chaos theory: Pat Buchanan is now President, Communist Russia is firmly entrenched throughout Western Europe, Kirsten Dunst was never born, and the Cubs are World Series champs. See? See what you made me do?
Drawn To Conclusions (11/16/01): Entertainment Weekly asked: "Will Shrek Kill Old-School Animation?" AWN readers had their doubts...
Rod Stafford: "Regardless of the tools and techniques used, the final output is ultimately an expression of the story in graphic form...recreating mental imagery in a physical medium."
Jared Caruso (Hypertoons Studio, Denver, Colorado): "When the camera was introduced, did we stop painting?...To say that CGI will ever replace "old school" animation is a short sighted statement."
Larry Lauria (SCAD, Savannah, Georgia): "Anyone with half a brain should realize there is no 2D versus 3D."
In the final analysis, I wrote that the authors seemed to be asking a rhetorical question. Your responses turned out to be an excellent barometer of how you, the fans and artists, felt about animation in a changing technological context. Hey hey, my, my/ Painted cels will never die/ Side by side with CGI/ Hey hey, my, my...
Speaking For Zimself (10/31/01): This interview with Jhonen Vasquez, creator of the (recently cancelled) series Invader Zim, has drawn an astounding 48 replies at the time of this writing. Two of those replies actually mention the interview; the rest are largely fan letters to Mr. Vasquez. The level of pathology varies from none to psychotic, but I thought I would include an excerpt from my favorite...
Olivia (No company for me, A...O..P!, No such thin, The Zombie Infested Island of Oahu): "Man! I fricken love Zim!!!!! JKFaugh! Ahh!!!!...So, if you ever see this Jhonen Vasquez! You amazing crazy man ha ha. Then I hope you know that I LOVE YOUR SHOW!!!!!!!!!! I'll always love it and remember it even when my brain is decaying and i'm waiting in line on my death bed o f DOOM ^-^ Byeee!"
Seems like a good place to stop. Byeee!
Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman is a longtime student and fan of animation. He lives in Anderson, Indiana.