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Badmovies.org Forum  |  Other Topics  |  Television  |  The Best Cartoon Episodes For Traumatizing Kids « previous next »
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Author Topic: The Best Cartoon Episodes For Traumatizing Kids  (Read 13865 times)
Inyarear
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« on: October 12, 2007, 03:56:12 AM »

Not too long ago, Cracked.com ran an article about animated movies actually meant for kids (as opposed to, for example, Japanese echhi and hentai obviously targeted at an older audience) that were--in some ways--actually rather potentially traumatizing. Some examples they gave which I've seen, and can therefore vouch for personally, are Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (in which the hero fails to stop a series of brutal murders), The Incredibles (in which the superhero kids gleefully kill off several of the supervillain's henchmen), and Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame (with its forcibly happy ending still being rather sucky for the heroic hunchback). Personally, I would have disqualified Watership Down from their lineup if I were calling the shots, as I don't think that movie was really made for children any more than The Last Unicorn was. (The latter is not as potentially traumatic as the former, but the mature themes in it would probably put most kids to sleep.) Still, the list given covers plenty of ground.

What occurs to me, though, is that this list dealt entirely with animated movies. What about the cartoons on TV? I'm not just talking about anime, which can often have some disturbing stuff in it even when it is supposedly aimed at kids (Detective Conan, a.k.a. Case Closed, for instance), but domestically produced stuff here in America and everything else we generally hold to a more kid-friendly standard. Some of the cartoons I've noticed are being shown to kids in our time (and some that were shown when I was a kid) have some rather disturbing elements, even when held to these rules. Have any of you guys ever seen stuff like this that made you wonder "Can they DO that on TV?" or "How did that ever get past the censors?"

While I've seen several examples, I'd like to kick off this open listing with one of my recent viewings, an episode of Superman TAS called "Unity" in which Supergirl and Superman take on a cult that has taken control of Smallville (including Ma and Pa Kent, of course) which centers around a huge, nightmarish extraterrestrial monster.


This monster apparently brainwashes people with its tentacles, which infect them with some kind of wormy parasite that causes them to sprout tentacles of their own out of their own mouths.


Most of this episode focuses on Supergirl, who manages to avoid being brainwashed herself, but still gets into some amazingly sticky situations, if you'll pardon the expression.


Now granted, kids not yet at the age of understanding will probably have no conscious trauma from most of the perverse erotic subtext in this imagery, but at the subconscious level, I can easily see how this stuff could give them some serious nightmares. The whole episode's like a tentacle rape hentai, even though everyone's clothes stay on and none of these stringy, squishy, off-white strands of mucous-like material ever go probing into private areas. The monstrous creature referred to as "Unity" and the alien cult leader evangelizing for it both look a lot like hentai demons in their true forms too. (Let's not even go into the implications of how, when the alien parasites were vanquished, they left their former victims lying on the floor with a puddle of off-white slime oozing out of their mouths.)

Superman TAS is, of course, made by the same people who made the Batman TAS episodes, which were usually much darker stories, being set in the noirish and vaguely dystopian Gotham as they were, whereas Superman's Metropolis is a clean, bright, and vaguely utopian futuristic-looking city. There were several Japanese animators in this group; one of them, Shin-Ichi Tsuji, directed this particular episode, and you can tell he must have been bringing a few ideas from back home with him when he did. I can only wonder, if the censors allowed this much stuff past them, what scenes (if any) they might have had pitched to them and rejected as unsuitable for the children at whom this cartoon series is directed. Oy! If I had any kids, I'd certainly think twice before showing this to them, maybe wait until they're getting into their preteens at least.

This is one cartoon episode that seriously creeps me out. Can you guys think of any others?
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asimpson2006
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« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2007, 11:44:03 AM »

Some of the episodes of Rocko's Modern Life I think could be disturbing.  I mean It's a funny show, but some of the jokes kids wouldn't get.  I would also say the Animaniacs.  The sexual innuendo's in that show are wrong for kids.
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AndyC
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« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2007, 01:52:58 PM »

The Superman and Batman animated series did have some pretty strong stuff, but the ones that stand out for me are some of the Batman Beyond episodes, especially the ones with obvious lessons. The one with athletes slapping on Venom patches to boost performance had its moments, like seeing the emaciated Bane.

The biggie for me was Disappearing Inque, that has some infatuated dork helping the villainess to escape and restore her powers in exchange for getting the same shape-shifting power (and some lovin', he hopes). She double-crosses him, of course, and he's transformed into this weirdly deformed, semi-solid, severely disabled version of himself. If I remember correctly, he ends up in the same institution while Inque disappears. Reminded me a little bit of the ending of The Fly II, except that this was some poor lovestruck schmuck who didn't deserve it. Very disturbing.
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« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2007, 02:24:48 PM »

I found the original Johnny Quest very frightening when I was a kid, particularly that mummy episode. The average body count per epside is probably higher than many recent action films.

For feature-length animated traumatic childhood viewing you can't beat Takahata's 1988 kiddie komedy klassic GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES.


"You know... for kids!"
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« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2007, 06:42:24 AM »

 Disneys Fantasia- Night on Bald Mountain sequence-

     [youtube=425,350]http://youtube.com/watch?v=SDImmkjomzQ

   They actually showed us THIS cartoon in English class when I was in the fourth grade! Not as scary as those drug scare films with the deformed LSD babies...but uh! Creepy!

                     The Tell Tale Heart....

      [youtube=425,350]http://youtube.com/watch?v=AJb150JRqpQ
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asimpson2006
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« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2007, 04:38:02 PM »

I found the original Johnny Quest very frightening when I was a kid, particularly that mummy episode. The average body count per epside is probably higher than many recent action films.

For feature-length animated traumatic childhood viewing you can't beat Takahata's 1988 kiddie komedy klassic GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES.


"You know... for kids!"


I would sy that is anything but komedy klassic, but it's a good film for giving kids nightmares for years.
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akiratubo
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« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2007, 04:56:21 PM »

Some episodes of Invader Zim, particularly Dark Harvest and Bestest Friend, could traumatize children.

Dark Harvest has Zim using some kind of vacuum pump to suck out children's organs, which he stuffs into himself.  He ends up a bloated bag of organs.  Bestest Friend has Zim pulling out a kid's eyes and replacing them with implants.  The episode ends with the kid falling off a roof and exploding.

The episode Abducted has an arguably more traumatic scene.  Zim is abducted by (other) aliens who want to splice him with random objects.  During his escape, he finds a misshapen, blob-like thing -- that in all probability used to be a human, given that the aliens said they wanted to abduct lots of Earth creatures -- who has been spliced with, among other things, a squeaky moose.  It begs Zim for help, but Zim just leaves the poor thing there, and the episode ends with one of the aliens going to splice it with some junk he found on the floor.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2007, 07:35:19 PM by akiratubo » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2007, 12:05:22 AM »

I choose the episode of Batman: The Animated Series, where Harvey Dent first became Two-Face.  As soon as he stumbles out of his hospital room, twist his head to the right just a little towards his fiance showing the rest of his face with lightning in the background.  I know it got me a little bit.
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« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2007, 11:08:14 AM »

Ever seen the suicide episode of Tom and Jerry? I need to search you tube for that, saw it once in the early 80's on WPWR Channel 60 in Chicago.

EDIT found the link :

Small | Large
« Last Edit: October 25, 2007, 10:28:55 PM by inframan » Logged
DistantJ
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« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2007, 05:42:14 PM »

Disneys Fantasia- Night on Bald Mountain sequence-

     [youtube=425,350]http://youtube.com/watch?v=SDImmkjomzQ

   They actually showed us THIS cartoon in English class when I was in the fourth grade! Not as scary as those drug scare films with the deformed LSD babies...but uh! Creepy!

                     The Tell Tale Heart....

      [youtube=425,350]http://youtube.com/watch?v=AJb150JRqpQ


Absolutely brilliant post. +Karma for you.
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Inyarear
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« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2007, 01:51:05 AM »

Hmmm... Grave of the Fireflies I would tend to disqualify from this listing; as the Japanese know, even if some folks here in America haven't figured it out yet, not all cartoons are for kids. Besides, that's one movie the censors would never show uncut and uncensored on regular TV channels.

That bit from Disney's Fantasia, on the other hand, definitely qualifies. Note, in addition to the intense scenery with Satan arousing the damned and whipping them into an unholy frenzy, the shots of bare-breasted harpies flying right into the viewer's face. That's not the only frontal nudity in Fantasia, incidentally: in the mythological pieces they set to Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, there were a number of shots of some young centaur ladies bathing topless. For all of this, the movie's rating was... a G.

You've got to hand it to Walt; he's the only guy I ever heard of who could get something like that past the censors. Satan's leering stare at the burning temptresses in that one scene would surely have called into question the socially redeeming value of the imagery there, but I guess Walt must have had such an impeccable reputation with the censors that they assumed this was all done in good taste and for a good reason. All the same, when Disney reissued Fantasia in the theaters for one of its anniversaries, I recall seeing some of the parents of small children around me taking them out during that Night On Bald Mountain sequence. It was really quite intense!

That Tell Tale Heart short's another rather unique entry, being a school film. I guess it passes muster with the teachers and principal mainly because it's classic literature, it's not really likely to be any scarier than your average R.L. Stine horror novel, and it's done more or less the way horror is supposed to be done, with the most terrible stuff being implied rather than shown outright as it would be in a slasher flick.

Schools do get some leeway in deciding what to show the kids and when to show it, and they do sometimes cross the line too: I've heard of kids in the benighted state of Massachusetts being shown out-and-out pornography in the classroom and of seventh-graders being instructed on fisting. Leaving aside such obvious abuses of authority, however, I do remember being shown some brief public service film in third grade that basically went to rather laughable lengths to inform us that boys and girls are physically different (well, duh!) and to explain what some of these differences are. Near the end, it showed us some brief footage of a naked little baby boy lying on his back, with the camera prominently focusing on his penis. This elicited more wisecracking and crude remarks than anything else from the guys around me. While I don't recall that day too well, I think the girls had all been sent to another room to see a similar film directed at them. (The significance of this arrangement escaped me at the time.)

In any case, a school will sometimes show kids stuff that isn't allowed on TV. A lot of those instructional films can be seen on www.archive.org, and some of them are even fun to show to your friends. (Your girlfriend, on the other hand, if you try screening one of these public service films for a romantic dinner-and-a-movie kind of date, will probably never quite look at you the same way again. I particularly recommend steering clear of the ones on STDs, especially if the guy playing the "herpes boy" happens to look anything like you.) Ironically, those pieces are more likely to creep out your fellow adults than to traumatize any children. ("Dude, why are you watching this stuff?")

That suicidal episode of Tom and Jerry was definitely a powerful example of pushing the envelope on a children's cartoon; it's not even very funny. Oy vey, what a bad day someone must have been having! Then he decides to go taking it out on all the poor little innocent kiddies who just wanted to see a little cartoonish cat-and-mouse mayhem. It honestly couldn't have been any more traumatic if they'd shown Mickey Mouse playing Russian Roulette.

Those Invader Zim bits do sound pretty traumatic in their own way, though I'll bet the writers found some way to pass it all off lightly with some darkly humorous gag or other. A number of the various Batman episodes, while not usually very scary, did often strike me as being awfully melancholy and tragic for kids' fare. While that first shot of Harvey Dent's new twisted face didn't "get" me quite the way it got you when I first saw it (possibly because I was a teenager by then), one scene of him that really sticks with me is at the end of the episode "Judgement Day" in which we're given a wide shot of Arkham Asylum, and hear the voice of the Judge, Two-Face's new extra personality, accusing him of various crimes and asking him how he pleads. Then, as the camera zooms down the halls and in on Two-Face, we see him in a straight jacket, his wild and forlorn eyes staring right into the camera, saying "Guilty... Guilty... Guilty!" My heart really went out to him there.

What's interesting about cartoons with body counts in them is how the deaths are arranged to suit the censors. As far as I can tell, there are basically three ways to get a character's death past them:

1. Tell, but don't show: that is, never actually portray the death at all, but have someone bring it up in conversation after the fact, as in the case of Batman learning from his computer access to the police files that a "John Doe" corpse that washed up in Gotham's harbors has been tentatively identified as Tim Drake's father "Shifty" Drake.

2. Do a comic book death: as everyone knows, when the bad guy falls into a well-nigh-bottomless pit or an airplane apparently blows up with him in it (as happened to the Joker in the Batman/Superman crossover "World's Finest"), he's probably dead. On the other hand, as everyone who reads comics tends to figure out sooner or later, such "deaths" are rarely permanent, and there can always be some sequel to the story in which we learn that the bad guy somehow managed to escape after all. Therefore, as long as there's some entirely reasonable doubt that he's dead, you can show him getting "killed" in this way.

3. Make it a once-in-the-whole-series climactic event, as in the Superman episode in which Darkseid flash-fries the heroic police chief Dan "Terrible" Turpin with his zig-zagging Omega Effect. If the kids are supposed to be traumatized, if they're supposed to feel Superman's shock and anguish right along with him and mourn the poor guy the way a whole bunch of people do at his funeral, then it's fine to kill one guy as long as it's quick and clean. You also get bonus points if the guy's death is particularly meaningful beyond the show, as in Turpin's case, where he was something of an avatar for the recently deceased Jack Kirby, the world's most famous comic book creator and a big hero to his fellow artists and writers.

There's also a kind of cheat you can employ known as metaphysical elimination; when the Sailor Moon episodes first arrived in America, heavily cut and censored, one thing the censors did apparently decide was all right was the regular deaths of the monsters at the hands of Sailor Moon and her friends. Since the monsters, invariably revealed not to be entirely human, would usually crumble into dust, melt, and/or evaporate, none of these eliminations "counted" as a death. The Batman episode "Growing Pains" played the ultimate counterpoint to this cheat, however, in having Robin's new girlfriend getting reabsorbed into her "father" Clayface. Robin identifies this as a murder, and I don't think anyone can really deny he's right.

These are all excellent examples. Anybody got any more?
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Spiff
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« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2007, 10:21:43 AM »

That episode of the Powerpuff Girls with the devil character that has the high pitched voice was mighty creepy.
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AndyC
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« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2007, 11:02:59 AM »

That episode of the Powerpuff Girls with the devil character that has the high pitched voice was mighty creepy.

Yeah, I thought that character was pretty creepy too. The lobster claws didn't help, either.
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« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2007, 06:20:29 AM »

The episode: 'Jack And The Haunted House' of Samurai Jack was pretty eerie but in all honesty it would probably just bore kids (SJ's not really a kids cartoon, methinks).
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BlackAngel75
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« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2007, 01:39:58 AM »

Every episode of the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy
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