Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Scooby Doo, where were you?

One of the benefits of having a daughter is that I can watch cartoons without being judged for it. She's recently gotten into Scooby Doo, which has impressed me with its longevity. Watching it with her, it struck me how much more sophisticated cartoons have become since I was a kid.

We were watching a DVD of one of the more recent incarnations of the series and the Scooby Gang unmasks the villain in the cold open, just as they've been doing for the past 40 years.

Disgruntled Caretaker: I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you-
Shaggy: meddling kids? Is that what you were going to say? Come on, we've got places to be.

And then they take off to watch KISS perform, which kind of punctures that mood of ironic self-awareness, but that's neither here nor there. (Also, Fred's not wearing his ascot. That just turns my world upside down.)

Also, I was rather amazed to see just how much voice work Frank Welker had done. I knew him as Megatron and the voice of Totoro in the Disney dub, and I noticed that he did Scooby's voice. And Fred's. And then I got to poking around online and saw that he'd done just about every voice ever.

Frank Welker
Frank Welker

Frank Welker

Also Frank Welker

...and you get the picture

Earlier that weekend, we were watching season one of Superman: The Animated Series and Superman knew he was going up against two Kryptionians with the same powers and weaknesses he had.

The villains were also in possession of the Phantom Zone projector. Superman's buddy Professor Hamilton was trying to build their own copy of it, but he lacked a necessary component, a crystal with the same vibrational frequency of the Phantom Zone, which would allow them to lock on to it.

So Superman flies over to the bad guys with a a lead-lined spacesuit and a big chunk of a kryptonite. He incapacitates one of the villains with the kryptonite, but the other sends him, then the kryptonite into the Phantom Zone from a safe distance away and then destroys the projector, apparently trapping Superman in there for good.

We then cut to Dr. Hamilton in the lab. He wasn't able to recover the crystal he needed from the wreckage of the original projector, but they have a backup plan. They knew things might have turned out like they did, so they treated Superman's spacesuit with a tracer isotope, and Hamilton used that to lock on Superman and then retrieves him.

I like that. None of these contingencies are brilliant on their own, but they are reasonably clever and that kind of proactive planning just wasn't found in cartoons of my era. I'm not thrilled with every aspect of this modern world, but this is one that I like.

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