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Anvilicious / Western Animation

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Poindexter: "You can't use our planet as a junkyard!"
Captain: "Why not? You do."
Audience: "Oooooh..."

Animated cartoons are not known for subtlety when it comes to delivering a message.



  • Family Guy delivers its many, many messages with all the subtlety of a ten-pound sledgehammer. For example, Brian has changed from being the straight man and witty intellectual to becoming basically a vehicle for the current writer to deliver his/her agenda. One of the least subtle examples is the pre-2008 election episode "Road To Germany", in which Stewie steals a Nazi's uniform after traveling back in time, and a McCain-Palin campaign button is attached to the uniform.
    • The episode where the abstinence-only agenda of schools is bashed by Lois.
    • Also, the episode for legalizing marijuana, where the cops who pull over Peter and Brian don't mind that they have a bloody trash bag in their backseat, but go ballistic when they find out Brian has some pot.
    • Smoking pot somehow turned Quahog into a utopia overnight. Moral of the story: drugs are the key to perfect happiness apparently. Brave New World was right. Especially considering this was stated immediately after a news report that the anchors stumbled through due to being stoned out of their minds. This makes the 'utopian Quahog' seem more like an Informed Ability with the reason crime is down is because everyone is too stoned to do it and that the real situation should be the exact opposite of what Brian claims it to be.
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    • Let's not forget the earlier anti-pot episode where Peter and Lois thought smoking pot made them into talented folk singers when, in reality, it turned them into drooling babbling idiots who only thought they were singing well. Chris admonishes them with a lecture at the end of the episode, which was only in the episode because Fox ordered them to put it in.
    • They have taken some rather unsubtle shots at religion. "Not All Dogs Go To Heaven" is essentially one long screed against organized religion, and the Utopian society seen briefly in "Road To The Multiverse" is as perfect as it is due to a complete lack of Christianity.
    • More recently we have "Thanksgiving", in which Joe's son Kevin comes back and reveals that he deserted the army. Kevin is the only one who gets to debate his point with any modicum of intelligence, while everyone who disagrees with him just shouts angrily and makes nonsensical emotional arguments. The sole exception is Quagmire's father, a former Navy man himself, who says that soldiers know what they're getting into when they enlist. The episode ends up siding with Kevin by pointing out an incident when his usually Lawful Good father let a robber get away because he stole food to feed his starving family.
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    • And when Family Guy wants to discuss factory farming, their approach is as follows: Compare it to the Holocaust. No explanation, no exploration of the cruelties and abuses of factory farms - just compare it to the Holocaust with a pun. "Da-cow".
    • 2007 episode "Boys Do Cry" (where the Griffins go to Texas) takes quite a few jabs at conservatives and Texans.
    • "Screams of Silence"'s plot repeatedly says "Domestic Abuse is Bad". This would carry a bit more weight if they portrayed the characters as more than victim and asshole, didn't portray the police more useless than necessary (Joe's word is not enough to investigate the issue, despite being well known as a near incorruptible cop), if the speech Quagmire, of all people, gave wasn't so insulting (if you're a victim of abuse and don't seek help, you're not a person no matter the circumstances), and if this message wasn't delivered by a TV show that spent the last ten years making fun of this very issue. It doesn't help that the solution was murder, rather than getting the man the help he clearly needs to stop being such a horrible person (which they did attempt with the victim).
  • "One Beer", a mini-episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, does a send-up of heavy-handed Can't Get Away with Nuthin' cartoons about the dangers of underage drinking. They have a bottle of beer. Hampton notes they usually wouldn't touch such a thing, but Buster replies that they have to act out of character for the plot to work. The single bottle of beer (split between Buster, Hampton, and Plucky, which means each got about four ounces) puts them into a foggy dreamland, in which they eventually drive a car off a cliff and die. Not surprisingly, the executives eventually refused to re-air the episode, because they felt it was so heavy-handed that it came off as sarcastic. (Which was, in fact, the series writers' intent all along; in response to some attempted Executive Meddling by some figures at Warner Bros. Television, who thought Tiny Toons needed to be more "educational", all three segments of that particular episode ("Elephant Issues") were deliberately written to come across as moral sledgehammers delivered as un-subtly as possible, in hopes that it would discourage the censors and network execs from asking them to do it again. It worked.)
  • Spoofed mercilessly in a "U.S. Acres" short from Garfield and Friends. Roy got a job on "The Buddy Bears", an obnoxiously cheerful kids' Show Within a Show, where part of his role as "Big Bad Buddy Bird" was to have sixteen-ton safes dropped on his head for not agreeing with the singing, dancing ursines. The quite literally anvilicious moral, according to the Buddy Bears: "Always go along with the group, or someone may drop a sixteen-ton safe on you."
  • It could be said that the premise of Captain Planet and the Planeteers was anvilicious. A group of eco superheroes who command the powers of nature to fight evil polluters. Yup, bad guys who don't produce anything; just pollute. Though in its defense, if they had written it as a cyberpunk story about a bunch of eco-terrorists fighting against the overwhelming power of the corporate menace, it wouldn't exactly have been able to appeal to children now would it? That's the lesson here: if it's U.S. children's television, it must make use of anvilicious aesops, removing them makes the show no longer acceptable for children.
  • Quite a few cartoons from the mid-70s onward were very, very Anvilicious. For example, there was Fat Albert and the animated version of Gilligan's Island. Every single episode of those ended with the characters having learned a lesson, and usually drove it home about as hard as they could short of grabbing the audience and screaming it into their faces.
  • Frequently happens in South Park, such as in one episode where a character explains to another character about how there is no global warming, climaxing with "What are you, a retard?" South Park specializes in dropping anvils so hard that it becomes part of the humor.
    • Each episode in which the denouement dialogue begins with "You know, I learned something today..."
    • Whenever either Stan or Kyle makes a speech accompanied by a gentle piano leitmotif.
    • In many cases, Cartman will play a Strawman for the sole purpose of the audience being shown the evils of the other opinion and thus presenting their message not as "Do this" but rather "Don't be like Cartman", or for the main cast to tear Cartman down for his behavior (even though he never learns). It's clear the creators are at least aware of this, as Cartman, for all his insane ramblings and totally ridiculous opinion, does occasionally make some sense.
    • "Christian Rock Hard" brutally parodied this trope. Stan, Kyle, and Kenny attempt to illegally download songs off the Internet for free. They download one song and almost instantly, an entire FBI squad busts into the house, holds the kids at gunpoint and arrests them. This was also a Can't Get Away with Nuthin' moment. When Stan asks what's wrong with downloading music, the officer responds that an artist will have to buy a slightly smaller island for his kid, or wait a few days before buying a gold plated swimming pool.
    • Subverted in the episode "Canada on Strike!" It appears as a mean parody of the Writers Guild of America strike, but as Matt Stone and Trey Parker explained on the episode's commentary, it's exactly how they perceived how the writer's strike went down. They themselves tried to strike (not because they felt like they were being wronged in anyway, they just wanted time off from writing episodes) but were told they weren't in the union. They then claimed that most of the writers regretted voting for the strike and that the WGA screwed all the writers over and no one actually benefitted from the strike.
    • They made fun of this trope (and themselves) in "Cartoon Wars" (the one where they kept making fun of Family Guy).
    "Random Guy (about Family Guy)": "I just want to watch a show that isn't preachy and up its own ass with messages."
    • It was parodied as early as "Pink Eye," in which Kyle starts going on a speech about how Halloween isn't about costumes and candy, but about loving, sharing, and giving to people - at which point Stan tells Kyle that he's talking about Christmas, and that Halloween really is just about costumes and candy.
    • One instance where they dropped the anvil on their foot was "Britney's New Look". Yes, it had a damn fine point - don't get so into celebrities. However, it sacrificed virtually all humor to do so, save for a throw-away gag here and there. The result is a very dark and borderline disturbing social commentary.
    • Pretty much every episode for the last four or five seasons have all but dropped any hints of subtlety, whether it's for a message or a joke. Take "Your Getting Old" for example, which paints Matt and Trey's view of a what a cynical person who doesn't like anything acts like.
    • "Eat, Pray, Queef" is top of the litter in regards to this trope. The near entirety of the episodes's duration reads like a twisted South Park take on gender oppression and women's rights struggles, to the point where it could very well be a parody until the final few minutes that give the impression of being actually sincere.
  • Practically every episode of The Proud Family, with its suburban upper-middle-class Black-American family learning some lesson, often concerning race relations.
  • Parodied on the Animaniacs cartoon, where the final sequence to many episodes was the "Wheel of Morality", a Big 6 style wheel the characters would spin to randomly determine the moral of the episode in a parody of And Knowing Is Half the Battle. ("Wheel of Morality, turn turn turn, tell us the lesson that we should learn!") One short played up the randomness and gameshow / gambling aspect by having the result be a prize in the form of a free vacation. What makes this especially amusing is that the creative team on the show was pressured to include lessons in the format. The above was only one response, while another, vastly more scathing one has Slappy Squirrel go through plastic surgery to start her career over, so she can make cartoons more violent, just like they used to be.
  • Pound Puppies: At one point, the adult puppies tell one of the child puppies a story about how a kid lying about breaking a vase causes the death of everyone they know and the destruction of their whole fantasy world.
  • Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue uses healthy doses of Narm and horror to create a special so Anvilicious that it may very well be a form of brainwashing. The show put the drug addict kid through what can only be described as a Cartoon Carnival of Souls as part of their Drugs Are Bad argument.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) had 'What moral did we learn in this episode?' segments at the end of each episode.
    • Including this. It's a great lesson, but the delivery, as with any kids show that tries the same thing, means it almost always comes off sounding like they're just trying to make you laugh more.
      • That one is made a Broken Aesop by the people He-Man says to go to in case you're being molested; your parent, teacher, minister or rabbi. Chances are one of those people is more likely to be the molester themselves than some stranger off the street.
      • This one might be a case of Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped. Lou Scheimer related in a recent DVD extra for the cartoon how he received a letter from a parent of a child who came forward about their own abuse after having seen He-Man and She-Ra talk about it. Scheimer said that it was probably the most significant accomplishment of his career.
    • There's the She-Ra episode The Price of Freedom. A village enslaved to the Horde give up everything but the clothes on their backs to escape to freedom, while He-Man comes probably the closest ever, in that particular declared kids' show, to dying when he helps them escape after She-Ra's gone for reinforcements. It's hammered in again and again about how freedom is worth any price. Yet the 'what did we learn this episode?' was about the dangers of fire, based on the village being burnt.
  • Freakazoid!: In one episode the story is interrupted by a member of the censor board. At the end she is hit with an anvil because censors are bad,.
  • G.I. Joe taught us all that knowing is half the battle. So now you know. The other half? Blowing shit up.
  • In later years, Popeye cartoons were sometimes used as a way to get kids to eat their vegetables, particularly spinach, as the title character uses it as a Super Serum. Sometimes, it worked.
  • Back in the old SEGA Genesis days, Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog ended occasional episodes with a "Sonic Says" section which gave kids good advice. Which have been completely and thoroughly brutalized on Youtube.
  • Kim Possible
  • The Polar Express makes sure that no one misses its religious message. The plot revolves around a boy who is tortured by doubts of Santa Claus, who is shown to be like a god to everyone at the North Pole. The boy is a stereotypical woobie just because "Christmas doesn't work for him." Everyone who doesn't believe in Santa is annoying, scary, or both and the most spiritual of the kids apparently is the best leader... yes, we got the message.
  • The "Noodles the Rabbit" segments of British dark animated comedy show Monkey Dust combine a scientist describing horrific animal experimentation to an uncaring executive over sad piano music and the experimental rabbit acting like Bugs Bunny. Naturally, the final segment shown ends with the scientist being killed by a falling anvil.
  • A Pup Named Scooby-Doo:
    • In one episode, the villain was using dolphins in his drug smuggling operation. When Velma mentioned drugs, she said it after a pause to give it more emphasis. Scooby then responded in disgust. This happens twice in nearly the exact same wording. The fact that it's a Scooby-Doo spinoff makes it even funnier.
    • The same episode had a surfer whose career apparently ended after he began using steroids. Cue shocked look from Shaggy: "DRUGS?! Drugs can mess you up!" Well, he would know.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: The moral of one episode is that, if you want women to like you, you should listen to what they have to say. The villain is portrayed as immensely attractive for being a Lovable Rogue and treating the woman with disturbingly close smothering. The moral about listening repeated vigorously, much to the annoyance of Sheriff Stone. Subverted when the only thing Shaggy and Fred learn from this is that they can get earplugs and only pretend to listen to their female friends.
  • Ferngully The Last Rainforest: Humans suck, pollution is the devil and cutting down trees is pure evil because as any fairy will tell you they feel pain. Becomes a bit ironic when you realize that the spirit of pollution is the main reason most people watch the movie in the first place.
  • The Donald Duck episode "Der Fuehrer's Face": "Boy, am I glad to be a citizen of the United States of America!"
  • The Darkwing Duck episode "Dead Duck", where Darkwing has a dream that he died in a motorcycle crash due to not wearing a helmet. However, the anvilicious message of "wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle" is somewhat odd when considering that Launchpad never wears a helmet when riding/driving the Ratcatcher. Plus it doesn't connect with the extreme but short-term consequences of every other violent situation in that show, where Darkwing is frequently flattened, burnt, electrocuted, turned into a balloon animal, etc., but fine after the next cutaway.
  • The Fairly Oddparents:
    • Be Careful What You Wish For. Also, "It's A Wishful Life" states: "Do nice things to be nice, not to get rewarded" after showing Timmy how much better things were without him after he wanted some acknowledgement.
    • "The Masked Magician" also played it for laughs: When Timmy says what he learned through the episode, a flashing frame reading "Moral of the Story" appears for about two seconds, complete with sound effect.
  • Yin Yang Yo! goes ahead and mocks this with a "hero" called 'The Lesson', who tries to literally hammer home various messages into peoples' heads (usually Yang). Even Yin, who agrees with him on principle, thinks he's a jerk and helps foil him.
  • Duckman did this a few times. Unlike most other cartoons, though, it stayed funny while it did it; Duckman was really one of the first primetime animated shows that could be good and dramatic. A good example was the episode "America the Beautiful", where Duckman and Cornfed chase down a missing model named (of course) America, going through her ex-lovers, which represented the repressed '50s, the radically liberal '60s, the hedonistic, shallow '70s, and the greed-crazed '80s. Unable to find her, Duckman wallows in despair, represented by the cynical detachment of the '90s, before finding America in a dump, having given up all hope for a better tomorrow. Duckman finally convinces her that, although survival is difficult, they had to keep trying to make the world a better place, for the sake of their children.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender plays with this in episode 14 "The Fortuneteller". We have Sokka, the advocater of science and reason, and the villagers mocking him for his logical ways. No, seriously, they call him "Mr. Logic and Reason," or some variation of that. One of the Fortuneteller's predictions is that a volcano will not destroy the entire village. Three guesses as to what happens, the first two don't count. Of course, Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped. The end of the episode, in which a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy is played with- the Fortuneteller's incorrect prophecy validated itself by forcing the Gaang to stop the volcano- loosens up on this, and the main Screw Destiny moral is delivered with much more subtlety.
    • It's not so much Screw Destiny as 'shape your own destiny'. Aang may be The Chosen One but he has to work at it.
    • Let's not forget "The Painted Lady," where the Green Aesop was dialed Up to Eleven. It's a testament to the writers' skill that they managed to work in such a heavy-handed message that was most likely mandated by the network while still keeping the characters in-character. Although Katara's dialogue could have used some more work. Though it's worth noting that another message of the episode was "Don't wait for someone else to help you; help yourselves."
  • Phineas and Ferb has had 3 episodes so far ("Phineas and Ferb get Busted", "Quantum Boogaloo", "The Wizard of Odd") dispensing the wisdom that creativity and imagination are important; so important, in fact, that if these were to be stripped away, the results would be catastrophic.
    • The first showcases the main characters getting mind raped at the hands of a reform school resulting in all of their beloved qualities getting stripped away, Clockwork Orange style. The second presents a dystopian society resulting from Moral Guardians banning creativity and imagination and locking up kids at a young age until they reach adulthood. The third claims that the "straight and narrow" is the worst way to live life.
    • There's also "Attack of the 50 foot Sister", which claims that girls shouldn't be obsessed with having a perfect look.
    • On the DVD Commentary for that episode, co-writer Jon Colton Barry says the moral (or "takeaway" as they call them) is basically 'no one's perfect, everyone has insecurities and it's okay to try to fix them, but be aware that there are some people out there who will manipulate those insecurities for their own gain.' Or something like that.
    • "The Chronicles of Meap: More Than Meaps The Eye" is so comically unsubtle in its moral of "don't judge a book by its cover" you have to wonder if they were doing it on purpose. In fact, one of the first scenes in the episode is Candace literally judging books by their covers.
    • Played for laughs in the lyrics of the song in "Sidetracked".
      Agent Lyla: It's a heavy-handed metaphor for how we work together!
  • Futurama's "Into the Wild Green Yonder": As the movie progresses the anvils get bigger and at the end they are banging hammers on them.
  • Tommy Zoom, a cartoon/live action kids' show, has Tommy the hero battle the evil Polluto. His schemes are all about him conquering Earth by pollution.
  • Arthur; even the theme song is anvilicious.
    • "Having fun isn't hard/when you've got a library card!" Just more vicious pro-library propaganda.
    • "Arthur's Big Hit": Never hit your younger sibling, even if they damage something you worked on for weeks. Otherwise you'll find yourself hated by all of your friends while said sibling probably gets away with no punishment.
    • "Bleep": When you curse, you are saying "I want to hurt your feelings". Due to the bad handling of their respective Aesops, this and "Arthur's Big Hit" are often seen as the show's lowest points.
  • Inspector Gadget never even bothered to make their anvil messages into part of the plot. They were merely tacked on as filler.
  • Superfriends. Almost every episode of the 1973/74 series had environmentalism as a major theme, with preaching against air and water pollution, encouraging energy conservation, etc.
  • Disney's Pocahontas is very Anvilicious in the way it portrays conflict between the two conflicting peoples, particularly during the final scene when Pocahontas makes her speech about what the evils of hatred have brought them to.
    • And the "Savages" song just hammers the anvil further down.
    Ratcliffe: They're not like you and me, which means they must be evil!
    • It's particularly effective because it avoids portraying the white people and their mission as totally evil and the natives as totally good. Pocahontas and John Smith are good, and Governor Ratcliffe is bad, but everyone else is varying shades of grey, and although Ratcliffe was on an exploitative mission, the natives reacted with hostility and violence instead of any attempt at understanding, and each side absolutely dehumanized the other and saw them as animals unworthy of life. Even though the English miners committed the original wrong, the natives were far from innocent noble savages.
    • "Colors of the Wind" is extremely anvilicious though. Being in touch with nature does not mean that Indians won't shoot bears for sport, for example.
    • This is carried over into the sequel, via the depiction of the English. While Pocahontas is horrified to see what "bear baiting" is, she spends most of the first half of her trip there gushing over how amazing England and everyone and everything in it is.
  • The Thundercats 2011 episode "Ramlak Rising" is a Whole Plot Reference to Moby-Dick crammed into a 22-minute runtime, which results in its Ahab-homage and its message of He Who Fights Monsters and Revenge Before Reason being very blatant and broadly drawn. When we meet Captain Tunar, he isn't Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, he's already mid-leap.
  • Original ThunderCats was extremely anvil-heavy in most of its first episodes. Fortunately, they let up after a while and managed to make the show mostly fun.
    Tigra: "Rules only work if everyone agrees to follow them. Otherwise, they're just words." Leaning on the Fourth Wall, yet.
  • The first seven seasons of Thomas the Tank Engine had subtle morals, but starting on season 8, it had the anvil hit very hard. As of season 17, however, the series seem to have pulled back from this, having more subtle Aesops or odd stories which lack them altogether.
  • The Ben 10: Ultimate Alien episode “The Widening Gyre” was basically a half-hour story about Ben, Gwen, and Kevin fighting...the newly-sentient Pacific Trash Vortex. With assistance from expies of Mulder and Scully. Yeah. Kevin even lampshades this, referencing (but not naming) the above-mentioned Captain Planet.


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