A few nights ago, in the interests of trying to understand our young grandson's obession with something called Phineas and Ferb, I tried sitting down and actually watching what passes for cartoons on TV these days. After ninety minutes, I gave it up as a lost cause. Maybe it's my age (approaching sixty at warp speed) but to quote the Bard, it was all "sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Not that I begrudge a good frenetic cartoon--I'm a fan of anything Tex Avery--but a 'toon needs more than garish colors, "bwannggg" sound effects, and characters with loud voices; plots would be nice. But sometimes a plot can ruin a cartoon: case in point, a little bit of a late 1939 nihilistic doomfest called Peace on Earth, AKA the Darkest. Grimmest. Cartoon. EVER. Look it up. See if I'm right.
It was buried in a DVD of public domain cartoons we bought years ago for the grandkidlits, with the idea of giving them some good ol' fashioned Christmas Eve family fun. But once I hit "play," I knew we were in trouble. All the 'toons were muddy and/or scratchy ... except for Peace on Earth. That one was as pristine as the day it was struck.
The story starts off simply enough: grandpa rabbit is telling his little ones about Christmas. But thirty seconds in, the thing leaves the rails as you realize it's a dystopian future tale, with the emphasis on "dystopian." Old Long-ears begins by telling his cute as buttons bunnies of the "humans and war," and as he speaks we're treated to scenes of tanks rolling, machine guns firing, gas and flamethrower attacks, and unidentified soldiers from both sides dying by the hundreds. It goes on, and on, and on, in a Waiting for Godot tediousness, ending at last with house-to-house fighting in a siege of Leningrad-type scenario, and the story is capped with the final two soldiers on earth killing each other on Christmas Eve.
And now all that's left is the animals, you see.
As my wife and I sat watching it we both were seized with a type of aghast paralysis. As it approached its climax I recall thinking, "this one isn't going to end well." And I was right. At its On the Beach conclusion, both little grandsons burst into tears, and we had a hob of a time getting them calmed down. "Look kids, we have more eggnog! You like eggnog, right??"
Sheesh. Maybe Phineas and Ferb aren't so bad.
God bless us all, every one. *G*
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