Why Ed, Edd, n Eddy‘s Rolf May Be One of My Favorite Characters In Fiction

… Not that I want to do a few bars of ‘That’s My Horse’ or anything, but still…
Source: Know Your Meme

So, I’ve been reanalyzing and reevaluating some long-neglected mementos of entertainment media from my childhood.

… which is the Double D way of saying, “I’ve been rewatching old cartoons from the 80’s and 90’s with a heavy focus on Ed, Edd, n Eddy.

But in all seriousness, every time I look back at these old shows, I’m always surprised how much the stories and characters imprinted on me as a child. Even more surprising though are WHICH characters contributed to the formation of my psyche.

Case in point, I was amazed at how relevant to my life the token strange foreign kid Rolf was and still is.

There was so much to love about this bizarre son of a shepherd from an undisclosed old world country (more on that later) and so much that I never realized influenced me as a child. But now that I’m older, I can truly appreciate how…

Rolf had an AMAZING work ethic

If a pig got into my chicken coop, I’d be a bit miffed too.
Source: book-o-scams.tumblr.com

One of the things Rolf and I have in common was that we both came from farming families that found their way into suburban settings. And like Rolf’s parents, mine were quick to impart the value of hard work.

You don’t often see kids like Rolf in media these days. It’s not to say that the modern office drone doesn’t labor vigorously in their own right, but it’s much easier to convey the idea of ‘hard work’ when you can see the sweat they put into it.

All of this taught him to respect the effort that went into producing something as well as the person providing it – a certain level of common decency that any retail worker will tell you is sadly absent today.

Rolf believes in cultural exchange

It ain’t easy to become a ‘man of the world.’
Source: Gfycat

As mentioned, Rolf is an immigrant child from a place only described as “The Old Country.” This is a big deal as series creator Danny Antonucci is a child of Italian immigrants and based Rolf’s actions and interactions on his life growing up (Side note: he kept Rolf’s nationality intentionally vague so as not to offend anyone).

Rolf struggles to integrate into his new home but still tries to regardless. To make the transition easier, he still maintains his own traditions and actively shares them with the other neighborhood kids who – despite being weirded out most of the time – still love him and enjoy having him around. In fact, they seem to enjoy his traditions most of the time.

Which brings me to…

Rolf’s just a really friendly and courteous guy

It’s the thought that counts.
Source: Imgur

Despite his many missteps in learning the culture of… whatever country the city of Peach Creek is in (I suspect Canada given the show’s production), Rolf is deeply respected among the neighborhood kids. That’s because, at the end of the day, he genuinely cares for them, helps them whenever he can, contributes to the neighborhood as a whole (remember, he leads the Boy Scout-esque Urban Rangers) and celebrates their achievements alongside them even if he doesn’t quite understand the significance.

Of course, like any healthy human being, Rolf can only take “the burden of hospitality” for so long without recompense. And when that happens…

Rolf had some of the best one-liners and insults EVER

Even when you don’t get it, it still hurts.
Source: pi-la.tumblr.com

One of the inspirations Danny Antonucci took from growing up with immigrant parents while making Rolf was the heavy use of proverb in their speech. Almost every line where he’s putting down an offending person or offering sage advice to another is steeped in metaphor. It then becomes a game of wit and intellect to decipher.

This results in one-liners and insults that not only cut deep but bewilder the minds of opponents; Which is what you want when you throw shade at someone. After all, the worst way you can follow up an insult is to be too taken aback to respond.

I would dare say that Rolf’s insult game is borderline Shakespearian. And before any of you try to tell me that Shakespeare would never write a line of dialog where someone tells another that, “your garden is overgrown and your cucumbers are soft,” (no translation needed, I hope) go back and read/watch The Taming of The Shrew and you may find out why Katherina was so insulted by Petruchio’s talk of tongues and tails. Or consider that Aaron the Moor from Titus Andronicus may have been the deliverer of the world’s first ‘Yo Mama’ joke.

Rolf basically taught me how to appreciate ‘the gentle stab’ when it comes to snarky put-downs.

In conclusion, the reason why I love Rolf is this: with his rich family tradition, well-meaning heart, and sharp tongue, he’s basically a kid-friendly version of Sophia Petrillo from The Golden Girls.

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Cartoon Creeps: Why Horror Lovers Are Obsessed with Max Fleischer

Don’t let Max’s playfulness or Betty’s sultriness fool you; beyond here, there be monsters.
Source: TV Tropes

Finally, I get to do something spooky for Halloween. Again, I apologize for how unexpectedly eventful this month has been, but we finally get to talk about creepy stuff that’s totally relevant.

If you’ve been following the gaming scene recently, you’ve likely been hearing the name Max Fleischer get thrown about quite a bit. You’ve also probably heard the name attached to hellish imagery and intimidating challenge as well. You can thank the dual successes of Bendy and The Ink Machine and Cuphead for bringing this man back into the limelight as both draw heavily from Max’s body of work for inspiration. So, what was that work exactly?

Well, Uncle Max, as he’s occasionally known by, is a Polish-American animator born in 1883 and one of the founding fathers of modern western animation. Today, most will recognize him for the creation of Betty Boop, Popeye the Sailor, and possibly the most iconic animated depiction of DC Comics’ wonder boy Superman.

And when I say ‘founding father’, I mean he developed the most important technological advancements of his time including The Stereoptical Process, the classic ‘Bouncing Ball’ style sing-a-long, and – most notably – the rotoscope that allowed for more detailed movement with less effort by artists. Basically, everything you associate with the earliest cartoons you can likely remember exist because of dear Uncle Max.

That’s all well and good, but why the interest in him as a horror icon? Well, there are quite a few reasons.

Firstly, much of his early work, prior to being strictly limited by the now abandoned Hays Code, dealt heavily in dark surrealist imagery. Uncle Max was no stranger to including stories and art depicting malevolent spirits, violent demons, and occult practices. Fans of early Fleischer Studios productions – myself included – will often cite films like Bimbo’s InitiationRed Hot MammaMinnie the Moocher (yes, that IS Jazz legend Cab Calloway performing the music and providing rotoscoping for the dance moves), and probably the most cited of his works – Swing You Sinners.

You’ll notice that the way a lot of these characters move feels unsettling as well. Well, that brings us to another factor to the freakiness of Fleischer’s Films; his use of an animation technique called ‘Rubber Hose Animation.’ Named after the rubber hose-like construction of many character’s limbs, the lack of any points of articulation (wrists, elbows, knees, etc.) means almost everything moves with an inhuman fluidity. Imagine a person whose limbs and body seemed to slither around themselves while they walked and you can see why this would be so unsettling – especially if the person doing it was otherwise conventionally cute and innocent looking like most characters from this era of cartoons.

But probably the big thing that most don’t think of is the horror potential in the real-life rivalry between Max Fleischer and Walt Disney. Contrary to popular belief Disney’s Steamboat Willie in 1928 was NOT the first animated film to sync sound and film together; that accolade belongs to Max’s Good-Bye My Lady Love a good four years prior in 1924 (which I sadly could not find). Walt was also quick to jump on and use rotoscoping once Max’s copyright on it ran out. He attempted to claim credit for it while using it to finish Snow White in 1937. The Disney Company would then spend several years lobbying to extend copyright length to ensure no one could make a better version of the public domain properties they adapted (shady business practices; just one more reason for me to hate Disney).

And through all of this taking of Fleischer’s hard work and unfairly discrediting him, Disney put his studio out of business in 1942 when it was incorporated into Paramount as ‘Famous Studios.’ Max would then pass away due to arterial sclerosis of the brain in 1972.

Basically, the idea of a hard-working artist who pioneered ways to make his art “come to life” as it were getting shafted by his old business rival to the point of being nearly forgotten by history is a good back story for a vengeful-spirit-from-beyond-the-grave story. So good, in fact, that some of the more obsessive nit-pickers among us have already made that connection to some of the stuff Max did and the things it inspired.

So, whether you’re looking for a good creep show or looking to brush up on your animation history, it would be worthwhile to study Uncle Max’s early offering. Just maybe watch with the lights on.