Friday, June 19, 2009

Toon In. Drop Out.

First of all, I’d like to say “Happy Father’s Day” to all of the deserving fathers out there. As for the undeserving fathers, well, you can just go scratch yourselves. Your children genuinely need you so get your crap in a pile, will ya? {Stepping off soapbox} Anyway, each year as Father’s Day approaches I think back to my childhood and compare it to how my children are growing up today. There are obviously a multitude of things that are very different, but some things are definitely stay the same. For example, children still like cartoons. I remember sitting for hours on end with my face about six inches away from the TV screen mesmerized by the images and sounds that were pouring into the room. Of course that was easy to do because a massive amount of thought and effort went into the cartoons back then. Not only were they silly and funny, but they often had a social and political message. As for the crappy animation that kids are forced to watch now, well let’s just say that I would rather run a razor blade in between my toes and stomp out some fresh lemonade than watch five minutes of the drivel that passes nowadays.

So, I sat down a couple of weekends ago with my son and my laptop, and I showed him the animated shorts that I grew up watching. As expected, he truly enjoyed them which inspired me to write this post. I have pulled years and years of research together and compiled the ultimate list of the 25 Best Cartoon Episodes of All Time. The animations that made the list are ones that still make me laugh and think; the one’s that still surprise me and make me wonder what the hell the writers and animators of the time were smoking. So without further ado, here is Daniel P.’s list of the Top 25 Cartoon Episodes Ever Created:

Honorable Mentions: As you will no doubt notice, all of the episodes that have made the list were created decades ago. Just so you don’t think I’m a completely grouchy old curmudgeon (well, grouchier and curmudgeon-ier than you already think) I thought that I’d mention two cartoons that stand out among the garbage that has been produced in the last 20 years.

27. Space Madness – 1991, John Kricfalisi: I had my son watch this one, and his only comment was: “Dad, I think that was too weird.” That pretty much sums up the whole Ren and Stimpy series, and this episode is the cherry on top of one weird-ass sundae. It features one of the best monologues ever performed in a cartoon: “It is not I who am crazy! It is I who am mad!...”

26. PTV – Dan Provenmire, 2005: Also known as “The FCC Episode” from the brilliant Family Guy series. This one pushes pretty much every no-no button the FCC has. The Side Boob Hour?!? Come on! Irreverent and hilarious.

25. One Cab’s Family – MGM, 1952, Tex Avery: This short is very similar to “Little Johnny Jet” in that Tex Avery shows his brilliance in imbuing human qualities on inanimate objects. “Little Johnny” was even nominated for an Oscar. One Cab’s Family is packed with car puns and sight gags, but the train wreck breaks through the comedy momentarily and has you genuinely concerned for the cab’s son. Great stuff.

24. Book Review – WB, 1945, Robert Clampett: Simple craziness after midnight at the bookstore as the stories come alive and spill out of the deranged minds of the folks at WB at the time.

23. Popeye Meets Sinbad – Fleischer, 1936, Dave Fleischer: This is a great example of the early animation technique used in some of the Popeye episodes that give them a sort of 3D feeling. And Wimpy chasing the duck around with a meat grinder is just disturbing enough to make it funny.

22. Mouse Trouble – MGM, 1944, Tex Avery: This is what happens when cats try to follow directions. The classic Tom and Jerry episode.

21. Car of Tomorrow – MGM, 1951, Tex Avery: This one was part of a couple of other episodes which included “The Farm of Tomorrow” and “The House of Tomorrow” that introduce silly futuristic concepts and insult mothers-in-law everywhere. How can you go wrong?

20. Rock-a-Bye-Bear – MGM, 1952, Tex Avery: Spike gets a new home with a very noise sensitive bear. This one is essentially the precursor to the Deputy Droopy episode that was made three years later. QUIET! SHUT UP! I CAN'T STAND NOISE!

19. The Girls' Night Out – MGM, 1960, Hannah/Barbera: Fred cuts a record at an amusement park and becomes the teen singing idol, Hi-Fye, until his bitch of a wife starts passing rumors that he’s a square…like four corners, man. Just thinking about this episode gets “The Rocking Bird” stuck in my head for about a month.

18. The Great Piggy Bank Robbery – WB, 1946, Robert Clampett: Great characters such as 88 Teeth, Bat Man, Doubleheader, Hammerhead, Jukebox Jaw, Mouse Man, Neon Noodle, Pussycat Puss, Pickle Puss, Pumpkinhead, Rubberhead, Snake Eyes and a bunch of other weird-ass villains are featured as Daffy tries to catch the piggy bank thief.

17. Northwest Hounded Police – MGM, 1946, Tex Avery: This one is sold on me every time the wolf overreacts to finding Droopy in his hideout. Classic cartoon explosive expression at its finest.

16. Pig in a Pickle – Lantz, 1954, Paul Smith: These Maw and Paw cartoons were short-lived classics. In this episode, Milford (the pig) is kidnapped during his birthday celebration by neighboring hillbillies intent on eating him. Maw and Paw try various ploys to get him back. Best quote: “Didn’t work, Maw.” (Sorry I couldn't find a link to the full episode.)

15. Gearld McBoing-Boing – UPA, 1951, Robert Cannon: This one is based on a Dr. Seuss story that was originally aired on a children's record in 1950. It tells the quirky tale of a child that only speaks through sound effects. It’s a little strange, but I think you get the picture that most of the ‘toons on this list are strange.

14. Porky in Wackyland – WB, 1949, Robert Clampett: Porky (the early porky, when he was still funny) goes in search of the last Do-Do. Landing his plane somewhere in Africa (Darkest Africa, to be exact) he comes across seriously strange creatures and a Do-Do acting as insane as the early Daffy (when he was funny) ever did. It’s also a reminder of how racist the cartoons were back then. Notice the black duck saying, "Mammy, mammy," as it walks past Porky. Nice…

13. The First Bad Man – MGM, 1955: The true (well, probably not true) story of Dinosaur Dan. I love these cartoons that use a narrator to dictate the action. Great last line: “Hey, Man. When you all gonna let me outta here?”

12. King Sized Canary – MGM, 1947, Tex Avery: This one is brilliant and a good life lesson as well. Never eat plant food, people. Best line: (when the scrawny canary first appears) “Well, I’ve been sick.”

11. The Cat That Hated People – MGM, 1948, Tex Avery: Cat shoots himself to the moon to avoid the crowded and noisy earth only to be perpetually accosted by figments of the collective imagination of the wacked-out animators’ at MGM. Reminiscent of “Porky in Wackyland” ten years earlier. Tell me they weren’t eating mushrooms by the ounce.

10. What’s Opera, Doc? – WB, 1957, Chuck Jones: This one is a perfect example of how brilliant the soundtrack was to these early cartoons. Carl Stalling does “Ride of the Valkyries” as only a genius can. This is also probably the only cartoon in history that makes a myxomytosis joke: “Kill the wabbit, Kill the wabbit, NO DON’T KILL THE WABBIT!!!.”

9. Pecos Pest – MGM, 1953, Hannah/Barbera: The perpetual feuding of Tom and Jerry is temporarily interrupted when Jerry gets an annoying country-singing, cowboy (cowmouse?) visitor. Famous quote: “I can’t sing without a gee-tar string, N-n-n-n-nephew.”

8. Red Hot Riding Hood – MGM, 1943, Tex Avery: First of all, holy crap! Was Red Riding Hood hot or what?!? Even though the bulk of this short is placed inside an adult club, it is the ending to this gem that is usually edited on television rebroadcasts even today. It features Wolfie proclaiming that if he sees another woman, he'll kill himself. When Red comes back out on stage, the wolf, true to his word, blows his brains out. Sleep tight, kiddos.

7. The Cat Concerto – MGM, 1946, Hannah/Barbera: Truly classic Tom & Jerry. The same year MGM produced this piece, WB released Bugs Bunny cartoon, “Rhapsody Rabbit,” with Bugs being harassed by a mouse…while playing piano. Both pieces were almost identical, and even used the same composition by Liszt. It sparked a huge plagiarism debate at the time.

6. Duck Amuck – WB, 1953, Chuck Jones: Although this is the Daffy Duck character that has started to lose a little of his insanity and become the annoying figure that most people remember, the unseen animator altering every aspect of Daffy’s being is a road map to hilarity. When the mad animator is revealed to be Bugs himself, he unleashes one of his taglines: "Ain't I a stinker?"

5. One Froggy Evening – WB, 1956, Chuck Jones: Surprisingly this cartoon has no spoken dialog at all, except what is sung by the frog. Once again showing what excellent pantomime and musical direction can do for an audience. Unfortunately, now WB have turned Michigan J. Frog into one of there brand identifiers.

4. Magical Maestro – MGM, 1952, Tex Avery: This cartoon has stirred up controversy and was consequently censored because of two racist gags, but I managed to dig up the uncensored version for you because…well…kids aren’t racist, and the cartoons are for kids…aren’t they? Controversy aside, this one is great. There is a gag in it that children today will probably not get, however. Midway through the cartoon an annoying hair is shown on the screen as though it is caught in the projector. I have serious doubts weather anyone under the age of 21 will know what the reference means.

3. Billy Boy – MGM, 1954, Tex Avery: The unnamed wolf in this episode with the Southern drawl is one of my favorite Tex Avery characters. His calm reaction to a very hungry little Billy goat destroying everything he owns is incredibly misplaced and funny. Notice what Billy does with the gross-ass moo cow milk milk milk milk. This is another one that gets the score stuck in my head for days.

2. Rabbit of Seville – WB, 1950, Chuck Jones: In this classic, Bugs is chased by Elmer into a theater that is playing “The Barber of Seville.” Since the only dialog in the whole cartoon is sung as lyrics, this one fits my musical fetish as well. Brilliantly scored and written.

1. Deputy Droopy – MGM, 1955, Hannah/Barbera: This is my favorite cartoon episode of all time. For some reason I just cannot watch it without laughing even though I’ve seen it about 100 times.

There you have it. The only compilation of animation’s greatest moments that you will find. Hopefully it brings back some memories. What do you think? Any striking omissions? Be sure to let me know. But do it quietly. I CAN'T STAND NOISE! I NEED QUIET!

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