Thursday, November 11, 2004

Tooned In

  You know, people often ask me what I love most about my job, and my answer is always the same: I get to meet a lot of really cool people.  But the coolest guy I know has nothing to do with the radio station.  The coolest guy I know is my dad.  But we can save that for the Father’s Day column, I suppose.

  I don’t really talk to my dad very often—not nearly as often as I should—but each time we talk, he always turns me on to something new.  He’ll ask me if I’ve heard the new Dylan CD or if I’ve been watching The Sopranos.  Last Friday I called to check in with him and find out how things were going, and before I knew it we were talking about cartoons.

  That’s right, cartoons.  The only thing the cartoons of 2004 have in common with the Disney cartoons of our childhood is that they are consistently box-office smashes.  Think about “Snow White” and “101 Dalmatians.”  Now think about both “Shreks”, both “Toy Stories,” “Monsters Inc.,” “Ants,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Finding Nemo,” “Shark Tale,” “Ice Age,” and now “The Incredibles.”  The fact that these break from traditional hand-drawn animation is only a minor detail (unless you’re a studio accountant).  As cliché as it sounds, the cartoon has evolved into something the whole family can enjoy.

  Much of the humor in modern animated films is aimed over the heads of the kids in the theater.  It’s still balanced with enough slapstick to keep them rolling, but many of the more subtle jokes are meant for their parents.  (Look no further than the donkey in “Shrek.”)

  With the advent of computer animation like Pixar, the animation process is faster, and therefore cheaper, than the old-fashioned way.  Whereas a cartoon like “Fantasia” might take a few years to create, a computer-animated feature might take several months.  It seems that a new one is being released every couple of weeks.

  And these animated films continue to pull huge crowds, making the studios huge money.  So lately we’ve seen big-name actors offering their voices to these features.  These days you’re more likely to see Tom Hanks, Woody Allen or Mike Meyers doing the voice-work than someone like Mel Blanc, who worked for peanuts.

  Then there’s the “Felix the Cat” factor: “Beavis and Butthead Do America,” “South Park: Uncut, etc.,” and now “Team America: World Police,” which had to appeal the MPAA several times for an “R” rating instead of the kiss-of-death “NC-17.”  These are all geared toward young adults, the 18-34 demographic, yet still they generally fare well at the box-office.

  And Animè.  Well, I’m gonna leave that alone because, quite frankly, I just don’t get it.

  Cartoons, once the fodder of Saturday mornings, have now carved out a niche well-suited for Saturday nights.  

 -From Pulse
   November 11, 2004