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Canada in cartoons

Canadian flag

Canada has a thriving animation and comics industry, producing plenty of popular cartoons over the years. (The Nelvana animation studio output alone would fill its own post.) Many of these cartoons are seen here in the United States, and carry some advantages. For starters, Canadian cartoons usually aren’t owned by a major American conglomerate like Disney or Warner Bros. And unlike British or Australian imports, Canada has similar cultures, accents, etc. as its southern neighbor. That said, there might be more frequent references to hockey (versus an American cartoon); also, occasional Canadian English word spellings on signs, etc. (“favourite,” “colour”) might appear.

Below is a look at some noteworthy references to Canada in cartoons, with a focus on Canadian-made cartoons.

CBC station identification

Canada’s national public broadcaster, CBC, has produced some animated station identifications. The most famous of these is what’s dubbed the “exploding pizza” bumper, made both in English and (for its French language counterpart, Radio-Canada) in French. The identification ran from 1974 (when CBC went to full-color broadcasting) to 1986, when they switched to a different identification.

Hockey

As Canada’s most popular sport, hockey gets plenty of references in Canadian made cartoons. I’ve previously written about hockey in cartoons, but to note some Canada-specific references:

  • Canadian animated series “6Teen” features a sporting goods store called “The Penalty Box.”
  • “The Sweater” is a hockey-related animated short released by Canada’s National Film Board (NFB).
  • Peter Puck is the star of a series of animated shorts that aired on CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada” in the 1970s. The shorts taught basic facts about hockey rules, history, and equipment.

The metric system

Canada, like nearly every other country on Earth (save the United States, Myanmar, and Liberia) officially uses the metric system. Canada transitioned to metric in the 1970s and 1980s. Today in Canada, gas is sold in liters, distances are in kilometers, food packaging is in grams/kilograms, and weather temperatures are in Celsius. However, some imperial units still get used in some daily life aspects (like cooking).

In the 1970s, the Canadian government produced some animated public service announcements encouraging Canadians to “think metric.” Here’s one video focusing on snowfall in centimeters.

Note while I’m American, this blog almost always lists both imperial and metric units. While I’m used to imperial, I also agree it’s a pretty dumb measurement system; 5,280 feet = a mile, but 12 inches = a foot?!

The National Film Board

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) has produced many animated shorts over the years. “The Cat Came Back,” for example, used to air heavily during commercial breaks on Nickelodeon in the US.

From 1997 to 2002, Cartoon Network in the US aired “O Canada,” an anthology series of Canadian-made shorts; most of these shorts were from the NFB.

Teletoon and Canadian streaming services

The cast of "6teen."
The cast of “6teen.” (Teletoon)

In 2015, I wrote about the demise of Teletoon Retro, a channel that aired reruns of classic cartoons, much like America’s Boomerang network. Changes in the Canadian cable TV landscape led to the demise of Teletoon Retro. To my surprise, the post was more popular than I expected, getting a ton of traffic from disappointed Canadians.

A follow-up post came a year later, looking at how Canada’s animation-related TV channels were faring. Basically, things remained a hodgepodge of American and Canadian cable channels and programming, with Teletoon still dominant.

Today, the same cable situation remains, though streaming services are eating into viewership. As far as I can tell, the major Canadian streaming services include: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Discovery+, Apple TV+, Disney+ (with the Star category), Paramount+ (with a different lineup vs. the US version), and Crave. Looking through Wikipedia and Crave’s website, it seems to carry most of HBO Max’s lineup, plus a mix of stuff from Showtime, Starz, and various shows the Canadian version of Netflix doesn’t carry. There’s also the usual Canadian made content, with sections for those. (Canadian horror director David Croneneberg has his own section.)

Pricing makes Crave one of the most expensive services, even after Netflix’s Canadian (and US) price hike: a mobile-only tier for $10 ($7.77 US as of this writing), with the full service running $20 ($15.53 US). On top of that, Starz content is considered an add-on, costing an extra $6 ($4.66 US).

Other cartoons set in Canada

Some other cartoons set in Canada I’ve previously written about:

  • “16 Hudson”: A Canadian made cartoon about a group of grade school friends who all live in the same apartment building.
  • “Nelvana of the Northern Lights”: A Golden Age Canadian superhero comic about a woman who fights crime across Canada. Canada’s famous Nelvana animation studio is named after the superhero.
  • “Turning Red”: A 2022 Pixar animated film about a girl who lives in early 2000s Toronto.

Image by Greg Newman from Pixabay

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