October 22, 2011 | in Nanny
Times change, and almost nowhere is this more evident than in the entertainment industry. Since its inception, television programming has acted as a social barometer, showcasing the values and beliefs of the generation producing it. Modern cartoons are a breed apart from their predecessors, however, in many ways.
- The process has changed. – In the old days, a cartoon had to be pitched to a studio, financed, handed off to a group of writers, shipped to an animation department, and marketed to a target audience. With the advent of the content sharing powers of the Internet, independent animators have a better chance than ever to showcase their work. Starting a cartoon studio is now as easy as purchasing webspace and animating to your heart’s content. In many cases, some of these cartoons have successfully landed studio contracts after gaining a large following.
- The artwork has changed. – An inevitable result of the personalization of computing technology, computer-aided animation is cheaper and more widespread today than traditional animation. Whether a cartoon is rendered completely in CGI, or merely uses cel-shading (a technique whereby a 3D computer-generated model is colored to look like it was traditionally animated), modern cartoons rely heavily on computer-generated imagery. Many new cartoons even make use of Flash animation, lending a particularly unique style to the characters.
- The vocal talent has changed. – Voice acting isn’t the most glamorous line of work, and traditionally such talented actors go unnoticed unless someone accidentally recognizes them. With exceptions like Mel Blanc, traditional voice actors rarely received the credit they deserved. With numerous fan-sites and behind-the-scenes footage, many voice actors (such as Tara Strong and John DiMaggio) have cult followings rivaling that of even their most popular characters. For example, Mark Hamill, who you may know better in his role as Luke Skywalker, is one of the most prolific voice actors of the last thirty years. Add to that the modern cartoon’s widespread use of celebrity guest stars, and it’s easy to see that voice acting is being taken more seriously than ever before.
- The content has changed. – Today’s cartoons have dug deeper in their genre for content than before. Comedic offerings have gotten more absurd, sacrificing even the semblance of plot of comedies past for more outright silliness. Where once a cat might chase a mouse, now they might take a road trip to a concert together, only to break down in the desert, be swallowed by a sand-whale, and transported to the magical land of Seattle, only to return home for no clear reason. In contrast, action-oriented cartoons have gotten darker and more realistic, taking on tougher issues in a more serious tone than their predecessors.
- The scope has changed. – While many comedic cartoons are still episodic, the modern action cartoon has built a skyscraper on top of the foundation laid by the likes of Johnny Quest and Space Ghost. Opting for deeper conflicts, longer plot lines, and refusing to talk down to their audience, cartoons such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Avatar: The Last Airbender have brought sweeping, breathtaking epics to a younger audience. Mixing action and humor, these series are immersive and intense, teaching moral and ethical lessons with amazingly well-defined characters and plot.
Today’s cartoons are a far cry from the Looney Toons classics of our own childhoods. Once seen as an art directed only at kids, modern animated entertainment is often created expressly for adult enjoyment. Entire networks are set aside for cartoons now, featuring late-night blocks of programming that target the adult demographic. In many ways, cartoons today are a horse of a different color compared to the ones we enjoyed as children.
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