The New York skyline is one of the most famous vistas in the world, and the city has unsurprisingly been the centre of many films, TV shows, books and plays. It’s a melting pot of cultures, a place where you can make anything happen if you want it badly enough. Mention New York and cartoons and you’d probably think of the New Yorker Magazine (the home of modern satire) but the fact is that the city has been portrayed in many animated cartoons throughout TV history.
The Real Ghostbusters first aired in 1986, and ran until 1991. Based in a ghost-infested New York City, the gang, with the help of a friendly ghost called Slimer, venture into some of the darkest and spookiest areas of the city in order to keep an oblivious public safe. Although based in a fictional version of Manhattan, the show used real locations, showing many cool and quirky buildings in the city including the New York public library. Another similar cartoon based in Manhattan is the phenomenally popular Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, a show which portrayed what is arguably the most famous borough as a dangerous place where there is a baddie in every shadow. Luckily there are giant turtles to save the day; the show largely takes place underground, but several real locations feature in the show, including the World Trade Centre.
One cartoon to portray a futuristic version of The Big Apple is Futurama. The show takes place in New York as it will be in 2999, aptly titled ‘New New York’. The city is built on top of, well, ‘Old’ New York City, a bit like Ankh Morpork in the Discworld novels. Although it’s based 1000 years in the future, there are several buildings of our present New York. One of these buildings is the Statue of Liberty, which looks almost exactly like she does today, except she is holding part of the city’s tube system rather than a torch. The Empire State Building also features, but has morphed into the Vampire State Building – a skyscraper with 240 floors that is the location for Fry’s proposal to Leela.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that any portrayal has a grain of truth in it. While the Real Ghostbusters and other cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles portrayed New York as a dangerous place, they also showed the city as a place where good triumphs over evil. Futurama shows New York as a socially progressive, almost utopian city that is at the forefront of technological achievement – and both of these portrayals are true in art. That is the power of cartoons – they show us the truth, but in the most outrageous ways.