For those of us who don’t have cable or satellite television, good old-fashioned cartoons are hard to come by. When I was growing up, Woody Woodpecker, Bugs Bunny, and Winnie-the-Pooh were Saturday morning staples, but things have changed in recent years. The best Warner Brothers and Disney shorts have been saved for DVD releases, while the airwaves are clogged up with cheap-looking anime knock-offs, family-friendly sitcoms, and bland “educational” programs that would bore anyone over the age of ten to tears.
But if you have Antenna TV, the retro-themed TV network that airs in at least 26 states, you can watch Totally Tooned In. Usually airing in three hour blocks early Saturday morning, it’s the place to see characters like Mr. Magoo, Fox and Crow, Gerald McBoing-Boing, Scrappy, and Lil’ Abner.
Comprised of UPA shorts from the 1930s to the 1950s, each episode features three segments interspersed with commercial breaks and previews of future features. Produced in 1999, it aired in various different countries around the world before making its US debut last year.
I’ve seen roughly half of the series, and there’s nothing too offensive for kids, though characters sometime smoke cigars or cigarettes (usually villains who sometimes heavily cough afterwards) or accidentally get drunk (with an emphasis on the fact that alcohol makes you look and act stupid). It’s still a good idea to watch the show with your kids, though, so you can explain some of the dated references, like when Cinderella goes to a USO dance or when bluebirds impersonate celebrities like the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy.
Totally Tooned In has quite a cult following amongst animation enthusiasts on the internet. There is some controversy about certain shorts being edited for time or content, but most people are just glad to see these hard to find and long out-of-print cartoons at all. Perhaps its success might lead to more of the same on broadcast TV stations.
Here’s some of the best of what Totally Tooned In has to offer:
Gerald McBoing-Boing’s Symphony: From the mind of Dr. Seuss comes this rhyming short about a boy who doesn’t communicate in the usual way. Check out the cool 1950’s minimalist drawing style!
Unsure Runts: Cigar-smoking meanie S. Crow tries by hook or crook to sell insurance to innocent, British-accented Fox.
The Ragtime Bear: Mr. Magoo can’t tell the difference between his nephew and a grizzly bear at a ski lodge. Watch the bear rock out on the banjo, then check out the look he gives the shotgun-toting, banjo-stealing old man!
Sadie Hawkins Day: Why does Daisy Mae want to marry Lil’ Abner so much? Just look at the other guys in town!