Last week, in class, we spoke about a particular television show that seemed to resonate with everyone: Courage the Cowardly Dog.
Still from Courage the Cowardly Dog, “Opening Sequence” (Season 1, Episode 1, 1999.)
This show seemed to leave an everlasting impression on people, especially for its elements of terror and incorporation of dark comedy. Growing up, shows such as Goosebumps, The Adventures of Billy and Many, and Are you Afraid of the Dark? took the adolescent world by storm as children glued themselves to their television screens in order to watch a pink dog handle various terrifying situations in the middle of Nowhere (which was actually the name of the place where they lived). Between the early 1990s to early 2000s period, kid’s horror shows were widely acclaimed due to their ability to not only provide a thrilling as well as comedic aspect to various story lines, but also achieve an abstract viewpoint on what is suppose to be a show for children. In an interview with John R. Dilworth, the creator of Courage the Cowardly Dog, his inspiration behind the series originated from his fascination with the “elasticity” as well as the “absurdity” of various characters that he grew up with during “the Golden Age” of cartoons. His interview here:
While researching various creators on shows relating to this subject matter, I came across another famous household name in the land of television horror for children: R.L Stine, the creator of Goosebumps. I noticed a similar characteristic with R.L Stine that I had noticed previously with John R. Dilworth. When both creators started out creating their shows, they did not have a moral lesson in mind. Their shows did not have a deeper or more complex meaning behind them and they did not particularly care for the psychoanalysis aspect of television. They simply wanted to create a show that was funny and chilling at the same time. They both loved the feeling of being scared or scaring people because of the feeling of anticipation that a person receives from these particular actions. When children would watch these types of shows, rarely would they look for a moral of the story. Critics often regarded these types of shows as aesthetically pleasing and fresh, but would not typically capitalize on the psychology within the show because it was open to interpretation.
Still from Goosebumps, “The Haunted Mask” (Season 1, Episode 1, 1995.)
Though the genre for children’s horror thrived during the 1990s to early 2000s period, creators such as Stine and Dilworth worry about this genre today. With the limitations put on television these days, especially children’s television, it is much harder to get approval from networks for these types of shows anymore. An episode such as “King Ramses’ Curse” would have probably never aired today due to its strong elements of horror.
Still from Courage the Cowardly Dog “King Ramses’ Curse” (Season 1, Episode 7, 2000.)
Knowing this, creators who dabble in this particular genre have had a hard time actively seeking networks to pick up their shows. In order to enjoy classics such as these shows, children’s television networks must find a way to compromise with aspiring animators.