Toons and Tunes

If you happen to live in Massachusetts, don’t miss the WGBH Cartoon Festival this weekend on October 27th! The Boston Symphony Orchestra will be doing an all-day performance of classical music, which will be synced with classic cartoons.

You can never be too old for cartoons—at least, that’s what I tell myself. I’ll admit, I probably spend way too much of my adult life looking up old favorites from Disney, Nickelodeon, and the WB (before it became the CW). However, I also know that I’m not alone. I’ve known professors who incorporate cartoon clips into their lectures, parents who watch cartoons with their kids, and friends who forgo a whole night’s sleep just to catch up on Spongebob Squarepants. What is it about these images and characters that still stay with us in spite of life changes, full-time jobs, and—gasp—adulthood? Granted, we may not have the leisure to plop down pronate next to our backpacks after school (with every intention of getting around to homework) and delve into our favorite cartoons anymore. Still, there’s no denying that they retain the ability to transport us to that feeling of simple, childlike joy in an instant.

While cartoons are a predominantly visual medium, the music behind the animation often drives the story. For those more aurally oriented, here’s a piece from NPR Music about Russian cartoon music and the composers who create it. There’s even a segment about Vinny Pookh, the Russian version of Winnie the Pooh.

  “[Cartoon and film music] conveys a sense of mood and atmosphere and scene that has an immediate impact on people. And yet the harmonic and tonal language of the music is really complicated and sophisticated.” –Alan Pierson, Brooklyn Philharmonic Music Director

Vinny Pookh, the Russian Winnie the Pooh

Also, in this WFIU interview, cartoonist Gary Trudeau of Pulitzer Prize-winning strip Doonesbury, talks about character development, political caricatures, and how he turned cartooning into a sustainable career for himself.

Incidentally, this year also happens to be Cartoon Network’s 20th anniversary. At twenty years old, the network itself is practically an adult (in human years)—further proof that cartoons are not just for children. They’re airing an omnibus of their best cartoons from the network’s lifetime. 

Maybe there’s no concrete answer to the timelessness of cartoons. It’s a medium that allows us to revisit some of the best parts of being a kid as well as redefine for ourselves what it means to be an adult. Treat yourself to a healthy dose of cartoons this week. Cheers, to the kids in all of us.