Les Great Cartoons

Cartoons, for some, are metaphors for their lives - myself included. I probably pay more attention to animated programming, mainstream and underground, than most men (who are actually boys). While I am aware of the hundreds of cartoons out there, I simply do not have the time to view them all. I have seen snippets of many of them but timing is an issue.

Nonetheless, without being an expert, I feel compelled to compile my own cartoon list. I did not include those fascinating cartoon features from the 1930s like Van Beuren's Tom and Jerry, Betty Boop and Felix the Cat (actually created in 1919 three years after Kray Kat became a cartoon series), or that witty nut case Woody Wood Pecker who first appeared in 1940.

It's interesting to point out that some episodes were downright creepy and not so subtle, in today's context anyway, in their racy racial drawings.

In no particular order:

1) Loony Tunes (Merrie Melodies) (1930-1969): Home to such animated men of genius like Leon Schlesinger, Tex Avery and Chuck Jones. During my University days I may have visited 7 0r 8 Bugs Bunny cartoon festivals. I can proudly say that I am one of the few people in Montreal who saw rare subtle footage of Bugs coming out of the shower showcasing his hare-y dong. I also saw a mean version of Tweety Bird. In any event, what a cast of characters. All legends.

2) The Flintstones (1960-1966): Another classic that has stood the test of time. Much like its parent The Honeymooners. This cartoon was filled with unforgettable characters and quotes that should be a part of the cultural vernacular. They should air this show in Iraq.

3) Dungeons and Dragons (1983-1986): My first introduction into another realm of sorcery and magic. The Dungeon Master, Merlin and Yoda. Now that's wisdom.

4) Nightmare Ned (1997): Was a high quality obscure cartoon. It was about a 10-year old boy with an overactive imagination who had nightmares. It was smart. Too bad it did not last long.

5) Spawn (1996-1999): Created by Canadian Todd McFarlane it touched on many evil universal themes that lurk deep within the human soul. Al Simmons was a murdered U.S. government agent who made a deal with Malebogia (the epitome of evil) in a last chance to see his wife. Sheesh, the things men do. Clown remains one of the most hideous and disturbing figures I have ever seen. The 1922 film 'Nosferatu' is close but Clown wins hands down.

6) The Simpsons (1989- ): It's the longest-running animated and comedy series in U.S. television history. Highly satirical, the writing is nothing short of brilliant and the amount of cultural references is enough to keep anybody on their toes. Homer J. Simpson....enough said.

7) Family Guy (first aired in 1999): With The Simpsons filling our minds with cartoon programming, one had to wonder how much more room there was for another satire animation series. Family Guy founds its niche in its controversial writing and should be strictly for adults. The show is hilarious and Seth MacFarlane's Peter Griffith will return in 2005.

8) King of the Hill (1997-): Modern animation is sophisticated now. Just like I mentioned above, was there room for yet another prime time cartoon series? Mike Judge (Beavis and Butthead) introduced King of the Hill and proves the answer is yes. Its subtle ironies and satire are centered around a conservative Hank Hill. Unlike the above cartoons there is less surrealism and more realism. Set in Texas, Hank attempts to navigate through life's challenges. The show is also supported by a cast of strong characters including the paranoid Dale Gribble.

9) The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (1959-1964): Admittedly, I did not watch this as I did the others but it was sooo 60s and sooo good. The girlish Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose, who is from Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, take us into several adventures fighting villains like Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. The cartoon also introduced to us Mr.Peabody and his companion Sherman and a Canadian Mountie named Dudley-Do-Right who reminds one of those Keystone Cops (ironically created by Canadian born Mack Sennett) in the silent film era.

10) Any Superhero (DC or Marvel) cartoon: Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Hall of Justice, Justice League, Marvel Superheros. Inspired by the comics they are a part of the North American cultural experience. Many of us have our favourite versions from the many different animation series but nothing beats the comics. Still, it was great to watch them catch their villains. Boy, have there been many legendary ones, too. I used to love when they collaborated with each other to catch a specific villain. Priceless.

While they were more of a comic strip, Charlie Brown and the Peanut Gang get an honorable mention. Like most of the cartoons aforementioned, Charlie Brown is a cartoon that continues to stand the test of time. Snoopy is as timeless as a Vivaldi piece of music. Speaking of music, Vince Guaraldi composed some of the most memorable and unforgettable tunes in cartoon history. Walt Disney also deserves a mention.

Mickey Mouse, another household name, was not a series but what more can we say about the incredible animation and fabulous movies? Enchanting and brilliant. Some can even make a case for the suave Pink Panther. Will anyone vote for Robert Crumb's Fritz the Cat?

It truly is amazing. They all have aged like fine wine or classical music. Just the intro songs of those cartoons are enough to bring a grin on your face. No matter what you're doing once you hear "Flintstones, meet the Flintstones..." you my friend are smiling.

Thus, this concludes this brief list of animated classics.

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