The Way It Was: Eighties Cartoons, Part Two (The Dark Side Of The Toon)

Everyone at some point in their childhood has seen a cartoon and got really, really freaked out. For most people it’s the death scene in Bambi. Or the first time you saw the Beast from Beauty and the Beast. Maybe you cried, had nightmares, I don’t know, you know. I can’t vouch for everyone, but speaking for myself when I was extremely young I couldn’t always grasp the narratives imposed upon the colorful images and sounds — David Foster Wallace talks about how TV teaches you over time how to watch it, because real life doesn’t move in a sequence of images dictated by an imposed narrative — and so I would often create my own narrative which, thanks to my wildly out of control imagination, was usually much more frightening, convoluted, and surreal than the Very Simple Story that the cartoon producers were trying to tell me. I watch said cartoons now, as an adult, and I say to myself “What was I thinking? Why did that cartoon freak me out so much, it was just a silly, simple story!”

Then there’s the ones that are actually frightening. Take The Last Unicorn (1982). I mean what the fuck, people. The Red Bull vs. Unicorn scene at the end of the film is possibly one of the freakiest things ever put to film. Wikipedia sites the major themes of the film as loss, redemption, immortality, identity, roles, and truth. That’s a heavy plate for most kids. But what I want to discuss here is the opening sequence. Here it is:

First off, the theme song is by America. The first time I watched this thing on Youtube was two nights ago, shortly before going to sleep. It crushed me, I fell asleep, nightmares ensued. Have you clicked the video yet? Be careful before you do. If you are feeling a little sad, or a little weird, don’t go near it. Trust me.

I couldn’t place a finger on what it was. The nostalgic/strange images? The sad song? [Opening lyrics: “When the last eagle flies / over the last crumbling mountain”] But wait — was it sad? Depressing? Like in a Cure way? Big and empty in a Bruce Springsteen “Nebraska” kind of way? What was it? I sent the link to Father Gibbs and asked him what he thought. His response:

“Dong, this shit makes me feel so alone.

That’s it, that’s it. ALONE. Did this film ruin my childhood? Is that why I always felt so lonely? Maybe. Go ahead, watch it. Tell me what you think. How does it make you feel?

One last word on that song. Bands like Fern Knight and Espers (I’m looking at you, Greg Weeks) stand balanced a very precarious ledge that could leave them falling headfirst into making a song like this one. It is my highest suggestion not to ever, ever do that. Tread carefully, ye faire Minstrels. Just Don’t Go There.

I saw this one not too long ago, with my ex-girlfriend’s little sisters (makes a good excuse when walking into TLA video and asking to rent cartoons). Definitely not as weird and freaky as I remembered it as a kid. But there is THIS scene:

I mean goddamn if that shit isn’t freaky. Woah.

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9 thoughts on “The Way It Was: Eighties Cartoons, Part Two (The Dark Side Of The Toon)

  1. I cried when Hulk Hogan beat the Iron Sheik to win the WWF World Heavy Wieght Championship Belt. That was the day Hulkamania was born and took the nation by storm.

    Check your timeline guys! Jan. 1st 1984!

    Lets talk about early 80s Horror Films!

    yo Erik, Bones! Make it Happen!

  2. “Dark Side of the Toon”

    I love it!
    Oh man, I saw Secret of NIMH in the theater 2 times!!!
    So scary!
    Maybe this movie is responsible for alot of my politics?

  3. Alright Im Starting It Right Now! I’m Way To Pumped To Not Talk About This! Julian Put That Hamburger Down And Help Me Hi-Jack This Topic!

    Name Just One Of Your Favorite Wrestlers!

    I Dont Have Enought Time Right Now To Compile A List So I’ll Just Toss This One Name Out For Starters Until This Topic Gets Cooking!

    I give this guy credit for teaching me a few things about being wild!

    George “The Animal” Steele!

  4. My friends were more into wrestling than I was – but I have to say that The Animal Steele was awesome … and Junkyard Dog!!! Remember Rowdy Roddy Piper in “THEY LIVE”? … “I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all outta’ bubblegum!”

  5. The Last Unicorn is my favorite, FAVORITE. childhood cartoon/animated film, as well as being the first one I can recall watching. Over and over again. I used to be able to play the theme song on the piano. And I would. Over and over again. When I see the strange post-70’s animation style juxtaposed with moving tapestries a la The Cloisters, when I see the LAST EAGLE FLY and see that dusty fountain, I feel like I want to run through that forest screaming, but in an awesome way. Dude, shit gets me PUMPED.

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