The development of animated cartoons as a form of entertainment on television in Pakistan
Cartoon viewing on television in Pakistan has increased many folds in the recent past, starting off as limited ten minute transmissions on PTV and reaching the twenty-four hour telecasts on numerous cable network channels at present.
The purpose of this research is to trace the path of cartoon entertainment in Pakistan and to examine the changes that have taken place. At the same time, this research will attempt to compare the ideas depicted by cartoons, the targeted audience and the influence that these cartoons have had.
For many parents, the first glimpse of a cartoon was of Mickey Mouse, the first cartoon in sound. Theatres in Pakistan showed various Disney animated feature films in the 1950s to 1970s. My mom remembers waiting patiently for new Disney cartoons after which my grandfather took the family to the cinema. However, the first cartoons to be televised in Pakistan were by PTV in the 80s. The classical Mickey Mouse, Tom and Jerry or Felix the Cat featured in the early transmissions. Such cartoons were the earliest form of animation and revolved around the basic theme of implicit comedy. Apart from this, PTV aired Sesame Street in the evenings. Sesame Street, being the most universally watched educational preschool children’s program in the world (Davies 83), was a delight to watch and proved to be a useful experience.
The primary boost in cartoon entertainment came with the Network Television Marketing (NTM) broadcasts on Shalimar Television Network (STN). NTM showed a half hour of cartoons everyday. These included many of the famous animated classics such as Duck Tales, Thunder Cats, Care Bears, The Smurfs, Saber Riders, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Japanese Voltron. A survey of 50 LUMS students of which 48 had watched some or all of these cartoons on NTM shows that most teenagers today watched these cartoons in the the last decade. The prominent change during this period was the intensive merchandising pursued. Computer games and action figures sprang up as by-products of cartoon series.
However, cartoon entertainment, as it exists today, was initiated with Cartoon Network. Cartoon Network’s success was instantaneous in the subcontinent as a whole. Brought to Pakistan by satellite dish, it initially showed popular cartoons of the 1950s such as Road Runner, Tom and Jerry, Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny, and Hannah-Barbera productions such as The Flintstones of the 1980s. As it gained popularity, Cartoon Network introduced new blood into its channel and struck gold with Dexter’s Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls. Cartoon Network is the second highest rated cable network behind Nickelodeon. Cable television further bolstered the animation entertainment arena with the introduction of Nickelodeon, The Disney Channel and The Kids Channel. Cartoon series such as Hey Arnold, The Rugrats, and Spongebob Squarepants were born.
With the young audience market saturated, there has been a shift to target teenagers and even adults. The Flintstones and, more notably, The Simpsons were the only cartoon series worth mention targeted at teens and adults in the last decade. South Park and Futurama have added to this list. Moreover, most cartoons meant for children employ double entendres, which allow mature viewers to grasp sublimal messages and humor. There has been marked success within this age group which is evident by the fact that about a third of Cartoon Network viewers are 18 or older as stated by Michael Alazzo, senior vice president of programming at Cartoon Network.
Children today can not imagine life without cartoons. My eight year old cousin simply refused to believe that there was just ten minutes of airtime for cartoons on PTV in the morning before I had to go to school. Both he and his ten year old brother take Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel for granted. Toons waiting to be seen are just the way of life; Cable television has seen to it.
In a country where television viewer ship is 115 million of the population of 140 million, there is a significant percentage of population which watches cartoons (http://www.pakwatan.com/main/tourism/pakgeneral.php3). Thus, there is an apparent influence of cartoons on the youth. Modern cartoons have been criticized for depicting violence, nudity and gender discrimination. Some experts agree that watching cartoons such as The Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack allow for violence; Dexter’s Laboratory, Cow and Chicken and I am Weasel exhibit some degree of nudity; and Johnny Bravo may portray gender inequality in favor of the feminine side.
However, these views have been refuted by numerous other figures who believe that cartoons nowadays are no worse than the rifle blasts and explosions in most cartoons of the 1950’s, such as Bugs Bunny and Road Runner.
Whatever the case, cartoons entertainment has gone through a series of phases in Pakistan and there are now all major networks available on television. Most definitely light and bright food for the entertainment diet, cartoons provide the laughs that you desperately need in modern life. Thankfully, we can now watch cartoons anywhere, anytime. Whether they are the latest contraptions in computer animation such as Samurai Jack, or just plain drawing-animation like Tom and Jerry, they certainly bring a smile to our faces.