Walt Disney Television Animation

I’ve decided to kick off my reviewing of cartoons with the long and vast collection of shows Disney has been pumping out for the past 20 years. You should note that for these reviews and future ones for other shows, I’m going to assume you know a little bit about them to begin with. If you want specific information about characters, setting, and plot, you can find most of that stuff on Wikipedia and fansites. I’d like to hope my readers are well prepared and know their stuff before coming here. It would just take a longer time for me to name off all important characters, where the series takes place, and what the stories usually involve. That being said, for more lesser known cartoons and more so ones that are from Canada that don’t get much exposure anyplace else, I’ll shed more light on those. Who knows, I may just go back on all what I’ve said here if there is enough demand from people wanting to know more about characters/setting/plot for the more popular shows.

Television animation was in a dark state in the first half of the 1980’s. It was mostly used for pushing a popular brand of toys. Stories were drab, animation was horrible, and most of these shows haven’t aged well. The tide started to change by the middle of the decade with Disney – a company that brought us shows based on good stories, solid characters, imagination, and better animation. It wasn’t about pushing a product; it was about characters and their adventures, and entertaining kids first. Walt Disney Television Animation was launched in 1984 and a year later would premiere its first venture into television animation with The Wuzzles.

Since then Disney has come to produce and air a wealthy line of cartoons; to which they could and should be separated into categories. There was an explosion of syndicated television animation from 1985-1992 that revived all the old classic Disney characters with a modern twist. Shows like Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, and DuckTales – these shows brought to life old favorites while ushering new characters into the mix, while other shows from this time like Darkwing Duck and Adventures Of The Gummi Bears were totally original, new ideas. All these shows in this time period followed a strict likeness to each other. Each had a catchy opening sequence that clicked in at a minute long, each used the exact same font in the ending credits text, and the ending credits themselves always had a background picture of scenery to that show’s setting and/or character’s residence. It can be argued, however, that not all of these programs were syndicated and that some were produced by seasons – a trend of back and fourth-ness that has continued to his day with Disney. While I never thought of it to be a separate section, what Disney put out between 1993-1996 differs slightly from what was produced prior, but in some ways you could still consider it a good couple years where they still made decent programs. These years saw more productions based on recent movies like Aladdin and Timon & Pumbaa, while still churning out innovative shows like Gargoyles and The Schnookums & Meat Funny Cartoon Show.

By 1997 Disney had used up all their old characters, and changed direction with making more original, tween-oriented shows no longer featuring anthropomorphic critters but with “real” people – shows like Pepper Ann, Recess, and The Weekenders. I’d incase 1997-2002 as another chapter in Disney’s animated television history, as some of these shows in this timeframe have grown to become modern classics of their own. They were also part of the popular Disney’s One Saturday Morning block as well. The newest chapter of Disney’s television animation stems from 2003 to current time, which features a mix of anthropomorphic animal characters (Brandy & Mr. Whiskers), humans (The Replacements), and series based on recent movies (The Emperor’s New School).

I’d have to put the golden age of Walt Disney Television Animation between 1987 and 1992, as they put out hit after hit of (now classic) cartoons, and it was a very popular time for their animation block known as The Disney Afternoon. Sure they had shows before 1987, but they didn’t hit their stride until DuckTales became a huge success; which still stands as their longest running series with 100 half-hour episodes. Many of the cartoons during this time were heavily merchandised as well. Animation improved slowly, but it faltered here and there with Disney outsourcing their animation to other companies (a topic to cover for a later date). Between 1993 and 2001 while not in their prime, Disney still managed to make some good cartoons, although not heavily merchandised as the previous ones were (or in some cases not at all). It seems after 2001 the quality of many Disney programs fell fast and hard. No merchandise or hardly anything of value to really buy, boring ideas and repetitive scenarios, ugly character design and average animation, and no popular block to air them in anymore (lets face it, the current ABC Kids sucks and is mostly live-action programming now). This all leads to series closing up shop pretty quickly after beginning, and none of their recent efforts have made it past two years of production.

It’s hard to signify exactly where Disney jumped the shark, as even through a sea of tiresome cartoons they can still come out with a good show once in a while. What Disney currently has in production now is utter crap to what they used to put out; even their shows five years ago were of somewhat better quality. The Emperor’s New School, The Replacements, Phineas And Ferb – these shows just don’t compare. From being a cartoon making powerhouse to not knowing what the hell they are doing, Disney sure has fallen from its once high perch as a great network that made enjoyable animated programs.

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