27.01.2011 1

A Video History of Animated Cthulu

Jeb Card hat gestern auf Ectoplasmosis einen schönen Artikel über die popkulturellen Referenzen des Lovecraft’schen Universums veröffentlicht und einige Gastauftritte des großen Alten in Serien wie G.I. Joe, den Ghostbusters oder Scooby Doo zusammen getragen, wobei mir nur die Ghostbusters Folge noch in Erinnerung war.

A common response to the Cutethulhu phenomenon is to compare it with the defanging of Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster. Originally horrors that thrilled millions, they became cuddly cartoon and muppet characters on television, foils for Abbott and Costello in the movies, purveyors of breakfast cereals, and childrens’ icons in general. But what’s different about Cthulhu is that the trajectory is somewhat reversed. Cthulhu and Lovecraftian tropes had been floating about in places like comic books, games, and other obscure geek-centric places in the 1960s and 1970s. At the same time, television and film did adapt Lovecraft stories from time to time, or least draw from them. But these usually fell more into the realm of traditional gothic horror, focusing on human antagonists, wizards, curses, and the occasional human scale rubbery monster. With a few exceptions, Lovecraft’s cosmic monsters never appeared on screen, to some degree because they simply couldn’t be represented easily short of a vast special effects budget in the pre-CGI days.

But no such limits were to be found in animation. If it could be drawn, it could be animated. And starting in the 1980s, Lovecraft’s terror tropes pop up in animation. Most bizarrely, in pop mass-market animation meant for children. The Lovecraft renaissance of the 1970s did not have much of an immediate effect on live-action film and television. But the influences that had previously only been seen in comics lept onto the television screen. After a few bold steps in that direction, Cthulhu and co. were largely left alone in the 1990s. But in the 2000s, when mass media embraced fantasy, science fiction, and horror and the supernatural in a big way, the second Lovecraft renaissance made its mark. It is arguably only in 1998 with the film Deep Rising, and with the availability of CGI, that we begin to see live-action film and arguably less juvenile fare begin to feature Cthulhu.

The following is an exhibit of these pop artifacts


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