THE APPARENT DOWNFALL OF ANIMATED TV IN INDIA
While we all love to watch live action television, we cannot deny that, as kids, our fondness of television began with animated series. The repeated Facebook posts from the so called “90’s kids”, full of nostalgia about how the cartoon shows they had as kids were much better in comparison to what airs on TV now, can hardly be called baseless. It is true, the animated series area, as we’re seeing it in India at least, has taken a hit. I can’t vouch for the animated TV before my own time, but the 90s and early 2000s had some of the best cartoons I have ever watched. Cartoon Network helmed the awesomeness, pushing classics like Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Ed, Edd n Eddy, and more. Disney channel was right behind, pushing their older productions like Ducktales, Chip n Dale, The Jungle Book, and such, with some newer shows like Recess, Kim Possible, American Dragon and Jake Long added to the mix. Back at that time, there wasn’t a minute of dead air needing fillers, and no matter what time of the day it was, one could always find something nice to watch. It was a good time to be a kid.
Come next millennium, the type of cartoons that went in to mainstream changed a bit. Dubbed anime like Doraemon and Shinchan had the prime time focus, and Cartoon Network started lagging behind. Quality animated shows weren’t coming out on the channel like before, and many believe it to be the fault of change of leadership at Cartoon Network, with the new lead executive focusing on more live action shows than cartoons, in the U.S., which reflected on the Indian counterpart in a different way: not by animated shows being replaced by live action shows, but being replaced by other animated shows, of substandard quality. The same pattern has continued ever since, with a further decline in quality as the years passed, and it seems like there is no saving it now. There are a few reasons which might be at the core of this problem. First of all, if any of you remember, animated series like Ed, Edd n Eddy, and Courage the Cowardly Dog, were wildly popular. However, if you show these to the kids of the current generation, there’s a good chance that the shows won’t be as well received. Both the shows had somewhat of a dark aura which is something that would probably not
be appreciated by kids of today. We seem to be moving towards being a society that is more sensitive than ever, and thus making something that doesn’t offend, upset or displease anyone is quite hard. Let’s take a look at some of the current favorites, for example. Oggy and the cockroaches is one. I have personally tried to watch the show numerous times, but it seems to have zero premises, and just a load of terrible dubbing and mimicry, all of which combines to make it a poor cartoon series, and yet, it sells! Now, I don’t think that the kids today prefer this cartoons, it’s just that the standard of what passes for humour in cartoons, and just their overall quality has been lowered so much, and the kids have no frame of reference to judge such cartoons by! So am I implying that there has been not even a single good animated series recently? Definitely
not. As far as those with kids as their target audience are concerned, series like Ben 10 did exceptionally well. That show is a great example of a cartoon growing up with its original target audience. However, recently, even Ben 10 got rebooted for the new generation, and as you might have already assumed, in the new avatar, it is terrible. The animated series space, especially in India, has been more and more focused on being politically correct, and not too radical, watching its steps properly, and that seems to have further filtered the good cartoons from reaching our audience. An ideal cartoon show for a kid, like most shows from the 90s, would have a clear premise, a storyline that will be easy to follow, and yet make a kid think. There were morals taught, lessons learnt, and characters that would seem real, and the adult cartoons still retain those elements. The kids’ cartoons now have just been reduced down to rely upon slapstick humour, zero story and absolutely no substance. It almost feels like we’re dubbing them down too much, despite the fact that the model we previously followed had no issues. Now, when I compare the cartoons made for kids, to animated series which are tailored for adults, you can notice the difference in quality that I am talking about. Adult cartoons are still doing pretty well. The Simpsons, almost 28 years in, is still relevant. Family Guy isn’t as funny anymore, but others like Bob’s Burgers make up for it. Adult Swim, Cartoon Network’s own secondary channel, is doing splendidly! They have brought Samurai Jack, the Cartoon Network classic from our childhood, back for a new series, and there is no doubt about what a huge success Rick and Morty is. Animated series for adults are already a part of the golden era of television, but what about the kids? Maybe nobody’s really paying attention to the demographic anymore, maybe their little focus groups have deduced that the money doesn’t lie in cartoons for kids, or maybe it’s just the fact that everybody in charge thinks more about whether something they put on the air will offend people, rather than whether the kids will actually enjoy watching it. The only thing we can do for now, is show the cartoons of our generation to the kids of today, and hope that they enjoy them. Pass it down like a legacy, and hope that it is indeed the cartoons that have changed over time, and not us.