Tag Archives: Cartoon Network

How “Fringe” can Hint to the Future of “Steven Universe”

Two shows. One is a live-action, cult hit, drama-oriented show starring three protagonists and their adventures into the slightly strange along with the occasional drug trip. The second is an ongoing, animated show starring a boy, his three alien mentors, and their adventures in the fantastical along with the occasional song. These two shows, Fringe and Steven Universe, are so different from each other that making parallels or comparisons between the two would be difficult if not nonsensical.

Yet both of them have a strong focus on parenting and in particular, Fringe deals with fatherhood while Steven Universe concentrations on motherhood. I want to dive in to how both of these shows deal with their respective parent and discuss if the now ended Fringe can tell us the future of the still ongoing Steven Universe.

Let’s start with Fringe. Fringe’s attitude and theme towards fatherhood is at first quite subtle. Our main source is Peter and his dad Walter who are two of the three main protagonists of the show. Season One focused greatly on Peter and Walter amending their very rocky relationship which culminated to Peter finding a newfound love and respect for Walter. As the series progressed, new fatherly relationships are expanded on such as Astrid Figglesworth’s uneasy relationship with her dad and Olivia being abused by her step-father when she was a child. The big kicker though comes in the reveal that Peter is from an alternate universe and Walter kidnapped him when he was a child when his Peter died. This catalyzed most of the series’ events including one of the show’s main antagonists, Walternate, or the Walter from the alternate universe, and his quest to get his son back. Super trippy and balls awesome, yes, but it does highlight the lengths both Walters had to go through in order to save their son. Fatherhood was ratcheted up a notch in the final season (and this was when my roommate and I noticed its prevalence) when Peter went to great lengths to avenge his daughter’s death and September was willing to sacrifice his life for his son Michael. It was also the season where Walter sacrificed his life for his son Peter in a very bittersweet ending. This article does a great job summarizing Peter and Water’s relationship and I highly suggest you read it if you are a Fringe fan.

Steven Universe’s themes of motherhood are starkly more apparent than Fringe’s initial dip into fatherhood. First off, Steven basically has three moms and a dad that we only see every four episodes or so. Steven’s own mom also gave up her existence to bare her child and to symbolize her love for Steven’s dad, Greg. Season 2 has also been giving us a lot of great mom episodes involving Connie’s mom, Sadie’s mom, and, of all people, Onion’s mom. Already, we have seen themes of nurturing (Onion’s mom), protection (Connie’s mom), and encouragement (Sadie’s mom) that make up a big part of motherhood. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get more mom episodes in the future from other supporting characters along with a more detailed look at Steven’s mom, Rose Quartz, and her love for Greg.

Okay, so is there a connection between these two, vastly different shows’ approach towards parenthood? Well, there is but both of them handle it differently.   Boiling down plot elements to their purest form, we see a strong sense of sacrifice from both mothers and fathers. As mentioned before, the fathers in Fringe go to great lengths to avenge, protect, or preserve their offspring from harm no matter what the costs. In Steven Universe, Rose Quartz sacrificed her life to bare Steven while the Crystal Gems defend and protect Steven even if they are harmed during the process.

Now granted, Steven Universe is still an ongoing and continuously evolving show so we have yet to witness the full potential of it. This idea of sacrifice may play out more or there may be other themes of motherhood that would be touched on instead (like the aforementioned nurturing, encouragement, and protection). Nonetheless, Fringe could give us a clue into the future of Steven Universe, a future where things aren’t as rosy as they currently are.

As situations will likely become dire, we should expect the characters on Steven Universe to make tough decisions that would ultimately change the current standing of the show. This show is not afraid to challenge familiar tropes and the status quo. Other Cartoon Network shows, mainly Adventure Time and somewhat Regular Show, have done the same thing to their setting and characters and it’s not surprising that Steven Universe is already doing it despite its still young lifespan. Likewise, Fringe is similar in to Steven Universe due to its plot setup, its embracement of the untypical trope situations, and how every season is unique due to dire changes that happened at the end of the previous season. What I’m saying is that Steven Universe is changing and will continue to surprise us in ways we won’t expect, the days of status quo continuity, as seen in Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Ed, Edd, and Eddy, are long and forgotten.

First off, if we were to be directly inspired by Fringe, there might be a global invasion of Homeworld Gems. If the Cluster, whatever that is, does not work out. Yellow Diamond may take it upon herself to call a massive invasion onto Earth, and establish a matriarchy on the planet. Steven’s home could be destroyed, his city would be forced into curfew, and Homeworld Soldiers would patrol the streets looking for him and the Crystal Gems. This happened in the final season of Fringe when the Observers took over the protagonists’ universe and basically established a fascist patriarchy. This comparison between the Observers and the Homeworld Gems is not farfetched as they are characterized by their mysterious nature, their power, and their preference towards one particular gender. Both forces were hinted at since near the beginning of their respective shows and we’re only given teases and glimpses into their world as their series continued. And now, it will only be a matter of time before the Homeworld Gems make their true, and world-shattering entrance.

As fan theories go, this one is kind of out there so if you were looking for something easier to swallow I present you with this. Fringe’s final season was intense with emotion, action, and payoff. Steven Universe will likely emulate this on both the positive and negative notes. If sacrifice does come into play in the show’s final moments, we will likely see some of our favorite characters pass away (and not just reborn) for the protection and preservation of Steven.

While Fatherhood, both in Fringe and in general, may be categorized by bravery, morality, and wisdom and Motherhood may be categorized by the aforementioned nurturing, protection, and encouragement, both are ultimately link in self-sacrifice. What lengths would any good Father or Mother go to in order to preserve their child? Fringe knows this and embraces this. Steven Universe will likely go the same path. Pearl loves Rose Quartz and her child Steven. Pearl has sacrificed herself so many times in order to protect Rose. Whose to say that she won’t do it again but this time, end her life permanently by doing so? What effect will this have on Steven’s psyche when that time comes?

Perhaps Steven will become hardened by his loss and take on the role of both a father and a mother figure to the rest of his family and friends. We saw a glimpse of this in the premiere of season 2 when he tried to shut Connie away from his troubles. He wants to protect those he love. If a true tragic loss were to occur, he may go more extreme than this and take on a role similar to Peter when his daughter died in the final Fringe season. If that were to occur, he’ll need Connie, similar to Peter’s significant other Olivia, to pull him back and embrace his true humanity, once again.

2014 was Definitely Year of the Rigby

Cartoon Network’s Regular Show is full of hilarious characters that keep the show fresh and fun for every episode. These characters have well defined personalities that are, for the most part, grounded and are immutable from episode to episode. We expect Pops to act as the cheery old man, Muscle Man to prank and love Starla endlessly, and Skips to come up with a reliable solution.

Likewise, Mordecai and Rigby’s personalities were set in stone until 2014 rolled around. For this year, something special happened to them that changed both of them as how we perceive them as characters.

In the episode “New Year’s Kiss,” which premiered on December 31st, 2013, Mordecai’s accidental kiss to CJ culminated to the end-of-the-year disastrous episode “Merry Christmas Mordecai.” In that same episode, Rigby made a promise that 2014 was going to be the “Year of the Rigby.”

Mordecai, Regular Show

Pretty much sums up his entire year. Image from http://imgur.com/Q0gdrm2

To sum it up, yeah! He was right! Rigby was pretty ballin’ in 2014!

For a show such as…er…Regular Show…I was highly surprised, but happy, that Rigby of all characters grew while still retaining his personal identity.

For instance, during the uncomfortable Mordecai and CJ pre-dating episodes, Rigby was the voice of reason for Mordecai. He gave him solid advice to follow mainly that he needed to stop pulling a Mordecai and get over his awkward feelings with CJ! This was most prevalent in the episode “I Like You Hi.” Rigby’s role as a close friend wanting to help Mordecai out seemed natural as well as the information he gave him.

Rigby also matured during his respective year as he became more reliable. He began to take selfless actions to save the people around him at the cost of either his time or sometimes the threat of his life. His new selfless attitude made me realize how much of a dick Mordecai was when he didn’t trust Rigby to do work without him.

In fact, since the beginning of Regular Show, Rigby seemed to be the one that would do work only if Mordecai was doing it as well. He was the hardest to convince to stop being a slacker. Mordecai would many times tell him to do his job and stop being lazy.

Rigby’s slacker attitude finally came back to haunt him in “Lift with Your Back” when he realized nobody could trust him to do an honest day’s work. Understandably angry, his decision to quit the park and work at the moving company was reasonable. His determination to work hard and get that paycheck was both hilarious and tear-inducing (yes, you heard me! TEAR INDUCING). That paycheck he earned was a symbol to his tenacity.

This is still one of the best episodes that premiered this season. Image from http://www.bubbleblabber.com/review-regular-show-lift-with-your-back/

But what caused all of this? What caused Rigby to be selfless and reliable?

The theory that I hear being toss about is that because Mordecai hung out with CJ so much during the year it forced Rigby to find someone else to hang out as well. In this case, he found solitude in Eileen of all characters. Eileen! Rigby didn’t even like Eileen in the beginning of the Show! Sure, over time, his feelings for her have grown to toleration and then to amicable at best but there was never any sort of drive for him to get to know her more.

I think through Eileen’s constant support, such as “Tants” or “One Pull Up,” Rigby found someone who was willing to go the extra mile for him without looking any favors. He grew to like Eileen and as such, when Mordecai started dating CJ more often, he went to her to shoot the breeze. As such, through constant exposure of Eileen’s moral and responsible attitude, Rigby became more mature. She’s a good influence on him.

Good influence or not it would be mean to say that the only reason why Rigby changed was because of Eileen. It wouldn’t do him justice. As much as I like this theory I think it’s more than that. Remember, Rigby was giving Mordecai solid relationship advice that Mordecai would not follow up with. All this happened before he started hanging out with Eileen. He was already becoming a better person without anyone driving him to become one. I believe it was Rigby who wanted to become a better person because that’s what he wanted.

Year of the Rigby will be missed but I know it is not the end of Rigby’s growth. He has grown, admittedly slowly, throughout the course of the show and it really showed during 2014. I’m excited to see what’s in store for Rigby this year and how he’ll be able to flex his responsible muscles. And who knows, maybe this time Rigby will teach Eileen something. Now wouldn’t that be crazy.

My Feelings on Over the Garden Wall (Spoilers)

“Harrowing,” “disconcerting,” “incredible.”  These are just a few of the words that I have heard or read other people describe Cartoon Network’s first animated miniseries “Over the Garden Wall.”  The series, with just 10 episodes and only 11 minutes each, is about a teenager, Wirt, his younger brother, Greg, and a bluebird, Beatrice, and their journey through a large forest called The Unknown.  Each episode is mostly self-contained but they together connect to form a more complete narrative.

The miniseries had almost missed me due to its low key advertising.  Going into it, all I knew was that Elijah Wood was voicing one of the characters and that’s basically it.  Along with a few short clips for the trailer, it also came with the tagline that it was a five night mystery.  They played their cards right because I was not expecting any of the stuff they threw at me.

To be blunt, it’s a standard coming-of-age storyline that is similar to Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and Grimm Fairy Tales but with a modern twist.  The heroes of our story go on strange adventures where they meet equally as strange characters such as an old man (voiced by John Cleese) scared of his mansion’s ghost, villagers celebrating the harvest festival by wearing pumpkin outfits, a girl and her creepy creepy creepy aunt (voiced by Tim Curry), and more.  These strange ministories are so delightfully charming that you can’t help but watch the next episode to see what else they’ll fine.

Speaking of Alice and Wonderland, is anyone reminded of the Duchess??? Image from http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/tv_shows/over-the-garden-wall/video/lornas-chores-clip.html

The characters’ interactions with each other are the definite highlight of the show.  Wirt’s worrywart personality clashes with Greg’s wide-eyed, highly curious and overly optimistic nature.  Beatrice tries to constantly overrule Wirt and force him to do things her way and she also gets annoyed at Greg for doing things she is totally against.    Melanie Lynskey does an amazing job voicing her.

Wirt is probably the most interesting character of the three because he’s one of the best examples of an unreliable narrator I have ever seen.  I know he’s not the narrator of the story but when he describes his backstory and his interpretation of events you initially believe him because why not?  There’s little to assume that he would directly lie to the viewer.  But once you see the actual events then everything seems to click on what kind of character Wirt is.  What I like about Wirt and Beatrice is that once the series ends they have grown as characters but they have not outright lost their original identity.  They are still who they are but with a more mature outlook on life.

But let me get to my overall feelings for this show.

This post is almost exactly how I felt about the show.

This show reminded me of something yet I couldn’t figure it out.  It was so close yet so far.  A piece here, a piece there, so many things triggered this upwelling sense of Nostalgia.  It reminded me simultaneously of old Disney cartoons like the Old Mill (which debuted on November 5th) and especially of Ichabod Crane.  Even before the penultimate episode reveal it especially reminded me of Autumn.  And how appropriate given it premiered between November 3rd to November 7th.  Even the soundtrack itself has a factor of nostalgia to it that you can’t quite place.  The music is so charming that you can’t help but be moved by it.  Some of the sillier songs have this quirk to them that you can’t help but like.

The song that took me off guard was Over the Garden Wall which was sung during the frog boat episode.  This was episode 6 of the series and by then, I had already felt the marriage of uneasiness and nostalgia that was creeping on me.  But once this song came on, I was figuratively hit by a thousand bricks.  It dawned on me by then that this miniseries was something special that transcended other cartoon shows.  I now almost regret writing my Cartoon Network Renaissance article as I could have included this show with it.

I have to talk about the last episode.  I’ll have to spoil it but I encourage you to watch it yourself on iTunes before you read any more of my article.  Anyways, by the time the last episode had premiered I was ready for it.  What started off as a seemingly innocuous series had slowly broke down my critical exterior into showing me the wonder of the mysterious and haunting.  And now, finally, Wirt has grown as a person.  He has grown to accept Greg as his actual brother and care for him like he should.  He has confronted the Beast and come out better in the end.

The real show stealer though was the Woodsman voiced by Christopher Lloyd.   He was one of the few reoccurring characters in the series.  The show played me like a fiddle as I went to and fro of whether I should trust him or not.  However, his battle with the Beast was definitely a critical moment in the series.  The creators had pulled the rug from us.  It was neither Beatrice, nor Greg, nor even Wirt who defeated the Beast but the Woodsman himself.  When he snuffed the Beast’s life, it rang a bittersweet moment.

But the final ending, of Wirt and Greg’s rescue, of Wirt’s now newly founded confidence, and so forth had sealed the deal for me.  It was so moving that I could not help but cry as I saw each of the ending scenes reveal themselves to the enraptured viewer.  I still get a little emotional just thinking about it.

I hope Over the Garden Wall returns next year, and the year after that, and so forth.  This has to be an Autumn tradition.  Where a lot of our favorite seasonal cartoon specials would come by, do their merry dance of Autumn delight and disappear, waiting to reappear again the following year.

“Nostalgic,” “moving,” “Autumn.”  Those are the words that I think describes Over the Garden Wall perfectly.

 

The Cartoon Network Renaissance

Up until about two years ago, I wasn’t watching Cartoon Network.  I mean, besides from Adult Swim, I had no interest in their daytime programs.

This changed over the 2012 summer when I was barraged with Cartoon Network’s 25th anniversary ads at San Diego Comic Con.  My girlfriend had also forced me to watch Adventure Time during this period.

Though I found Adventure Time appealing it was Regular Show that reeled me back into Cartoon Network.

Original_Cartoon_Network_logo.svg_

There was a period during Cartoon Network’s history that many people refer as the “Golden Age of Cartoon Network.”  Though when these years started and ended can vary from person to person, the Cartoon Network wiki puts this age from 1996 (when Dexter’s Lab premiered) to 2004 (when the live action hosts replaced the cartoon hosts on Cartoon Cartoon Fridays and when Samurai Jack ended).  Many of Cartoon Network’s most famous shows premiered during this timeframe including Powerpuff Girls, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and Ed, Edd n Eddy.

Cartoon Cartoon Fridays was living it large as it took Friday nights and celebrated them.  This was not like your Saturday morning cartoons, no, these cartoons interacted with each other and hosted segments!  Toonami was at its peak during this time and I dare say it was one of the main reasons why a young generation of American kids got into anime.  That’s how good it was.

But times change.

As the years progressed, shows were syndicated and canceled, blocks were moved around or disappeared altogether, and live action shows became more and more common for CN.  Many people refer to this era (including the wiki) as the “Dark Ages.”  Many fan articles and videos are filled with hatred and disgust while discussing this era of Cartoon Network.

Image from http://themetapicture.com/r-i-p-cartoon-network/. It's very easy to find internet art despising new Cartoon Network.  This image made me laugh because what are Hannah Barbara cartoons doing there?  It's so funny it has to be a parody of the fan hate.

Image from http://themetapicture.com/r-i-p-cartoon-network/.
It’s very easy to find internet art despising new Cartoon Network. This image made me laugh because what are Hannah Barbara cartoons doing there? It’s so funny that it has to be a parody of the fan hate.

But what about now?

On April 5th, 2010, Adventure Time premiered on Cartoon Network after first becoming a viral hit on Nickelodeon’s “Random! Cartoons.”  Later that year, Regular Show premiered on September 6th, 2010.

As I said before, I didn’t watch Cartoon Network until about two years ago.  By then, these two shows had developed a dedicated fan base (especially for Adventure Time).  Memes and jokes from these shows circulated the internet like a slow moving turtle.  By the time I sat down and watched them they had already become CN’s most popular shows.

Why?  Why do these two shows work?

The first thing that comes to my mind is that they are not annoying nor do they talk down to the audience.  The second thing is that they are original and feel fresh.  You could argue that Adventure Time’s motif of simple randomness has been done countless times before but I think not.  Behind Adventure Time’s random nature are deep storylines that connect loosely from episode to episode.  Actions have meaning behind them.  Actions have consequences.  We see both of these aspects as the series progress.

Regular Show though is on the opposite side of this spectrum.  While Adventure Time relies on child-like logic in a fantastical world, Regular Show relies on adult (albeit slacker)-like logic in a seemingly normal world.  Never have I seen a general audience cartoon hit on so many real world issues in a believable character setting (this is most true for the romantic episodes, especially in “I Like You Hi”).

Because of these two shows approach to hit a wide as audience as possible, Cartoon Network has seen an unbelievable success with them with both shows averaging between 2 to 3 million views an episode.  The success of these two shows brought with them four other moderately successful shows; The Amazing World of Gumball, Uncle Grandpa, Steven Universe, and Clarence.  All six of these shows (with the exception of Steven Universe which has yet to finish airing season 1) have been nominated or won various animated awards including the Emmys.

All six of these shows (with others on the side) remind me of the “Golden Age of Cartoon Network.”  Not only are they creative and well animated but they are diverse as well.  There’s a show that can appeal to anyone whether you like fantastical adventures, pop culture references, spontaneity humor, or well developed characters.  These are cartoons that anyone can seriously enjoy.

Sure, Cartoon Cartoon Fridays may be gone and all our old favorites may be on another channel but I say the “Dark Ages” are gone.  Cartoon Network is experiencing its own Renaissance right now.  And though you could view this as just a slight improvement where it once was several years ago, I say otherwise.  It’s a good time to be watching cartoons on Cartoon Network.

And hey, “Toonami is back bitches.”

Image from http://xeternalflamebryx.deviantart.com/art/Cartoon-Network-Never-One-Moment-440621220 This image has no bearing to the article I just stumbled upon it and I found it quite funny, yay for all the straight men/women!