Saturday morning cartoons were a staple of life in my childhood. I imagine they are a staple in the lives of all children growing up in the United States. It may be what trains us to look forward to weekends so much, only so many of us have forgotten.
I haven’t forgotten. I still enjoy what I would define as Saturday morning cartoons, though they might not appear on Saturday. It’s easy to be a geek and still enjoy these weekly doses of joy. They’re better know than they’ve ever been. Sure, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and He-Man: Masters of the Universe somehow made it into the zeitgeist of the 1980s, but the quality of cartoon was somewhat lacking. Today though, we have a rich cornucopia of shows, created by people who grew up on the shows of old and have shepherded in a new era of cartoons that have at least doubled in quality. From The Clone Wars and The Legend of Korra to Adventure Time and My Little Pony, as many adults watch these shows as kids.
But there’s a group of artists here in Salt Lake City taking their love one step further.
When local artist (and former Robot, Budget-tron) Derek Hunter found that he was soon moving away from Salt Lake to move to Hollywood and live the high life as an illustrator for Adventure Time, he knew he wanted to do one last thing while he was here. Along with Magen Mitchell, co-owner and designer of Paper Wasp, the two of them decided they would curate a gallery showing of local artists paying homage to their favorite Saturday morning cartoons.
It was no trick to get other artists involved. It’s a veritable who’s who of local art. Aside from Derek and Magen, Leia Bell will be showing work, as well as Tim Odland, Lucas and Heather Ackley, J.J. Harrison, and a dozen others.
Knowing Derek’s work outside of Adventure Time (Pirate Club, Gamma Rae, Lobster Ladd) it’s impossible to ignore the obvious influence from the goofy cartoons of our youth. “I always dreamed about doing Saturday morning cartoons,” Derek told me. “Most of the times I played with my favorite toys, I did it as though I were writing a new episode of their shows. And once I started painting my action figures to look like my own characters, the dream got bigger and the stories more elaborate. I'm doing a Duck Tales piece for the show (pictured on the left) because, after Ninja Turtles, that show informed my creative process in my comic making more than any other. I've always been drawn to adventure stories and this cartoon was a perfect fit for a 10 year old.”
Everyone has a favorite cartoon from their youth. My personal hope for this gallery showing is that it reminds others how much they loved that time in their life and encourage them to get back into the swing of watching cartoons. Cartoons are often dismissed as something childish, but the animated shows on the air today are some of the best written and most well-made on television. I’d stack the writing and maturity of The Clone Wars up against your AMC shows any day of the week.
On July 20, from 6:00 to 9:00pm, Paper Wasp will be launching their gallery animated delights at Blonde Grizzly (213 E. 300 S.).
Hit up the gallery, then go home and hit some of your old favorite cartoons on Netflix. You’ll be glad you did. On both counts.
While you're there, be sure to pick up an exclusive Big Shiny Robot! T-shirt. They look very cool.