What’s Wrong, Doc?
Cartoon Network, a cable-TV channel owned by Turner Broadcasting, shows animated cartoons around the clock. In 1992, when the channel was launched, its programming consisted solely of old-fashioned short subjects that featured such cartoon characters of the Hollywood studio era as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Wile E. Coyote. Today, though, the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts produced by Warner Bros. between 1933 and 1963 have mostly been supplanted by more contemporary fare, just as their once ubiquitous characters are no longer on view at such pop-culture events as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which now gives pride of place to the likes of SpongeBob Square-Pants. The caravan of popular taste has moved on.
For those baby boomers who grew up watching Warner Bros. cartoons on television every Saturday morning, the inexorable demise of Bugs and his friends has been a source of nostalgic dismay. But for critics and scholars who believe that the best studio-era animated cartoons are comparable in quality to the best live-action screen comedies of the 1930s and 40s, it is a catastrophe.
About the Author
Terry Teachout is Commentary’s critic-at-large and the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal. His next book, Mood Indigo: A Life of Duke Ellington, will be published this fall.