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Animated Mentors

There is not much reason for a five-year-old boy to be depressed, but on one particular September morning in 1981 the world as I knew it collapsed. It was the first day of Kindergarten. It was not leaving my "mommy," or being in unfamiliar surroundings of which I was afraid. Instead, it was my awareness of the fact that I would not be able to watch Woody Woodpecker that day, or any weekday for that matter.

As far back as I can recall, cartoons are my first memory of interaction with a medium. That medium being television, I recall becoming aware of television before acquainting myself with radio, film, etc. From about age three until that dreadful day in 1981 when formal education split us apart for the first time, cartoons took up the bulk of my day. I clearly watched more television throughout the day than both of my parents' viewing of the medium, throughout the entire week! I guess all that warning about the blinding effects of sitting really close to a television set for extended periods of time was a waste of breath because I still have my eyesight. In fact television never took anything from me, but time, and time well spent. Instead of taking, television has given. These cartoons have assisted me in making career decisions as well as other decisions in my life. Ultimately, it was that television designed for children has helped me design the adult I am today.

A couple of years before that first day of Kindergarten, my primary concern was, this time, being split up from my "mommy." At age three, I was diagnosed with a hernia. I remember a sharp pain near the bottom of my stomach, but never once did I admit to needing any kind of medical attention. Apparently, the doctors and my parents thought differently, so just a couple of days later, I was on my way to the hospital. Never once did I realize that my mom would be leaving me there alone.

Sure enough, she did leave and how did she pull it off?: by diverting my attention with the television set situated in the upper left-hand corner of the hospital room. My mom handed me the remote control which was so big and clunky that I needed two hands just to hold it up. This was before the televisions in my home had remote controls so I was instantly infatuated with this new device. The nurse was showing me how it works and helping me to change the channels, searching for something I would like. I stumbled upon Popeye during my very first "channel surfing" experience. I was completely overjoyed to find something so familiar in such a strange environment. It must have been in the midst of all this excitement that my mom slipped out because seconds later, when I turned to share my new discovery with her, she was gone. Of course I began to cry, like any other three-year-old boy ditched by his mother would, but it did not last. I can remember weeping, facing the door that my mother had escaped, while seeing moving color out of the corner of my right eye. That bright motion was Popeye dueling with Brutus, or Pluto, as he was sometimes referred. I began to focus my attention on the cartoon in the corner of the room. The next thing I knew, I was no longer crying. I had not forgotten entirely about my mom temporarily deserting me, but at that particular time seeing Popeye battle with Brutus was a much more interesting subject on which to focus my attention. I ended up watching that entire episode, along with the rest of the weekday line-up; Woody Woodpecker, Mighty Mouse, and Scooby Do. Not that I realized it then, but watching cartoons was the way in which I withdrew my attention from my situation with my mother. I believe that cartoons are just about the only thing that could have succeeded in easing my pain at such a time of separation. Since then, I have watched cartoons to relax and to forget about anything stressful that is going on in my life. One could say that cartoons are a massage for my brain.

After my revelation during my hospital stay, cartoons became a day in and day out part of my life, that is, until I left for Kindergarten. After I could no longer sit in my room and watch cartoons all day, I realized something must be done. A short time later, I began to draw at school. Of course everyone does the little finger paintings in Kindergarten that never ended up resembling anything. But, I began to sketch clear people and animals, attempting to imitate what I was being deprived of, animation. My first couple of drawings were such a hit with my two best friends, John and Kevin, that I began to draw more. Soon, everyone in the class was demanding a picture. I remember being in second grade and having a classmate pay me fifty cents for a sketch of our teacher, Sister Joseph Ellen. This sketching quickly became a hobby of mine. I would find myself sketching, not only at school, but at home a lot as well. Eventually, I was sketching so much that it would take me fifteen minutes to realize that my favorite cartoon had been on. Once I noticed, I still sometimes would pass it up in order to complete my sketch of the day. Drawing, coloring and sketching became a large part of my primary school experience, so much so that, in fourth grade, when our class was asked by the school newspaper what their future occupation would be I responded,

"A cartoonist." As I advanced into junior high and high school, the sketching slowed down, but has never stopped. I became aware, however, that becoming a cartoonist was not a likely profession for me. I was not an organized, devoted artist. Instead, I was just a kid who got a lot of enjoyment out of creating something humorous out of something as plain as a pencil and paper. It was in high school that I made the link between my creative side and my imitating cartoons while I was younger.

My junior year in high school I decided to take an introductory art course, just for fun. After just our first assignment my classmates, as well as my teacher, verbally expressed to me how much they liked my drawing assignment. We also kept a "sketch book" in which we were asked to draw weekly. Apparently, my sketchbook was rather good, since people in that class were always complaining about how hard it was to get a decent grade on their sketchbook, while I never received less than a B+ for any week. Other students in the class began questioning me about whether or not I had previously taken a drawing course. After convincing them that I had not, but used to draw a lot as a child, I began to recognize my talent for creating. Just about the same time, our class was looking into colleges, taking the SAT's, and considering possible majors. Shortly thereafter, I came to the realization that I should do something that I have fun doing, not something that my parents want me to do. As a result, I decided to major in Creative Advertising. Through such a major, I thought I could put some of this creative talent to use; and I was right. Advertising allows me to do many things at once, such as: create phrases, design layout, and, of course, draw.

I probably had encounters with other media shortly after my first experience with the television medium and cartoons. No other medium, though, has had such a profound effect on my life as television. My life has been shaped by what I viewed daily on TV during the first five years of my life. To this day, I look to cartoons in order to forget about our sometimes hectic world. The protagonists in cartoons often are involved in hectic situations, but always seem to conquer such chaos, eventually returning to their original states of peace and entropy. My first experiences with the immortal characters, like Woody and Popeye, are moments I shall never forget. Such experiences have definitely affected who I was, who I am, and who I will one day become.

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