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Do Our Childhood Cartoons Grow Up With Us?

Meg Weisselberg

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I can still vividly remember the moment I found out that Shaggy and Velma from “Scooby Doo,” one of my favorite childhood series, had become an item. Impossible! The characters weren’t supposed to change after I stopped watching. In fact, in my mind, it wasn’t even necessary for the show to continue after I stopped tuning in. After some investigation I found out that other shows – the “Fairly Odd Parents,” “Code Lyoko” and “Teen Titans” – are also still airing on television. The “Winx Club,” a show created after my Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon craze, is a show about a group of friends who protect their magical world against dark forces. Sound familiar? The series is based off of the Winx book series that was popular when I was in elementary school. I thought that a new generation of kids meant an entirely new repertoire of television shows, but clearly I was wrong. Obviously there are new shows being produced for children that we’ve never seen before, but a handful of shows have survived, at least in name, from our generation.

How much have our favorite T.V. shows changed in the past decade? How have the producers changed the characters to make them more appealing to the new kids watching the shows? As it turns out, “Fairly Odd Parents” is almost exactly the same. There is one new character named Poof, Cosmo and Wanda’s fairy baby. This character, however, does nothing to change the dynamic of the original characters.

In an episode from 2003, Cosmo, Wanda, and Timmy were up to their usual shenanigans. Cosmo was hilarious and dumb as a doorknob. Wanda was responsible and her scratchy, pitch-changing voice was slightly annoying. Timmy was naive and funny, with lines like “What’s wrong, mom? Are you picturing my future again?” The episode was funny, entertaining and well-intended.

Looking back, I picked up on some jokes that I missed as a kid. Timmy’s teacher, Mr. Crocker, is lonely, which I had never noticed before, and obsessed with fairies. In one episode, when Mr. Crocker’s hairless cat, Fluffy, jumped on his back and started snuggling with him, he said, “That’s nice, Fluffy. I’m going to change your name to Girlfriend.”

The episode I watched from 2013 was not much different. It was focused slightly more on comedy and entertainment than around a lesson-based story line, but all the characters still rang true. Wanda was still responsible and somewhat annoying. Cosmo was still hilarious and unintelligent; I admittedly even rewound one scene to watch Cosmo make the same comment again. In a modern update to the show’s humor, Cosmo says “Good song. I gotta download that.” Timmy is still enthusiastic and well-intended. Mr. Crocker made a comment about his singlehood just as he did in the 2003 episode. While this new story seemed much more action-packed and dramatic than the lesson-based episodes of our childhood, nothing has changed in terms of the lovable characters and my affection for them.

Unlike the “Fairly Odd Parents,” “Scooby Doo” has changed quite a bit. In our Cartoon Network glory days, “Scooby Doo” was a show about a group of friends solving mysteries together in their colorful hippie van. Now the series has become so much more. The entire dynamic of the show has changed with the introduction of continual, rather than episode-isolated storylines. I was thoroughly confused. There was evil, talking parrot with a scar on his face. He was manipulating the kids to open the doors to dream states with keys controlled by the four elements that they found in past episodes. Relatives of Fred and Velma were involved. Needless to say, it was much more than a simple monster hunt. The characters were drawn slightly differently, with beady eyes and more solid colors with less shading. Even the beloved chase scenes were different; they lacked catchy tunes in the background.

I decided to watch an earlier episode to try to understand the storyline. Somehow I landed after traditional “Scooby Doo,” but prior to continual-story “Scooby Doo,” in a very dramatic episode called “Battle of the Humungonauts.” It started with Scooby accidentally walking in on Shaggy and Velma making out. The episode was hardly about monsters and more focused on the group’s social lives. The kids’ parents were involved, and Velma even mentioned school. It made them seem a little more like high school students. The episode made it seem as if Shaggy was cheating on Scooby with Velma, and throughout the episode Velma and Scooby were trying to make Shaggy choose between them. I found this ridiculous because Shaggy isn’t dating Scooby (Or is he…?), so it’s not like he should have to choose one or the other.

Rather than discussing possible suspects for their case, they were discussing the scandal occurring within their friend group. Velma said, “We need to clean up our emotional mess before we can start acting like a team again.”

In response, Daphne said, “Our family always has a pow-wow when we have problems… for instance, every time mother starts sleeping in the backyard tree house, we hire a doctor or somebody else with authority to help us out! Then we lock her away for a few months!”

“That’s a great idea Daph,” Freddy said.

“O.M.G!” Daphne replied.

In this episode, Fred was extremely positive and in love with everything. Daphne was helpful but slightly oblivious. Velma was witty yet demanding. Scooby, too, was demanding and hurt. Shaggy was confused, and, as always, hungry. These newer episodes make the characters much more multidimensional than when we were kids. While the show still centers around mystery-solving, there are more layers. Though the new season is hard to jump into and understand, it had much more going on than the simple cookie cutter storyline of the past: see a monster, find clues, list suspects and catch the monster.

Like “Scooby Doo,” “Teen Titans” has changed drastically. When I was younger, I only occasionally watched “Teen Titans,” so I went into my “Teen Titans” comparison with little bias. However, after watching an episode from 2003 and an episode from this year, I was annoyed by the changes the show had undergone.

The original version of “Teen Titans” had a perfect balance of action, lessons and humor. The fight scenes were epic and somewhat psychedelic. The viewer learned about friendship and honesty. And finally, the humor, while a bit dry, was well-suited for little kids, and in some places truly funny.

The new version of “Teen Titans,” called “Teen Titans Go!” is different down to the appearance of the characters. Originally, the characters were drawn with great detail, in a similar style to the characters of “Avatar the Last Airbender,” or the original “Scooby Doo.” Now the characters have shrunk in size and lost their details and sense of realism. They look like they’d fit in a “Power Puff Girls” episode, if their eyes were bigger.

The new episode of Teen Titans was much less mature than the old episode. Everyone but Raven acted obnoxious and undisciplined. Perhaps the makers of the show are trying to appeal to a younger audience than they were before, which explains the immature nature of the characters. But I can think of no explanation for the show’s poor life lessons and strange animation. I would not want my kids watching a show that ultimately deters the viewer from reading or participating in social gatherings such as a book club.

Even if these shows have taken a turn for the worse, it is interesting to think that the T.V. shows we once knew and loved are still adored by children years later. While many great T.V. shows are defined by our youth, a few shows, such as “Teen Titans,” “Scooby Doo” and the “Fairly Odd Parents” are classics, not only to our generation, but to the generation after us. Who knows how long these shows will be airing, but it is exciting to know that it was our passion for the shows that gave them enough popularity to still be successful today.

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Do Our Childhood Cartoons Grow Up With Us?