Things I used to love: Disney Channel

I do not have children, and therefore I (gratefully) have very little conception of what airs on the Disney Channel these days. However, every so often I’m confronted with what passes for modern kids-oriented programming. Usually when I’m somehow a captive audience. For instance, I’ve been subjected to such things on the television in front of my treadmill at the gym on a Saturday morning. Or sometimes when I’m in the waiting room at Jiffy Lube. And frankly I’m horrified.

This makes...

This makes…

...THIS seem epic.

…THIS seem epic.

I’m not even making that up. I know someone with a middle-school-age daughter who became obsessed with Full House on DVD because it was so much more “genuine” and “realistic.” Oh my God, Becky.

Anyway, to my mind the real travesty is not that these sitcoms are so shitty. It’s that sitcoms are even on the Disney Channel in the first place. But you might ask, how would Disney rake in money hand-over-fist without celebritzing crop after crop of living kewpie dolls? I don’t really care. Bring back cartoons.

One thing I vividly recall from childhood is holding the opinion that anything animated was totally my jam by default and anything live action was just grown-up BS. This even applied Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers, I’m afraid. I can’t identify even half of the Muppets.

Luckily for Wee Holly, she lived at Dawn of Cable, an era when the Disney Channel’s daily schedule was, like, at least 35 percent just classic shorts. And most of the rest of it was composed of long blocks of animated movies either from the Disney studios or acquired elsewhere. Sure, they occasionally took a break for Welcome to Pooh Corner or Under the Umbrella Tree, but mostly it was everything I wanted from television. And lately life has presented me with multiple opportunities to indulge in nostalgia for this time.

On one of the best Girls’ Night experiences in recent memory, one of my friends followed up a sushi outing* with an invitation to her home to view a miraculous yard sale find recently acquired for her by her mom: a new-in-shrink-wrap copy of The Chipmunk Adventure. Just to be perfectly clear, this is not the garish, awful CGI crap they make for kids today. Nope. It was the garish, awful, hand-animated crap they made for us when we were kids. And it was so hilarious and fantastic to see that movie again for the first time since childhood. A complete nostalgia trip, and not one everyone gets to experience. After all, this DVD is rare and out-of-print (read: hideously over-priced on eBay).

I was amazed at how burned into my brain it was. My mom had recorded it from the Disney Channel onto a blank VHS tape for me, and I completely wore it out. As it turns out, the mists of time have clouded nothing, and I could still remember all the plot twists and key dialogue exchanges and lyrics and even some of the dance moves that accompanied the musical sequences (and not just the ones onscreen).

At my house Chipmunk Adventure was an all-singing, all-dancing audience participation revue.

At my house Chipmunk Adventure was an all-singing, all-dancing audience participation revue.

Anyway, on one level, I loved seeing it again without irony. But, of course, there was that, too. Looking at it with the eyes of an adults was, just, wow. There’s so much smoking! It’s so racist! It’s so 80s they actually name-drop Pierre Cardin! And the story involves the kids getting entangled in an international jewel-smuggling ring that’s trying to get diamonds out of the U.S. Obviously this intrigue is brought to us by the same criminal masterminds behind the assassination attempt in Snakes on a Plane.

I’ve also recently discovered volumes of the Disney Animation Collection on Netflix, which are amazing in a whole other way. Admittedly as a single, childless adult, I don’t marathon these. I can’t even explain what insane, moody quirk induced me to turn it on the first time, but I just know that I find it so soothing to revisit Professor Ludwig von Drake or Lambert the Sheepish Lion. Watching just one or two right before bed is so relaxing. I love it, and I’ll be sorry when I finally run out of shorts.

 

* If you’re on the NoVa side of the greater DC metropolitan area, Kumo Sushi in Herndon is the bomb.

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