The Zelda Cartoon - Don't Hate It

By Juliet A. Singleton

I don’t know about you but I was very excited when DiC, in conjunction with Shout! Factory, announced the release of the collectors edition DVD of the Zelda Cartoon. For years we’ve had to put up with shoddy, poor resolution videos and fake DVDs plus uAV Corporation’s staggered random episode releases. Finally the longtime fans of this series are getting what they deserve. Personally I can’t wait for my copy to arrive and I’ve already heard from some of my American friends that it’s been cleaned up very nicely indeed. Finally it means I can have a good quality section about the cartoon on my site with decent screenshots and media clips.

However what really gets to me is how many Zelda fans seem to hate this representation of Zelda. On so many sites it gets a small, but pathetic mention, slating it and only commenting on what ‘poor quality’ or how ‘dumb’ it is. I’ve even seen some people say they wish that it hadn’t been made. Some people just dismiss it and state that it’s not canon and act like it doesn’t exist, like some unpleasant memory that has to be buried and forgotten about. And fair enough. It wasn’t the best quality cartoon ever produced, but it IS a piece of Zelda history and I don’t think it entirely deserves the vicious slating that a lot of fans give it.

For example, fans complain a lot about how Link and Zelda are portrayed in the show. At the point in time when that cartoon was made, Link and Zelda were only a bunch of pixels anyway. They had no real back story other than the game manuals, nothing that defined their personalities. The cartoon, along with the accompanying Valiant comics and the Nintendo adventure game books allowed us to expand on our favourite duo a little more and enjoy further adventures Hyrule.

Okay, so Link is a bit of a jackass. His incessant chasing of Zelda and his trademark phrase of ‘Excuuuuse me, Princess’ is infamous and to be honest, if I look at most fifteen year old boys, the majority of them do act stupid and immature like that. Link is a hero, but of course, he’s still a young teen. Of course he’s going to act like one! And in typical 80s style, you nearly always had a character like that. Zelda’s portrayal was very strong – she was no damsel in distress at all, probably a tribute to other strong female characters of the 80s like She-Ra or Cheetarah from the Thundercats. She could hold her own with the Triforce and that magic bow of hers and you rarely saw her in a dress. And if Ganon loses points for not being scary and comedic; well again, look at 80’s cartoon villains. The vast majority of them were extremely camp and laughable – Mumm-Ra from Thundercats or Skeletor from He-Man anyone? Even Bowser, I recall, was pretty camp, although he used to scare me in the Super Mario Brothers games. I’m pretty sure Spryte was probably the inspiration for Link gaining a faerie friend in OoT and all the links were there to the games, especially regarding items and locations. A lot of the monsters starred in the various episodes and we got to see many of the items such as the magic ring, boomerang and the whistle.

It is also wide of the mark for fans to claim that this characterisation on Link is ‘wrong’. Link has rarely had any personality whatsoever in the games. He is a blank canvas with little emotion or feelings who doesn’t speak or offer his opinion unless prompted. Because of this he becomes whoever the gamer wants him to be. DiC’s portrayal is only the idea of the writers who did the cartoon storylines and to be honest, because the trend for the way the characters act is similarly expressed in the books and comics Nintendo of America must have given some express permission for this. You may not like how Link is shown as a character, but it is no means incorrect. It is simply the writer’s idea.

If Nintendo hadn’t agreed with this, Zelda being their intellectual properly, if they thought it would ruin the brand, then why did they allow firms like DiC and Valiant to give their spin on the series? They were made to promote the games, much like the Super Mario Bros Super show was, or Pokemon did. True the show was sadly cancelled after only 13 episodes, but it doesn’t make it bad. It actually had a lot of potential but it was DiC’s choice to end it. Personally I think it was superior to the Mario Bros Super Show but then that’s just my opinion.

Another thing is that lot of people moan about the poor quality animation but if you look closer it’s not all that bad and a lot of the backdrops are very beautifully illustrated. Compare it to many other popular western cartoons from that period and the animation is no worse than any other show. You have to remember that at the time animation wasn’t as advanced as it is now and not only that, such a show would have had a very low budget; it was just a kid’s cartoon after all. Fans whine on and on about how they want to see an anime cartoon but in hindsight, was pokemon really all that great? No, it wasn’t.

My real point is though, without the Zelda cartoon, me and my sister, and many other people, would not be massive Zelda fans today. Those so-called ‘stupid’ cartoons inspired me to write fanfiction for the first time ever, when I was just 12 or 13 years old. If I hadn’t watched that cartoon by chance one day during the school holidays, Adventure of Link would just have been another game that I enjoyed but didn’t really expand on. Because I saw that cartoon, Link and Zelda came alive for me, and I wanted to keep having more adventures in Hyrule, simply by writing about it.

That to me, is very important. Without that cartoon, I would not have sat down with Kirsty and written all those fanfictions that so many people have enjoyed over the years. There are so many game series that we loved more than Zelda, such as Ultima. But we didn’t sit down and write about them. We wrote about Zelda. And it was all because of the cartoon. Not because of the game. The game has never inspired me in the way the cartoons, comics and books did. My idea of Link, Zelda, Ganon and Hyrule all grew and expanded from this show. Of course future games would add to our creativity but go down to the very basic bones and it’s obvious from where the inspiration came from.

So in short, I think we do have some things to thank the cartoon for. I think fans should sit back and enjoy this piece of Zelda history. Not criticise and dismiss it. It is, after all, Zelda to me. I’ll never view the characters any other way.

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 This page was created by Juliet A. Singleton © 2005. All rights reserved.