Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Korean in We Bare Bears



I've been meaning to post about this since it aired. We Bare Bears is a really delightful Cartoon Network show that started this year. It's about three adopted bear brothers: Ice Bear, Grizzly and Panda who navigate living together and being a part of human society. One of their good friends is a young girl named Chloe, who is Korean-American.


chloe sits in a classroom full of diverse college students.


According to a recent Washington Times article, "English isn't (the) main language at home for 21 percent in America." Despite this, it is shockingly rare to hear other languages in kids cartoons, unless it is an educational language cartoon (like Dora the Explorer).

When the three bears visit Chloe's family, we hear them speak Korean. It's isn't translated for the viewer, they use this to set up two different joke. One is for the viewer, like Panda, who doesn't understand Korean. The other is for the viewers, like Chloe and her family, who do. By allowing the joke to be framed both for native and non-native speakers no one is "othered." Everyone get's to be in on an aspect of the joke. It is so refreshing to see a show reflect the actual diversity of our country.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Pinky and the Brain Halloween Review

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and one of my favorite traditions that I do every year is baking pumpkin seeds and watching the Pinky and the Brain Halloween special. This is a 90's kid nostalgia episode.

For those of you who some how managed to miss Pinky and the Brain, it is a cartoon about a megalomaniac mouse name the Brain who wants to take over the world with his best friend/sidekick Pinky. The theme song summarizes it better then I did:



The Halloween special manages to capture the best parts of the TV show along with a spooky supernatural story-line that ends up involving the Brain in a rhythmic gymnastics competition against the Devil,in literal hell (of course since this is a cartoon, for children, it is referred to as Heck or Hades). Did I mention I love this cartoon?


Pinky and the Brain looking at a contract that the devil is holding. In hellllllll! Or as it is referred to in the cartoon: Heck.
When looking back over the course of the series the Halloween special and the Christmas special are both very interesting looks at Pinky and the Brain's relationship. In both the Brain sacrifices his dreams of world domination for Pinky, but the Halloween special is one of the few episodes where we see the Brain ruling the earth.

In this Halloween special, Pinky sells his soul to the devil so that the Brain can rule the world. Soon, though, the Brain realizes that his life isn't fulfilling without Pinky by his side.

This episode is full of Male Duo tropes. One of the recurring ones is that the Brain has difficulty admitting the importance of his friendship with Pinky. Instead the Brain makes the flimsy excuse that he "doesn't know where the food pellets are" so Pinky will have to come home to show him.

A really wonderful nostalgic episode, I definitely recommend re-watching it this Halloween. If you enjoyed Pinky and the Brain growing up, I think you will surprised how well it stands up to the test of time.

Monday, September 21, 2015

13 Halloween Cartoons with Protagonists of Color

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, so I'm starting my blogging for the season a little early this year. This is a list of all the Halloween specials I could find that feature a character of color as the primary protagonist. Not included in this list are ensemble shows that might feature a mixed cast of character.


The Fat Albert Halloween Special (1977)

moving image of the Fat Albert gang walking in Halloween customes

Mostly this special just follows the gang's Halloween. Going shopping, going to the movies, going trick-or-treating, maybe getting kidnapped by a scary old lady who live near the the cemetery .(spoiler: she's actually a nice). The animation isn't consistent, but it's decent enough considering it's Filmation, and I have a soft spot for the city background art.

The Proud Family A Hero for Halloween (2002)


Penny Proud is transformed into a Super Hero on Halloween, which is good luck for her family, because it turns out their house is haunted by a ghost. 

Lilo and Stitch: The Series Spooky (2003)

Lilo in a princess dress with an ax in her head. Well, a fake ax. It's part of her Halloween costume. Stitch stand next to her holding his space gun.

Lilo and Stitch are ready to celebrate Halloween. Unfortunately, one of Stitch's cousins appears with the ability to become whatever someone is most afraid of. This episode shows us all the character's fears and calls back to the movie: showing Nani's fear of Lilo being taken away by the state and Stitch's fear of water.

American Dragon: Jake Long Halloween Bash (2005)

Jake Long, just standing there. Kind of boring.

Jake throws a Halloween party, and despite being told not to, he invites both supernatural creatures and humans. Luckily he is able to save the day even with his dragon chi taken away as punishment for his partying.

The Life and Times of Juniper Lee It's the Great Pumpkin, Juniper Lee (2005)

animation of Juniper pulling the wrapping off a mummy

On Halloween all the monster children become human for the night. One child hates being a monster, and so makes a deal that turns all the children human forever (much to the horror of their monster families). Juniper must help reverse the spell.

Emperor's New School The Ysma That Stole Kuzcoween/Monster Masquerade (2006)

kuzco, Kronk and Malina in their school uniforms.

The first story is about Kuzcoween, the Kuzco centered Halloween they celebrate. The second story is about a masquerade ball. Both Kuzco and Kronk want to ask Malina to go with them, but it turns out she has another secret admirer.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Puppetmaster (2007)


While not Halloween-themed, this spooky episode was released as a Halloween special. The team stumble upon a village where people are disappearing. They meet a strange old woman, who appears kindly, but is connected to the dark mystery of the village.

Sanjay and Craig: Tufflips' Tales of Terror (2014)


Tufflips and Huggle Bunny host this Halloween episode, which features 5 short "spooky" tales with Sanjay and Craig. None of the stories are too scary, and range from a sort of Hansel and Gretel meets the Island of Doctor Moreau, to a short about drinking haunted milk. Also, we may or may not learn the secret identity of Huggle Bunny in this episode.

Preschool-targeting Halloween Specials:

Little Bill The Halloween Costume/The Haunted Halloween Party (2000)



Little Bill makes a Halloween Costume, and is scared on Halloween.

Dora The Explorer Boo! (2003)/ Halloween Parade (2011)


In Boo! Dora goes trick-or-treating with Boots. In Halloween Parade Dora helps a monster find a Halloween costume.

Ni Hao, Kai-Lan Ni Hao, Halloween (2008)


Kai-Lan goes trick-or-treating with her friends.

Go, Diego Go Freddie the Fruit Bat Save Halloween (2008)



Freddy the fruit bat helps Diego set up trick-or-treat booths for the animals.

Doc McStuffins Boo-Hoo to You! (2012)


Doc help a little toy ghost learn not to be afraid of the holiday decorations.


Are all of these specials particularly good? No, not all of them. And The Fat Albert Halloween Special and Little Bill are problematic, considering the allegations against creator, Bill Cosby. But there just aren't that many animated Halloween specials with primary protagonists of color, and all the ones I could find were tie-ins to existing TV shows.

If any of you readers have suggestions for cartoons I missed, please comment : )

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Issue with Jem and the Holograms Live Action (yes it has to do with gender)

80s style realistic artwork

JEM began as a series of 7 minute segments, sandwiched between ROBOTIX and MONSTER TRUCKS in the weekly first-run syndicated animated anthology series SUPER SATURDAY. The idea was to create a series aimed at girls that had enough action that the boys wouldn't switch channels, while waiting for the next "boy" cartoon to come on. 


For anyone who would like a more in depth read on how deregulation of children's media affected the types of cartoons being produced for television in the eighties CLICK HERE.

Cartoons in the eighties were product based, and created to sell. The animated Transformer's movie killed off the majority of the main characters as a marketing ploy to sell a new line of Transformer toys to children. Like most cartoons during this time period, plot and character decisions were based around what new products were going to be sold. Each episode an advertisement.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Clarence and Changing Gay Coding

Clarence was influenced by 90s animation, and reflects the zany comedy style of early original Cartoon Network shows. It also received a lot of media attention when creator, Skyler Page, was dismissed from the show due to sexually assaulting a fellow artist. That's not what I'm going to be talking about in this post, but I feel it would be remiss of me not to mention it.

Clarence is a show about a cheerful boy and his two best friends. Jeff is one of these friends, and one of the show's protagonists. In the episode Jeff Wins, we are shown his two mothers.



It is not unusual in shows that are pushing boundaries through coding, to hint at something that's never made explicit. But in case anyone watching Jeff Wins thought perhaps the two women were related in some other way (sisters, friends), in a recent episode Jeff calls them his moms.


Yes, they are queer. Yes, they are a couple. Yes, they are raising Jeff together. It might seem that Jeff referring to them as his moms is simply confirming the obvious, but it is revolutionary for a kids cartoon to cross the line from coded gay character to explicitly canon gay character.


While this in an incredibly huge leap forward when it comes to representation, child-targeted animation still deals with heavy censorship when it comes to LGBTQ characters, and so still must rely on double coding most of the time.

In an earlier episode, a scene where a gay couple were going to kiss never made it to the screen. Instead, Cartoon Network had the men kiss on the cheek.  In what appears to be an attempt to counteract the censorship and show that the relationship was romantic, the music changes while the men have their European style greeting. The lyrics are: "love is love, lovely love." Making it as obvious as possible that the men are a couple, so that the gentle punchline of the scene still works.




To anyone one out there who hasn't checked out Clarence, it is well worth your time. I'm very curious to see what this show brings us next.


Seriously, it's not just pushing boundaries for representation, it's funny too.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cartoon Closet Part 5

Part 5: Female Duos (in practice)


While there are not a lot of examples of female duos to draw from in animation (pun intended), in this section I will look at a popular pair of female duo side characters: Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. 

moving image. Harley holding onto Ivy, as ivy displays credit cards like a hand of cards

Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995) was a darker look at the franchise then early television versions. Incorporating quick dialogue and a film noir aesthetic, it used coding and visual and verbal euphemisms to wink at the older audience that made up a large portion of it's viewers.

Harley Quinn was a character created for the series, and one that became so popular she was incorporated into the comic book canon. The short comic, Mad Love, featuring Harley's back-story won an Eisner Award.





moving image of harley and ivy with jewleryIn Batman: The Animated Series. Harley is top henchwoman to the Joker who she is also in a not so subtle relationship with (see above video). She and the Joker are a comedy duo team, with Harley as the devoted heart to the Joker's brains. 

As a duo they embody all the traditional elements of a comedy team including slapstick violence... but with the dark setting of the show the violence against Harley at the hands of the Joker is presented to adult viewers as a clearly-coded case of domestic abuse. As Zack Beauchamp writes in Batman: The Animated Series. 

"The abusive structure of the Joker-Quinn relationship being obvious to adults but invisible to the show’s young audience reminds the adult viewer of how societal blindness perpetuates actual instances of horrific abuse."
ivy and harley having dinner wearing only men's shirts
In the episode Harley and Ivy Harley is kicked out by the Joker and ends up teaming up with Poison Ivy. The duo become a crime team, and Ivy takes the position of the brains in the comedy duo she forms with Harley.  While only containing a relatively short screen time together, fans latched on to their ambiguous relationship. 

The characters lived together in Ivy's home, with one bed. They had meals together, languishing in a casual attire of just men's shirts. Scene's driving in Ivy's pink convertible drew visual reference to  Thelma and Louise. 



ivy and harley in a convertablethelma and louise in a convertable
The question of whether or not the lesbian undertones of the relationship were originally intended is debated by fans. Considering the sophisticated writing style of the show, and the repeated use of coded adult narratives, it is not a far stretch to say that the writers knew exactly what they were doing. The comic Batman:Harley and Ivy which features writing from Paul Dino and artwork from Bruce Timm (the producer of the animated series), also includes much slashy fan-service and a prison shower scenes of the two.

Regardless of whether or not the gay undertones were originally intended, just as viewers loved the character of Harley Quinn, viewers loved her ambiguous friendship with Poison Ivy. Even her most recent series, Harley Quinn (New 52), incorporates her winking relationship with Ivy as a part of her character.




In the next section I will look at the history of the 80s, and what led to the 90's revival of the animated Male Duo.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Disney Channel Toon Gender Ratio 1990s

From the start of 1990 to the end of 1999 there were 24 narrative cartoons that aired on Disney. Some of these started before the nineties, and some continued into the 2000s, but all cartoons that aired during this decade are included. Cartoon shows featuring shorts with a rotating cast (Raw Toonage, Mickey Mouse Works, and The Shnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show) were not included.

Shows:

Adventures of the Gummi Bears (1985-1991), Duck Tales (1987-1990), The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1988-1991), Chip n' Dale Rescue Rangers (1989-1990), TaleSpin (1990-1991), Darkwing Duck (1991-1992), Goof Troop (1992-1993), The Little Mermaid (1992-1994), Bonkers (1993-1994), Marsupilami (1993), Aladdin (1994-1995), Gargoyles (1994-1997), The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa (1995-1999), Quack Pack (1996), Mighty Ducks (1996-1997), Jungle Cubs (1996-1998), Disney's Doug (1996-2000), 101 Dalmatians (1997-1998), Nightmare Ned (1997), Recess (1997-2003), Pepper Ann (1997-2002), Hercules (1998-1999), PB&J Otter (1998-2000), The Weekenders (1999-2004), 

Ensemble Casts


Adventures of Gummi Bears (4M, 2F)

Tummi (M), Zummi (M), Grammi (F), Gruffi (M), Sunni (F), Cubbi (M)
Duck Tales (4M)
Scrooge McDuck (M), Huey (M), Dewey (M), Louie (M) 
Gargoyles (6M, 2F)
Goliath (M l), Elisa Maza (F), Hudson (M), Brooklyn (M), Lexington (M), Broadway (M), Angela (F), Bronx (M)
Quack Pack (4M)
Donald Duck (M), Huey (M), Dewey (M), Louie (M)
Mighty Ducks (4M 2F)
WildWing Flashblade (M l), NoseDive Flashblade (M), Duke L'Orange (M), Mallory McMallerd (F), Tanya Vanderflock (F), Check Hardwing (M),
Jungle Cubs (6M)
Baloo (M l), Bagheera (M), Louie (M), Shere Kahn (M), Kaa (M), Hathi (M)
101 Dalmations (2M, 2F)
Lucky (M l), Cadpig (F), Rolly (M), Spot (F)
Recess (4M, 2F)
T.J. (M l), Spinelli (F), Vince (M), Gretchen (F), Gus (M), Mikey (M)
PB&J Otters (2F, 1M)
Peanut (M), Butter (F), Jelly (F)
Weekenders (2M, 2F)
Tino (M l), Lor (F), Carver (M), Tish (F)

Main Character (Plus Supporting Ensemble)

The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (M) (6M, 1F)
Winnie the Pooh (M)
Tigger (M), Piglet (M), Rabbit (M), Eeyore (M), Owl (M), Roo (M), Kanga (F) 
TaleSpin (M) (3M, 2F)
Baloo (M)
Kit (M), Rebecca (F), Molly (F), Wildcat (M), Louis (M)
Darkwing Duck (M) (2M, 1F)
Drake Mallard (M)
Gosalyne (F), Launchpad (M), Honker (M)
The Little Mermaid (F) (2M)
Ariel (F)
Sebastian (M), Flounder (M)
Bonkers (M) (1M, 1F)
Bonkers (M)
Miranda Wright (F), Lucky Piquel (M)
Marsupilami (M) (2M)
Marsupilami (M)
Maurice (M), Stewart (M)
Aladdin (M) (1M, 1F)
Aladdin (M)
Jasmine (F), Genie (M)
Disney's Doug (M) (3M, 2F)
Doug (M)
Skeeter (M), Roger (M), Patti (F), Beebe (F), Porkchop (M)
Nightmare Ned (M)
Ned (M)
Pepper Ann (F) (3F, 1M)
Pepper Ann (F)
Nicky (F), Milo (M), Lydia (F), Moose (F)
Hercules (M) (1M, 1F)
Icarus (M), Cassandra (F)

Duo (Plus Supporting Ensemble)

Chip n' Dale Rescue Rangers (2M) (2M, 1F)
Chip (M), Dale (M)
Monterey (M), Gadget (F), Zipper (M)
Goof Troop (2M) (2M, 2F)
Goofy (M), Max (M),
Peter (M), Peg (F), P.J. (M), Pistol (F)
Timon and Pumbaa (2M)
Timon (M), Pumbaa (M)

Out of 68 main characters: 52 M, 16 F
Out of 109 main characters and main supporting characters: 78M, 31F

19 shows had a male lead and male majority (79%), 2 had a female lead and female majority, 1 had a female lead and a male majority, 2 had equal male and female main characters

In all cases where there was a leader in an ensemble cartoon (5), the leader was a male character.
In both of the cartoons that had equal male and female main characters, a male character was the leader.

While ensemble cartoons had an average of 5 characters, there were never more then 2 female characters on an ensemble show.

1/24 shows had at least 3 female main characters including ensembles (Pepper Ann with 4).
14/24 shows had 3 or more male main characters including ensembles