Who said education had to be boring? Learning comes more quickly and easily when it’s fun, and you might be more likely to remember a lesson if it’s attached to a joke, rhyme, character or ditty — such as singing the presidents of the United States, or jamming along with Dora the Explorer (or classic Schoolhouse Rock if you were born before 1990). Amid the exploding popularity of highly technical movies and video games, there is a plethora of smart, funny, old-school-style animations available on the Web. Evolving from Captain Planet and the Planeteers, a number of animators are creating fun, sophisticated cartoons that enlighten audiences — of all ages — on topics from real food and alternative energy to factory farms and global warming. Here are five amusing and informative animations for your edification:
- Sam Suds and The Case of PVC, The Poison Plastic. Softshoe Sam Suds seeks out PVC, discovering its tell-tale mark and unearthing a lengthy rap sheet of offenses in this campy, noir-style detective drama.
- “Bettah!” Since the first cave dweller made fire and the ancients invented the wheel, humankind has searched for tools and methods that are easier, faster and just overall improvements over existing options. Follow two enterprising fellas as they stumble their way through a zippy history of innovations to arrive at one of the best yet: 100+ mpg plug-in hybrid cars.
- Innovations in Energy. Follow the bespeckled brain Dr. Thinksalittle on an amusingly wise-cracking tour of the energy industry and the political machinations enabling it.
- Freedom of Treats. Seemingly innocuous chips, soda and candy are actually stealth triggers for tired, unruly and inattentive youngsters. Watch mom Daphne wage a real food revolution to gain health and behavioral freedom for the kids at her daughter’s school.
- The Meatrix. This award-winning cartoon series deftly parodies The Matrix to investigate the gap between perception and reality in the commercial meat industry. If you savor your sweet illusions, choose the blue pill. Otherwise, dare to swallow the red.
Most of these pages also offer solid educational information and additional animations for your further (smart) amusement. You can also check out the animation collections at Grinning Planet and The Unsustainables, or search for “animation environmental” on YouTube. Humor your inner kid, and learn something new along the way.