Cartoons Get No Respect in LA TIMES

There was an article by TV critic Robert Lloyd in last Sunday’s LA TIMES about the upcoming BOONDOCKS animated series on Cartoon Network, and television animation in general. It’s a positive piece, but what was particularly jarring was Lloyd’s condescending (and unfortunately, all too typical) attitude that animation is primarily a children’s medium. The final point he makes in the piece:

Like the comics, cartoons are children’s things made by adults who are not finished with children’s things. The reason the best of them have cross-generational appeal is not that they contain jokes for adults and jokes for children but that everything in them represents that doubleness: The dumbest jokes are there for the adults too, just as the smarter ones are there for the kids who know enough to get them – and for the kids who don’t, they stand for the fact that there are things still to know, that (pace Homer Simpson) there is something to aspire to: Bugs Bunny cool. And in the meantime, like Huey and Riley, you try to think for yourself. That’s what the cartoons tell us.
It’s exasperating that in 2005, after one hundred years of animated films, mainstream critics still can’t wrap it around their thick skulls that just because something is animated doesn’t automatically mean it’s a product intended for children. To this critic, the best cartoons have “cross-generational appeal” as if a piece of animation that didn’t appeal to both children and adults would somehow be deficient. Granted, most of the shows he writes about in the column are cartoons geared specifically towards children, but it’s a gross disservice to animated discourse to lump adult-oriented animation like THE SIMPSONS and “Adult Swim” shows into the same pot as DANNY PHANTOM and THE BUZZ ON MAGGIE, and judge them all on the basis of whether they appeal to both children and adults. If a critic ever said that comics by Crumb, Spiegelman, Ware and Seth are “children’s things made by adults” and something that merely provides “a release for adults,” that critic would be run out of town, but sadly, this misinformed mindset persists about the animated film.