History of Animation

Posts Tagged ‘classic

The title screen for the What A Cartoon! Show, 1995-2000

Animation showcases were a really huge thing during the early to late 90’s, which basically made up a huge chunk of my childhood and possible influence to try and someday work in the field of cartoons, comic, or even animation. MTV (back when it was still playing music videos, yet starting to add its original TV series) had their segments such as Liquid Television and Cartoon Sushi which produced many popular animated shows such as Beavis and Butthead (which would later on create Daria– a spinoff featuring one of the female characters from the cartoon, and King of the Hill– a sort of spiritual successor since there was a Hank Hill prototype character), Aeon Flux, The Maxx, and Celebrity Deathmatch; Nickelodeon had Oh Yeah! Cartoons which begat NickToons’ The Farily OddParents, Chalkzone, and My Life as a Teenage Robot. However, the showcase that I’m going to talk about (as well as the one that I grew up with and watched on a semi-religious basis) is Cartoon Network’s own What A Cartoon! Show.

Beginning in 1995, What A Cartoon! (originally titled World Premiere Toons) was created by Fred Seibert who had the goal of trying to return creative power to animators and artists by giving them a recreation of the atmosphere that gave birth to the popular cartoon characters that were created in the mid-20th century. Each of the totaled 48 cartoon shorts were structured after how a theatrical cartoon was created, with each short being based on an original storyboard drawn and written by the artist or creator.

One of the first accomplishments of the What A Cartoon! show was the introduction of Cartoon Network’s “Cartoon Cartoon” lineup, as it was the origin point for some of the defining cartoons on Cartoon Network (well… before it became what it is today). The Powerpuff Girls‘ pilot cartoon Meat Fuzzy Lumpkins (which is about pink, hillbilly-Muppet-like villain Fuzzy Lumpkins turning all of Townsvile into meat after losing a contest he worked hard to win at) was the first What A Cartoon segments broadcast in its entirety, and later had a second cartoon called The Powerpuff Girls in: Crime 101, which featured the Powerpuff Girls trying to teach the completely inept villains The Amoeba Boys how to pull of a crime. At the same time, Gendy Tartakovsky (who would be collaborating with Craig McCracken in both The Powerpuff Girls and his own cartoon) released the pilot episode to Dexter’s Laboratory, a cartoon about a boy genius (the titular Dexter) with a secret laboratory and his girlie/ moronic older sister Dee Dee who continually ruins his lab/ experiment of the episode; the pilot episode features them battling it over a transmogrifier, turning into all sorts of various animals before school.

Left: The Powerpuff Girls fly into action to battle Fuzzy Lumpkins. Right: Dexter futilely struggles to shove his sister Dee-Dee out of his laboratory.

Other popular Cartoon Cartoon characters that began on this show were Johnny Bravo (the misadventures of a super-macho/ egotistical, semi-misogynistic but still dopey/ lovable guy who thinks he’s God’s Gift to Women), Cow And Chicken (an extremely surreal, almost Ren and Stimpy gross out-esque show about… well, a chicken brother and his cow sister; it’s worth mentioning that this show also pushed the boundaries just as much as Ren and Stimpy, as the pilot episode alone has The Devil/ Red Guy as he’s later known (voiced by Charlie Adler, who also did voice work for both the titular characters as well) dragging Chicken to Hell and torturing him with cigarettes), and Courage the Cowardly Dog (about a dog and his owners, Muriel who adores Courage and Eustace who likes to scare Courage any chance he gets, who live in the middle of nowhere and usually get terrorized by the supernatural/ surreal; on a personal note, the pilot episode, The Chicken From Outer Space which is about an evil space chicken trying to take over the world, still freaks me out to this day).

Left: The Devil (later known as Red Guy) bribes Chicken to Hell with a cigarette. Right: Courge tries to warn his two owners about an alien invader; naturally, they're skeptical.

The What A Cartoon! Show not only served as a showcase for these eventual Cartoon Cartoons, but also displayed cartoon shorts that were created by animators/ artists who either were involved with other popular shows at the time, were active during the 1950’s- 1980’s, or who would become well known during the Turn of the Century. One of the best examples would actually be Larry and Steve, a cartoon created by eventual creator of Family Guy, which featured prototypes of the characters of the bumbling, moronic Peter Griffin and Brain Griffin, the smarter, more level-headed-yet-ignored voice of reason dog in Larry (the human) and Steve (a dog who’s saved by Larry from being euthanized, though with Larry he’s usually put through a hell on a daily basis). Butch Hartman, who would later go on to create The Fairly OddParents and Danny Phantom, created a few cartoon shorts of his own that showed off his elements of pop culture/ slapstick/ rapid fire- humor such as Gramps (a short about an Abe Simpson-like grandpa telling his bored grandchildren how he saved the world from an alien invasion) and Pfish and Chip (a take on the whole Buddy Cop genre with a carefree shark and a short-tempered/ Scottish-accented lynx as part of a bomb-diffusing squad).

More notable animators that created shorts for the What A Cartoon! Show were Zac Moncrief’s (who now works as a director for Phineas and Ferb) short Godfrey and Zeek in Lost Control (about two best friends- a pig and a giraffe who have to travel to the now-Disneyland-ified sewers after their remote control gets flushed down), Rob Renzetti (created My Life as a Teenage Robot and was involved with Gendy Tartakovsky and Craig McCracken on several of their projects) who created the Mina and the Count shorts (which would eventually be shown on Oh Yeah! Cartoons), Eddie Fitzgerald who created the short Tales of Worm Paranoia, which is very reminiscent of an episode of Ren and Stimpy (though that could be because Fitzgerald worked on a few episodes with John K.), and Ralph Bakshi (who made most adult/ cult-animated films during the 1970’s, such as Wizards, Heavy Traffic, and the controversial/ X-rated Fritz the Cat) who created two of the last (and possibly with the most mature themes) animated segments, Malcom and Melvin, which is about a Jerry Lewis-esque down-and-out named Melvin who tries to become famous in The City with the aid of Malcom, a cockroach who can play a mean trumpet.

Sadly, much like Liquid Television, the What A Cartoon! Show hasn’t made any official DVD releases, but thanks to people circulating the episodes on YouTube, they’re pretty easy to find.

This week, I commented on Amanda Cole’s blog and Amanda Martin’s blog.

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