8 Cartoons That Influenced Me as a Young Writer

By Daniel Ford 

I didn’t need a whole lot of encouragement as a kid when it came to imagination.

I used to pretend to be characters like Dick Tracy, Indiana Jones, and Marty McFly and demand that my family only refer to me by those names. I had a yellow rain jacket and hat for Dick Tracy, a beat up jean jacket and fanny pack for Indy, and a puffy vest with cardboard hover board for McFly.

While live action movies and television shows did a lot to fuel my early writer’s imagination, nothing influenced me more as a young kid as the following cartoons. Feel free to tell us your favorites in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

Winnie the Pooh 

How many children’s cartoons are downright terrifying looking back? A lot of them. I recently watched “The Fox and the Hound” with my 7-year-old nephew and I audibly gasped hearing the mother fox get shot right after the opening credits. My nephew's face showed no trace of emotion. There’s no way I reacted the same way when I was his age because I was intensely frightened by this sequence from Winnie the Pooh’s dream about heffalumps and woozles. It still makes me uncomfortable watching it as a 30-year-old. I had a Winnie the Pooh blanket as a kid, but it wasn’t enough to reassure me that Pooh was just having a nightmare and wasn’t in any danger (also, he was animated). This scene, along with the scene in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” of the guy getting his heart ripped out, taught me how effective dark moments in a story are in unsettling your audience, but still keep them watching/reading.

Donald Duck 

I watched a lot of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons from the 1940s and 1950s. Donald’s vanishing paint made the most lasting impression on my young mind. I was consumed by things that didn’t actual exist (time machines, holy grails, etc.), and I think this scene probably kick started that obsession.

Transformers: The Movie (1986) 

Is it dusty in here, or is it just me? Some of the best storylines are the ones that a beloved main character dies tragically defending his friends and family. Was there a better animated death than that of Optimus Prime in the 1980s Transformers movie? I think not. Tears start immediately after “Do not grieve.” And I groan every time Prime hands off the Matrix of Leadership to professional lackey Ultra Magnus.

The Jetsons 

“Jetsons: The Movie” is one of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater. I didn’t watch the television show religiously, but I remember being awed by how awesome the characters looked on the big screen. It made me want to write stories that were larger than life that had the potential to end up being shown at movie theaters. That life goal is still unchecked as of right now.

An American Tail

Sorry, more crying.

I had a huge Fievel stuffed animal. I can’t talk objectively about this movie (although it is also terrifying in some spots).

I like writing about family; it’s my bread and butter. I come from a colorful family that has provided me with plenty of stories that ended up in my first novel. This movie provided me with an early example of how a story can be effective with a family narrative at its heart.

The Holy Trinity 

I used to get home from elementary school and watch this suburb afternoon lineup of cartoons: “Duck Tales,” “Rescue Rangers,” and “TaleSpin.”

I consider all three part of the reason I ended up liking the crime/mystery genre as a teenager. These cartoons had it all, intrigue, danger, and likeable ensembles.

I also really, really wanted Baloo’s airplane. It’s in my top five fictional vehicles of all time (number one: Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon).

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