Nothing beats the unadulterated fun cartoons offer, say adults hooked to toons

A shred from childhood. A snippet memory that can still switch on a hearty laugh. A puzzle — for one never understood the fuss around cartoons. For those past the prescribed “childhood” years, animation series or popular cartoon shows on television, throws up fuzzy memories. For some, the de-link was natural. Tom and Jerry’s wickedness, Chip ‘n’ Dale’s boisterousness or DuckTales’ adventures may have simply shrunk in appeal.

But for some adults, animation shows are still worthwhile. They may not be toon addicts as kids are, but give them free time and cartoon channels are on their agenda. The childhood habit has steadfastly accompanied them to adulthood and it is their ticket to unadulterated fun.

However, what comes in the way of these adults and their pet shows are perils of growing up. Some move on with a shrug, others sneak in time for it.

Ask 31-year-old media professional Mrinal Verma if it is natural for her to turn on the television and head for cartoons and she shoots back, “Why not?” “I have been addicted to Tom and Jerry since I was a kid and that has not faded away with time. My fixation with DuckTales is a continuation of a childhood love,” she says. She counts Johnny Bravo, Tom and Jerry, DuckTales and Dexter among her favourites.

Work though has played spoilsport with Subhrochit Chatterjee’s fancy for animation series. The 28-year-old IT professional, currently working out of Stuttgart, says cartoon channels were what he went for until four years ago. “But yes, if I am changing channels and see any of my favourite cartoons running I sit down to watch it,” Subhro responds online. Subhro can go on about his favourites, “Tom and Jerry because, well...who doesn’t like Tom and Jerry? It is pure enjoyment. I watch it even now when I have time. I have always been a Batman fan, and the animated series is a bit dark, but captivating. Chip ‘n’ Dale, DuckTales and Talespin are full of adventure and I adore adventures. Flintstones and Jetsons are really great shows, and also something I can watch even today.”

Stress-busters

For Vidya Gautham, a freelance content writer, cartoons are her stress-busters. “I mostly watch them on YouTube and Tom and Jerry is what I go for,” she says. Mrinal adores cartoons of yore because it is free of preaching and dialogues. On Tom and Jerry she says, “ They don’t try to set a model for good behaviour unlike most television programming for children. It is like (Maurice) Sendak’s version of television; that it is okay to be small and evil as opposed to being small and angelic, and there is absolutely no dialogue. The narrative goes forward only through animation and music.”

Mrinal’s interest for cartoons has not changed with age. “What appeals to me now, appealed to me when I was a kid. ” Subhro links his liking to the child in him. “Watching cartoons helps me revisit my childhood . Secondly, they are just pure imagination!”

Mrinal, Subhro and Vidya are not big on the new Indian animation series, even the contemporary hit — Chhota Bheem. “It will be a while before Indian animation catches up. Everything from production quality, animation and dubbing are a problem,” Mrinal is cryptic. She explains, “There is a certain kind of writing that television requires. They have to adapt a popular tale for the medium that they are trying to present it in. There is something awful about English dubbings of Indian cartoons. They sound like caricatures of Indian accents on American television.”

However, 38-year-old Prasad Shaligram, a dealer of imported bicycles in Pune, likes Chhota Bheem as much as Shaun the Sheep. “Indian cartoons sometimes borrow their storyline from Panchatantra, Jataka Tales and Amar Chitra Katha. So our cartoons are not purely entertainment,” he responds. He has a reason for going in for Bob the Builder, Noddy, Oswald, Shaun the Sheep and yes, Chhota Bheem. “The shows are clean; there is no trace of violence,” he says. “If I want violent, action-packed entertainment, I would go watch a movie,” seconds Mrinal.

Frills to a show are not missed by adult viewers. “Music is very important. It is a big turn off if the background score or opening music is bad. Technical aspects are a bit secondary. I would any day prefer something like Flintstones over a technically good Japanese Anime,” says Subhro. Agrees Prasad, “Music and quality of animation is important, of course. But I would rate story much higher.”

However, P. Jayakumar, CEO, Toonz Animation, says adult viewers are still few in India, the target group being six to 12 years. “India is yet to be ready for the adult viewership to animation series. The popular belief is that animation is for kids.”

Jayakumar tends to think adults will be at home, “If the series have serious subjects studded with violence or love. Family stories or socially relevant stories can also attract adult audience.” He agrees western productions still have an edge but argues some Indian shows are a huge draw. “They are liked by kids though production values are low. This emphasises the fact that content is the king,” he responds over e-mail.

Susan Visvanathan, Professor of Sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, says adults watching cartoons is not a new phenomenon. “I remember in the 1960s when I watched a cartoon film with my dad. He was laughing out aloud.” According to her, those in the 20s and 30s today grew up with great access to animation space. “For viewers, there is no great emotional investment, but tremendous hard work for those behind it. Forty five guys work to get the arm of an animation character move up,” says Susan.

Though not an animation buff herself, she confesses being intrigued by the simplicity with which it communicates profundity. “To a query in Lion King as to why the antelopes were killed, the answer is, when we die, we become grass and they eat us. The cycle of existence is explained in couple of sentences and it takes brilliance to do that,” points out Susan.

(A name has been changed on request.)