Sunday, 3 October 2010


A fine tradition in cartoons has been "the faceless character"; the recuring member of the cast who is never revealed on screen and makes the audience puzzle over just what the heck they really look like. So much mystery!

Some fine examples of this are:

Adults in Peanuts
To my knowledge an adult has never been shown in any of the Peanuts strips or tv series, nor are they ever heard, or at least in a way anyone watching can understand, instead there is that amazing horn sound in place of speech. The lack of a real grown up presence definitely contributes to the innocence and charm of the Peanuts series... I heart Peanuts.

The Thing Upstairs in Trapdoor
One of my all time favourite programs as a child, Trapdoor was amazing! It had lovable characters in a creepy, gross setting and there was tons of stuff going on on-screen in some great claymation. The main character, Berk, is the servant to the hideous Thing Upstairs who is never seen but can be heard yelling orders from the upper reaches of his castle. From verious bits of dialogue from Berk we get the jist the him upstairs is a pretty unsightly fellow, perhaps with lots of eyes, or arms, or mulitples of other stuff you just shouldn't have. Do we ever see any of it? Do we hell!

Nanny in Muppet Babies
Wow, another great show! While the Muppet Show had special guests every episode the Muppet Babies would take footage from famouse films and TV shows, as well as well know paintings and photos and re-use them as backgrounds or in gags. Basically there's pop culture references all over the place and with Nanny there's even a nod to the character of Mammy Two Shoes from Tom and Jerry with her bright stripey leggings and never seeing her face. Thankfully Jim Henson didn't make her a great big racial stereotype! The closest thing you get to seeing Nanny's face is in the episode 'From a Galaxy Far, Far Away' where she is revealed as a massive alien (see from 3.22 on the clip bellow).

Mammy Two Shoes in Tom And Jerry
Perhaps the archetype of the faceless character, Mammy Two Shoes is recognizable for her stripey leggings which always fall down and for yelling 'THOMAS' really loud and smacking Tom with a broom. She's also one of the many examples of cartoon racial stereotyping, it's not just Tom and Jerry who are guilty of this, it's in Disney and Warner Bros cartoons, Tin Tin and lots of others, but she is different in being a prominent recurring character rather than one who pops up for a one off unsavory joke. Mammy Two Shoes is also one the few faceless characters to have her face revealed in an episode, which happens once for a split second in the episode 'Saturday Evening Puss'. Blink and you'll miss it.

Doctor Claw in Inspector Gadget
Only ever visible as a metallic arm, Doctor Claw was the gravel voiced bad guy in Inspector Gadget. He never was shown in the cartoon but when it came to making a toy line and video game for the program it suddenly became necessary to give the bad guy a face for you to smash. When the toy came out the face was obscured in the packaging to keep you in suspense until you'd actual bought the thing.

The result is just not what I expected. Did you really think that Doctor Claw would look like an old man in a wind tunnel? No, me neither.

I think the lesson we can take from this is that if the face is hidden, keep it hidden. Let us dream.

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