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Education from Cartoons

Betty Boop character design, figure 1 from U.S...

Betty Boop

Most people watch cartoons for entertainment. I watch them for study. I grew up watching cartoons that my grandmother and my mom grew up on, thrown in with cartoons of the 80s and 90s. I still watch cartoons today. I watch them with my kid and my partner. My son gets to watch cartoons ranging from Betty Boop to Young Justice. My partner and I watch anything we want to because we are adults and that is how we roll. Recently its been The Secret Saturdays on Boomerang very late at night.

The reason I study them? Easy. I want to be a Doctor of Cartoon Studies. Most people who hear this from me have 1 of 2 reactions; they either think its sad and pathetic or they think its a wonderful idea. The ones that think its wonderful usually get into a conversation about how they learned different lessons growing up because of the cartoons they watched. We don’t think about it much, but cartoons are an educational tool that we all use without thinking about it.

Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner

Wile E. Coyote: Super Genius

It is the first introduction we all have of how Physics doesn’t work. How many times has Wile E. Coyote fallen off a cliff, hit the ground far below and is back for the next scene? It is where we learn what a hero truly is. Its where I learned that fast-talking is hard to follow and easy to confuse your listener, Brains always beat Brawn, Cleverness will get you out of almost everything and there is always someone smarter than you. Cartoons teach us all. Why? It is because we learn faster and understand more when we are entertained. Its one of the reasons people have such difficulty learning from boring teachers.I know I did. I could sing any song by Billy Joel, but couldn’t memorize vocabulary words. Why? Because singing is entertaining and vocabulary words are not.

Not all cartoons are educational. You have to find the lessons in order to learn them. In the 1990s Steven Spielberg produced a few cartoon series that focused on fun education. You may recognize a few titles; Animaniacs, Hysteria!, Pinky & the Brain, & Tiny Toons. These shows came when parents cried out that their children were violent because of cartoons that showed cartoon violence. Spielberg disagreed & revolutionized entertaining education for children by creating these shows.

The brain

The Brain

Animaniacs came with a “Wheel of Morality” with the end of some of their episodes. Yakko Warner would spin the wheel and a bizarre moral of the show was shared with the audience.  Hysteria tried to teach children History with fun, loud, obnoxious characters such as Father Time and Baby New Year. Each episode covered one or many historical events that children usually learn about in text books. Pinky & the Brain showed kids how to use their brain to get what they weant, while not forgetting that its okay sometimes to be silly-willy. Tiny Toons taught children about what goes into making an animated cartoon, everything that goes into making a cartoon character and the lessons the characters learned (like Plucky Duck & Hampton J. Pig learning not to steal).

So next time you are watching cartoons try to remember that its not only entertaining, it may also be educational.



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