Saturday, March 5, 2016

Little Twelve Toes

Being a nostalgic, I am a huge "Schoolhouse Rock" fan. When the animated shorts started showing up on video, first in the early '90s and years after they were off the air, Lori and I bought the collection and let the memories overwhelm us. Eventually, a more complete compilation was released, and finally, it came to DVD -- one of the first DVDs I owned. As the videos were released, a few that weren't popular for whatever reason (e.g., copyright infringement, the fear of comparing the government to a circus, the new ones created in the '90s) came into our consciousness, including perhaps the most bizarre Schoolhouse Rock video ever made: "Little Twelve Toes."


I had no memory of "Little Twelve Toes" growing up, and I wonder if it's because ABC stopped airing it because it's a bit too abstract. The premise: If humans had six digits on each hand or foot, our base counting system would be 12 instead of 10. The video even introduces new symbols for these numbers: dec and el. Possibly deemed too weird, it never became a Gen X staple like at least 20 other Schoolhouse Rock videos are.

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The boys have their favorite cartoons, mostly on Cartoon Network and Disney XD. "Gravity Falls" is among their favorites, and it's deep for grade school fare. Ben loves "Teen Titans Go!" and both are enjoying the new "Tom and Jerry" and Bugs Bunny cartoons being created for Cartoon Network. I usually don't have patience for these shows. Cartoons were so special on Saturday mornings, and many of the ones after school were older ones that our parents might have watched (my dad loved "Looney Toons"), so we never got much pushback. But today, cartoons are on all the time. They are far more intelligent ("Phineas and Ferb" is amazing) and actually less violent.  Yet, I see the boys watching them and thinking it's crap.

Someday, they will be nostalgic for these shows, and they won't have to wait for them to come out on video -- they can just go on YouTube or Netflix to go back. The same applies to the live action shows they watch on Disney or Nickelodeon; whereas I find myself always stopping on "Facts of Life" reruns, they can easily find "Jessie" episodes anytime they want.

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Those Saturday mornings growing up were something else. Cartoons were like a treat, a well-deserved reward after a long week of school. ABC (and CBS, for that matter -- remember Charles Kurault's "In the News") was brilliant for sneaking in education into those hours. The current crop of cartoons might not be educational, but they aren't necessarily mindless. But it's just another TV show to them, not a weekly event. They won't know the excitement of a new schedule every fall (usually preceded by a Friday night preview show to promote the new lineup). They still get commercials, unfortunately, but they won't get Schoolhouse Rock or "Fat Albert" or "American Bandstand" at 11:30 signaling it was time to either get outside or watch another hour of weekend TV.

I almost wish Disney would bring back Schoolhouse Rock -- the network owns ABC, after all. I know, most of the math and English is covered by Common Core now, but damn, the shorts were still effective. Michael still occasionally struggles multiplying by 8s and 9s, and I can't help but think watching "Figure 8" and "Naughty Number 9" a couple dozen times would help. And I wouldn't mind if he chose to change the channel on "Little Twelve Toes." Time to wrap this up -- it's past dec o'clock.

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