We live in a far different world than the one in which I spent my childhood. Kids in the neighborhood felt safe playing outdoors for hours and begged their parents for sleep-overs. I was born in 1975. There were no personal computers, no laptops, no Ipads, or smart phones. In fact, there were only a few channels on television, and these channels signed off every night, so 24/7 television was only possible in the distant future. This was a time when Atari was king, but did not take up monstrous amounts of hours video gamers spend today. The world felt larger, but human connection made our world ours, smaller, but ours still.
What I remember most fondly is waking up at the crack of dawn, before my parents rose, grabbing a bowl of some sugary cereal and parking myself on the couch to watch hours of cartoons. Saturday was the greatest day to a kid back then. Don’t get me wrong. I love technology. I have seen it grow from black-screen ms-dos to what it is today, and i use it every day. This technology does make things easier, and allows people to stay in touch, but the downside is that many kids are missing out on not only the folly of youth,imagination and wonder, but also the simple things in life.
I think it is a travesty that kids today can’t wake up on Saturday mornings and watch Elmer Fudd chase Bugs Bunny while Daffy Duck fails in his attempts to help Fudd and thwart Bugs. Looney Tunes were not only laugh out loud hilarious (to adults and kids alike) but these cartoons introduced children to art, opera, literature, and morals.Chuck Jones was one of the greatest animators ever, and inspired many to draw and lose ourselves in magical places.
For example, the cartoon short, “What’s Opera, Doc?” is a spot on satire of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, ballet, Disney’s Fantasia, and the feud between Bugs and Fudd. In fact, in 1992 this cartoon was selected by the National Film Registry for preservation. When I went to College, I took a class in Norse mythology, and when we got to Wagner’s Der Ring das Nibelungen, I was already familiar with the story because of Looney Tunes. The show was high-brow enough for adults and zany enough for kids.Another great example of high culture via opera in a Looney Tunes cartoon was “The Rabbit of Seville. This cartoon hits it out of the park in the very first scene. It is a laugh out loud zany parody of “The Barber of Seville”, and is my absolute favorite.
Looney Tunes were phased out of rotation by 1986, but returned on TNT Network from 1992 until 2004. However, many of the originals were edited to make them more “pc” and kid friendly. For instance, there are several episodes involving Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and Daffy Duck where Bugs tricks Fudd into shooting Daffy in the face several times. It was pointless editing, considering to what today’s kids are exposed. When did we start taking things so literally and seriously? Looney Tunes are part of American History, and denying children the ability to watch isn’t responsible. I realize that the cartoons made during WWII, portrayed our enemies in a stereotypical (overly stereotypical) light, but that is how this country was then. It is very important in this day and age that we don’t ignore our history, no matter what. Editing these cartoons and keeping them locked away kills a slice of Americana. These cartoon should not be looked at as offensive, but as a measure of how far we have come.What’s Opera Doc? Clip