TV Cartoon Explains Politics to Kids

This 1961 episode of Tales of the Wizard of Oz harkens back to a time when animation writers didn’t speak down to kids. It’s a perfect example of children’s TV animation that works on multiple levels, encouraging kids to question their surroundings and understand the realities of the world while entertaining them at the same time.


  • http://www.frankpanucci.com Frank Panucci

    The Tin Man’s voice may be the most soothing in all of animated entertainment

  • http://downindeep13.blogspot.com JerRocks2day

    I wish our voting ballots for the 2012 Presidential election would come to a tie. It would certainly enable me to vote more often. :P

  • Yay_for_Kari

    My favorite episode from this charming series! Great to see it on the Brew :-) Rusty the Tin Man has to be the original Bender.

    • The Gee

      ‘Rusty the Tin Man has to be the original Bender.”

      good call. Now he does seem like a proto-Bender.

  • James Fox

    Kinda blows that this is not on DVD

  • Chris Sobieniak

    I wish writing was this sharp again.

  • Nick

    I’d say it is talking down to kids in terms of art animation and design.

    • The Gee

      early TV budgets are the best excuse for that. They were still figuring out how to make the schedules work.

      Just excuse them for that. That’s where writing saved the day. That would be according to a lot of early producers and writers, of course. But, really…it is still snappier than much of today’s stuff which comes across as heavy handed or just not smartly as coy as they would like. That’s because today’s stuff is clever by a half.And, quite frankly it is only half clever to begin with because it has all been said elsewhere before the animation has been done.

      Good Lord, nowadays in cartoons where will you here the word “Reform”? Nowhere. And, the jokes are mostly funny, too. Again, nothing heavy handed and pointing to particulars that end up dating the piece. That’s a Good Thing.

      • http://drunkduck.com/anecdote Marbles

        One of the reasons The Simpsons is a pale shadow of what it once was is that its attempts at satire these days are exactly as you describe—-heavy handed and not as coy as they think they are. It’s actually very strange to me. That show once had some pretty sharp satire. Nowadays, every time they lampoon current events, political or otherwise, it really does feel like it was written by smart ninth-graders. Smart ninth-graders who are proudly demonstrating their precocioiusness to their parents and teachers, writing stuff that’s good for their age but just really hamfisted and woefully unsubtle for adults. And god—-the way they OVEREXPLAIN all the jokes to death now, as if they’re afraid the audience won’t get them. It’s just so weak. It puzzles me why they choose to write that way, when they’re demonstrably capable of much better.

      • http://mitchellsketch.blogspot.com Brian Mitchell

        Maybe part of the problem with The Simpsons now seems to be apparent in the opening credits….how many ‘producers’ are on that show? Too many hands in the cookine jar!

  • Paul M

    I remember one that had a very blunt anti-commie message, with a little red guy with an eastern European accent speaking gibberish to the masses and getting the oz folks into trouble.

  • eeteed

    amid said:

    “…It’s a perfect example of children’s TV animation that works on multiple levels…”

    back on november 9th, amid said:

    “…a cruddy holiday special produced by Rankin/Bass…”

    and:

    “… just about anything added into a Rankin/Bass cartoon promises to be an improvement over the original…”

    tsk. how are we to reconcile these conflicting statements?

    • amid

      Let me just say I’m glad we have such diligent readers. I hardly remember what I did yesterday, much less what I wrote a couple months ago.

      My (tongue-in-cheek) point in that earlier post was that I didn’t really care if the Rankin/Bass productions were altered with silly additions like Justin Bieber because their output was hardly an artistic accomplishment to begin with. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t produce plenty of cartoons that I enjoy and appreciate, like this one, even if they’re not exactly classics.

      • The Gee

        To me, the funny thing about that comment way back then was that you seemed to be willing to overlook some of the odder aspects of that R/B Santa production.

        If I am not mistaken, there was a subtext to that one. If it couldn’t be considered a subtext then the story of Santa’s beginnings was based on some combination of the Moses story, the Jesus story, with a dash of Superman’s origin and Robin Hood’s story. And, then they added a Merlin-like wizard to pull a Saul to Paul conversion!

        And, the fact that it was made during the Cold War, puts the central location as being modeled after a gloomy, more or less facist/oppressed European country.

        As a kid, you just see everything you were cued to see. It had some VO of kids asking questions of the narrator and a running commentary that seems to lead the audience by the hand. However, those other aspects of the story make it all the more cheesy and somehow slightly substantial. That particular R/B production is somewhat bizarre, and could be considered as slightly subversive.

        And, the animation technique had these silly innovative solutions. Not a lot and not great but somehow it worked for their process.

        I state this not being one of those people who read between the lines of the first run of Scooby Doo episodes. There was hardly a there there with those characters or that show.

  • Murphy

    Most of the young viewers of 1961 would have had no concept of what a political boss was, unless they happened to live in Chicago.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Which probably brings up the argument over why some writers would write things that go over children’s heads for a show certainly aimed at them. I’m of the opinion such limits or constraints should not be placed on the writer if they could get a script out as best as they could without concerns over who they’re writing for. I certainly don’t see it much anymore these days looking back on the shows I watched over the ones made now.

  • swac

    Watched this show daily when I was a kid, loved the voices, and of course that unforgettable theme song (I still know all the words). Even then I knew there was stuff going on I didn’t quite get (like when the Cowardly Lion became a beatnik poet…didn’t really know what a beatnik was, but I figured it out eventually).

    Same goes for Rocky & Bullwinkle. The animation is clearly limited, but the writing and voice work is so superb (and so *funny*) that it doesn’t really matter.