As Cartoon Network hits a golden age, Christy Smyth winds down our week-long celebration by asking why British animation is so far behind America.
Aren’t cartoons great? I mean, that’s the point we’ve been making for the past week at Planet Slop, so we can surely all agree on that now, right?
So, just to reiterate, apart from the heartless and the dull, we all love cartoons.
Even people who don’t like cartoons are just in denial. I heard someone say they ‘never really liked Disney classics’. Yeah, right! Can you even imagine someone pretending The Simpsons isn’t very good? Or that Loony Tunes is so-so? You can’t really, can you? And your disbelief is surely a testament to how universally brilliant they can be.
Which brings us to Cartoon Network.
Cartoon Network is amazing right now. I know that for a lot of people it’s always been great, but I never had shows like Ed, Edd & Eddy or Courage The Cowardly Dog when I was young. That was for the posh kids with Sky.
If you’re not already aware of how incredible Cartoon Network is, you best start now because it has the best shows currently on TV. That’s not an exaggeration. Adventure Time, Regular Show, Clarence, Steven Universe, The Amazing World Of Gumball. It is a golden age.
They’re just the ones aimed at children. CN‘s late-night block, Adult Swim, has Rick And Morty which, along with other adult-oriented shows like Bobs Burgers and BoJack Horseman, is creating another renaissance to fill the space left by The Simpsons and Family Guy (and still comfortably inhabited by South Park).
Of course, with all of this going on in the States, Britain is also pulling its weight, providing its own selection of quality cartoons.
That was sarcastic.
Instead of trying to make my point here, why don’t I let you make it for me. Name me one British cartoon that’s as good as The Simpsons. It doesn’t have to be current.
Maybe that’s aiming a bit high, so instead, name me one British cartoon that’s as good as anything on Cartoon Network right now. I’ll give you a hint, you can’t. Any answer you just gave is objectively wrong.
Name a British cartoon that’s good. Like, actually good. Not just one that you can have on in the background for your child while you do some ironing, one that would make you sit down and leave the clothes creased. Can you do that? Because I can’t. If you’re not convinced, listen to this. If you Google ‘British Cartoons’ you will be greeted with a Sunday Post list of the ‘Top Ten British Cartoon TV Hits’. Most of the shows on the list are American.
Is it me, or is that a massive gap in the market?
Let’s just use Cartoon Network as an example, and compare that to CBBC. They are our go-to for children’s television, and for cartoons (CBeebies do more cartoons, but that’s a different audience). So, is CBBC as good as Cartoon Network?
No. Not even nearly. It’s not an argument, really. It’s like comparing a fart in the wind to The Beatles. I’m not trying to insult the channel. It is, in fairness, a very different kettle of fish. Is CBBC good? Arguably, yeah, it’s OK.
You might ask why it’s important that TV aimed at children should be great for adults too. It isn’t really for us and grown-ups who spend their time watching cartoons are, more often than not, told to ‘get a job/life’.
But instead of asking ‘why’, shouldn’t we ask ‘why not’?
It’s not as if the cartoons we make aren’t very good, it’s that we just don’t do them. CBBC doesn’t really do that many animated shows, and other channels certainly don’t bother with them. We compete with American culture in every other area. Our music is as good, our films are as good, generally, our TV is as good. So why not our cartoons?
I wanted to end this article with some sort of answer to that question. I thought there must be a reason we don’t do them, or maybe that we did and I just wasn’t in tune with it. But the truth is, there isn’t a reason. We just aren’t trying.
Every other BBC channel has its own vibe. BBC 1 isn’t anything like BBC 2, nor is that anything like BBC 4. But CBBC just seems like an amalgamation of all these channels, but with children in the place of adults.
So here’s what I think should happen; CBBC should have an in-house animation department. I think it should make more animated shows regardless. Not shitty, computer-animated re-boots of old shows, either (I’m looking at you, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed). I think CBBC should spend more time taking risks and less time making dumbed-down versions of BBC period dramas. I think CBBC shouldn’t expect so little of their audience. I think it’s not just the responsibility of CBBC, or just of Children’s TV. I think we should start seeing animation on BBC2, on ITV, and on Channel 4.
I think we should be better. It’s as simple as that. Just be better.