2023: A Year Full of Cartoons

Ever since I started writing for Cartoon Milk back in 2020, I’ve always done some kind of article to cap off the year, talking about my animation experiences in either a general sense or by discussing a specific selection of cartoons. However, I don’t know if I’m able to do that for this year.

It’s not as if I haven’t been doing much cartoon watching, because I’ve seen a frankly ludicrous amount of stuff this year. I’ve kept up with my habit of regularly doing short write-ups about random shorts, episodes and whatnot, most of which are available on my Letterboxd profile if you’d like to read more off-the-cuff thoughts. I’ve ended up seeing over 30 feature films including three then-recent movies in the cinema despite previously saying I’d never do so again (Across the Spider-Verse, TMNT: Mutant Mayhem, and Robot Dreams).

And most surprisingly, I’ve managed to watch numerous animated shows without much hassle. Normally, it’s an achievement if I watch two or three TV series within a year, but 2023 saw me checking out the first two seasons of the excellent Ojamajo Doremi, the quite good web series Mee’s Forest, the superbly bittersweet Heike Story, the well-directed SSSS Gridman, the first thirty-something episodes of the charming Cat’s Eye anime, and Scott Pilgrim Takes Off – the first Scott Pilgrim thing I’ve ever sincerely gelled with and liked.

I’m genuinely shocked that I checked out so much this year. Most of it has been enjoyable to say the least, such as the filmographies of Sally Cruikshank and the late Gil Alkabetz or the cavalcade of hilarious Looney Tunes shorts that I’d sometimes never even heard of. Even with stuff I didn’t dig as much as I hoped to, there were still positive things to take from it and things to learn about in general.

That said, it’s a bit disorienting to have seen so many cartoons. For one thing, there’s a lot of stuff I want to write about, but that doesn’t provide options so much as overwhelm me with endless equally valid possibilities. 

Just off the top of my head, I’ve had ideas to write about – not including most of the cartoons or creators discussed above – The Thief and the Cobbler, Pepe Le Pew’s filmography, Nutcracker Fantasy, The Cat Returns, the Cowboy Bebop movie, Animalympics, the cartoons released on the Nintendo 3DS (of which there are positively LOADS) and even Eight Crazy Nights. Not to mention various thoughts that have been lurking in my brain for a good year or two.

The mind is too alive with ideas, and the end result is basically experiencing that scene from The Man Who Fell To Earth where David Bowie is helplessly watching 12 different TV channels while screaming “GET OUT OF MY MIND, ALL OF YOU!”

Admittedly, I’ve done fairly okay in posting on a monthly basis, and I was able to expand on short write-ups or forum posts made elsewhere as a foundation for fleshed out articles if I couldn’t find enough focus. But there’s so much I want to say that I often don’t know where to begin, and end up saying nothing as a result.

The other thing that makes things tricky is that watching so much stuff has made them a bit more disposable in my mind, which I’m not comfortable with. I think that it’s bound to happen that not everything you watch matters equally, and that it’s fine. A cartoon can mean the world to somebody even if it’s not you, and it at least makes for a pleasant way to pass the time.

But there’s stuff that I really enjoyed which I struggle to remember unless I look back over write-ups or chats I’ve had with folks. Occasionally, I’ll get the compulsion to watch something a bunch of times and then it’ll become burned into my brain like a lot of my favourite cartoon shorts, such as Sally Cruikshank’s “Face like a Frog” or Art Davis’ “Two Gophers from Texas”.

Otherwise, cartoons can often feel like they’re going in one ear and out the other unless they resonate so strongly, and that bugs me a fair bit. It’s not as if I’m binge-watching stuff, either; I normally watch one episode of a TV show per day and three or four shorts in one sitting. But it all accumulates in the end, and you can only hold onto so much before things slip through your fingers.

I don’t know what to take from that. I feel like I should watch less so that I’ve more to hold onto. But maybe worrying about what I should be doing is the problem. I have this issue where I’m compelled to try and experience things in an optimal fashion; I must be something, everything I do has to fall into place perfectly, and I shouldn’t be wasting my time doing THE WRONG THING. Everything has to matter.

No, it doesn’t. “What matters” is something you can only determine for yourself, and that’s a viewpoint that you can change at any time if you’re not liking where it’s leading you.

I know that to be true on an intellectual level, especially when it’s for watching and/or writing about cartoons of all goddamn things, but it’s difficult to put that into practice. But I want to try. If there is anything I should do, perhaps it’s to be more carefree and accept that things will slip through my fingers. Don’t hold onto what’s left so tightly that I squeeze the life out of them.

As things are in my neck of the woods, it’s actually pretty okay. Everyone’s doing well, and getting on great. I finished my college course, which is wild considering how challenging things had been. That’s a great achievement. The only issue, I find, is that I’m uncertain and anxious about what to do with myself going forward. I easily get stuck in my own head about things, and I don’t know how to escape my nonsense consistently enough to get forward momentum. Honestly, I’ve felt like I’ve been in a bit of a motionless rut throughout the year, though that feeling hasn’t been there so strongly in a while. That’s a start at least.

And even in the worst of that rut, I’ve still had my friends to talk to about all kinds of things, to laugh and joke about, to even make stuff for like write-ups or stupid image and video edits. Most of these friends are over on the World Animation Discord, who I’ve kept in contact with thanks to our shared love of animation in all its many weird and wonderful forms.

I’m not sure what the next year will be like, but I have my passions, my friendships and my family to keep me going. That’s enough, for now.

Special thanks to everyone on the World Animation Discord, the COOLT, and the Hardcore Gaming 101 discord for keeping me company and being as supportive as they’ve been throughout the year.

Thanks to everyone who was involved – directly or otherwise – in the creation of all my articles for this blog during the year.

FrDougal9000 writes for hardcoregaming101.net as Apollo Chungus. When he isn’t writing about video games, he is cultivating his love of animation that’s only increased over the last few years as he’s explored the wide, weird and wonderful world of the medium.

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