If you choose to read this, you can decide whether I’m talking rubbish yet again. Inside all of us there is a semblance of the Peter Pan syndrome, a little corner that harks back to childhood – mine is elephantine. My grandchildren, in their 30s, give me Shrek, Valiant, and other cartoon DVDs for anniversary presents. Joseph Barbera , of Tom and Jerry fame, died recently aged 95. His death drew my attention to how cartoons have advanced from the jerky days of Felix, through Popeye, the Barbera reign, so now all is wham and bang and hell take the consequences.
Since the dawn of time humans have been making up simple, almost childish, stories and folklore to entertain themselves and their children. Christmas used to be time for a regular treat to visit the pantomime, where outrageous stories were enacted by ridiculous actors. Those stories and the stories read to children at bedtime were silly, simple and entertaining. They didn’t contain sharp dialogue or philosophical content, rather they conjured up an entirely new vista, peopled with strange, bizarre heroic or devious people or animals in people form. In the old Tom and Jerry cartoons, assuming one ignores the animals are bipeds and have human attributes, the story held together; nine times out of 10 we had an inkling where the mayhem was leading – the coloured lady always jumped on a stool at the sight of Tom, and fell off, and so on, but it was all logical. Now if a character jumps, he leaps so far, the jump becomes a flight, with no reason how this has been accomplished, rather like the totally absurd actions of Martial Arts Films, which are equally illogical. I believe it is a soft option of the script writers, to get the characters out of trouble without complication, more detail and less cost to themselves.
The American film industry has adopted fast cross-cutting,- shooting from one scene to another, when the first scene has not been fully played out, and the viewer is required to mentally filling the gap. Any lack of concentration by the viewer, or to miss some vital section of footage, and the logic of the story is ruined. This has moved now to cartoons, where the action is at lightning speed, but the detail, the storyline and the drawing quality is sacrificed to a soft solution and saving in cost. Compare Shrek, Valiant, Wallace and Grommet, with the Ice Age cartoon, the difference is incredible – the action and the stories are so at variance. In Ice Age the dialogue is repetitive, sophisticated, over the heads of the average child, and contributes boredom rather than interest, in my view – even as an adult.
Fairy stories are not just for the child, they are the world in which people’s imagination can be stirred, their mind is distracted from their everyday world, and perhaps the child in them still wants to climb the been stalk. Let’s keep it that way, and forget progress for progress’s sake