[show=cartoonshows size=large]Thanksgiving isn’t just a feasting holiday, it’s also about spending time with your family, so this week I’ve been spending time with my second cousin Kristina, who is eight years old. Her favorite TV shows are Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place, which she watches on DisneyChannel.com when she can’t see them on TV, but she also watches animated series like the Cartoon Network series Teen Titans, unauthorized uploads of which are available on YouTube.
So today Kristina and I checked out the site Jaroo.com, which brings together dozens of animated and live-action shows for kids. The full-length half-hour videos, hosted by Brightcove, are free to watch following a 30 second pre-roll ad, which in today’s case was for an upcoming direct-to-DVD feature (because that appeared to be the site’s only sponsor, we had to watch it over and over again which, in Kristina’s words, was “pretty annoying”). But we did get to watch a bunch of different shows together, too, including:
A Canadian series about a little girl who may or may not be a vampire (we still can’t say for sure) who fights supernatural foes. Originally running from 1999-2003 on YTV Radio-Canada, Kristina and I couldn’t get into it — mainly because the first episode available, episode 4, started off without any context. “I’m not really sure what was going on,” Kristina said. “First she was a vampire and then they added the Pod People. It was OK but not the best show.”
This was a bigger hit with us because it was a show we were both familiar with — me thanks to the series’ original airing on Saturday mornings in 1989, Kristina because her stepfather owns the whole series on DVD. Presented in full, the Jaboo-hosted video included both the live-action and animated sections of the Nintendo-sponosored series, which would bounce between sketches featuring actors playing Mario and Luigi and the much more familiar-looking animated characters. In Kristina’s words, “The human parts were OK, but it’s easier to see how [the characters] were feeling in the cartoons.”
An animated series about a stable of talking horses and the kids who ride them, narrated by a kind collie dog and his sardonic cat companion. Kristina remembered watching this one on TV in 2006 — the series ran on CBS Saturday mornings back then. In my opinion, there was too much stuff with the humans and not enough with the animals. But Kristina was content with the balance, even though she preferred the cat and dog: “They were actually pretty funny.”
This was my pick, as I grew up watching Gadget and remember it fondly (specifically, I wanted to be Penny and have a computer so small it could fit in my backpack — hey, dreams do come true!). However, Kristina was bored stiff by the 1983 episode The Haunted Castle. “You can’t really tell what they’re really wanting to do and stuff,” she said after five minutes of Gadget, Brain, and Penny driving through the Transylvanian wilderness without a clear objective. “They’re just going on a trip, so it’s just a trip. I’m not really sure what’s so great about that kind of trip.”
One of the few live-action offerings, Cake was part of the same 2006 CBS lineup as Horseland. Kristina liked it a lot, probably because it was reminiscent of the current Disney and Nickelodeon kid-friendly sitcom format that she absorbs daily, about a girl who hosts her own DIY crafting show.
A theme started to emerge when I’d let Kristina pick the episodes, as she tended to lean towards vampire-related content. Her review of the 1999 animated series featuring the adventures of a Ripley nephew travelling around the world, based on the episode The Vampire’s Kit: “It’s really good because it’s about vampires. Except for the part where people get bitten. That’s just not cool.” But the show, despite being a very transparent effort to engage young kids with a very old brand, was one Kristina wanted to watch because she was already familiar with said brand, thanks to the book series. (Kids are still reading books, at least.)
Still in beta mode, the Jaroo.com browsing experience was nonetheless a pretty clean one, and Kristina had no trouble navigating around on her own. The videos are unembeddable, however, and on the individual show pages there’s no context provided as to what the show’s about or when it was originally made. Despite Jaroo’s barebones approach, though, exploring the site in full could have kept us entertained for hours, discovering the difference between the shows she and I grew up watching. A fine way to spend a lazy day after Thanksgiving, if you ask me.