Monday, November 28, 2016

When Cartoons Made My Life: A Tribute To The Golden Age Of 90’s Cartoons (Part -1)

People who know me genuinely are well aware of my fascination and adoration of animated cartoon shows, from the 90s that is. It’s hence rather odd that I have never really explored this love on my blog, a platform where I have shared some of my most intimate stuff. I have mentioned this love in passing, yes, but never really delved deep into the magic and the aura those cartoon shows had in my life.

Again, it’s odd because that phase consists of the most beautiful chapters of my life; chapters that were delightful and enchanting, that were warm and fuzzy. And today, for some inexplicable reason, I yearn to unfold those chapters once more. At this stage in my life, I desperately need a soothing balm of sorts and reliving those magical days here would, perhaps, present me with that.

It all began way, way back. Back when there was no cable television, no internet, no DVDs. Just plain old Doordarshan.

Some of my very first memories of cartoons are the extremely simple ones that aired on Saturday afternoons. Panchatantra comes to mind first.  I have faint memories of this but do remember watching an old sage sitting under a tree and reciting stories of birds and animals to a group of children with a moral message at the end. It was very pure and simple and yet quite pleasing.

Then there was Spider-Man. Oh yes, Spider-Man. As a young kid of about 5 years, it was quite captivating to watch a man in a red suit crawl up the walls, jump from buildings and shoot webs out of his hands.

Then came He-Man. Oh boy! That one had a massive impact on me. “I have the power!” became the catchphrase of my life then and holding my plastic cricket bat, I would go around the house repeating the phrase with a lot of passion. The fact that He-Man was so muscular made him my instant hero those days.

There were some other cartoons too here. There was a show about a scientist with a big flying cycle or something and one about a young boy’s adventures in a jungle. I don’t remember their names but did enjoy them.

I never paid much attention to the storylines then, not in details anyway. But the visuals were certainly quite attractive. I loved the simple drawings and vivid colors of the animation. And perhaps it was because of this, that I developed a taste and love for drawing – mostly cartoon characters (included a lot of He-Man) – at this time; a hobby which served me well for years to follow.

Those initial cartoon days, as it turned out, were just a prelude of things to come. Some very awesome, awesome things.

When I was about the age of 8, cable TV was still at its nascent stage and Doordarshan was thriving on an assortment of cartoon shows that kids simply adored. This was actually just about the time when, what I love to call as, the ‘Golden Age’ of cartoon shows was beginning. Any Indian kid who grew up in this phase would agree, I think. This phase produced so many marvelous gems that I was spoilt for choice.

It was in this phase that the Sunday morning of 90s kids got a special essence. Sundays weren’t just holidays back then. They were an event in themselves.

The dawn of magnificent cartoon shows like ‘The Jungle Book, ‘Duck Tales’, ‘Tale Spin’, ‘Mickey Mouse’ and ‘Tom and Jerry’, all back-to-back, meant that countless of children across the country would sit glued to their television sets every Sunday morning.
I remember sitting on the floor of my house and quietly munching on a plate of ‘poha’ or ‘upma’ while not being able to take my eyes off what would be transpiring on TV. The beautiful animation and the quirky stories had the ability to draw me into their world of fantasy while pulling me away from my world of reality. It was incredibly enthralling.

I distinctly remember the excitement of getting up each Sunday morning and then waiting for the ‘cartoon hour’ to begin. That was just pure, unadulterated and wholesome entertainment and all the kids of the house (along with a few adults as well) would congregate in front of the TV at my room and relish those couple of hours. There were times when a particular episode would be left at a cliffhanger and I would then restlessly wait for it through the week. Also, Saturday nights then would be the best then. The wait for the ‘cartoon hour’ in the following morning as I would lie in bed at night was a wonderful feeling.

There would also be animated discussions galore with cousins at home and then with friends at school about the episodes watched. We would intricately dissect which show was better than the other, what was good about it, and which characters left an impression for precisely what reason. Those were fascinating discussions, I tell you. And I never tired of them.

Things, however, were about to get much better.

The mid-90s in India saw the birth of something which revolutionized cartoon viewing forever.

With the coming of Cartoon Network, things took a monumental turn. The channel introduced me to such an amazing plethora of animated shows that, to put it simply, I felt like I had been given the keys to the doors of heaven. Prior to this, what I got was two, at best four, hours of cartoons. But the Cartoon Network became a gateway to unabated, high-quality cartoon shows that unlocked a new and glorious chapter in my life.

I remember when I had first discovered the channel. Unlike today, there weren’t any big promotional events those days and Cartoon Network had sprung on me quite of the blue. If my memory serves me correct, the channel first aired for a few hours every day from 5 PM onwards or something, before progressing into a full-fledged, 24-hour channel.

It was an unbelievable time for a cartoon-loving kid. I was introduced to such marvelous cartoons like The Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo, The Flintstones, The Batman, Yogi Bear, Richie Rich, Dexter’s Laboratory, Swat Kats, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Johnny Bravo, Captain Planet, Popeye, among a host of other absolute veritable treasure troves. Ah, those were good days! No, those were incredible days!

Within no time, Cartoon Network, along with a few other cartoon shows from different channels, had enveloped my life.  I looked forward each day to coming home from school, plonking myself in front of the TV and getting immersed in the world of cartoons. The gorgeous animation, the superlative stories, the catchy background scores, and the brilliant characters had me in their grip completely. My cartoon-watching time was limited to about 8 PM, though, after which my father would come home from work and take over the television for news and I would be forced to tend to my homework. But even then, I would manage to catch a few minutes of those cartoons at every opportunity I got.

Then, there would be those half-days and vacation days where I got to completely dedicate myself to my cartoon world (except during exam time, of course. Darn those exams!). I can tell you, with a lot of confidence, that there are very few things in my life which has given me as much pleasure as the sheer joy of watching my favourite cartoon shows those days, uninterrupted, all through the day, and in the dark.

A special mention must be made here for Durga Puja and winter vacations. During that period, these two holiday seasons somehow gave me the very best time of my cartoon-loving days.

During every Durga Puja in those days, my cousin uncle’s family (we lived in a joint family) would be off for their vacations. This would give me about a fortnight of unhindered cartoon-watching in their room, in front of their TV set, all through the day. I would get up in the morning, go to their room and then proceed to watch cartoon shows all day long. Even as my city would celebrate Durga Puja, with the sound of Rabindrasangeet and the twinkle of decorative lights streaming in from the window nearby, I would sit quietly in front of the television and soak in the world of the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, and much more.

The winters provided their own charm for my cartoon love. Snuggling in to warm blankets and watching Tom and Jerry marathons, ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ reruns, and other Christmas specials of The Looney Tunes, Yogi Bear, et al, through the week was incredibly delightful. I would curl up all day long and watch these in the dark, feeling very warm and fuzzy.

Time flew by and I grew up. But my love for cartoons never quite diminished. I still found time for them even while I was in the 9th and 10th standards. Dexter’s Laboratory, Courage the Cowardly Dog, The Gummi Bears and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles  were the ones that made life pretty pleasant in this period, especially amidst falling grades and the pressure of exams.

Slowly, though, some of the classic cartoon shows began making way for the newer, modern-age cartoons. And try as I might, I simply could not connect to them. The focus seemed to be more on extreme wackiness rather than great storytelling and beautiful graphics. As I passed out from school then, it seemed that I had also left a part of my Golden Age behind.

Added to this was the fact that I was now getting into the age where other, superficial things of the world mean a great deal to me. Television and cartoon shows slowly took a backseat then.

But soon enough, though, I developed a great taste for animated movies. In the past few years, I have watched and thoroughly enjoyed countless animated films. But even though I continue watching them from time to time today, I feel they lack the same charm and appeal of those cartoon shows.

And now, at this stage of my life, I somehow long for the days of my past. Those endearing cartoon shows, which played the most prominent part in making my childhood so beautiful, are being dearly missed. Hence, I have been getting hold of almost all my favourite cartoon shows these days and am really relishing rewatching them.

It's a relief, I must admit. By reconnecting to the simplicity and purity of that era through these cartoon shows, I feel a lot of the gloom that has built up in me these past few years is being slowly siphoned off. They also help tingle the child in me and have forced me to take repeated trips down my Golden Age of cartoons once again.

In the following parts (I have planned for two more, but it can extend to three), hence, I will be discussing, at length, all the cartoon shows that left an impact on me from that era: what I loved about them in particular, what set them apart, their takeaways, and the likes.

I am quite excited about this, really. To be honest, it is after quite some time a spark has been triggered in me about something. Perhaps if I fuel that little spark properly, it will help me bring out the fire that has been missing inside. But I digress…

I now look forward to savouring my favourite old cartoon shows take a dip down memory lane and present my detailed take on them. It will be a fun ride, I think. And now that winter is setting in, I am going to enjoy this even more. You see, it’s been a long time since I snuggled in to warm blankets, curled up in the dark and soaked in the world of cartoons. Perhaps I will evoke that warm and fuzzy feeling all over again. Perhaps I will also get a whiff of that part of my life…That part when cartoons made my life…

To be concluded...

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