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1980's: A Decade Of Decadence In Cartoons

GorramNerdHour GorramNerdHour Cartoons are strange thing. It's a medium with a much greater ability to be daring and weird than live action films or television. We would look at Peter Griffin fighting a giant rooster with far greater judgment if it was a live action series. As strange and fun as animated shows and movies can be today there is one trend that died off in the 1980's - making children's cartoons out of everything. Whether it was pro wrestling or Laverne & Shirley or R rated action movies the 80's exploited it and sold it to kids.

Being a product of that era it seemed normal to me to see the Duke boys on a cross country race with Roscoe P. Coltraine in a weekly animated adventure. It was normal to see Robocop carrying on further adventures in animated form on Saturday mornings. Even Rambo and the Toxic Avenger had their own shows. If someone pitched these ideas now parents would be up in arms about violent R rated movies being sold to children in such a fashion. But this was the 80's, a decade filled with cocaine, checkered hair and TV shows about cars with artificial intelligence.

Growing up I loved cartoons. The networks filled their Saturday mornings with the craziest ideas they could find. Turbo Teen - a boy who can turn into a sports car, okay. A live action band that entered an animated world and had adventures, why not? Fonzie, Mork and Laverne & Shirley sharing a half hour filled with wacky adventures, sounds positively wonderful.

Some things escaped the 80's and continue on in one form or another today. The Chipmunks, The Smurfs, shows about talking animals learning life lessons and, of course, Transformers. As much as I loved these things as a child sensibilities change or Michael Bay ruins them. Such is life. I will say this - the 80's were a simpler time. Even animated shows like Rambo and Robocop seemed harmless. Something has shifted. Now, when we consider the ways of the world, the idea of a Rambo animated show for kids seems like a bad idea. And it is. But that's what we love about the 80's, isn't it? The decadence?

Sure, we're still a decadent people. But the tastes have changed, as they always do. Today, instead of cartoons about ALF living on Melmac, Bruce Willis's life as a child or John Candy running a summer camp we get shows like Pokemon instead. Every generation has the thing that they love and each generation's love is different. That doesn't make the terrible cartoons of the 80's any better or worse than the ones of today. But we did have Hulk Hogan's Rock N' Wrestling. Beat that!

I have always had a tremendous love for the art of animation. And running a film festival gives me a chance to the pick the brains of many talented animators. One thing I've learned is that the most absurd idea can be realized in ways you can't imagine through animation. So when the trend was to take movies that were rated R and turn them into children's cartoons was it really such a bad thing? The Police Academy cartoon was fun. Conan The Adventurer was fun. But those days are gone now. Thank God for the internet where we can go back and see them on the likes of YouTube. If only we could have had some kind of awesome Predator cartoon.

Posted in Cartoons,

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