Cartoons, Animation, and Television; at least for me, these words bring back memories of watching Rugrats, Samurai Jack and the Powerpuff Girls through reruns and VHS. The 90's kids had great cartoons that showed the emotions of those who watched, like Daria and Hey Arnold!.
However, when I look to see which cartoons are airing now, I see Spongebob Squarepants, the Fairly OddParents, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. All of those have been converted to Live Action and they seem to be Nickelodeon's Big Money Cartoons. However, they all show the morals and reflect public opinion from the time when they were created.
I can't help but think, as I re-watch some of the cartoons from my childhood: is there anything that can compare in storytelling, characters, and hold up now as a great show for kids? Luckily, I found some. Specifically, these four come to mind.
1.) Steven Universe
Steven Universe is already making history, being the first show on Cartoon Network created by a woman, Rebecca Sugar. The show is about a group of extra-terrestrials called the Crystal Gems, who had come to Earth thousands of years ago, and fought a war for it's benefit. The Gems are three (technically four) women named after the Gems they possess: Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. These three are raising a young boy, Steven, who is the son of their former now dead leader, Rose Quartz.
Now Steven Universe has one of the most diverse casts and character lists. Out of the main characters, only one is Caucasian. The show represents a variety of body types, races, sexualities, and personalities that make it appealing to everyone. It also has great plotlines, about how not everyone gets a happy ending and different types of grief. The Gems are grieving the loss of their leader, but they still have to raise Steven. It has beautiful music, animation, and it is one of the best shows I've watched in a while.
2.) Star vs. The Forces of Evil
Now Star vs The Forces of Evil is very much a magical girl cartoon, which means it's about one girls magical adventures fighting evil. This show reminds me a lot of Sailor Moon, because of strong female characters. Star Butterfly (the main character) does not need a man to protect her. She is brave, strong, and fun loving. However, her magical powers do not discredit her male co-star, Marco Diaz. Marco helps Star with fighting, being a green belt in Tae Kwon Doe.
It shows the middle school experience very well, trying to find who you are before growing up, and owning yourself. Star Butterfly was in an abusive relationship with a demon, keeping that behind her and not tolerating his bulls**t. She does her best to learn her powers and be a great future leader.
3.) Adventure Time
Adventure Time, in case you haven't been in a hot topic since 2012, is a show about the last surviving human and his pet dog after a nuclear apocalypse. However, unlike a lot of other shows on television right now, it isn't just about one man's adventure. It has a very diverse cast of men, women, candy, ice kings, and a lemon. Yes, a lemon.
The show has characters who are bisexual, suffer from mental illness, and won't tolerate being lead on in a relationship. It shows that girls can be anything they aspire to be, one of the main characters is both a princess and a scientist. Adventure Time is a great example of what a cartoon should be, because it shows children that their decisions and interests matter.
4.) Gravity Falls
Gravity Falls is a very interesting show, let's just put it at that. It's similar to Goosebumps books, in that it's a mystery from the first episode onward. The show is about the people of Gravity Falls, Oregon; specifically those working at the Mystery Shack. The main characters are Mabel and Dipper Pines, two twins who are spending the summer with their great uncle Stan, who owns the Mystery Shack.
However, when Dipper finds a journal (the third in a series) that records the mysterious happenings in Gravity Falls, the twins are sprung in the middle of the strange creatures of the town. This show is essentially a mystery that the viewer has to decipher as they are going along, and the characters all have to deal with various mental health issues and problems of their own on top of it. We think we know at least something, but we know nothing.
Also, fun fact: The Creator of Gravity Falls and Steven Universe are friends. They get together to think up sad plot lines.
So the consensus?
Are these cartoons able to hold up to those of the 90's? Are they good for kids? Would I be entertained watching it, even if I'm not a kid? Yes and No. It all depends on personal preference honestly. But, showing this to some kids I know, they certainly get a kick out of it.
Disney and Cartoon Network are certainly progressing to make shows that match the demographics and people as they grow and go through life. I just can't wait to see what's coming ahead in cartoons.