*The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm.
Cartoons have a special place in our memories.
The tinkling sound of the cereal hitting the bowl. The calm of the house settling around us.
There is something brightly nostalgic about those memories, something almost too good to be true.
Of course, if something seems too good to be true…
Before we dive into the darkness, a content warning. There will be mentions of suicide, murder and domestic abuse.
Redditors heeded the siren call of nostalgia when Reddittor Amateurfatgeek22 asked:
“What are some dark facts about cartoon shows?”
That’s smurf’d up.
“There was a Smurfs PSA that was made for UNICEF I believe where their entire village is carpet-bombed.”~Djangolives
Apparently, someone should’ve spent some time on Undercover Boss.
“Ren and Stimpy was an absolute nightmare for the people who worked on it. John K ordered them not to make the same face twice.”
“Pretty, but it was hell for the workers because they were constantly drawing things.”
“John K was a nightmare boss.”
“One of the producers had a sign on his wall labeled ‘John’s knees’ and invited people to kick it.”
“By the time he left it was reduced to a hole.”
“They made several episodes that were just the animators ranting about how much of an asshole that John K was.”~CrazyCoKids
The darkest of facts.
“A literal dark fact: Batman: the Animated Series had their backgrounds drawn on black paper instead of white paper, to make Gotham appear darker.”~PianoManGidley
Someone’s got a bone to pick.
“The creator of Skeletor was inspired by a corpse in a haunted house that he was 100% sure was real. Turned out he was right.”~Scodo
The implications aren’t so fun.
“In Disney’s Gargoyles, Goliath believes his entire clan is either dead or turned permanently to stone, and he asks the Magus to turn him to stone forever as well.”
“Yes, there were improbable terms to break the curse … but effectively, he was committing suicide.”
“He knew he was among the last of his kind and did not know if he would ever wake up again.”
“He left behind a rookery full of eggs (the next generation) when he did so.”
“Also, in City of Stone, Demona smashes statues that are humans turned to stone — she kills people on screen in a Disney cartoon.”
“Lots more examples from Gargoyles, but those two stick out.”~mynonymouse
Speaking of implications…
“There’s no normal animals in Pokémon, yet you see the characters eat meat all the time”~t00nland
Some shows hid their darkness in plain sight.
“Not so much about the production, but there is an obscure animated movie called The Adventures of Mark Twain that is stop motion animated, and in one pretty f*cked up scene Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Becky are greeted by an angel who says his name is Satan.”
“Except he looks nothing like a traditional angel, he holds a mask on a stick for a face which contorts into a demon and skeletal face at times.”
He then has the kids sculpt a village with people and a castle out of sand, and Satan then brings them to life.”
“The sand people get along but soon start fighting and Satan kills them by summoning lighting, causing an earthquake, etc…”
“The kids are horrified, but Satan just nonchalantly says they can make more and waxes poetic about how life is a vision and we don’t matter.”
“I can’t really do justice describing how eerie it is, but if you look up disturbing kid’s cartoons on YouTube, it’ll pop up.”~Lrehcsa1926
The whole point of some of these shows was the darkness.
“When the Wind Blows is a movie that uses a bright palette and pleasant childhood aesthetic to tell the story of nuclear attack aftermath could-bes.”
“It follows an awfully gullible elderly couple with an overzealous trust in their government as they go on with their lives after the strike, which progressively gets worse as they succumb to radiation poison.”
“The pamphlet they seem to rely on is real and it’s just as out of touch and unsettling.”
“It has been suggested that it’s actual purpose is allowing for a better clean-up after you’re f*cking dead.”
While other times the darkness lurked behind the scenes.
“The studio had to get someone else to sing ‘Soon You’ll Come Home’ in All Dogs go to Heaven because the voice actor, Judith Barsi, had such a traumatic home life because of an abusive, alcoholic father that she couldn’t sing the song without having a breakdown.”
“She and her mother were murdered by him before the movie was released in a double-murder/suicide.”
“She was only 10.”
“She was also the voice of Ducky from Land Before Time.”
“Her tombstone reads, ‘Yep! Yep! Yep!’ “~nnelson2330
After so much darkness, how about we end on something a bit lighter?
“I remember reading an interview with an animator who worked on the original She-Ra back in the 80’s, made by Filmation that there was some rather weird arguments from the producers over She-Ra not being lady-like enough.”
“Like a proper lady shouldn’t pick up and throw a tank, despite the fact that’s the literal point of the character, the most powerful woman in the universe.”
“And there’s an actual clip of her throwing a tank in the opening credits.”
“Of course there was a lot of push back from the artists and directors that She-Ra should be kicking all kinds of ass, and hurling tanks around.”
“I noticed in the last season of the new She-ra there’s a scene where she’s throwing tanks around and someone admonishes her for it saying ‘We don’t throw tanks at our friends’.”
“I can’t help but wonder if that was a nod to the old She-Ra and the hard time they got for tossing tanks around.”~Patches67
The cartoons we grew up with were meant for our enjoyment and education.
It’s interesting that the subject-matter didn’t always line up with those lofty goals, and truly heartbreaking that behind the scenes, events were sometimes much darker.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/