Saturday, January 5, 2013

YOU ARE CHILDHOOD!

Since a new year is upon us now, I'm looking back at my lost youth. So for this entry, I shall list what canons define childhood for me and my brother, and why.

DISNEY - This one gets out of the way first because it's so obvious. Disney is part of everyone's childhood, isn't it? I mean, it's Disney! The best of the best when it comes to animation and what can be done with animation. Disney: we all associate it with its' animated film canon, it's cartoons, its' theme parks, it's TV shows, it's channels, even it's live action movies, and the rest of its' various merchandise. We associate it with the unforgettable stories and characters that can be found in those. We associate it with fairy tale revisions, enjoyable adaptations, and very fun and/or heartfelt moments. We associate it with messages about believing in dreams, making friends, valuing family, finding true love, being yourself, and living happily ever after. And we also associate it with
a greedy company, bad business decisions, and crappy sequels, but that stuff gets outweighed by what we love about Disney. Above all, Disney is about magic. A magic that you're exposed to in your childhood and it sticks with you for the rest of your life. Disney is family entertainment and the purest kind of magic that can be found here on Earth. And it all started with a mouse. If you didn't grow up with Disney, have grown out of Disney, or just plain don't like Disney, than you have no soul.

WINNIE THE POOH - Our favorite sub-canon of Disney, this is probably THE childhood thing for us. It is what most defines childhood innocence and the spirit of fun, adventurousness, and bliss that comes with it. And it's a children's franchise that is just impossible to outgrow. There's enough wit, whimsy, and appeal here for an older crowd to enjoy and appreciate too. I love the world of the Hundred Acre Wood, I love all these characters and their various quirks, and I freaking love all the stories that have been and could be told with them. We always loved watching stuff with Pooh and friends when we were little, and whenever we did (and still do!) put those characters in the games we'd play, it always made everything better! Everything is better with Pooh, you just cannot go wrong there. I'm sorry, but I have to quote Doug Walker here: "Who doesn't love Winnie The Pooh? He's like one of the most innocent thing on the planet. I think there's a law prohibiting people from not liking him! As a kid, I liked it fine. But watching it now years later, actually, it's alot better than I remember it! There's just this sense to it...this atmosphere, this real likability to this world they've created. It's very laid back and slow paced but at the same time, these characters are just so interesting and so...nice that you really enjoy spending time with them. You don't care if nothing interesting's going on, you could just have a conversation with any one of these people and you'd probably be very satisfied! Just these characters are very enjoyable and the situations they get into are very enjoyable. It's clever, it's nice, it's friendly, and really enjoy it: I like it just as much as a kid as I do as an adult. It takes me right back to that same familiar place I enjoy, and I always love coming back." *sniff* Beautiful. Just...word on all of it. I could not have said it better myself, Doug. The appeal of Winnie the Pooh can never be overstated. He's a willy-nilly silly ol' bear for all ages.

CARE BEARS - Care Bears countdown! Yeah, this franchise is strictly for little children. But back
in the 80's and 90's, it wasn't a bad kiddy franchise. I grew up with the Care Bear plushes, the "Care Bears" book series, the DIC "Care Bears" show, the Nirvana "Care Bears Family" show, and the three "Care Bears" movies (the first one being the best!) It's one of the first fictional canons I can remember ever being into. Tenderheart, Grumpy, and Braveheart are still my favorites. And I still do immensely enjoy that first movie and consider "The Care Bears Family" to be among my favorite cartoon shows. While it's far from something I'm into anymore in this day and age, I still enjoy and appreciate it for what it was in my childhood and what it represents. And there is no shame in that.

ARTHUR - The children's book series by Marc Brown, but more importantly and prominently, the animated series based on them, which has displaced and outlasted them. As with Pooh, this is something I still enjoy as an adult like I did as a kid. It's really smartly written, the characters are mostly enjoyable, it's got a great format with two story segments in each episode except on special occasions, there's a great timeless atmosphere with the layout of Elwood City and the various music and sound effects that accompany it, and the stories they tell are often very good. Honestly, I'm surprised that this show is still running and they've still got the creative steam in them to tell such stories. It seems like this is one of those shows where the possibilities for stories and subject matter are endless. Many things have been explored and explored well by these characters, and it's always alot of fun to see how it all goes down. And there's that theme song by Ziggy Marley: it's got such
a great rhythm to it! It's got it's strengths and flaws, but is overall a great show to watch at home.

THE DISNEY AFTERNOON - It includes toon shows like "Adventures of the Gummi Bears", 
and "Duck Tales", and "Chip N Dale's Rescue Rangers", and Tale Spin", and "Darkwing Duck", and "Bonkers", and "Goof Troop", and "Aladdin the Serious" and "Gargoyles". AND it's Disney! How could this not be a big part of my childhood? I remember watching these when they were on both the old Disney Channel and the Disney Afternoon block itself. And the CD of catchy, memorable songs from the program. The quality of these things is excellent and still holds up today.

DR SEUSS - The world's greatest children's book author who brought us several wacky, whimsical, completely bizarre, out-there, and unique stories and characters that are all fun, charming, and timeless. The books themselves and the animated specials based on their stories. This is another one of those things like Disney and Pooh that once you get introduced to it in childhood, it hooks
you in and sticks with you for life. Dr Seuss' works are beloved and world renowned for a reason.

SESAME STREET/THE MUPPETS - This is also up there with the aforementioned things as one that is probably part of everyone's childhood. Jim Henson's muppets in their own comedic canon, and the puppet characters on the educational PBS Kids show "Sesame Street." They have you once you've been introduced to them and will not leave you throughout childhood and the rest of your life. Muppets and "Sesame Street" are some of the first things we see in childhood. And with the Muppets, I love the characters, the comedy, and exactly what can be done with them. Blending actors and Muppets together is always a treat, and the Muppets have pretty much taken on a life of their own because of it. They are now worldwide celebrities and personalities in their own right. While with "Sesame Street", I love these characters too (except for Elmo), how edutaining it is, how much quirkiness it has (usually letter and number related), and even how unintentionally frightening it could be. The music is great too: the "Sesame Street" theme song is one that doesn't leave your head after you've heard it a good few times. The show was the heart of the PBS Kids station while it was still strong. I mean, it's other big shows like "Barney"  that's not going to be sticking with you after childhood 'cause they're too kiddy. So it's just this and "Arthur" that satisfies my childhood nostalgia. Anything Muppet-related and from "Sesame Street"s glory days are recommended for young and old.

THE HOBBIT - Ah, JRR Tolkien's classic kids' bedtime story novel that serves as the precursor to "The Lord Of The Rings." The current movie trilogy (should've been a duology!) by Peter Jackson half-adapts the story and half-adapts a direct prequel to LotR is very pleasing and well done so far, but the tone of the original book is actually nothing like LotR. It's actually very far from it: it's like a different genre entirely! The narrative is more whimsical and lemony, as are the characters, the dialogue, and many of the events that occur on the journey. And the story is simple: a wizard, a small man, and a bunch of dwarves seek to reclaim a treasure from a dragon, encountering many perils such as trolls, goblins, wolves, spiders, elves, and Gollum along the way. That's it, really. And it's all translated very well in the Rankin/Bass animated movie version, which was my first exposure to the story. It's full length, includes great voices, most of the songs are taken from the book (how cool is it that a book has song lyrics?) and it hits all the right plot points in a compressed but faithful adaptation. There are some issues I have (Gollum's design, Smaug's voice, Gandalf's design and voice), but it's overall very well handled and fun. Rankin/Bass' "Return Of The King" on the other hand...errr NO, you CANNOT adapt LotR material into an animated film, especially in this way! LotR was not for kids. "The Hobbit" was. Thus the Rankin/Bass adaptation holds up. It GOT "The Hobbit."

STAR WARS - The original trilogy and all relating to it was the "Star Wars" we were exposed to in
our childhood. It should be the "Star Wars" of everyone's childhood! It's the best "Star Wars!" Period.

KINGDOM HEARTS - As in the first game to bear that name. It's not something we played in our childhood, and yet it's very concept is like a childhood fantasy come true, the way it's presented feels like an Old Disney classic, and it captures the magic of the Disney we loved in our childhood so much that it feels like childhood nostalgia bursting to life! Just the atmosphere, the visuals, the soundtrack, the story and characters, and even the playability of the game embodies what Disney was in our youth and what it always should be. The next two installments and "Birth By Sleep" are also representative of the Disney magic, but don't capture the same childhood feels like the first KH.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA - The whole Christian fantasy book series, but mainly it's first installment. I've talked about it before, so here I'll just mention what it was in my childhood. The BBC TV mini-series adaptation. The one with an excellent soundtrack that sets up good atmosphere and great actors portraying Professor Diggory and Maugrum...and not much else going for it. The child actors were horrendous, Mr. Tumnus was a bore and the portrait of his father was so clearly just
a human with horns painted onto him, the effects were laughably bad, there were cartoon creatures inserted in at points, the beavers were human-sized due to being guys in costumes, Mr. Beaver talks like Sam from the Bashki "Lord Of The Rings" movie, Aslan was a cheap puppet lion with a wooden voice, the sets, costumes, and production value were awful, and the White Witch's actress hams it up like mad! Seriously, she is the funniest damn thing in the series, and she's supposed to be taken seriously as the main villain? It's so bad...and yet I still enjoy it. It's a nostalgic Guilty Pleasure.

POKEMON - I've talked about this alot before too, but basically the first two generations of Pokemon were such a big thing in our last years of childhood. We first got into "Pokemon" after catching some episodes of the animated series, which is known today as "Indigo League". It was such a fun show that we were hooked on it and began to explore the franchise more. We got the Gameboy games ("Pokemon: Special Pikachu Edition" and "Gold and Silver") for Christmas and the strategy guides
to accompany 'em, we collected the trading cards, we bought the toys, we checked out the manga ("Electric Tale Of Pikachu" and "Pokemon Adventures") from our comic book store, we got lots of Pokemon-based books, devices, plushies and other tie-in merchandise, and we listened the hell
out of that "2BA Master" soundtrack CD. These were the glory days. The good ol' days where the franchise was all the rage and it's anime was not only good, but treated well by the networks it was on, given classic Saturday morning cartoon treatment. And creator Satoshi Tajiri, who could have never predicted the enormous success of his idea, was at the helm of the games, keeping things simple but magical and engaging. That is how "Pokemon" was for us and the memories are still cherished. The franchise has lost it's luster and a good deal of it's simplicity and charm over the years, but it's another one we just cannot ever outgrow. It's fun...at least for five generations....

PEANUTS - We cherished and enjoyed this series, it's stories, it's characters, and it's humor through the old Peanuts comic strips, the TV specials, and "The Charlie Brown And Snoopy Show" that used to be on the old Disney Channel before relocating to old Nickelodeon. And there were also lots of toys and decorations we had based on them too. Now wasn't that The American Teacher!

BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES - Our childhood exposure to Batman, not counting the Batman movies, any comics that came out at the time, and some bits of the old Adam West show that we saw. This is the same for most 90's kids, which is why for them, this IS Batman. It is everything you could want and expect Batman to be. A great series with a great execution, masterfully told stories,
a sense of maturity and sophistication that we appreciated even as kids but even moreso as adults, genuine excitement, a great cast of characters with a great voice cast behind them, and just such
a perfect atmosphere to it, created through great background designs and an excellent music score. This series was the subject of many Batman games we used to play, the Batman toys we bought, and that "Batman Cartoon Maker" computer game we had that was loads of fun and I still miss to this day. Technically, the show was re-branded as "The Adventures Of Batman And Robin" when we were exposed to it, but we didn't care. It was still kickass! It's a show that well earns appreciation.

DRAGONBALL Z - Ah, our Gateway Anime. We started watching it when it was airing on Cartoon Network. They were showing the old (and at the time only) dubbed version by the Ocean Group. Y'know, the one with the "Rock the Dragon" theme song, stock music, hack edits and episode trimming, extreme censorship, "the next dimension", and the original "It's OVER 9000!!!!" It was mostly pretty lousy in hindsight, but we didn't care at the time. We thought it was an awesome show. We stuck with it when the dubbing was taken over by Funimation and the show suddenly got less edit-heavy but with weaker voice actors and Bruce Faulconer music. The dub finally found it's groove with the Cell saga, the last (and best) saga we watched as kids. During all this time, we ate up all the DBZ. We recorded the show on VHS tapes, we bought manga comic books from the comic store, as well as trading cards and lots and lots of action figures. And we don't regret any of it to this day.

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME - Like "Kingdom Hearts", this is a video game we did not play in our childhood, and yet it feels like we did. The sheer sense of nostalgia and the child-like sense of wonder as you explore and adventure in this game is really, really high. It's a pure classic.

DIGIMON - Both the first series "Adventure" and it's inferior sequel, "02" were the Digimon anime we watched when it was airing on FOX Kids and whatever other channel it was on. When first hearing about "Digimon", we wrote it off as a "Pokemon" rip-off trying to cash in on that other "mon" series' success. Then out of bile fascination, we started watching it regularly. And we discovered that it was actually freaking awesome! Good storytelling, good character development, good action, and a good heart to it. The first show was so well done and the dub was alot of fun as well. And the second season...well, it was fun too. And that dopey theme song was actually insanely catchy and addictive! The Digi-fad itself was also addictive. We loved the Digi-Battle trading card game, Digivice V-pet games, and small Digimon toys that we were able to get at the time. And yes, we enjoyed that lousy "Digimon: The Movie" too! It was just a great franchise for kids, especially during it's heyday.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG - For a long time we wanted to play "Sonic" video games but weren't able to until we got PC versions of "Sonic CD" "Sonic 3 and Knuckles" and "Sonic Racing". Before then, our exposure to Sonic The Hedgehog was in three things: "The Adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog" cartoon show, the Saturday morning "Sonic The Hedgehog" cartoon show, and the "Sonic The Hedgehog" comic book series by Archie Comics. These were all very fun and engaging, regardless of the varying quality. And Sonic himself is just a classic cartoon mascot character, with appealing design and personality. Like a cool mix of Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and Mario. Sadly, the blue dude with a 'tude was a product of the 90's but that's when we grew up with him and loved him best.

CARMEN SANDIEGO - This edutainment franchise was a book series, computer game series, board game series, Saturday morning cartoon show, and game show that aired on PBS during the days of our youth. And it was built around the premise of chasing an international criminal organization led by a master thief all over the world, the country, or time, to stop her plans and retrieve what she stole whilst learning about geography and history in the process. Best edutainment franchise EVER!

LOONEY TUNES - I'm sure this is up there with Disney, Pooh, Dr Seuss, and Jim Henson's works as something you'll see early in your life and will always be with you. I think. I know it used to be, and it was for us. Nowadays, the Looney Tunes just can't seem to appeal to today's kids!

ANIMANIACS - The embodiment of cartooniness for us 90's kids. The main "Animaniacs" show and side shows like "Tiny Toon Adventures" and "Pinky And The Brain" were all enjoyable, very funny, cleverly written, brilliantly animated, and just well done. We remember and enjoy them even now.

RUGRATS AND DOUG - The two big Nicktoons of early old Nickelodeon that we watched and loved. You wouldn't think a show about talking babies' misadventures and the life of a preteen dorkadoofus would be all that fun, but they were and still are. Not the best, but really good for what they were.

HEY ARNOLD - The last big Nicktoon to come out in late old Nickelodeon before Spongebob came along. And the only one that was great enough and holds up well enough to be one of my favorite animated shows. The theme song, the mood, the setting, the plots, and the characters will not leave!

SAILOR MOON - The last of the four anime we got into during late childhood. We were aware of it's existence for awhile but dared not watch it due to it being a "girly show." But we kinda got stuck watching it when it was on Cartoon Networks' Toonami block, which was also where "Reboot" and "DragonBall Z" came on. And we were pleased to discover just how much fun it really was. The hilariously clumsy, dorky heroine, the fun and distinct girls who accompanied her, the supporting cast, the awesome bad guys, and the cheesy but enjoyable superhero/super sentai magical girl antics won us over. Like DBZ, the dub (by DIC, which included bad scriptwriting, some bad acting, heavy editing, music change, "the Negaverse", and "Sailor Says") was really lousy, but was cool and fun to watch at the time, and is still a Guilty Pleasure. We grew to love "Sailor Moon" and "Sailor Moon R" due to watching them alot, and then we even checked out the original manga books at our comic store. In the very last year of our childhood, the dub of "S" and "Super S" premiered, the former of which we glossed over but the latter of which became a childhood classic and another Guilty Pleasure for us. We have fond memories of this series, and wish for the best in it's revival.

SCOOBY DOO - Namely the old Scooby Doo cartoons and "A Pup Named Scooby Doo." Probably the biggest Hanna Barbara cartoon around, Scooby Doo is another thing that's part of alot of people's childhood. In fact, that's why it's live action movie was the last thing the Nostalgia Critic reviewed!

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