I began to flash back to some of the Saturday morning fare of my own childhood, thinking about shows I’d not focused on for many decades. A suspicion began to grow in my mind. A bit of internet research only confirmed it. And now I must come clean and declare it: I watched and even embraced a whole lot of crappy cartoons in my own childhood. I’m happy to report that my perceptions and standards have changed dramatically since then. I will single out one prime example – a certain animated reptile by the name of Tooter Turtle.
Research informs me that there were actually 43 episodes of the series produced and aired. While that may not seem like an inordinately high number of episodes, it frankly astounds me, for the simple reason that every episode had the same plot arc and precisely the same resolution. It went like this: Tooter beseeches his friend Mr. Wizard to transport him into some other time and/or place, usually one rife with potential for adventure and peril. Sure enough, everything goes horribly wrong for Tooter. At the end, in a moment of seemingly inescapable disaster, Tooter calls out for Mr. Wizard to save him. We suddenly hear the wizard’s incantation, “Drizzle, drazzle, druzzle, drome; time for zis one to come home,” and Tooter goes spinning back into his old life and safety. Mr. Wizard would then offer Tooter this advice: “Be just vut you is, not vut you is not. Folks vut do zis are ze happiest lot.”
This is crappy in so many ways, but I will expound upon some of the main ones. First, it is an abject failure in dramatic terms, since we know we are headed for the same deus ex machina finale every time. Philosophically, we are offered a fistful of crappiness. First of all, most of us in the real world have no Mr. Wizards to pull us back from the brink. Personal actions tend to have (surprise, surprise) personal consequences. Next, we have the final wisdom from Mr. Wizard, which is essentially a message that young people should not dream of a better world, should not dream of bettering their position. I rarely use this phrase, but I have to say that this attitude is downright un-American. One of the basic ideals of this nation is that we have no royal lines of succession; that we may advance as far as talent and hard work will take us. Yes, I’m aware that the reality of America hardly matches this ideal, but Mr. Wizard seems to be saying that if you were born in a log cabin, you should not aspire to be the president; if you are a line worker, you should not aspire to be a business owner. In short, these cartoons are preaching the caste system of another era and society.
That’s enough of beating a dead turtle for now. Maybe next time, I’ll take on the fantastically crappy Felix the Cat cartoons I watched as a child.