I love books. I really do. But I’d be lying if I said that they’re the only things that inspire my stories. I’ve always been really visual, and in some ways I think movies and TV have inspired my own personal projects MORE than books—at least in terms of the feel and aesthetic. Plus, there’s a certain wackiness to some cartoons that doesn’t often show up in books, but is always fantastic when it does.
Let’s start with the wackiest of the bunch: Catscratch is a Nicktoon about three brothers, who happen to be cats, who live in a mansion with their butler, Hovis. When their owner, the insanely rich Ms. Cramdilly, died, she willed her entire estate to them. Surprisingly (not) this show only lasted for one season.
I only saw two episodes of Catscratch when I was younger: The Ghost of Cramdilly and Zombie Party A-Go-Go! But, for some reason, those two episodes influenced me in a big way, and I’ve always remembered them. Crazy plot? Check? Crazier characters? Check. An uptight deadpan snarker (Hovis) and the lovable wackos who torment him? Check!
Hercules: The Animated Series
I love the movie, but the cartoon show is pure gold. It’s basically Percy Jackson before Percy Jackson, with Hercules attending Prometheus Academy and trying to avoid Hades along the way (he doesn’t succeed, obviously). It’s also very funny and insanely clever, but the thing I love most, next to the humor, is the setting. It’s a very modern sort of “Ancient” Greece, where they take their driving tests in chariots and get summer jobs at Gyro World. Watching in it, I can’t help but think about ideas for my own eventual mythic retelling.
Anybody who thinks that cartoons are nothing but time-wasting fluff should watch Treasure Planet. Actually, everyone should watch Treasure Planet. The idea of a scifi retelling of Treasure Island isn’t especially original in itself (believe it or not), but it’s SO wonderfully executed that I still choke up watching it. Or even thinking about it.
All right, I’m a sap, but Treasure Planet taught me that a story can be set in a world that's weird and unfamiliar, but still have a very deep and truthful emotional core. And that’s one of the most important things to remember when you’re writing fantasy.
Batman: The Animated Series
I’m just starting to get into this one, and it’s already influencing me. It’s a kid’s show, but the atmosphere is grim and brooding, and the plots are usually pretty dark. But it doesn’t skimp on quirkiness, and every character is a joy to watch.
My favorite part of this show is probably Harley Quinn. She might be insane and have terrible taste when it comes to men, but she’s also sweet, funny, and surprisingly warm and loving. And yes, she does try to kill Batman. But you never get the sense that she hates him the way the Joker does—sometimes they even act like friends. And Harley always has fun. More than anything, I think that she’s showing me that even villains can be lovable.
That’s all for now, folks! What are some of your favorite cartoons?