How To Survive The Cartoon Apocalypse, The Toonzone Way!
Feeling down about the end of the world? Four out of five dentists say you shouldn’t be. Sure, December 21st could unleash untold cataclysms that will destroy all life as we know it, but the funny thing about the end of the world is that it’s never truly the end. Life always finds a way, even if it has to be found in a world full of mutant jellyfish. So we here at Toonzone decided to take a look at our favorite animated apocalypses to prepare you for what’s to come, complete with tips to survive in each outcome. Hold on to this knowledge: it could very well save your life. But in the event that the world doesn’t end, at least you can watch these fine movies and shows in the comfort of your now unnecessary survival bunker.
By Shawn Hopkins
Pendleton Ward’s series seemed like the ultimate in light-hearted adventure, but it wasn’t long before fans started noticing some weird things. There’s a strange amount of old earth technology lying around, and, hey, were those nukes in the intro?
So it turns out that the the magical Land of Ooo is actually Earth, about a thousand years after the Great Mushroom War (yeah, sounds kinda familiar) wiped out most of the people. Whatever the Mushroom War was (um, there’s a pretty obvious theory), it was a major catastrophe: when we see Ooo from space there’s a huge hole in it.
As the series progresses this subtext gradually becomes text. More technology is shown and more hints are dropped. We find out that Marceline, the Ice King, and Marceline’s father Hunson Abadeer appear to have survived it and became long-lived magical creatures. Fifth season episode “Finn the Human” presents an alternate history that actually shows the Mushroom War and how it could be tied to the creation of the Lich.
All in all it’s a pretty cool post-apocalypse, and even if they are radioactive monsters the candy people are cute. But the reactions of Adventure Time fans when they figure out what’s going on is interesting. Some are completely shocked by it, depressed that all of the fun was wrapped around a dark core. For others it adds to the mystery of Ooo, although the series runs a risk of spoiling that mystery by revealing too much.
So, there you go. Princess Bubblegum is a mutant freak. And you have to deal with it. Whether you think that’s awful or awesome is up to you.
Survival Tips: Try to become a vampire or get your hands on a magic ice crown.
Aeon Flux‘s ground-breaking early episodes had only one single word uttered. “Plop”. Yes, that’s literally it.
Using visuals primarily as a way to engross the viewer, even when the characters finally started talking in the second season, Aeon Flux followed a confusing, mesmerizing, seemingly counter-intuitive canon where the titular character would seem to die but then come back the next week as if nothing happened or she had even been replaced by a replicant and we’re supposed to just accept that. It is about two lovers who are nevertheless fighting each other, Aeon being the dissident while her lover and enemy, Trevor Goodchild, is trying to become a benevolent dictator. It was resolutely morally ambiguous, as it showcased that both characters have good reasons for their actions and are also lacking in morals. It was also strange, and it was often difficult to tell what was going on. One episode actually ends with Aeon in a contemporary setting driving a young boy to a Little League game, and we are asked to accept that and watch the story replicate itself all over again in the next episode.
But the little details of the plot don’t get at the statement that creator Peter Chung was trying to make. He sought to challenge us to work everything out ourselves. Aeon Flux is a mystery to behold as we watch a society move on in a setting that seems to be post-apocalyptic in parts, and futuristic in others. It also asks us whether we should choose to root for Aeon and her desire for transformation and chaos, or Trevor and his suppression and desired tranquility. In a sense Aeon Flux is asking us to decide whether we are watching a dissident trying to disrupt a utopia, or a revolutionary trying to unravel a dystopia. The society is truly in the eye of the beholder, even if the eye is watching a fly struggle in its eyelashes.
Survival Tips: First: Try to not get in the way of super-agents on a rampage. Second: The people of the future seem to exist just to die. Watch yourself.
Akira, a 1988 animated film that is considered a landmark of its time, is a mysterious, sometimes borderline-incomprehensible vision of a post-apocalyptic city called Neo-Tokyo, built on the shattered ruins of the old Tokyo that was destroyed thirty years prior. It starts off deceptively simple, seeming to be about a gang war between two rival bike gangs. The protagonists, Shotaro Kaneda and Tetsuo Shima, start the film as best friends. But they become mortal enemies by film’s end, as both protagonists change in ways we see (especially with Tetsuo) and don’t see. All because Tetsuo has the same innate psychic power as the titular child known as Akira, who was relentlessly experimented upon until he caused a massive explosion that obliterated Tokyo and started World War III.
The manga has more to say and offer on the vision of this tale’s post-apocalypse society. Much more detail is given to what comprises this society, especially after a second explosion caused by Akira destroys Neo-Tokyo, and paves the way for the remnants to be ruled by ruffians and criminals and cult leaders. The film, however, centers more on the transformation of two individuals as their society begins to crumble down on them, especially on Tetsuo as his powers rage out of control and he turns into a monster both mentally and physically. Meanwhile Kaneda and the female protagonist, Kei, are able to maintain their sanity and their bodies in spite of their own changes over the course of the film. Tragically Kaneda tries to do everything he can to save his friend, but Tetsuo has no intention of staying friends because his awakened power has also aroused his suppressed inferiority complex. As Tetsuo becomes more monstrous Kaneda turns into a truly heroic (albeit acerbic) character by the end. In a sense, the film’s post-apocalyptic setting and use of sci-fi elements such as psychic power and ESP are used as mediums to showcase the emotions and personalities of the characters within. Including poor Kaori, the only person who truly loves Tetsuo and accepts him despite his pain, rage, and monstrous transformation. Then there’s Kei, the strong-willed government dissident who becomes Kaneda’s closest ally, as well as the Colonel, who only wants to prevent Neo-Tokyo from exploding just like its predecessor thirty years ago. But Neo-Tokyo is going to explode, and we’re going to remember why.
Survival Tip: NEVER MAKE TETSUO MAD.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold -“The Last Bat on Earth!”
By Ed Liu
Early on, Batman: The Brave and the Bold established its tone for freewheeling, crazy fun, especially when compared to all the recent DC animated series that weren’t Teen Titans. So it probably says something that when the show hit up some of Jack Kirby’s 70’s comics for material, the only change they really made to those comics was to drop Batman into them. Season 1’s “The Last Bat on Earth!” borrows from Kirby’s post-apocalyptic comic Kamandi , (a.k.a., The Last Boy on Earth) and the episode is pretty much a straight lift from Kirby’s comics, with the logical additions of Batman (because it’s his show) to aid Kamandi, and Gorilla Grodd as the villain.
In the episode, Grodd travels forward in time to conquer the future, which is a ruined wasteland populated by intelligent talking animals that engage in tribal warfare and enslave the remaining human population, all of whom are little more than non-verbal savages. Grodd’s a perfect fit since he’s already an intelligent talking animal, but his telepathic powers are enough of a difference to immediately put him at the top of ape army, and it’s up to Batman to unite the fractious animal tribes to defeat him.
Of course, he succeeds. He’s Batman. And the fact that the time-travel trick that closes the end of the episode is the same one exploited mercilessly in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is icing on the cake.
Let’s be honest: conceptually, Kamandi is just a derivative of Planet of the Apes, with more different animals involved. The final product ends up being memorable for being so offbeat and willing to just go anywhere and do anything. Batman: The Brave and the Bold isn’t quite as freewheeling as Kirby at the top of his game, or maybe it’s just a different kind of freewheeling, but I don’t think any other TV show has managed to get as close to capturing the King’s over-the-top sensibilities. In any other DC animated series, a visit to Kamandi’s world with its mixture of post-apocalyptic seriousness and over-the-top comic book ridiculousness would mix like oil and water. In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, it’s just another episode.
Survival Tip: Be nice to your pets and the animals, because after the apocalypse, payback is gonna really suck. Hard.
The Big O
By The Huntsman
”There isn’t anyone who really knows exactly what did happen forty years ago. The only thing that seems to have been left behind is the fear that whatever it was may have completely changed the world… No, there is one other thing: the megadeuses. They left us a technology that surpasses any other in the world.” ~Roger Smith
So you’ve managed to survive the end of the world, but can you really make such a claim if you don’t even remember what happened, or who you even are? You could ask the residents of Paradigm City that question – they woke up one day with no memory of their former lives, finding that everything outside of their city’s domes had been turned into an endless wasteland. You would think that would be bad enough, but the past has ways of haunting you even if you don’t remember it. Relics of the past – massive robots known as megadeuses – began to show up in the city and started causing all sorts of damage on a regular basis. And when the city is the only place left in the world that’s habitable, it’s not exactly good to have commercial and residential sectors placed in constant jeopardy.
But then again, every cloud has a silver lining, for one of these megadeuses seems to be trying to protect the city. That doesn’t stop it from destroying it half of the time, as battles between two giant robots in urban areas is going to be messy, but it’s a hell of a show if you’re watching it from a distance. And if you’re fortunate enough not to lose everything you own by a misplaced missile, Paradigm City has a lot going for it. It’s got the hottest jazz scene in the world…or the only jazz scene, but beggars can’t be choosers. You can also get an android! Who doesn’t want an android?! So, should the world come to an end in these next few days, I think we should all hope for a future with giant robots. This future. Just don’t get in their way. Welcome to the city of amnesia.
Survival Tip: We had one, but we can’t remember what it was.
Casshern Sins brings its audience into a desolate, cryptic world that is mostly populated by robots. A lone immortal humanoid by the name of Casshern travels this planet in order to seek answers on his mysterious past, and about the disease called “The Ruin” that has devoured life itself. Rumors begin to pass around to the machines about how eating Casshern will rid them of their contamination and allow them to live forever. Throughout the series, Casshern himself fights back against these machines and meets various characters with their own motivations to live. Some live to love, sing, draw, build, and even simply have a infatuation with fighting others in order to express the feeling of life.
The series brings forth a portrait of imagery from a robotic perspective in a end of the world storyline. It’s almost easy to forget that Casshern and the rest of the main cast are just other robots and humanoids from their varied emotional responses. It can be argued that the writer, Yasuko Kobayashi, did so to show how artificial machinery can have the same feelings that any human would have in this type of scenario. Nami Miyahara’s song titled “A Path” (introduced in the ninth episode) sings the solution to this futuristic doomsday through expressing the main theme of hope and resolve: “How long will it take to find a way out? But she never lost her faith and made a way back home. So we hold each other’s hands, as we walk along the way. No more fears and tears to fall. We find a way back home…”.
The world of Casshern Sins is literally the apocalypse for the age of robots. Everything is falling apart, creatures are trying to desperately stay alive, and there is only one immortal being who is connected to the beginning of the end of the world. Remember folks, if you ever do suddenly become immortal when the world ends, people may come after…you.
Survival Tips: Hold out your hands to others, uncover the resolve to move forward, and never forget the price of death in the ruined world.
Dragon Ball Z – Bardock: The Father of Goku
The Dragon Ball series has had its share of mysteries, from the confusing power levels to more simplistic questions such as the identity of Goku’s parents. At a time when the internet was only beginning to flourish that latter question invited speculation from English-speaking fans, until in 2001 when a film called Bardock: The Father of Goku was released in English thanks to FUNimation. The movie brought one of the biggest apocalyptic stories into the series by finally introducing the Dragon Ball audience to Goku’s Saiyan father, Bardock. Unlike the carefree and innocent Goku, Bardock holds more of a serious attitude and is surprisingly cursed with the ability to see into the future. This recurring foresight reveals to him that his homeland, Planet Vegeta, will eventually be destroyed by the devious emperor Freeza. Alas, none of Bardock’s fellow soldiers believe him and to make matters worse, time is fast running out.
Bardock’s visions become even more confusing when he sees flashes of what turns out to be his own son (Goku) facing Freeza in the far future. All of the cards of death are placed when Bardock rashly takes his stand to fight against Freeza and his onslaught. This tale is only 42 minutes long, yet its scenario brings much to think about. Goku’s father could have used his new power and escaped the planet with ease, but his pride and will to try to save his species from the strongest force in the universe wins out. In the end Bardock’s legacy is passed onto to his newborn son, who leaves the planet inside a pod directed at Earth shortly before Planet Vegeta’s demise.
Survival Tips: The best tip this Dragon Ball movie can ever teach is warning others about the end of the world right before it happens might not be the wisest course of action. Though, if there is anything Bardock himself proves, sometimes you have to stay behind in order to truly protect what’s important.
“My son lives on..” — Bardock
Koko’s Earth Control
By Shawn Hopkins
Cartoons have been preparing us for the Dec. 21st Apocalypse for a long time. One of the earliest efforts was Max and Dave Fleischer’s 1928 Koko’s Earth Control. It was a pretty early guess, though, so admittedly “clown taking control of the earth with a machine” is looking less and less likely as the form of our destruction. Unless you want to see it as a metaphor for politicians in charge of doomsday weapons, then it’s probably the most likely one.
Koko’s Earth Control is a mix of live-action and black-and-white animation. A live-action “God,” as represented by a hand with a pen, creates the Earth by drawing it and then creates the innocent clown Koko and his dog Fitz. The first thing the pair do is find the machine that controls the earth, and the second thing they do is find a lever which says in big letters “Danger Beware – Do Not Touch Earth Control – If This Handle is Pulled the World Will Come to a End.”
While Koko playfully amuses himself by making it rain and turning night into day, Fitz does his level best to pull the “end the world” lever, because everyone who has ever watched them run into the street knows dogs have an overwhelming nihilistic desire for self-destruction. Koko ineffectually tries to stop him, but the pull of oblivion is too strong and the dog outsmarts him.
What follows is several minutes of chaotic, trippy terror. The sun melts the moon. Koko prays for his life, but the live-action hand of God fails to answer. Lightning crashes. The earth splits. Nature rebels. Satan himself makes a cameo appearance. Finally, Koko’s cartoon Earth simply explodes and he’s transported to the higher plane of our live-action reality, but that seems to be crashing to the end too and with some trick photography the live-action world is destroyed as Koko and Fitz return to the clay, um, ink from which they were formed.
So how does this help us prepare for the apocalypse? It has several messages to help us avoid it. The clearest is that the self-destructive Fitz unwisely wants to subjugate nature, as a repeated image of him beating up a tree makes clear. And of course there’s some obvious lessons about picking leaders wisely. But during Koko’s apocalypse there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, he even sticks his head in the ground at one point in desperation. Still, this cartoon is good prep for a worst case scenario, and if your apocalypse turns out to be not so bad you’ll be more prepared to survive it.
Survival Tips: Never put a clown in charge of anything. Also, don’t trust dogs to make good decisions.
Are we trapped when we don’t know we’re trapped? That is the question the 2003 anime Scrapped Princess poses to us in the most unexpected ways. The first few episodes make it appear to be a sword-and-sorcery fantasy series, driven by a plot where a 15-year-old girl named Pacifica Casull is destined to destroy the entire world. But slowly yet surely it becomes clear that something is off, and just as we start to sense this it becomes clear that the setting of Scrapped Princess is nothing but a deceptive lie. It’s post-apocalyptic in the vein of Terry Brooks’ epic fantasy Sword of Shannara but instead of using literal magic the way Brooks’ series did, the series instead invokes Arthur C. Clarke’s third law: sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. It turns out the world was conquered by aliens five thousand years ago and they clustered the remnants of humanity onto a lone continent, forcibly regressing humans’ technology back to the Middle Ages in the process.
Scrapped Princess poses to us a vivid portrait of how the apocalypse can be disguised in ways descendants of the apocalypse’s survivors will never be able to tell. Elaborate steps have been taken to ensure humanity stays locked in its cage. Peacemakers, human-like machines, are deployed periodically to make sure any human about to make a staggering advance in technology is summarily disposed of, along with any potential witnesses. Humans are brought up to view their oppressors as omnipotent, existential gods, when in fact they are just utterly inhuman machines. And the reason why Pacifica is so thoroughly hunted? She is immune to the Peacemakers’ mental subjugation that forces humans to obey every command they give. Not only that, but Pacifica can pass her resistance to the mental subjugation on to others, instilling in us our desire for independence and freedom. In our heroine is the raw concept of freedom that would allow us to break us out of the cage, to allow us to recover from our apocalypse, an apocalypse we were taught to believe never happened.
Scrapped Princess, thus, uses the message of messiah and belief and even subverts the way “magic” and “technology” can be presented, and asks us whether we should stay locked in a gilded cage we don’t even know we have because it is all we’re taught to know. And it asks us: even if it means fighting forces we don’t understand, facing machinations we can’t comprehend, will we take the chance of freedom or prefer to be lost inside our beautiful, spacious, shared cage?
Survival Tips: First: Never look your seriously technologically advanced enemy in the eye, you could be brainwashed in an instant. Second: Magic is impossible, science is not. Third: Robots are bastards, they betray the human race to aliens.
Thundarr the Barbarian
By Ed Liu
The best thing about Thundarr the Barbarian is that it came from an era when a show’s opening credits would just sum up what the show was about. Thundarr had some pretty kick-ass opening credits, too:
Simply put, the world of Thundarr is flat-out insane, using its relatively derivative setting to spin out enjoyably bizarre entertainment every Saturday morning. I credit this mostly to show creator Steve Gerber and artistic contributor Jack Kirby. Both men made an indelible mark in comic books (Gerber starting in the early 70’s and Kirby since the dawn of the medium), for which they were rewarded with a lack of respect and adequate financial remuneration, let alone any kind of control over their creations or their work. Thankfully, the Ruby-Spears animation studio took in both men and allowed them to thrive.
Thundarr may be a rehash of ideas from other post-apocalyptic stories, including Kirby’s own work on DC’s Kamandi, but none of those other works had the stones to pit their heroes against the Statue of Liberty or squids armed with lasers or hordes of evil wizards who all sound like Evil Fred Flintstone. Show me the movie or novel that had wasteland heroes defending a village of midgets from an giant animatronic robot gorilla cobbled together by man-apes from the ruins of a Hollywood effects shop (which just goes to show how old Thundarr is, since a modern day series could only have those man-apes cobble together some CGI monstrosity that the midget nerds would at and say, “oh, that looks SO fake!”). Will-sapping death flowers harvested by crocodile men, defeated by a kid in a steam train? Time travel so a fashion model can be one of a triumvirate of women to destroy yet another evil wizard? I haven’t even gotten to the REALLY offbeat stuff yet. Thundarr is one of the rare shows that is actually better than I remembered it.
Survival Tip: Start dropping acid, because there is going to be some seriously feathered-up cantaloupe in the world after.
Pixar Animation Studios delivered an ideal apocalypse survival guide of its own with its unusual story all about how planet Earth has been unfortunately covered in garbage thanks to the negligence of a mega corporation called Buy-N-Large. Humanity decides to leave the planet, entrusting trash compacting robots to clean the Earth and restore it to its original state. Years later only one “WALL-E” unit is still active, which discovers a single seedling while going about its usual day. WALL-E’s discovery soon proves significant when a robot by the name of Eve descends to Earth in order to check for signs of vegetation on the planet. WALL-E quickly falls in love with the mysterious robot and chases her all the way to humanity’s global starship, the Axiom. Once there, it’s revealed that humans have survived…as extremely obese and lethargic people, thanks to their over-consumption and abuse of their advanced robotic services.
Survival Tips: WALL-E holds significant lessons that one could trust to survive the upcoming doom on December 21st. First and foremost, trusting major corporations like McDonalds may destroy the environment when they plausibly try to expand their food chains by 500% across the world in order to help the hungry. The film can also potentially teach viewers that simply relying on technology can be our own bitter end, for not physically getting active enough to stay healthy while surviving. All because you might die any second doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do some extra push-ups.
Most importantly, no matter what danger awaits, chasing your true love across garbage dumps to the ends of space is much better than being alone in a destroyed world all together. Keep the relics of life alive and dance to a tune from Hello Dolly! if you need anymore thought on what little WALL-E would do in the upcoming apocalypse.
When the Wind Blows
By Shawn Hopkins
Big screen disaster movies, with special effects budgets to burn, like to pull the camera back from the end of the world. They show us cities in flames, asteroid impacts, the earth freezing over, and aliens swarming. But they would do well to remember that there are people in those burning cities, and that, in the end, all apocalypses are personal ones.
There’s no adventure story here, and nobody fights a giant mutated scorpion. When the Wind Blows is about two rural Sussex, England retirees, James and Hilda, and lets us slowly watch them die during World War III. It’s not just a little sad, it’s emotionally harrowing and devastating. You might want to put Precious or the ending of Old Yeller on after watching this to cheer yourself up.
James and Hilda are loveable, slightly befuddled older people who don’t really understand why and how the world is killing itself, and use metric tons of denial to avoid facing the horror of the little they do understand. James is slightly more informed than Hilda, who seems unwilling or unable to accept the situation. He follows the news and has his head filled with ultimately useless survival information from the government (based on actual pamphlets published in the U.K.). They are both survivors of World War II, and they have an optimism that they’ll survive this next conflict that’s tragically misplaced in a new and terrible era of war.
The story takes place at their lovely little cottage, which is presented in stop-motion and live action footage while James and Hilda are animated. In between domestic scenes James tries to convince Hilda to take seriously the nuclear strike the government is saying could come any day and to build a pathetic indoor bomb shelter out of doors. The bomb’s eventual impact is shattering, but it’s nothing compared to the fallout, which slowly kills James and Hilda through radiation poisoning. Their love holds strong to the end, but that’s all that does, as plants and animals die and no rescue comes, making James’ belief that the “powers that be will get to us in the end” a grim irony.
When this movie was released in 1986, what was portrayed didn’t just seem possible, it seemed pretty damn likely. The message was clear, regardless of what the government says: nuclear war isn’t survivable, it’s madness and should be unthinkable.
Survival Tips: Sorry, nope. This is a real one, there’s no surviving it. That’s kinda the point.