Animation consisting of individual, hand drawn panels, photographed and run sequentially as a strip of film has been with us since the start of the film industry beginning with Little Nemo in 1911 and Gertie the Dinosaur in 1914. Using that same technique, the production process quickly evolved with studios of artists working together to produce longer and more elaborate cartoons reaching its climax with Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie in 1928. Soon, almost every movie studio had its animation department cranking out short subjects for display ahead of their main features including Warner Bros., MGM, and Columbia. But it was Disney who took the next great leap by producing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, a feature length cartoon that became a hit for the fledgling studio.
Such was where the state of animation remained until the next breakthrough took place. It happened when MGM animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera figured out a way to make cartoons cheaply enough to be profitable for television. Pioneering limited animation, they cut corners in the production process by reducing the number of cells per movement and using repetitive backgrounds among other techniques. That way, the two were able to come up with the Huckleberry Hound Show for the NBC television network in 1958. It was a success and soon after, the studio expanded its format into half hour shows until shattering another barrier in 1960 with the premier of The Flintstones on ABC. Following up on that show’s ratings success, the studio produced one classic half hour show after another so that for years, Hanna-Barbera dominated the field of TV animation.
But that begs the question: what makes for a hit animated show? The answer is the same as it is for any medium from novels to movies: a solid plot, well-rounded characterizations, and a good story with an identifiable beginning, middle, and end. And in the case of animation, instead of actors who can bring characters to life, good voice artists are a must. With those criteria in mind, as well as longevity, entertainment value, and originality, and a 30 minute format to fully develop those elements, the following list of the top ten best cartoon shows of all time has been chosen.
Dear Adam Bellow,
I’d like to congratulate you on building and launching Liberty Island. You’ve assembled an extraordinary team of writers — 25 so far profiled at PJ Lifestyle – with several of them beginning to contribute blog posts and freelance articles here. I’ll call them out, these are some really great writers and fascinating people: many thanks to Pierre Comtois, Jamie Wilson, Roy M. “Griff” Griffis, Michael Sheldon, Clay Waters, David Churchill Barrow, and David S. Bernstein. And Karina Fabian too is about to make her debut shortly with a wonderful piece that I’m scheduling for tomorrow. Updated: don’t miss “10 Excuses For Why We Don’t Get More Done (And Why They Are Excuses).”
I can’t wait to get to know more of the Liberty Island writers and continue collaborations.
I appreciated your recent manifesto, “Let Your Right Brain Run Free,” at National Review and really only took mild issue with what seemed to me your overemphasis on the novel and pooh-poohing of film’s greater power to hypnotize viewers:
What about Hollywood? Many conservatives talk about the need to get into movie production. I agree this is very important, but it requires a massive investment of capital, and more to the point, I think people on the right are over-impressed with the power of film. To hear some conservatives talk you’d think movies were the Holy Grail, the golden passkey to the collective unconscious. This gets things precisely backwards. Sure, a successful Hollywood movie can have a major impact. But as a vehicle for political ideas and moral lessons, movies are simplistic and crude compared with the novels on which many are based.
Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis both produced big-budget movies that reached millions of people with what most of us would probably agree is a subtly conservative message. Yet both of these successful movie franchises ultimately pale in comparison with the impact of the books. Even at their best, movies are essentially cartoons and their effects are superficial and fleeting. Books engage the reader much more deeply, at a level of identification with the characters and plot that can instruct the soul and edify the mind. A hundred years from now, moreover, these classic books will still be read all over the world in dozens of languages when the films on which they are based are long forgotten or superseded by new forms of entertainment.
In short, conservatives should remember that mainstream popular culture is still largely driven by books. Fiction therefore is and will remain the beating heart of the new counterculture. This is not just my bias as a publisher. It is a practical reality — and a fortunate one for us, since there are hundreds if not thousands of conservative and libertarian writers out there today producing politically themed fiction. The conservative right brain has woken up from its enchanted sleep and it is thriving. Instead of banging on Hollywood’s front door, a better approach is to go in the back by publishing popular conservative fiction and then turning those books into films.
I will write novels someday. And I still enjoy reading good ones. Recently my wife pushed on me her newest obsession, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
The vivid narrative is a fictionalization of the author’s life and tells the story of a young Nigerian woman who immigrates to America and develops a career blogging about her discoveries among races and cultures. A wise excerpt from Page 273:
The movie rights have, of course, been acquired, with Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt starring. I can’t wait to see it.
So real life inspires blogging, blogging inspires a novel — the highlights of which are the blog posts in it — which in turn inspires a movie. I wonder how they’ll depict blogging in the film. Maybe they’ll update it and make her a vlogger on YouTube instead? Part of my wife’s enthusiasm for the novel was because the character was also part of the online “natural hair community,” black and mixed race women who share YouTube tutorials about methods for giving up straightening their hair with destructive chemicals and switching to natural styles and products instead. From page 13:
My wife in her art has called them a counterculture:
My interdisciplinary work concentrates on the Ebony woman, Gen-X leaning Millennials, and our hair. Social media and video-based tutorials have influenced many Millennial women to embrace natural representations of their ethnic hair. These young women have become pioneers of the Millennial Natural Hair Movement, an expanding and informed counterculture responding to painful trends that date back to the early twentieth century.
Here’s an example of a video she made depicting the kinds of tips that circulate on YouTube amongst Natural Hair vloggers (she gave it an artsier spin):
I think this is an expression of the paradigm for today — that the various mediums of novels, film, and online media are blending back and forth together and the line between fiction and non-fiction blurs more too.
Recently when April and I made our move to South LA this summer in our packing and unpacking I had the opportunity to go through the DVD collection I’d accumulated over the last 15 years and assess the titles that still had the most value to me. As we’ve discussed and you know I’ve written about, so many of the movies and filmmakers that I once loved as a nihilistic postmodern college leftist I now regard with varying levels of disdain, disgust, and embarrassment.
But these are ones that I continue to regard with affection, that I still return to, and that I think can offer inspiration for your growing team of counterculture crusaders looking to change the world with their art. Some of them I’m a little bit more critical of than I once was, but they all still have some usefulness in some capacity or another…
(Note: this is a version 1.0 of this list, future editions will incorporate newly discovered films and suggestions from readers…)
13. She has discovered a close kinship with George Costanza.
Sure, she may come off all serious in her videos, but Lana Del Rey has a seriously good sense of humor. According to Rolling Stone, Lana Del Rey ”has a George Costanza-like plan for the future.”
“I’m really specific about why I’m doing something or writing something,” she says. “But it always kind of gets translated in the opposite fashion. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve learned that everything I’m going to do is going to have the opposite reaction of what I meant. So I should do the opposite if I want a good reaction.” She’s surprised to learn that George tried this approach in an episode of Seinfeld. “Oh really? That’s awesome. Me and George Costanza! Oh my God!”
You might recall that in January I offered up seven New Year’s resolutions that others could burgle from me Bilbo-style:
Usually when I’m working I have some combination of talk radio and Songza/Pandora on in the background. Now I’m going to replace the music with Disney films, cartoons, and documentaries, immersing myself in everything until I feel like I’ve really gotten a handle of the repeating themes and style.
This spring I utilized the PJ Lifestyle Cartoon at Noon feature to pursue this project, so far blogging through all 75 of the experimental Silly Symphony series, noting themes and cultural references. I’ll have more lists in the future explaining the significance of the series and its artistic depth but for now thsese first two are a good place to get started:
- From June: The 7 Revolutionary Silly Symphony Cartoons That Won Oscars In the 1930s
- and in August: 10 Classic Disney Cartoons For Introducing Mythology & Morality to the Next Generation.
In March I responded to a Roger L. Simon column with an approach for “How Conservatives Can Conquer Hollywood.” The Walt Disney method of becoming a billionaire? Depict the battle of Good Vs. Evil with innovative technology:
Conservatives should be looking to the future and to new mediums of entertainment. Humans are not going to amuse themselves by sitting around staring at screens forever. I still believe in the Breitbartian idea that the battle for the culture is more important than the fight over political ideology. Where I’ve changed is in realizing that there’s actually a force more important and powerful to affect and control. Culture is driven by technology. Movable type came before the Gutenberg Bible. Edison’s film camera came before Hollywood. The techniques of animation had to be discovered by Disney and his animators through years of experimenting with Silly Symphony and Mickey Mouse shorts before Snow White could be achieved.
So yeah, politics is downstream of culture. But technology has the power to carve the shape of the river itself.
Chris, as we start to think in a bigger picture direction with our continued research into Disney history and ideology, here’s my attempt to sort of lay out a broad look at the territory. How does this sound as a way to think of the different periods that run across the company?
Check out “5 Reasons Why Mickey Mouse Co-Creator Ub Iwerks Was Awesome” at CartoonBrew.com for a great overview of the innovative art and animation career of one of Walt Disney’s key collaborators. Hat tip to them for reminding of this, the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, animated by Iwerks:
Mounting evidence suggests Neanderthals were not the brutes they were characterised as decades ago.
But art, a high expression of abstract thought, was long considered to be the exclusive preserve of our own species.
The scattered candidates for artistic expression by Neanderthals have not met with universal acceptance.
However, the geometric pattern identified in Gibraltar, on the southern tip of Europe, was uncovered beneath undisturbed sediments that have also yielded Neanderthal tools.
Details of the discovery by an international team of researchers has been published in the journal PNAS.
There is now ample evidence that Neanderthal intellectual abilities may have been underestimated. Recent finds suggest they intentionally buried their dead, adorned themselves with feathers, painted their bodies with black and red pigments, and consumed a more varied diet than had previously been supposed.
One of the study’s authors, Prof Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, said the latest find “brings the Neanderthals closer to us, yet again”.
I get the feeling we made the Neanderthals out to be such brutes to A) Make us feel better about ourselves, and B) Make us feel less bad about having wiped them out.
Bring to mind anything?
All 75 of the Silly Symphonies, the Gold Standard of the Era:
- Walt Disney’s First Silly Symphony: ‘The Skeleton Dance’
- PETA Would Hate This 1929 Disney Cartoon…
- Nature Animated to Life
- A Disney Cartoon Set In Hell!
- Getting Drunk With Disney’s Merry Dwarfs
- Summer: The Sixth Silly Symphony, A Sequel to Spring
- Corn on the Cob as Musical Instrument
- A Cannibal-Version of Carmen With Clicking Human Skulls… Made By Walt Disney
- Frolicking Fish Almost 60 Years Before The Little Mermaid
- Mickey Mouse As a Polar Bear
- Toy Story‘s Great Grandfather?
- A Bug Flying Too Close to the Fire In the Darkness
- Innocence Incarnate: These Smooching Monkeys Will Make You Smile
- Goodbye Winter! Disney’s Playful Pan Emerges to Call In Spring (two cartoons)
- Birds of a Feather Flock Together
- A Cartoon First Released April 17, 1931: Disney’s Mother Goose Melodies
- Dora the Explorer’s Politically Incorrect Cameo in a 1931 Disney Cartoon
- Apparently Beavers Invented the Wheelbarrow Before Man
- A Sweet & Spooky Silly Symphony for Cat Lovers
- Egyptian Melodies Vs. Father Noah’s Ark
- Geppetto’s Original Workshop And Cogsworth’s Great-grandparents?
- When A Cavalry of Horseflies Goes To War Against the Spider
- Drinking Tea Before the Fox Hunt
- How Much Can an Ugly Duckling Grow Up Over a Decade?
- The Marx Brothers As Cartoon Birds
- A Primordial Winnie the Pooh
- A Dog Jail Break at the Pound!
- The First Technicolor Cartoon: Disney’s Still-Amazing ‘Flowers and Trees’
- It’s Amazing What Kinds of Cartoons Were Considered Family Friendly in 1932…
- Bugs In Love Battle a Blackbird in Black and White
- ‘Babes In the Woods’ Vs. The Witch In The Candy Cottage
- What Secrets Do You See Inside Santa’s Workshop?
- The Snake Hypnotizes His Prey
- The Disney Version of Noah’s Ark
- An Oscar-Winning Cartoon That Defined the Depression Era
- Who’s Ready to Open Pandora’s Box?
- Enter Sandman? Where We Go When We Sleep
- If You Don’t Pay the Piper He’ll Just Take Your Children Instead…
- When Walt Disney Imagined Santa Claus In Alliance With The Robot Toys
- The ‘Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil’ Monkeys In Cartoon Form
- ‘Oh, the World Owes Us a Livin’…’
- Among the Easter Bunny’s Secrets: Scotch-Colored Paint!
- Practical Pig Saved Little Red Riding Hood From the Big Bad Wolf
- Donald Duck’s First Appearance
- The Lesson of the Flying Mouse: Sometimes A Blessing Is Actually A Curse…
- Chill Out Today With These ‘Peculiar Penguins’
- Compare and Contrast: The Goddess of Spring With Snow White…
- Slow and Steady Wins the Race?
- What Would You Do If Everything You Touched Turned to Gold?
- A Cartoon To Teach Kids About the Danger of Celebrating Crime
- Dreaming of an Innocent Unity With Nature
- A Fantasy Land Where Everything Is Made of Candy…
- How Did Disney’s Mae West Bird Caricature Compare With Real Life?
- VIDEO: If Romeo and Juliet Were A Saxophone and Cello
- Another 1930s Disney Cartoon with Creepy Racial Stereotypes…
- What Does It Take to Be the Cock o’ The Walk?
- What Is the Fate of Broken Toys?
- Elmer Elephant: Is This the Most Adorable Cartoon in the Whole Series?
- How Kids Can Learn To Defeat Bullies
- ‘I Like a Man That Takes His Time…’
- The 3 Blind Mouseketeers Vs A Room of Traps
- A Country Mouse Discovers the Joys of Drinking in the Big City…
- This Very Cute Video of ‘Mother Pluto’ Parenting Chicks Will Make You Smile
- 3 Troublemaker Kittens Make a Mess in the Garden
- The Dark Secrets Hidden in the Woodland Cafe…
- What Is Animism?
- One of The Classic Breakthroughs In Animation History
- When Moths Fly Too Close to The Flame…
- 3 Babies Fishing For Stars In Dreamland
- Walt Disney Introduces The Farmyard Symphony on the DisneyLand TV Show
- Long Before Spongebob: The Underwater Circus of the Merbabies
- Katharine Hepburn As Little Bo Peep in Blackface
- Practical Pig Delivers a ‘Harsh Interrogation’ To the Big Bad Wolf
- This Ugly Duckling Abandond By His Family Will Melt Your Heart
12 Early Betty Boop Cartoons
- Betty Boop’s First Appearance
- Before Betty Boop Was Beautiful…
- Betty Boop as Snow White In A Cartoon For Jazz Lovers
- Your Initiation Into Betty Boop’s Secret Society
- ‘No, He Couldn’t Take My Boop-Oop-a-Doop Away!’ (2 cartoons featured)
- Why You Shouldn’t Try Robbing Betty Boop
- The Betty Boop Approach to Dealing With ‘Silly Scandals’
- Moving Day for Betty Boop!
- A Plus-Size Betty Boop As Kitty From Kansas City
- Playing Chess with Betty Boop & Taking a Mean Shot at Mickey Mouse
- Betty Boop’s Crazy Inventions
22 of Fleischer Studio’s Color Classics, a competitor to the Silly Symphonies:
- A Redheaded Betty Boop As Cinderella Debuted a New Series
- ‘Joy Like This Cannot Be Bought!’ A Cartoon Variation of Hansel and Gretel
- An Elephant Never Forgets
- Back When Cartoons Taught the Miraculous Power of Prayer…
- ‘Momma Don’t Allow No Music Playin In Here’
- Animal Newlyweds Take Their Honeymoon In Outer Space!
- Seduced By the Black Swan
- An Old Couple Reminisces On Falling In Love…
- Somewhere in Dreamland Tonight
- When a Chick Tries to Be a Duck
- Newlywed Flies Pick The Wrong Hotel For Their Honeymoon
- Greedy Humpty Dumpty Enslaves Nursery Rhyme Creatures To Build His Gold Wall to the Sun
- Two Lovebirds Take a Hawaiian Honeymoon
- Dreaming of a Big Train
- An Eccentric Inventor Saves The Orphans’ Christmas
- The Wedding of Jack and Jill Rabbit
- The Rooster and His Harem…
- Animal Symphony Chaos: ‘The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Often Go Astray…’
- VIDEO: A Family of Peeping Penguins Finds a New Home
- A Little Fish Has to Learn His Lesson The Hard Way
- Cute: Little Lamby Eats His Grass With Sugar
- The Vegetable Children Don’t Want to Play With the Little Onion Kid
See the subtle joke at 5:25:
11. A conscious awareness of God is intrinsic to human nature.
Tara Brach recently told the story of a four year old who was excited to have alone time with his new baby sister. When he finally got to the side of her crib, he asked her, “Tell me what heaven is like. I’m starting to forget.” If we didn’t have a conscious awareness of God, we wouldn’t be striving so hard to find Him in everything from houses of worship to fictional characters on the big screen. Don’t let atheists fool you; they might not believe in a God in the sky, but they’re worshiping something, nevertheless, whether its money, power, or simply themselves.
It was so wonderful having the opportunity to reconnect last month. I enjoyed getting to know you better and coming to understand more of the parallels in our political and spiritual journeys. I look forward to many more deep discussions in the future.
I look forward to exploring these subjects in pieces more soon and think we should continue brainstorming together; let’s definitely plan on collaborating more in the future on ways to explore these concepts in articles, perhaps with some of your delightful artistic illustrations?
I want to congratulate you for your invention of the Bamusers, as showcased in your new collection of sketches that straddle the line between art and humor.
We’ve already talked about a few directions you might want to consider exploring using the Bamusers style of quick, simple illustrations accompanied by short titles. Today, I wanted to encourage you to consider another that could have some potential, both as a way to make perceptive cultural commentary and connect with new audiences: generational theory. Here are two books I’ll throw back your direction:
In my previous post, I noted that I grew up getting my ideas about marriage from The Flintstones.
Hint: This was not a good thing.
However, cartoons have evolved almost beyond recognition since I sat cross-legged in front of the TV every lunchtime, more or less surgically attached to “The Uncle Bobby Show.”
That makes animation an outlier, since pretty much every other entertainment genre – especially movies and music – has been in arrested development since the late 1980s.
Of course, both classical and computer animation have advanced artistically, thanks to advances in technology.
But story quality has become more sophisticated, too.
Characters – and, dare I say it, messages – are often more realistic yet more idealistic at the same time.
Some post-modern cartoon characters are even pretty good role models.
(At least, better than Wilma and Betty scheming to get their husbands to buy them mink coats, or Fred and Barney trying to keep track of the fibs they’ve told their wives.)
Dear Spencer Klavan,
I’d like to congratulate you for your first PJ Lifestyle piece that we published today, ”10 Movies Stolen Right Out of The Odyssey.” Editing it and talking with you inspired me to finally get around to finishing a list that’s been on my mind lingering for a few weeks now. But I’m also going to twist things up a bit to really start pushing this list business further. I wrote my previous list post in letter format to Lisa De Pasquale in response to her book Finding Mr. Righteous, and I think it’s a style I’m going to continue and encourage for others as a way to, borrowing a phrase from my wife, kill two stones with one bird. This month I’m going to start focusing to try and write more lists myself but they’ll be with the increased goal of trying to encourage dialogue between writers and readers and to inspire ideas for more articles.
Over the course of several months this spring I watched through and featured all of the Silly Symphony Disney cartoons from the 1930s in the PJ Lifestyle Cartoon at Noon feature. They’re all available on YouTube and are filled with insights into the period’s culture, fashions, racial shortcomings, and technological developments. In studying them and now in comparing to other studios’ generally less impressive releases, it’s clear how Disney dominated: he continually pushed the technology further and he used it to develop meaningful art drawing from deep, substantive mythological sources to promote positive moral values. I believe cinematically these efforts reached their peak with Fantasia, what has become my favorite film of late, and whose pieces can be seen in some of these earlier efforts.
Spencer, with your background in classics and your interest in bringing out some of the dark, hidden aspects of Greek and Roman mythology and their relation to our culture today I’m really excited about the ideas you’re going to start developing. Here are some of the ideas that I’ve been considering courtesy of some of the mythology, folklore, and fables Disney drew from in making his shorts.
CCing some of the other Lifestyle writers exploring pop culture and moral value themes on occasion too: Chris Queen, Susan L.M. Goldberg, Kathy Shaidle, and Hannah Sternberg, I’d invite you to consider these subjects too in your own writings. (And if anyone else would like to submit a blog post responding to these ideas DaveSwindlePJM @ gmail.com or lets talk on Twitter: @DaveSwindle. I’d like to start featuring more Twitter discussions at PJ Lifestyle.)
Jeff Koons, whose pop art retrospective runs at the Whitney Museum in Manhattan through October 19, is controversial in a way different from most self-consciously “transgressive” artists. For one, he’s very popular among collectors, which is in certain circles unforgivable. Left-wing art critics (but I repeat myself) accuse him of vulgar capitalism and make hay off his history as a (gasp!) commodities trader. The Village Voice called Koons’ career “the triumph of stupidity,” and if that’s not a recommendation I don’t know what is. (How critics can denigrate Koons but exalt Andy Warhol, another artist who made a vast fortune by playing with America’s cultural iconography, is a deeper mystery.)
Blissfully ignorant of the current art scene, I found the camera-friendly exhibition, generously stocked with over 120 pieces, at the least amusing and occasionally amazing, with a couple of smiles guaranteed. I dare say it would be a great visit for children, though given that a Koons’ piece once sold for $58 million (making him the most expensive living artist) perhaps don’t let them get too close.
Even Koons’ most contemptuous critics are disarmed by his 10-foot tall Play-Doh sculpture on the 4th floor (that floor houses the newest, brightest, most childlike stuff). Who knew the world wanted to see tons of aluminum painstakingly crafted to look like the result of a toddler’s random play-date? An adjoining gallery is stocked with masses of stainless steel, painstakingly worried over for years by teams of artists to make it look identical to the inflatable floats available for $7.99 at Wal-Mart. “Art” or not, the technical achievement on display is undeniable.