The Evolution of Cartoons

Tivan George, News writer


Fantasmagorie, a french animated film by Émile Cohl, made in 1908, is the first animation/cartoon in history. From this point, cartoons have changed and evolved to suit new trends. However, as cartoon channels started to evolve according to the trends of younger children, they started to diminish in popularity.

Cartoons are what children, and even adults, look forward to after a long day of playing, working, or studying. They are entertaining to watch and sometimes teach life lessons. Cartoons like Popeye the Sailorman or Tom and Jerry were based off of slapstick comedy, a type of comedy using exaggerated physical movements and violence. This was when cartoons were just for entertainment with no hidden purpose or message, back in the 20th century.

Tom and Jerry used to be a show where Tom, a cat, chases Jerry, a mouse, and always gets hurt trying to catch him. But with the introduction of animated movies like “Tom and Jerry: Blast off to Mars” or “Tom and Jerry: Shiver me Whiskers” a deeper story emerged, where Tom and Jerry ultimately work together to save something or someone or had to survive.

In the 1950’s and 60’s, cartoons were presented on black and white televisions, and visual clarity and effects didn’t matter like they do in present times. Viewers focused on the music and sound effects of cartoons, so editors placed a lot of focus on sound developing the plot and they wanted each character to have their own personality.

Cartoons that only existed for a short period of time like  Popeye the Sailorman had little time to evolve or adapt to new interests or trends, so typically appeals to older audiences who grew up in the time period of the 1960’s where Popeye was first made.

When color was introduced, more effort was put into the frames themselves, but the effort needed to create a story still stayed the same.

In 1998, the Powerpuff Girls were about defeating the bad guys and using kindness and friendship to overcome all difficulties. But later, it started to have a deeper story, about making friends and interacting with them.

In 2008, one cartoon I particularly remember is Scooby Doo, a show where a team consisting of five members, four people and Scooby Doo, solve mysteries. Each mystery showed the strengths of each member and had complex storylines and problems. Some mysteries took more than one episode and each episode was engaging.

The new Scooby Doo, starting in 2010, was accompanied with improved visual technology and increased visual effects, but sacrificed some of the plot. Most episodes would have mysteries, but some episode had partial mysteries or specific life stories, and they were all unfulfilling. The plots were predictable and there was no mystery left.

Cartoons usually target younger audiences below 13-14 years old (excluding adult cartoons like Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy, or South Park) and they will always change based on the interests of the age groups. This might peak interests of the target audience, but older viewers who grew up with the originals may complain because of several differences that might ruin the show, an example is Cartoon Network’s situation.

The main reason Cartoon Network, and channels of the like,  diminished in popularity was because of the cancellations of classic cartoons. In Cartoon Network’s case, soon after Jim Samples, the President of CN, retired on Feb. 7, 2007, Stuart Snyder took over and started to take out many quality programs. Programs like Symbionic Titan and Samurai Jack started to get canceled. However the fact that the final season of Samurai Jack came back on Mar. 11, 2017.   should be noted.

Since these quality shows got replaced by half-finished shows like MAD or The Problem Solverz, cartoon channels like Cartoon Network have diminished in popularity and only have two options to get back up. Either replace these half-finished shows with new shows with quality content, or to bring back the classics.

Because cartoon channels tried too hard to make new shows instead of trying to finish the stories of the old classics, they fell and have left certain viewers to move onto other sources of entertainment or to re-watch the classics all over again.