Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett talks about animation, Thanksgiving, and Doctor Who.
Between retailers opening ever earlier and constantly being besieged by Halloween on one side and Christmas on the other, I've frankly become more than a little worried about the long term viability of Thanksgiving (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--Have You Seen This Comic?"). I've always been a big proponent of America's great non-denominational holiday, but then I can't help myself; growing up I was indoctrinated by cartoons with their insidious pro-Thanksgiving agenda. It seemed like every major cartoon star of the 30's and 40's did at least one turn in pilgrim garb--Pilgrim Popeye, Jerky Turkey, The Little Orphan (Tom & Jerry), Tom Turk and Daffy, Do Or Diet (Casper the Friendly Ghost), etc. Not to mention all of the shorts about turkeys being fattened up for Thanksgiving who attempt to escape their fate. And while they don't match the sheer volume of Christmas-themed TV animated specials, there were some, like The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't, The Mouse on the Mayflower, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, B.C. The First Thanksgiving and Bug Bunny's Thanksgiving Diet.
As incomprehensible as it may seem to some today, back in the 1960s when I was a lad, animated cartoons were treated by authorities as if they were a controlled substance. In those days they were a considered a reward, not a right, and were doled out in dribs and drabs as special treats on special occasions, like holidays. Or the day after; it's now sadly known as "Black Friday" but once it had another name: "The Day After Turkey Day," when ABC turned on the tap and gave a legion of bored kids lucky enough to have the day off several hours of uninterrupted cartoons. There was Spider-Man! The Fantastic Four! King Kong! The Beatles! Casper! Ok, sure, they were repeats of shows we'd already seen, which even then seemed to me to be a hopelessly shortsighted and miserly move on their part. But in those dark days beggars couldn't be choosers.
Once pilgrims and turkeys were ubiquitous in animation but they've gone the way of, well, Cowboys and Indians, but this year they've made a comeback in the animated feature Free Birds. Though I do have to wonder just how well a movie about an intrinsically American holiday will play in international markets (OK, sure, the Canadians have Thanksgiving and, interestingly enough, so do the Koreans), the same way I have to question the wisdom of releasing a film directed at children that seems designed to get children to not eat turkey in the middle of the holiday season. I'm guessing there will be a lot of freak-outs at kiddie tables all over America tomorrow…
Speaking of which, while I love the cartoons and the feast with family, as an adult I've come to love Thanksgiving mostly for the "thanks" part. I've always placed a high premium on appreciation and while I won’t bore you with platitudes about gratitude I do hope that you all take a moment tomorrow to genuinely give thanks. It's a word most of us don't say nearly enough; me included.
But since we're on the subject of cartoons, while most networks appear convinced they've got to go transgressive and aggressive to attract kids, it's nice to see two new animated series that feature protagonists who are as good as their shows. On Disney there's Wander Over Yonder by Craig McCracken, creator of The Powerpuff Girls. Wander is a naked (except for a giant hat that's half Chattanooga Cats and half Keystone Cops) furry thing who just wants to help and hug that travels the universe in a giant soap bubble propelled by his best friend/steed Sylvia, an indeterminate blue thing who appears to share DNA with Dino from The Flintstones. While it's more conventional (it reminds me of the cartoons of my youth) than Adventure Time it's definitely in that wheelhouse and features great gags and some stunning visuals. This is a cartoon that really needs to be seen in High Def. It also has heart, provided primarily by the title character; along with being a hippy, Wander is a hyperactive hayseed, so naturally he's voiced by actor Jack McBrayer* who makes him genuinely endearing.
* Speaking of Jack McBrayer he’s the star of a new ad campaign, "It All Happens at Barnes & Noble" to promote their new Nook GlowLight e-reader as much as the books. Still it's nice to see there's still some life in the chain.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.