The quest to find the perfect children's cartoon.

Reading and lounging and watching.
June 2 2006 3:38 PM

Beyond Bugs Bunny

The quest to find the perfect children's cartoon.

(Continued from Page 1)

I have watched 24 episodes of this show (set your TiVos, it airs on the Disney channel in the United States) and have yet to hear one note that is cloying, sour, or otherwise dishonest. Its brilliance lies in capturing childhood instead of manipulating it: by which I mean, it neither panders to an adult's ideal of childhood innocence nor to a child's fantasy of adult mastery and power. The show is about, of all things, the practice of reasoning, or the giving and taking of explanations. Toddlers are people, after all, who lie only on the verge of fully understanding the prudential, moral, and ethical demands of life—they master a habit of asking "Why?" long before they understand what counts as a legitimately satisfying answer to a "why" question. "Hmm, this is going to be trickier than I thought," Charlie murmurs to himself when it becomes clear that Lola's favorite book (Beetles, Bugs and Butterflies) has been checked out of the library. And so Charlie treads a delicate balance between securing rote obedience through commands (shushing Lola because she is speaking loudly in a library) and instilling a respect for appropriate behavior through explanation. A balance that came home to me as my lovely interview subject, a smile spreading across her face, began to ram my hand repeatedly into my keyboard, screaming maniacally, "I'm helping you type! I'm helping you type!"

Correction, June 5, 2006: The article originally misspelled the name of the composer Carl Stalling. Return to the corrected sentence.

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