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Looney Tunes one dead duck BY Mark Washburn Sep. 18, 2002

Looney Tunes
One Dead Duck
BY Mark Washburn
Sep. 18, 2002
Item# loontunonede

Product Description


Posted on Wed, Sep. 18, 2002
story:PUB_DESC
Looney Tunes one dead duck

TV/Radio Writer
Yu-Gi-Oh! on Kids WB, is one of the action cartoons that draws heavily on Japanese style.
Yu-Gi-Oh! on Kids WB, is one of the action cartoons that draws heavily on Japanese style.

At last, some good news for Wile E. Coyote. Nobody drops boulders on critters' heads these days.

Daffy, you can relax, too. The Elmer Fudds have been disarmed.

The American kids' cartoon isn't what it used to be. Guns and mayhem have been replaced by a new generation of cartoon idols who rely on personality, morality lessons and sheer wit.

In fact, the hottest American cartoons aren't even American they're Japanese.

"Kids are a lot more sophisticated these days," says Donna Friedman, whose Kids' WB! division attracts about 2 million sets of eyeballs each week in the 2-to-11 age range, the most of any major broadcast network.

"They expect more sophisticated stories. Kids' expectations about characters and storyline and relevance have grown," says Friedman, a Harvard graduate who has made her career in children's programs, first at Nickelodeon and now at WB.

Her programming division at WB is tapping increasingly into international material, particularly the hottest new trend in TV cartoons, the Japanese imports.

Pokemon's surge in the late 1990s ushered in an era where Japanese anime a style of cartoon tied to a long-range story line with saucer-eyed characters in fantasy situations was readily accepted by America's youth.

New to her network, for example, is "Yu-Gi-Oh!" in which a group of kids use their heads to duel with magical creatures, and "Cubix," fashioned on the trend, in which a 13-year-old boy revitalizes a discarded robot and fights for right in a robot world.

One of the most unusual and enterprising newcomers this year is WB's "Mucha Lucha!," a Spanglish show set in a town where everyone is a Mexican masked wrestler, in a more elegant form of wrestling than we know from "Smackdown," and one where the costumes and the personas are far more exaggerated.

Overall, the most appealing storylines are far more complex than the "What's up, doc?" world of Bugs Bunny, who like many 20th century cartoons, got his start in the movies when short subjects were shown before movie and the cartoons were aimed at an adult audience.

Even "Scooby-Doo" is getting with it. The WB is running a new series at 8:30 a.m. Saturdays. "What's New Scooby-Doo?" will feature the same cast, but Velma is going more "CSI" in her approach, and the series is getting a long-overdue facelift with stronger animation.

Japanese cartoons tend to spring from complex comic books. By the time a character makes it to TV, it already has hundreds of stories in its background. And these shows move easily into the U.S. cartoon market.

"There's no such thing as an American stereotype anymore because society has become so amalgamated," says Alfred Kahn, whose 4Kids Entertainment group provides the "Fox Box" cartoons Saturday mornings on the Fox network.

Its stable includes fantasy newcomers "Ultraman Tiga," "Kirby: Right Back at Ya!" and "Fighting Foodons," in which everyday foods are transformed into monsters and go to battle.

"Kids don't see people of different cultures being different. I don't think they necessarily realize they aren't from the United States."

Some editing is necessary to switch cultural references. Japanese characters, for example, routinely drink tea. That doesn't translate.

"We change the lettering on the signs, reconstruct the episodes," Kahn says. "They allow a little more violence and sexual overtone in some cartoons. We take that out."

The trend is away from human-vs.-human violence nowadays, Kahn says. Even the conflict in Pokemon involves creatures born to battle, but humans stand on the sidelines using their noggins to direct the contests.

"We don't want kids to emulate things that we feel are dangerous," he says. "We won't show anyone getting hit in the head. No more stars circling after a hit. All that's gone."

Underlying morals can be instilled in story lines, Kahn says, although kids are sophisticated enough to know when they're being preached at.

"Our cartoons have social or moral lessons built in because they make good story lines and kids respond to them because the message comes from their favorite character."

Character development is essential to a successful cartoon these days, says Linda Simensky, senior vice president of original animation for Cartoon Network.

"You ask for strong characters, and make them character-driven rather than plot-driven. Characters have to be relateable even the bad ones. You have to care about them.

"There's also interesting design, good comedic timing, good music, good effects."

She dates the modern age of cartoons to "The Simpsons," which debuted in the late 1980s as a satirical hit and remains regarded as one of the smartest shows in television.

"It was the first show that really brought people back to TV animation and showed there was still a demand for animation among adults," Simensky said.

Riding the Wave

Among the new cartoons this season stressing multicultural and robot themes:

YU-GI-OH!: Yugi and pals use their heads to play "Duel Monsters," pitting mystical creatures in combat. (4:30 p.m. weekdays, 8 and 11 a.m. Saturdays, WB).

YU-GI-OH!: Yugi and pals use their heads to play "Duel Monsters," pitting mystical creatures in combat. (4:30 p.m. weekdays, 8 and 11 a.m. Saturdays, WB).

 





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