By: Charles Bowen
Wimpy. Felix the Cat. Heckle and Jeckle. And the irrepressible Betty Boop. For the Television Generation, they are like members of the family. Heck, you saw them more often than you saw Aunt Beulah and Uncle Jake. Top Cat, Deputy Dawg, and Mighty Mouse all had a place at the table. And let’s not ever forget Betty Rubble and Judy Jetson.
Cartoons are icons in American pop culture. From the “beep-beep” of the Roadrunner to Fred Flintstone’s “yabba dabba do,” our animated citizenry has been contributing to our collective conversational shorthand since the mid-20th century. And that’s not all, folks.
Unfortunately, until recently, cartoons have not really been on the radar scope for the chroniclers of the American scene. Unlike books and movies and even TV sitcoms and dramas, cartoons have been generally snubbed by historians. Our first “guilty pleasure,” cartoons are something almost everyone knows but few grownups talk about.
Until the Web. A site called The Big Cartoon Database promises to do for the cartoon world what the Internet Movie Database has done for films. Namely, the site provides quick, easy searching for names and episodes, with cross-references to everything from directors to the actors and actresses who voice the characters on the screen. To check it out, visit the site at http://www.bcdb.com, where a neatly organized introductory page that is reminiscent of the Internet Movie Database provides a data-entry box in the upper left corner for quick searching, and for most visits, that will be your first stop.
Suppose Robin Williams is coming to town and you decide that in addition to listing his extensive movie credits, it might be a hoot to see how the actor has fared in the animated world. Enter “Robin Williams” (in quotation marks) in the box and up comes a list of more than 30 cartoons in which Williams has voiced a character, from as long ago as 1982 (in Hanna-Barbera’s “Mork and Mindy” series) to as recently as 1999 and MTV’s Claymation series.
For advanced search options, click the “Detailed Search” link located beneath the data box. The resulting screen enables you to search for directors, producers, titles, animators, writers, characters, voice talent, descriptions, production notes, and other crew members.
The “description” field can be especially valuable if used imaginatively. For example, suppose you were looking for how the cartoon world treated a subject like America’s War Between the States. Enter “Civil War” in the description field and find more than a dozen cartoons, from the 1929 Walt Disney Studios’ “The Barnyard Battle” and the 1940 Warner Bros.’ “Confederate Honey” to a 1999 episode of the controversial “South Park” called “The Red Badge of Gayness.”
Other considerations for using the Big Cartoon Database in your writing and editing:
1. If you’re looking for works by a specific studio, the site saves you time by providing quick links to the top cartoon producers. On the site’s front page are links to Columbia, Disney, Filmation, 20th Century Fox, Hanna-Barbera, MGM, Paramount, Universal, and Warner Bros.
2. If you write about the site in your news columns or Internet features, you might want to tell your readers they also can use the site to get news of upcoming releases in the theaters and for the home DVD market. The top of the introductory page has a “News” section with appropriate links.
3. The site, managed by Dave Koch, currently has data on nearly 42,000 cartoons and more than 2,000 cartoon series, with more added all the time.