We all have our favorite cartoons;
some are current, some we grew up with and others are timeless classics from before we were born. During our early years of mass television consumption, we were not able, critically speaking, to interpret and deconstruct what was really going on in our favorite shows. Now however, through education and the grace of God, we are finally able to appreciate our old cartoons and interpret their witty and wise messages for us today. In the midst of this recollection process I stumbled across something amazing. Basically, we have to admit to one of either two possibilities in retrospect concerning our pre-teen TV shows
1) All the cartoons of our childhood were made by the same group of cartoonists; probably pale, hairy and socially maladjusted geniuses.
2) All cartoons share the same basic plot lines and there are really only 25 or 30 total cartoon plot possibilities.
This is my thesis and here’s why. Pick your favorite childhood cartoon. Now look at the list below and tell me that your show didn’t have an episode about every one of these topics! Submitted for your approval here is my eerily detailed list of plotlines that almost every cartoon series contains. There might be more but here are the most common ones. Conspiracy? Coincidence? Judge for yourself…
SPACE. The character or characters “accidently” get launched into outer space. One of the characters stumbles across a space ship or is accidentally launched into space at the clumsy hands of the government or NASA equivalent.
SHRINKING. Some clever person invents a shrinking machine meant for some ignoble purpose like shrinking suitcases or eradicating the world of dust, yet somehow, the characters get shrunk and then have to live in the regular world for a period of time which is absurdly big.
FAME. One of the characters “goes Hollywood”, gets famous and then forgets about the little people. At the end they are humbled and realize the value of their ‘ordinary’ friends and that the life of showbiz is hollow and full of empty promises.
FAKE DEATH. Someone learns they have a very short time to live because of a rare illness or exposure to toxic ray gun, etc…. This shatters their life priorities and changes them as a person but only to learn at the end of the episode that they’re not in fact dying at all. Oops.
TIME TRAVEL (backward). Someone invents or discovers a time machine. The characters travel back in time, usually to the exact moment where something momentous in world history is about to happen. Most common time periods visited:
- Dinosaur times (usually a friendly dinosaur saves someone’s life)
- Ancient Egypt when they were building the pyramids (and apparently the ancient Egyptians did speak English)
- Dark Ages Europe (the characters usually rescue a helpless peasant or dethrone a savage and egotistical ruler)
TIME TRAVEL (forward). Again the characters are pulled into the space/time vortex although going forward in time apparently happens through wormholes in space and natural phenomena in addition to the aforementioned time machine. The characters go to the future, are appalled at the state of things then return to the present to preach a message about the world’s actions at the present. So what do we learn about the future?
- Apparently the future will inevitably hold flying cars and bigger televisions.
- People will wear more and more outlandish clothing
- ALL the earths’ people will finally speak English all the time
- Everything will be ludicrously expensive
HEROS. The characters meet a celebrity or hero whom they idolize. Later that celebrity turns out to be a real jerk and the characters discover that the real hero is the ordinary guy that has been with them all along.
PIRATES. Nothing to say here. There is always a pirate episode with plank-walking, sunken treasure, Arr-matey’s and all the standard piratical fare. Usually at the end of the episode we are taught that most evil pirate’s are secretly good and just need a hug and some trust and they will do the right thing.
AMNESIA. Through some accident or injury a character will get amnesia and not know who they are. The initial discovery of that character’s amnesia almost always contains this exchange followed by an immediate cut to commercial:
Character 1: “Are you okay Billy? That was quite a fall!”
Character 2: “Yes I’m okay… just one question though: Who’s Billy?”