It occurred to me a little while ago that even though one of my main hobbies (spending money-wise) is collecting flicks and TV shows on DVD that I have a strong sense of nostalgia for, I am not terribly knowledgeable of some of this stuff in terms of remembering specific episodes, writers, directors, etc. I mean I have practically an entire bookshelf dedicated to these DVDs and for the most part I haven’t seen a lot of this stuff since I first saw it as a kid growing up in the 80s. I have a pretty good memory for basic plots, characters, and style, though I tend to remember films much better than TV (not to mention that I hold a regular movie night with a friend where we catch up on these flicks.) Hell, even though I’ve probably seen every episode of the G.I. Joe cartoon at least four times I’d have a hard time recalling much about the show outside of the characters and a few moments here and there. A t the end of the day I just haven’t sat down with the material in about 20 years.
This is something that I’d like to change, if only to prove to myself (and to my wife) that there’s something a little more to my nostalgia DVD collection than just, well, nostalgia. Honestly, I know that this sounds like something as simple as sitting down and just watching the DVDs, but I’ve found in recent years that finding time to sequester myself in front of the TV just to watch stuff for fun by myself is getting scarcer and scarcer. I think I need something like this to become more of a project, something that I can work into an existing hobby, say Branded in the 80s for instance, or else I’m liable to just keep throwing it in the back-burner, so that’s where this new weekly column, Cartoon Commentary!, comes in.
My plan is to sit down with an 80s cartoon DVD set and watch it front to back, do some research and then write about it here in this new column. I want to try and do my best to discuss more than just the plot aspects of the show; I mean I don’t want this to turn into simply an episode guide. I’m going to try my best to cover various aspects of the shows like the production studios, writers and voice actors, as well as the sort of stuff you’d find in the special features of DVDs like trivia and such, and hopefully this will end up feeling like a sort of commentary on the shows (like fan made special features.) Over time I’m hoping, if nothing else for myself, to get a better feel for what made cartoons of the 80s what they were and I’ll be able to get a better feel for the connections between shows, be it via production studios like Ruby Spears (Turbo Teen, Saturday Supercade, & Alvin and the Chipminks) or Filmation (He-Man & the Masters of the Universe, Ghostbusters, & Bravestarr), prolific voice actors such as Frank Welker (Fred on Scooby Doo, Megatron, and Uni/Tiamat on Dungeons and Dragons) or Michael Bell (Duke from G.I. Joe and Cyclops from Pryde of the X-Men), or the work of writers such as Buzz Dixon (G.I. Joe) and Michael Reaves (Dungeons and Dragons.)
I realize that there are plenty of dedicated fan sites out there for these shows, though I think a lot of them are singularly focused on specific aspects, be it particular cartoons or voice actors, and I know that a lot of the writers have their own websites, but my experience has been that a lot of the sites that deal with a more exhaustive look at 80s cartoons basically distill into lists of shows with only general plot info. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not claiming to fill an unanswered niche on 80s cartoons (or that I’m terribly knowledgeable on the subject), there are sites that have already begun addressing this like Retrojunk, not to mention X-Entertainment’s years of reporting on pop culture, but like I said I’m mainly doing this to help myself get a better grasp on these cartoons that I’ve loved for so long. Who knows, maybe I’ll get sick of this after finishing the first box set and I’ll finally grow up like my parents said I would, I’ll take that job running the family furniture store, I’ll finally settle down and have some kids of my own, get elected mayor of my town, spearhead that project to clean up the city sewers, perfect the art of grooming a perfect lawn, eventually make my run at the presidency of the United States, and then retire on the political lecture tour, and find a nice comfy room in a rest home to write my adult memoirs. Yeah, well, probably not.
So where do I start? I’ve thought about some interesting ways to handle this, but so far all of my fun ideas are logistical nightmares. My first idea was to pick a year, say 1980, and then go week by week and talk about the individual episodes and shows that aired, but even though I think I could probably find this scheduling information, I don’t think I’d be able to find enough of these actual cartoon episodes in print on DVD, and I’m sure as hell not going to rebuild a VHS collection at this point. So I dropped that thought, and decided that the best course of action would be to pick a show that’s on DVD and just make my way through it. My main fear though is that this column is going to get repetitive as I make my way through some of these shows, I mean He-Man lasted for 130 syndicated episodes alone. Even at 3 episodes a column, it’d take me about a year to wade through that. So I think I’m going to just concentrate on one set at a time, and to begin with I thought I’d choose one that has a shorter series, with a more visually obtainable goal in sight. So beginning next week I’m going to crack open my beautiful Dungeons and Dragons cartoon DVD set and I’ll get up in the guts of the show. It only has 27 episodes (and a 28th un-produced script that’s worth talking about) and has relatively small cast and pool of writers, so it should be a nice way to slip into a new column.
So join me next week as Cartoon Commentary! takes a look at the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon.