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Cheer and Loathing in Animation: Episode III - Jargon of Clones

Every Friday AWN’s  Chris Robinson unleashes some freewheeling cheer or loathing on the animation community to be mused, countered, or disregarded. It’s your call.

Each year for a short period of time I watch a boatload of episodes of animated series for kids. There are occasionally some interesting, refreshing and unique works (Adventure Time, Regular Show are obvious choices and even Julia Pott’s Summer Camp Island has potential) but for the most part TV animation (and yeah…it’s primarily stuff from North America) all looks sounds and acts the same: LOUD. OBNOXIOUS. SARCASTIC. Who mandated this? Why do the characters all have to scream at each other as though they’re all from the Balkans or Latin America (yeah, that’s called a cultural stereotype but some of my best friends are from the Balkans so it’s okay)? And it’s always these buddy films…. two oddball characters (let’s say one is Bread and the other is Electric Heater) who have an assortment of equally bizarre friends and they all race around babbling like they’re on Ritalin (sorry…it’s called Concerta now). It’s all happening in a world that has little to no adult guidance. In fact, it’s often a world where adults/parents are portrayed as idiots, as people not to be valued or listened to? So…exactly what type of messages are the kiddies getting from this sensory babbling?  And sure… hey… I was a kid once… and we were scared of adults or resented them…and cartoons offered a brief respite from their dictatorship… but there was also a certain degree of respect – at least until we got older and realized that these poor creatures had no idea what the fuck (yes, I wrote fuck…cause well…sometimes when you’re so exasperated with something there is just no fitting word than FUCK) they were doing. Most of these shows can’t touch the innovation, openness and inclusiveness of say classic shows like Sesame Street, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (granted…there was a lot of shouting), Mr. Rogers, or even Yo Gabba Gabba.  Even contemporary shows from Asia and Europe possess a modicum of gentleness, calm and respect. We’ve become so saturated with sarcasm and cynicism that we’re not drowning our kids with it. It’s as though we’ve forgotten what it means to be gentle, to be authentic, to have compassion, to live slowly. I see kids… even my own… they race to finish things: school, dinner, chores. The results range from half-assed to satisfactory. They’re all in a hurry but where to? Don’t we need to remind them to slow down (physically and verbally) … you know just take a deep breath and let life in to settle a bit. Cause believe me…once those kid years are over you’re gonna be desperate for everything to slow down a whole hell of a lot.

Cheer and Loathing images are created by a very nice chap named Theodore Ushev.

Chris Robinson's picture

A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.