The Cuphead Show! I watched it! Should you? 

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Of course you should. It’s a cartoon show that harks back to the best of Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, and Ub Iwerks. It smacks of Termite Terrace. In other words, it successfully recreates many of the febrile aspects of the Golden Age of American Cartoons, which occurred from around 1935 to 1945. The Netflix show is loosely based on a recent video game from Canada. King Features Syndicate brokered the deal with the originators Chad and Jared Moldenhauer. The entire concept of The Cuphead Show is an extended and vigorous homage to early Hollywood animator and director Ub Iwerks, among many. There are echoes of Laurel and Hardy. Abbott and Costello. Bugs Bunny. Daffy Duck. The Katzenjammer Kids. Trolls. And so forth. 

The real deal

Cuphead and Mugman are the main protagonists. They’re rather interchangeable and serve mostly as pegs to hang slapstick set pieces on. The foley artists, those intrepid souls who handle the sound effects, are content to rely on old standbys like antique auto horns and snare drums, but the music and the animation soar. The reason this Netflix series gets a dozen thumbs up is because of its fidelity to what classic American cartooning is. Preeminently surrealistic and chaotic.

Studies show that when infants are exposed to lackluster animation they refuse to respond in any way, shape, or form. But exposing them to the classic American archetypes of Woody Woodpecker or Donald Duck they grow wiiiiiings. No, wait – that’s Red Bull. Well, we had to work them in here somewhere to earn our product placement bribe. See what we did there? We started in one direction and then veered off in another, totally insane (or inane) direction. That’s the chaos of a good cartoon. That’s the spirit that created the medieval Lord of Misrule in Europe – when the people elected a nitwit to rule as magistrate for one whole day, with the connivance of the authorities. It was seen as a way for the commoners to blow off steam and prevent any serious rioting and rebellion. 

So, yeah, the reason to watch this show is to immerse yourself in nonsense. The authorities will then be able to control your porous mind and keep you quiet instead of manning the barricades.

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