The Simpsons compiono 30 anni. Piccola storia dell’animazione Tv
The Simpsons compiono 30 anni.
Siccome non siete tenuti a saperlo, ve lo dico: mi sono laureata in Cinema con una tesi sulla Pixar. E così anni fa mi fu chiesto dal mio correllatore di allora, Giannalberto Bendazzi, di scrivere due saggi, uno sulla Pixar e uno sull’animazione televisiva a partire appunto dai Simpson. Si trattava di aggiornare in inglese il suo Animation: A world History (2015) che vi consiglio caldamente di acquistare.
Qui sotto il luuuuungo saggio, in inglese. Sono arrivata a mappare fino al 2009. Mancano gli ultimi 10 anni. Al prossimo aggiornamento?
THE SMALL SCREEN
Is TV an art, too?
In the 1980s, the American TV definitely changed. The monopoly of the three largest channels (ABC, NBC, and CBS) was interrupted by the birth of a new network, Fox, and by the growth and spread of cable TV. From then on there was a differentiation of supply and demand, with programmes oriented to different audiences. TV series had to change according to these new varied audiences, in order to catch their attention. The late 1980s represented the turning point, defined for this reason as the beginning of TV series’ Second Golden Age.1
TV set out for serial, narrative and visual changes. This marked the birth of Quality TV, a new style of American fiction. Robert J. Thompson described it as “not regular TV […] It is simply television version of the art film”.2 Quality TV consisted of open serial form, multiple plots, controversial subjects, a large ensemble cast. Besides, Quality TV created a new genre by mixing old ones, and it used quotations and element of self-referentiality. Moreover, changes involved style: the visual element was no longer a mere element, it became a fundamental aspect3.
The most important examples of Quality Tv in 1980s were Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, Moonlighting, Miami Vice, China Beach, L.A. Law, Thirtysomething. During the 1990s this trend became more and more intense: differentiation became the most important aspect, as we can see in Twin Peaks and other examples such as X-Files, Buffy, Dawson’s Creek, ER, NYPD, Law and Order, West Wing and so on. By the turn of the century, Quality TV became a stylistic trend. The first phase of Quality TV referred to the network era, but cable and satellite TV was developing, too. For instance, HBO made its own Quality TV, more extreme than before. It launched such series as Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire. This high quality level reached new networks: 24, Lost, Desperate Housewives, CSI, Ugly Betty and House M.D were the new production. Meanwhile, new cable TV channels presented other series such as Dexter, Weeds and Mad Men4 .
The new trend involved also animation. In 1989 The Simpsons broke with TV tradition, opening a new “Tv Animation Golden Age” 5. Thanks to The Simpsons, aired in prime time, animated series gained visibility and prestige in networks. Meanwhile, cartoons had been promoted by cable channels in their programme schedules, creating consequently an increase of their production.
Animated series were no more only for children: on networks, they were programmed on prime time, and aimed at 18-49 aged people, the most valuable target. Cable channels differentiated their programmes according to these targets: pre-teens, tweens (between middle childhood and adolescence), teenagers and young adults. The first categories represented mainly pedagogic experiments, the middle ones aimed at creating a narrative and stylistic mix, hoping to achieve also a more adult audience, and the last one consisted of visual and verbal irreverent approach.
Animated series were now success: The Simpsons and King of the Hill was two of the highest-rated Fox’s programmes; South Park was cable Tv Comedy Central’s highest-rated programme.6 Cartoons then became valuable items, and their production increased as it made profit. It represented the core business for media conglomerates, whose connection among different fields led to a new growing production. Cartoons became soon a multiplatform service (TV, DVD, internet, video games, etc) and their characters turned out to be great icons, developing huge merchandising. Animated series definitely became the element of differentiation, both for cable TV and networks. Furthermore, thank also to their international circulation, animated became an important part of global pop culture.
As for narration, the most important difference from the past was the screenplays’ quality, that improved through density and stratification. Apart from rare examples, animated series were still linked to the episodic form and to comic genre, always combined with adventure. Animated series showed different comic forms, from satire to grotesque and parody, and used quotations, self-referentiality, postmodern irony. It’s a multi-faceted comedy, often with surreal elements and fast and frenetic timing. Thanks to animated series, the comic genre was renewed again, with an influence on live products, too: The Simpsons indeed changed the live sitcom.
As for style, limited animation became a conscious stylistic choice. Moreover, cartoons showed graphic research: the style was characterised either by grotesque deformity or by I-style, linked to UPA. Geometric stylised shapes, strong colours and iconic animations were the main features.
The history of Contemporary Times animated series in the USA could be divided in two sub-periods: 1989-1998 and 1999-2009. It is not a rigid distinction, as cartoons last for several years and therefore their influence goes on. Besides, reruns of concluded series were aired on cable cannels. The panorama was various and wide. The following depiction will hardly be exhaustive.
SUB-PERIOD 1: THE BEGINNING, 1989-1998
The Simpsons by Matt Groening represented the first successful example of Quality TV as far as cartoons were concerned. It was a big change, not only of the history of animation, but also for the history of the sitcom. Also, the decade witnessed more important changes, such as the increased role of cable channels and new brands, i.e. Cartoon Network.
The Simpsons7 was created in 1989, by Matt Groening (Portland, Oregon, 15 February 1954). At the beginning Matt Groening was a comic artist and writer, whose first success was Life in Hell8, published on the innovative “Wet Magazine”. It attracted the attention of James L. Brooks (North Bergen, New Jersey, 9 May 1940), author of Tv series Mary Tyler Moore (1970-1977) and Lou Grant (1977-1982), who worked at Fox. The network was just born and needed to interrupt the oligopoly of CBS, ABC, NBC. To achieve its goal, it had to broadcast something new and unexpected. Brooks was working at the sitcom The Tracey Ullman Show, asking Groening to adapt Life in Hell for that programme.
Groening created a short film series with a dysfunctional family; these were the first shorts with the Simpsons. Brooks loved them and convinced the network to create a complete series, to be aired in prime time: it hadn’t happen since The Flintstones. The sitcom scriptwriter Sam Simon (California, 6 June 1955; worked on Taxi, Cin Cin, The Tracey Ullman Show) joined the crew. It soon became one of the most seen shows in America, quickly spreading all around the world and becoming a classic. The target audience were young adults; for this reason, taboo subjects, introduced with complex style (also visual, thank to the use of language near to live-action cinema), were allowed.
The Simpsons were yellow characters with big eyes: the family was composed of the silly father, Homer, the careful mother, Marge, the smart daughter, Lisa, the little brat, Bart, and the babygirl, Maggie. Homer works at a nuclear power plant, Marge is a housewife, and the two sons attend school. They live in Springfield, an small town full of odd people. The drawing style was grotesque but mutable during the years.
Groening defined his work as “the hallucination of a sitcom”. Each episode focused on a seemingly meaningless aspect, developing it into a complex story. Characters were often involved in catastrophic adventures but in the end everything went back to ordinary life. It was not a traditional happy ending, or a return to status quo; it was actually kind of an “end of hallucination” experienced by the characters.
The Simpsons was a subversive satire of American middle class and culture. It created a dense text also by quoting TV, cinema, literature, pop culture. Quotations, parodies, and tributes were very frequent: the world reproduced in the show was surrounded by the media as the real one, evoking the idea of representation, reproduction, quotations and therefore distortion. The Simpsons poked fun at pop culture but at the same time gave tribute to it, being in fact part of it.
The series became the longest-lasting show of American TV. It won many Emmy Awards and created a huge merchandising, from comic books to video games, and even a film for the big screen (2007). One of the funny expressions used by Homer, “d’oh”, entered the ordinary language. Moreover, The Simpsons’ success helped Fox to become famous and opened the door to more animated series9.
Bruce reinvents comics
Bruce Timm (Oklahoma, 8 February 1961) started to work for Filmation, production company specialized in animated series inspired by comics ( he worked f.i. On Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power).
At Warner Bros Animation, the worked on Tiny Toon Adventures, and in 1992 created and produced, with Eric Rodomski, Batman10 (1992-1995) for Fox. This animated series pleased both audience and critics. The design was simple and angular, inspired by 1950s and 1960s-era comics and the previous art déco style. Graphic combinations of black and white created an elegant noir and dark effect, well adapted to adult-oriented narration. Moreover, Timm produced Superman (1996-2000, on The Wb Channel), The New Batman Adventures (1997-1999, The Wb), Batman Beyond (1999-2001, The Wb e Cartoon Network), Justice League (2001-2006, Cartoon Network). His fans defined his work as “The Timmverse” as he enriched the world of comic book of DC Comics. His creations represented a new standard for animated series based on comics.
In 1990s MTV, young oriented cable TV dedicated to music owned by Viacom, began producing and airing animation, trough its show Liquid Television, composed by various shorts (Cartoon Sushi, The Maxx, The Head…). Some of them became then animated series of the channel, whose products was know for their “alternative” style.
Æon Flux11 was a sort of avant-garde animated series (1991, six-part serial of short films, in 1995 ten half-hour episodes as a stand-alone series). Created by Peter Chung (Seoul, South Korea, 19 April 1961), Æon Flux is set in a dystopian future world in which the main character is a secret agent from the anarchistic nation of Monica, whose mission is to infiltrate the centralized government of the country of Bregna, led by her nemesis and lover Trevor Goodchild. The plot was obscure, characterised by philosophical subjects and by violent or sexual elements. The style was influenced by Egon Schiele, Moebius and the Japanese anime.
Daria (1997-2001; created by Glenn Eichler) was a spin-off of Beavis and Butt-Head, telling the life of a sarcastic teenager. Ironic and intelligent, Daria is an outcast in her high-school. The show portrayed the alienated life of teenager in a more realistic way than Beavis and Butt-head, and was a big success.
Ironic violence was the hallmark of Celebrity Deathmatch (1998-2007, created by Eric Fogel, born 1969; the show is in stop-motion, using plasticine) in which caricature of mega-stars fighting each other.
Mike Judge, from Beavis and Butt-Head to King of The Hill
MTV’s most famous animated series was Beavis and Butt-Head12 (1993-1997/ in 2011 the network asked for a new season), created by Mike Judge, describing the life of two unsociable and problematic teenagers.
Mike Judge (Ecuador, 17 October 1962) graduated in Science at the University of San Diego, California, but eventually devoted his career to animation, creating many short series (Office Space). In 1992 MTV’s Liquid Television programme showed Frog Baseball, a short starring the characters of Beavis and Butt-Head.
The two impolite and dull teenagers loved heavy-metal, hated school, and usually spent time watching MTV and commenting on its music videos. They showed therefore their plain thoughts, emphasizing also the stupidity of their surrounding world, and criticising the mass media they depended on.13 The animation was rude as the world the show portrayed. Judge directed the film for the big screen Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996).
In 1997, he created for Fox King of the Hill14 (1997-2010), teaming up with Greg Daniels (USA, 13 June 1963), scriptwriter of The Simpsons. The animated series focused on the Hills, a small-town Methodist family in Arlen, Texas. The family is composed of Hank, the father, Peggy, his wife, and Bobby, their son. If Springfield is a place with subverted values, Arlen is the realm of traditional ones. Hank cannot either reject them or respect them perfectly, but he tries to do his best in every episode. The show described the American middle class with a realistic approach, but was not less meaningful.
Nickelodeon’s double humour
Nickelodeon is a cable Tv, owned by Viacom, addressed to children and teenager. In 1990, it opened its in-house animation studio, and the year later aired its first original series. The products showed different approaches: simple comedy on the one side (Doug, Rugrats), more complex approach on the other side (Rocko’s Modern Life), and sometimes grotesque (The Ren and Stimpy Show), derived from the old lesson of Warner’s Golden Age – Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones.
Rugrats15 (1991-2004) was created by Arlene Klasky, Gabor Csupo and Paul Germain. In 1981, Klasky (1949) founded with her (now ex) husband Gabor Csupo (Budapest, Hungary, 29 September 1952) the Klasky-Csupo Inc. Germain (Los Angeles, California, 6 June 1959), an American animation screenwriter and producer, had worked in The Simpsons. Rugrats told the adventures of a group of babies, whose ordinary life became an imaginary adventure. It underlined the different points of view between adults and children. The style was linear; this cartoon represented one of the best animated series for children, and attracted adults as well. In 1998, The Rugrats Movie was released, followed by Rugrats in Paris (2000) and Rugrats Go Wild (2003).
The Ren and Stimpy Show16 (1991-1996) was created by John Kricfalusi (Chicoutimi, Québec, Canada, 9 September 1955). After working in Mighty Mouse (1987), he established Spümcø International Animation Studio, and created for Nickelodeon The Ren and Stimpy Show. The series concerned the nonsensical adventures of Ren Höek, a psychotic Chihuahua, and Stimpson J. Cat, a good but stupid cat. The style reminded The Golden Age of American animation, but taken to extremes. Grotesque prevailed and visual gags were linked to the disgusting and strange deformations. Because of that, The Ren and Stimpy Show had a reputation for indecent humour and violence. In 1992 Kricfalusi17 was fired by the network, the series was no longer produced by Spümcø and was turned to Games Animation, and the show lost its peculiarity.
Rocko’s Modern Life18 (1993-1996) was created by Joe Murray (San Jose, California, 3 May 1961), who had joined California Institute of Arts and worked for MTV and realised some shorts and films. The show told the adventures of an anthropomorphic wallaby named Rocko, and its life in the city of O-Town. The series was a heavenly and surreal interpretation of life, with deformed and caricatural style, both adult and young oriented. Unlike The Ren and Stimpy Show, Rocko’s Modern Life never became grotesque.
Cartoon Network: matter of style
The other important cable channel was Cartoon Network, created by Turner Broadcasting in 1992, ad dedicated youth and adult, or better, to “kids of all ages”. The initial programming on the channel consisted exclusively of reruns of classic cinema and television animated show, from Warner Bros. (Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies), MGM (like Tom and Jerry and Droopy Dog), and Hanna-Barbera cartoons (like The Jetsons and The Flintstones). The channel’s first original shows (Space Ghost Coast to Coast and The Moxy Show) were created in 1994 by Hanna-Barbera Productions19. In the same year started production on What-a-Cartoon! (also know as World Premiere Toons and The Cartoon Cartoon Show). The programme showed shorts created by the studio’s animators, which became later series. The idea that guided the animators of Cartoon Network was to get inspiration from the classical cinema and television animation, also Japanese ones. Among the examples there were Johnny Bravo (1997-2004), I Am Weasel (1997-2000), Ed, Edd ‘n’ Eddy (1999-present), Courage the Cowardly Dog (1999-2002), and Mike, Lu & Og (1999-2001).
Cow and Chicken (1995-2004) was created by David Feiss (Sacramento, California, 16 April 1959). The series showed the adventures of a cow, named Cow, and her chicken brother, named Chicken. They were often tormented by the Red Guy, a usually pants-less devil. Surreal and sarcastic humour was one of the features of the series. But the two most know series of CN were Dexter’s Laboratory20 (1996-2003) by Genndy Tartakovsky and The Powerpuff Girls21 (1998-2004) by Craig McCracken. These are the two authors who better defined the style of the network. They met at California Institute of the Arts, and worked together on their production.
Tartakovsky (Moscow, Russia, 17 January 1970) moved to the United States when he was 7. In 1993 worked for Stupid Dogs, a Cartoon Network-2 animated series. Then created also Dexter’s Laboratory, based on a University project. The show was based on a little scientist, Dexter, whose work is mainly subverted by his older sister Dee Dee, a naïf hurricane.
McCraken (Charleroi, Pennsylvania, 31 March 1971) created The Powerpuff Girls, based on one of his shorts produced when he attended University. Blossom, Buttercup, and Bubbles are three sisters with superpowers, created by Professor Utonium. The three heroines had big heads and eyes and little bodies, and defended their town from monsters and villains.
The style of McCracken and Tartakovsky underlined the graphic aspect through limited movement, and reached an iconic animation, linked to the new Flash animation. Their show are graphic works, in which lines and colour are predominant. Their characters were openly inspired to the traditional UPA style; not only the world-famous Mr. Magoo but also Gerald McBoing-Boing. Their models were also Japanese animation, such as Tetsuwan Atom by Osamu Tezuka, and Rocky and Bullwinkle by Jay Ward. McCracken and Tartakovsky’ shows had innovative solutions, both as for visual and linguistic features, with a comic nonsense narration. Their characters were a hybrid mix of design, animation, comics, advertisement, art, representing therefore the new frontier of pop art, similar to the creations of Takashi Murakami and to street art.
This graphic style marked Cartoon Network, and definitely influenced the following animated production
South Park, the extremist
South Park22 (1997-present), created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, was the only animated sitcom that could be compared to The Simpsons as far as popularity. The series was written for the cable channel Comedy Central, owned by Viacom and oriented to comedy-based programming for mature viewers. The two creators, Trey Parker (19 October 1969 in Denver, Colorado) and Matt Stone (Houston, Texas, 26 May 1971) met at Colorado University. They started their film career with the shorts Jesus vs. Frosty (1992) and Jesus vs. Santa (1995) also known as The Spirit of Christmas 1 and 2. These shorts represented the basis for the animated series South Park, that became also a movie in 1999, South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut.
South Park is a small town in Colorado; Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny are the four children who experience together indescribable adventures. Cynical and innocent, bad and commonsensical (as children can be), they live in a hypocritical world, surrounded by irresponsible adults, influenced by mass media. Beauty, depth and nuance do not exist in such a chaotic, strange, and grotesque world. Animation and graphics are poor the same way: characters are shapes that move jerkily in a poor setting. Everything is two-dimensional at South Park: both the feelings and the movement of the characters. Everything is narrated with explicit visual and verbal language: religion, sex, death, war, violence. The aim was to show how to deal with cultural relativism and political correctness, two obsessions of current American culture (and other cultures, too).
With South Park the animated series for adults reached the peak as for stylistic and narrative provocation.
SUB-PERIOD 2: 1999-2009
The second decade of Animated Quality TV was characterised by the mixture of trends. Successful series, such as The Simpsons and South Park, were still broadcasted. Some authors kept on concentrating on style, but not always the examples were as successful as the previous ones. The approach and the success of Matt Groening were recreated through other animated series, such as Family Guy. The visual style of new television animation influencing even Disney.
News become normality: Family Guy
In 1999, Fox launched a new sitcom, Family Guy,23 created by Seth MacFarlane (Kent, Connecticut, 26 October 1973), an animator, producer, actor and voice-actor. He studied animation at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). His short The Life of Larry impressed Hanna-Barbera executives, so he was hired as an animator and writer for Cartoon Network’s cartoon series (Cow and Chicken, Dexter’s Laboratory, Johnny Bravo). In 1996 he created a sequel to The Life of Larry called Larry and Steve. Executives at Fox asked MacFarlane to create a series: it was Family Guy (1999-present).
The animated sitcom revolves around the dysfunctional family, the Griffins: Peter, the father, lives in his own TV world; Stewey, the youngest child, wants to conquer the world and kill his mother; Brian is a speaking dog that reads newspapers, is very well educated, is Snoopy with Martini drink and savoir faire; Lois, the wife, seems wise but actually follows her husband’s craziness; the other two sons, Meg and Chris, are maladjusted people. Matt Groening’s Simpsons was the model: ten years later, the animated sitcoms were still funny but maybe less corrosive.
McFarlane focuses more on the accumulation of images, parodies, gags then on the consistency of the plot. His surreal comic style is based on fragments and cutaway gag: in each episode, the action is interrupt by Peter’s open eyes dreams, inspired by television and mass media, symbol of the simple imagination and aspirations of American middle class.
MacFarlane co-created American Dad! (2005-present) with Matt Weitzman and Mike Barker. The formula of the “odd family” this time revolves around a fanatic CIA agent, his wife, his two sons, an alien escaped from Area 51, and a goldfish with the brain of an East German 1986 Olympian skier. In 2009 a spin-off of Family Guy was aired: The Cleveland Show. Due to the cancellation on Fox of programmes such as Futurama and The King of The Hill, MacFarlane became the star of the channel, with three shows broadcasted.
Ten years after The Simpsons, Matt Groening created for Fox Futurama24 (1999-present). “It is the celebration of the future in its whole limits”, he said: the future was just a pretext to make fun of the present. Fry, a pizza delivery boy, has been erroneously frozen in 1999 and he wakes up 1000 years later. In its new and unknown world, he meets Bender, a cynical heavy-drinking and robber robot, and the brave and nice Leela, an alien with only an eye. The three friends become delivery workers at Planet Express, company owned by Fry’s nephew Professor Farnsworth, an old scientist. The irony and the use of quotations were similar to The Simpson’s ones, but the futuristic setting let Groening use a more imaginative style. Present and future meet and pervade each other, at graphic level, too, as the series blends traditional as well as new 3D techniques. In 2003 Fox cancelled the series. In 2007 feature-films on DVD were produced, aired as episodes on Comedy Central. In 2010 the network renewed new series.
In 2001 Genndy Tartakovsky presented Samurai Jack (2001-2004; Cartoon Network) The evil Aku has sent to the future the only person who could challenge him, a samurai called Jack. In this future everything is ruled by Aku, so the samurai tries to go back to the past and defeat his enemy. The drawings are influenced by Japanese anime, but also by UPA. Samurai Jack was a real graphic work: all elements, from characters to movements, were a play of geometrical lines. The screen can be divided in vertical and horizontal sections, reminding in some cases Japanese painting. Then the author was ordered by George Lucas to produce and direct Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003-2005; Cartoon Network), a successful animated series , inspirited to George Lucas’ saga. Tartakovsky’s style was able to add a new verve to Star Wars.
In 2004, McCracken produced Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends (2004-2009) for Cartoon Network. It told about a home for “imaginary friends” abandoned by their children once grown up. The author created a surreal and poetic visual world. In April 2008, he became executive producer of a Cartoon Network showcase project called Cartoonstitute.
Mike Judge kept on producing The King of the Hill; after its deletion he created The Goode Family25 (2009) for ABC, about a family obsessed by being environmentally-responsible, liberal, politically correct. The series had no success, and was cancelled after the first season. Judge returned to produce Beavis and Butt-Head for MTV.
Among the networks, Fox was the animated one par excellence, dominating the Sunday slot with Animation Domination. As for the cable channel, Cartoon Network kept on broadcasting successfully its series (Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends ), and also imported them from Canadian channel TeleToon. After the success of South Park, after the renewal of Futurama, Comedy Central searched for a new success with Drawn Together26 (2004-2008) created by Dave Jeser and Matthew Silverstein. It was a parody of sitcom and reality show, and a parody of cartoon characters (the princess, the superhero, the bizarre child, an old styled lady similar to Betty Boop, etc).
Nickelodeon kept on searching for comedy. Its best bet was SpongeBob SquarePants (1999-present) by Stephen Hillenburg (Fort Sill, Oklahoma, 21 August 1961), a marine biology. Hillenburg got a master’s degree program in experimental animation at the California Institute of the Arts, too, and started to work for Nickelodeon in 1993 for Rocko’s Modern Life. In 1999 he created his own character, SpongeBob, a naïf and optimistic sea sponge (but drown as a kitchen sponge). The series fallowed his and his friends adventure under the sea. Characterized by a childish style, SpongeBob SquarePants27 stood out because of its surreal elements, and became a transmedia franchise, a model able to influence the pop culture and merchandising.
The company’s second biggest series was the American-Canadian The Fairly Odd Parents28 (2001-present) created by Butch Hartman (Highland Park, Michigan, 10 January 1965). The main character was the ten-year-old boy Timmy. One day, Cosmo and Wanda, two surreal parents, come to help him. Thanks to them, Timmy can satisfy his desires – but with catastrophic consequences. The comedy was mainly based on the continuous paradoxical happenings.
The company launched its own cable TV channel in 1983, and Disney Channel fulfilled Walt’s dream: it represented the ideal vehicle for old and new icons29. At the beginning, the channel aired the company’s animated classics, live-actions series, musicals, sitcoms. In the middle of the 1990s, it produced some animated series, based both on new characters and on characters from its tradition. By the end of 1990s, the channel was renewed by increasing its products and creating new live action and animated series which definitely entered pop culture. The channel concentrated on tweens, trying to involve teenagers and their parents, with sitcom and films with strong musical elements: Hannah Montana, High School Musical, Camp Rock, Sonny with a Chance. Thanks to its Original Series, Disney Channel was one of the most watched cable channels in the United States and one of the most famous in the world. The programming consisted mainly of these live action teen sitcom, although the channel attracted the attention also with animated series30, such as Kim Possibile and Phineas and Ferb. Disney was able to mix in its own way with the new trends of animated series.
Kim Possibile31 (2002-2007) was created by Mark McCorkle (1967) and Robert Schooley. The teenager Kim (a girl) is a special agent who deals with enemies with the help of her best friend Ron Stoppable. The series maintained Disney’s traditional features, humour and actions were combined, becoming the parody of both teen sitcom and spy story. Besides, limited animation became a style choice: Kim was mostly a graphic heroine, with her red hair, black t-shirt and green trousers.
Phineas and Ferb32 (2007-present) better showed the contact and influence between classic Disney and new TV animation. It was created by Dan Povenmire and Jeff Marsh. Povenmire (San Diego, California, 18 September 1963) worked at The Simpsons and Rocko’s Modern Life, Family Guy, Sponge-Bob. Jeff Marsh (Santa Monica, California, 9 December 1960) worked on The Simpson, Rocko’s Modern Life. Their series Phineas and Ferb told the adventures of two stepbrothers, Phineas and Ferb, during their summer holiday. They invent games in order to relieve the boredom, while their sister, Candace, is obsessed with “busting” their plans. Moreover, the boys’ pet, a platypus, Perry, acts as a secret agent.
Povenmire and Marsh gave Disney a particular sense of comedy (influenced among the others by Chuck Jones). The series had a lot in common with Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network productions and also with Family Guy and The Simpsons, as for the use of pop culture quotations and the kind of humour used. They used limited animation, bright colours, stylized design. At the same time it was in line with Disney Channel’s philosophy: the narration element was strong and never grotesque, and a precise educational path was present, i.e. a positive vision of extended family, strong belief in the children’s ability.
1 The first one refers to the period between the late 1940s and the 1950s.
2 R. J. Thompson, Television’s Second Golden Age, Syracuse University Press, New York, 1996, pp. 13-16.
3 See J. T. Caldwell, Televisuality. Style, Crisis, and Authority in American Television, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1994.
4 See also Stefania Carini, Il testo espanso, Vita e Pensiero, Milan 2009.
5 See Carol A. Stabile and Mark Harrison (eds.), Prime Time Animation. Television Animation and American Culture, Routledge, New York, 2003.
7 The production companies behind The Simpsons production were 20th Century Fox Television, Gracie Films (created by James L. Brooks).
8 The strip features the anthropomorphic rabbit Binky, a bitter, depressed and thus “normal” rabbit. Groening used these characters to explore a wide range of topics with an alienated style, full of angst.
9 Others network created i.e. Capitol Critters (1992, ABC) by Steven Bochco, Family Dog (1993, CBS) by Steven Spielberg and Tim Burton, and The Critic (1994-1995, ABC).
10 Batman was produced by DC Comics, Sunrise, Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Bros. Television.
11 Æon Flux was produced by Colossal Pictures, MTV Animation, MTV Networks
12 Beavis and Butt-head was produced by MTV Animation., J.J. Sedelmaier Productions (season 1), Inc., Paramount Television (1-7), Judgemental Films Inc (2-8), Tenth Annual Industries (2-7), Ternion Pictures (8), Film Roma Productions (8)
13 Cfr. Carol A. Stabile and Mark Harrison, Prime Time Animation, in Carol A. Stabile and Mark Harrison (eds.), Prime Time Animation. Television Animation and American Culture, Routledge, New York, 2003.
14 King of the Hill was produced by Deedle-Dee Productions, 3 Art Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Television, Film Roman Productions, Judgmental Films and Judgemental Film Inc.
15 Rugrats was co-produced by Klasky-Csupo and Nickelodeon Network.
16 The Ren and Stimpy Show was produced by Games Animation, MTV Networks, Nickelodeon Network, Paramount Television and Spümco (founded also by Kricfalusi)
17 In 1995, Kricfalusi directed and animated a music video for Björk’s song I Miss You. Then he decided to devote himself to Flash animation for the web. In 2003-2004, he relaunched The Ren & Stimpy Show as Adult Party Cartoon, aired during a late-night programming block on Spike TV, cable channel for male young adult, a branch of MTV Networks, owned by Viacom. The series explored more adult themes, but was soon cancelled.
18 Rocko’s Modern Life was produced by Games Animation, Joe Murray Productions Inc. and Nickelodeon Network.
19 In 1991 the studio was purchased by Turner, and created a division, Cartoon Network Studios, aim to produce new animated show for Cartoon Network. In 1996 Turner merged with Time Warner. In 2001, coinciding the death of William Hanna, the studio folded into Warner Bros. Cartoon Network Studios continued to produce animation fort Cartoon Network.
20 Dexter’s Laboratory was produced by Cartoon Network, Hanna-Barbera Productions, Rough Draft Studios.
21 The Powerpuff Girls was produced by CCTV, Cartoon Network, Hanna-Barbera Productions, Media Asia Films.
22 South Park was a coproduction by Comedy Central, Braniff and Comedy Partners.
23 Family Guy was produced by 20th Century Fox Television, Film Roman Productions, Fuzzy Doors Productions and Hands Down Entertainment.
24 Futurama was produced by 20th Century Fox Television and The Curiosity Company.
25 The Goode Family was produced by Blue Water Productions, Film Roman Productions, Judgmental Film Inc., 3 Art Entertainment, Media Rights Capitol and Ternion Pictures.
26 Drawn Together was produced by Comedy Central.
27 Produced by United Plankton Pictures, Nicktoons Productions
28 The Fairly OddParents was produced by Billionfold, Frederator Incorporated, Nickelodeon Network and Nicktoons Productions.
29 Disney Channel was managed by Disney-ABC Cable Networks Group, a The Walt Disney Company division.
30The other platform brands/channel are Disney XD, Disney Junior, Disney Cinemagic. Animated series linked to pedagogic aspects aired on Playhouse Disney (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny) should be separately analysed.
31 Kim Possible was produced by Walt Disney Television Animation, American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and Disney Channel.
32 Phineas and Ferb was produced by Walt Disney Television Animation.