On my Odyssey page I have made it no secret that I have a huge passion for animation. Often I tackle the latest animated movie, go over bad and good past Disney films, or even provide an insight into cartoons that have aired in the past and are currently running today. I love getting lost in the stories, characters, and plots.
Animation is my bread and butter and I will always get excited when I see a new clip or trailer appear on my YouTube homepage.
Despite the fact that we have talked about great cartoons and animation for a long time, we never have discussed what makes a great cartoon so great in the first place. What are the key ingredients that take a cartoon show from mediocre to absolutely fantastic?
1. The Animation
While this one seems like a no-brainer, animation is so important to any cartoon. For me, watching the characters and objects move across the screen is such a wonderful experience. What is important in any show is that the animation not only is of good quality, but that it is smooth and matches the scene or tone of the moment. Action scenes require fast-paced animation while slower scenes required slower-paced animation. If you have choppy animation with speeds that don't match the mood or tone of the show, then you leave the audience feeling disoriented, frustrated, and perhaps even stressed out. Animation is so important to a cartoon because it is the very foundation on which the cartoon is built upon.
2. The Design
Now when I talk about design, I am mainly referring to the art style of the show itself. Every show has its own style or flair that makes it unique to watch. Now, a show does not have the same art style or design as every other show in order to be successful. Most animated shows or movies have their own unique art styles that make them unique and interesting. To see a massive change in art style, compare Tim Burton's art with the art from a show like "Steven Universe." Both shows have different art styles, but one would consider both art styles to be pleasing to look at. And that is precisely the point of design: the design of the show must be pleasing to the viewer's eye. If the design of the show is unappealing or ugly, then viewers are not likely to watch.
3. The Characters
I once read that you know a show has great characters if you would be entertained with watching them doing mundane things like going to the grocery store or playing charades. To me, characters are so important to keeping a show afloat. The characters are who the viewers follow throughout the series and it is imperative that they are fully developed and watchable creations. If a character is too annoying, the viewer will switch off the program. If a character is just mean or plain unlikable, the viewer will find something else to watch. You could find a show with an amazing plot, but if the characters are unbearable, then you will not stay around to find out what happens next.
4. The Story
Now the story is a tricky substance for cartoons because a show's story can be minimal, large, or somewhere in between. For example, "Gravity Falls" is all about twin siblings who must discover the paranormal secrets that surround the town of Gravity Falls and surround their family as well while Spongebob SquarePants is about a sponge and his friends who live underwater and get into crazy/funny situations. Both of these cartoons technically have a story, but the stories differ in complexity. What is important, however, is that the story is logical, entertaining, and engaging enough for a viewer to follow in a cohesive manner. The viewer has to actually want to come back and find out what happens next in your story, no matter what level of complexity the story truly belongs to.
5. The Writing
Now do not get confused; the story is different from the writing. When I talk about the story, I am talking about what happens in the overall narration of the show. However, when I talk about writing, I am talking about how that story unfolds. What jokes are being told? What are the characters saying? How is the story being unfolded throughout the episodes? These things are so important to the overall cohesion of a cartoon series because if one thing is off about the writing, then the whole show can leave a bad taste in the mouth of a viewer. A wrongly timed joke or extremely dated or immature dialogue can make a viewer change the channel faster than you can blink. That is why good writing and pacing are so important to the success of a cartoon series.