He-Man. Transformers. GI Joe. Mask. Batman: The Animated Series. Voltron. X-Men. Robotech. Gargoyles. Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. These are just a few of the incredible kids show I watched while growing up. They were all a huge part of my childhood. I still have fond memories of these shows and the characters. I also know a lot of people loved those shows I just mentioned.
But, even though I love those shows and they will always have a place in my heart, I have to admit: children’s programming seems to be much better now. In fact, I’ll go as far as saying they aren’t just for kids anymore.
Look at just some of the more recent cartoons. You’ve got Avatar: The Last Airbender and it’s sequel, The Legend of Korra. There’s also cartoons like The Amazing World of Gumball, Adventure Time, Regular Show and Phineas and Ferb. I’ll even go mention some live-action television shows like Girl Meets World, which is, at the least, watchable by adult standards.
But while Girl Meets World is an okay show, it’s today’s cartoons I’m impressed with. Not only can they be enjoyed by youngsters, these cartoons are actually entertaining for teens and adults! It’s pretty amazing but today’s cartoons and children’s programs are doing something right. But what?
Well, I think the first thing would be the writing and how the writers actually create stories and scripts with both kids and adults in mind. In order to do that, you have to make the general story and action simple enough for children to understand while putting in enough depth in the plot to attract the adult crowd. This is not easy! But shows like Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra managed to do just that! While children can watch it for the action and fight scenes, adults can be drawn in by the incredibly rich plot and how they tackle certain, more serious, issues throughout the show.
Basically, cartoons and kids shows before were more focused on selling toys rather than telling good stories. They were more of a moneymaking tool than anything else. You saw Optimus Prime, you wanted to get an Optimus Prime toy. You saw the GI Joe, the highly trained special mission force, defending human freedom against, Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world. Afterwards, you just wanted to get as many GI Joe toys and vehicles to reenact those battle scenes you saw in the cartoons!
Cartoons these days don’t really feel like that. I think cartoons today are more on telling a great story that will not only entertain young children but adults as well. They also take a lot more risks than before, as they manage to sneak in more adult topic and even some nostalgic elements in, even aping the nostalgic movies, TV shows and cartoons of yesteryear. I’m assuming kids will find the idea of Mordecai and Rigby carrying an unconscious Benson around funny. But adults will know Regular Show is paying homage and putting its own spin on Weekend at Bernie’s!
However, I do think today’s cartoons owe a lot of their success to the shows that came before it. Shows like Dexter’s Laboratory, Gargoyles, Animaniac and even Ren and Stimpy. These cartoons pushed the boundaries of what could and could not be shown on a television program for kids. But, not only were they entertaining for kids, adults could watch them and not feel like they were being tortured.
I’m betting the kids who watched those cartoons grew up and decided to create and develop the cartoons we get today. They probably drew inspiration from them, which made them instinctively know how to make them both fun for young and older demographics. I applaud them for this. As much as I hate to admit it, these “kids shows” aren’t just for children anymore; they are for all ages.
What’s your take on today’s kid shows? Let me know what they are in the comments section below!