Elise Harris takes a look at the new season of toons.
Cartoons have never really been for kids. Yes - that�s what they�d have you believe, but can a child appreciate the subtle saucepan-hitting antics of Tom and Jerry, the political barbs of Family Guy and Futurama, the dopey idiocy of Buzz Lightyear or the slightly kinky machismo of Gundam Wing? No indeed - it takes a real grown-up to appreciate these things. So what do us adults have to look forward to this winter?
After the major worldwide success of The Simpsons, creator Matt Groening was looking for a bit of a challenge. With Futurama set 3000 years in the future he created his own better version of the Jetsons to The Simpsons� Flintstones.
�In the Simpsons the characters are mainly children and middle-aged adults and we basically left teenagers and young adults out,� he recently told What Satellite TV.
With Futurama, Groening hoped to remedy the situation. Its lead characters are miserable-as-sin robot Bender, tough-talking, one-eyed, purple-haired alien Leela and out-of-his-time delivery boy Fry. The nuclear-family is replaced by a way-post-nuclear nub of friends.
�The Simpsons is really very much about families and the struggles of
living with people who also drive you crazy. With Futurama we tried to, in a science-fiction setting, deal with the problems of young adults. How do you find meaning in life doing a job you don�t want to do and getting a little romance at the same time.�
So will Leela and Fry ever get it together?
�There�s more love than sex in Futurama, but then that�s what I�m hoping for the future anyway.�
Like The Simpsons before it, Futurama features the voices of the great, the good and the notorious. �I read in the newspaper that Al Gore was a big fan of the Simpsons and Futurama - and we actually had Al Gore playing himself on Futurama,� Groening says. This was of course, way before the presidential kerfuffle.
The second season was a bit low on the celebrity count, but the third season goes all out for those cameos. Listen out for John Goodman (back as the psychopathic robot Santa), Charlie�s Angel Lucy Lui, goofball comedian Paulie Shaw and one-time Golden Girl Bea Arthur (as a fembot pretending to be a supercomputer).
Third Series of Futurama is on Sky One
Tom and Jerry - Mansion Cat
The first new Tom and Jerry cartoon for over thirty years gets a special showing on New Year�s Day.
William Hanna and Joseph Barbera classic creations Tom and Jerry first appeared in 1940. The animated duo�s heyday ended in 1957 when MGM decided to shut its cartoon division. Hanna and Barbera left to form their own company - producing such classics as The Flintstones and Scooby Doo.
In the 1960s MGM signed Gene Deitch to produce more Tom and Jerry. The results were disappointing and Deitch was sent packing. Chuck Jones (of Looney Toons fame) took over - but things didn�t really improve, and MGM stopped production entirely in 1967.
Thankfully Mansion Cat was made by the people who made Tom and Jerry such a success in the first place - Hanna and Barbera.
The writer/director of the new toon is Karl Toerge, who grew up watching Hanna Barbera classics. Toerge says Barbera gave him a lot of advice on how to make the cartoon work, �Mr B told me that Tom and Jerry was always boom, boom, boom, boom. Not boom...boom...boom. So I made changes.�
Toerge says, �Cartoon Network wanted me to put stuff in to make it more of a modern day thing. But it�s funny, I feel I actually dated it by putting a VCR rather than a DVD. The reason I did that is because I�m so untechnological. I just wasn�t clever enough to think of it - I don�t even have a DVD player at home.�
It features plenty of in-jokes - including the voice of Joe Barbera as the homeowner. There are also pictures o
The early cartoons are still the best - the later, slicker versions where characterization was all but dropped and the pair descended into sub-Roadrunner territory are a distant memory. Although you�ll get a chance to compare and contrast for yourself - Mansion Cat is part of a day-long marathon of Tom and Jerry.
See Cartoon Network listings for details
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command
He went to infinity and beyond and he�s still up for some more action. The ever-keen Buzz Lightyear is back on the Disney Channel with his own series.
In Toy Story and Toy Story Two Buzz was played by Home Improvement star Tim allen, but scheduling difficulties prevented him from voicing the new series.
John Lasseter, Toy Story creator, had always imagined Buzz as �the ultimate cop in space�, so when producers saw Patrick Warburton they knew they�d found their man.
Executive-producer Mark McCorkle says, �That was it - the ultimate cop, the last boy scout, the over-dramatic, too-good-to-be-true guy whose biggest character flaw is that he believes his own legend. Patrick pulled it off perfectly.�
The 65-part series, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, takes Buzz out of the toybox and into space.
He is accompanied by princess Mira Nova, wide-eyed rookie Booster and XR (which stands for eXpendible robot.) XR is �an intergalactic version of the Swiss army knife�, with an endless supply of gadgets.
Commander Nebula is the desk-bound head of Star Command, and the whole team is regularly pitted against Evil Emperor Zurg (voiced by Wayne Knight of Seinfeld, Third Rock from the Sun and Jurassic Park.)
Guest stars include Kelly McGillis, Ricardo Montalban, Haley Joel Osment, Peter MacNicol (Ally McBeal), Eric Idle, Mark Hamill, Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman (Beauty and the Beast.)
There are also many familiar voice-artists on the list, including Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson), Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama and Animaniacs), Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs), Joe Alaskey (Rugrats), Charles Fleischer (Roger Rabbit) and the late Mary Kay Bergman (South Park.)
Peter Griffin, his wife Lois and their children Meg, Chris and Stewie, live in Quahog, Rhode Island. Peter�s best-friend is his dog Brian - a gentleman scholar with more sense and culture than the rest of the family put together.
The fat oaf that is Peter is enthusiastic and eager to please. His boss Mr Weed overlooks Peter�s lack of efficiency, regarding him as �eye-candy�.
Lois married beneath her and is devoted to her seemingly useless husband and ungrateful kids. She even overlooks baby Stewie�s regular attempts at matricide.
Chris is a naive and gullible 13-year-old who hero worships his dad and big sister (somewhat misguidedly).
Sixteen-year-old Meg is not the most popular girl in school - but she tries.
And the family seems oblivious to the machinations of one-year-old Stewie. the megalomaniac baby bears more than a passing resemblance to Sydney Greenstreet, the Fat Man in The Maltese Falcon and has a strange grudge against his mother.
In fact he curses her "cursed ovarian Bastille," in which he was imprisoned for nine gruelling months, and has vowed to defeat his mother's"gynocracy".
Family Guy on Sky One � soon
Gundam Wing is almost as popular as Pok�mon in its native land. The series is set way into the future at a time of severe depression and violent wars, where many people have left Earth to ease the population problems. Five young male colonists are chosen to fight the oppressive United Earth Sphere Alliance and attempt to gain independence for the colonies.
The quintet of extremely pretty boys - Heero Yuy, Duo Maxwell, Trowa Barton, Quatre Raberba Winner and Chang Wufei - are pitted against the charming Treize Khushrenada and his taskforce.
The boys are helped, a lot, by their armoured mobile suits (these are the Gundam of the title.) The Gundam suits are around 50 to 80 feet tall and are operated by the five brave heroes.
If you�re thinking of Battle Of The Planets, Power Rangers and Transformers it�s unsurprising, but Gundam Wing has managed to usurp these with its rufty-tufty approach.The Gundam franchise (starting withGundam 0079) has been running in Japan since 1979 - so it�s by far the longest lasting.
The fact that it appeals as much to young girls (and even grown-up women) as it does to the male population has aided in the anime�s massive success.
Gundam Wing is showing as part of Toonami, Cartoon Network
South Park, The Simpsons, TV detectives, Buffy, Scooby Doo, Pok�mon, Digimon, Dragonball and much, much more.