We’re years away from the days where cartoon characters would buy, drink, and get plastered off the devil’s brew (Eater delves into it more here). Standards and practices pretty much banned the cast of children cartoons from touching, or evening mentioning, anything alcoholic. Which kind of sucks – if you take away the number of lives ruined by alcohol, the drunken experience is a hilarious visual that’s perfect for animation.
That hasn’t stopped animators from finding ways to work around this limitation. Clever creatives have reached deep into their animated worlds to bring that drunken experience onto the screen, from the cliched to the clever to the crazy. While researching this list, we also found a lot of references to characters being heavily addicted to something, so it was necessary to narrow it down to specific references to spirits consumption: 1) ordering it at a bar or bar-type location, 2) growing more wacky/unhinged with prolonged drinking, and/or 3) having the groggy/broken feeling of that next-morning hangover. So without further ado:
Weirdly enough, milk is a pretty large go-to substance when it comes to capturing characters engaging in alcohol culture. The Wuzzles, Bonkers, Rocko’s Modern Life – characters love heading into bars and ordering this lactose treat, and if they’re feeling ballsy, they’ll ask for it “in a dirty glass,” which, really, is just gross.
Milk rarely gets the character drunk or tipsy, though. It comes off more silly than substantive, the kind of gag that’s so obvious that it’s practically stupid. It’s a funny word to say while attempting to be serious, but other than perhaps an amusing visual (like Puss in Boots in the picture above), milk just makes for a easy and absurd drink to ask for at the bar – and utterly useless.
Soda (or pop, or cola) is another easy and safe go-to beverage to use to emulate inebriated characters. By overplaying the sugar-rush that soda theoretically provides, animators will parlay that into giving consumers of sodas a “drunk-to-passing-out” arc of immediate comedy. This was used in Kids Next Door, for example, along with Regular Show and Rocko’s Modern Life (this show, am I right?).
What makes soda a particularly great go-to is due to how it’s contained. By being in cans and bottles, it’s easy to mimic social activity around it as if it were beer. In a recent Harvey Beaks, Harvey’s father and his friend passed around cans of soda exactly as if they were beer, talking about the good ‘ol days while getting ready to jam in garage band. Soda has the extra-sad advantage of being a good substitute for the casual drunk as well.
Cider’s proximity to hard cider makes it an obvious one, so it’s kind of shocking that it’s used so infrequently. The most prominent place? My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The Hub Discovery Family’s show plays it coy, emphasizing the drink’s connection to Applejack’s hard-working ethic, marketing it as a nice, relaxing, cooling drink after a hard day of labor.
But then there’s Rainbow Dash. The best pony of the Mane Six (fight me) is portrayed as absolutely obsessed over the brew, courting right up against the image of a budding alcoholic – to the point that she’s eating the dirt that contains a spilled cider drink. Sure, we all laugh and laugh and laugh… but the pony clearly needs help. Do they have rehab centers in Equestria?
Candy is one of those substances that can be played either way: loosely as drugs or alcoholic. (Yes, I am aware that alcohol is technically a drug, but you know what I mean.) So while it’s common to see it portrayed as a fistful of addictive sugar pills for kids, on occasion it’s portrayed similarly to our favorite after-work beverage.
The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack leaned the hardest into the portrayal, concerning a crazed pirate and his naive ward and their constant search for candy. Their travels often included a stop at a bizarre bar filled with casks and kegs of the wrapped treats, whose patrons clearly became drunk off the glass mugs filled with colored confectioneries. Bar fights and brawls doubled down on candy’s connection to spirits, cementing the show’s commitment to candy’s drunken spirit.
5. Ice Cream
This type of list would not be complete without this amazing scene from The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. A depressed Spongebob finds comfort in the consumption of several ice cream sundaes along with his gluttonous friend Patrick, and they eventually finds themselves clearly sauced, with several empty glass bowls around them.
Ice cream isn’t that often used as an alcohol substitute, but Stephen Hillenburg and his crew commit to the scene, complete with drunken, terrible karaoke, and a broken, hungover Spongebob waking up on the floor the following morning (the five o’clock shadow sells it). The show may be a shadow of its former self now, but at one point, when it nailed it, it nailed it.
Yeah, this one’s a bit strange.
Partying and booze go hand-in-hand, but because The Man disallows the latter in animated shows, you might as well as focus on the former. That’s what Netflix’s show All Hail King Julian did. This Penguins of Madagascar spinoff (which was a spinoff of Madagascar) stars the booty-shaking King Julian before his New York City zoo days, still booty-shaking like never before, which can getting fairly annoying.
But the show has fun with King Julian’s obsession, and in “Empty in the Head,” the party-loving lemur wakes up groggy and thirsty, with bloodshot eyes and no recollection of the events last nights. His ward, Mort, recounts Julian’s night, only mentioning Julian’s non-stop dancing and partying – and in flashbacks, we get to witness Julian’s non-drunk “drunken” antics, including increasing weariness, slurred speech, and awkward levels of friendliness. It’s funny, but there’s something admirable about being able to get sloshed without needing a drink.
Hey Arnold! didn’t shy from its comic-but-direct depiction of the inner city life of a rough-and-tumble class of elementary school students. Underneath its bizarrely heart-warming urban legends were the real, complex lives of a diverse group of children trying to cope with a real, complex world. Nothing epitomized than its portrayal of Helga and her family: the misunderstood “tough gal” that was ignored by her belligerent father and her perfect, successful sister.
But we can’t forget Miriam, Helga’s clearly drugged-out mother. There have been debates over whether Helga’s mom is dousing her “smoothies” with anti-depressants, downers or alcohol, but in the above picture, Helga is giving her mother Tabasco sauce, which suggests a midday Bloody Mary. Not everyone reacts to alcohol by acting a fool – sometimes, it’s just a coping mechanism. Hey Arnold! gets secretly dark with Miriam’s clear addiction to drinking within the confines of a struggling marriage. I wish I could be snarky about this entry, but this one may cut too close to home.
In all honesty, I never much cared for the “giant fighting robots” genre. Once my father told me that mechs could never exist in real life, it felt like a massive disappointment. I’ve grown to appreciate (tolerate?) the world of the Transformers over time, especially if the old ’80s cartoons depicted the Decepticons as drunken fools.
I mean, the clip is just gold. Deceptions knocking back boxes (boxes!) filled with Energon, getting wasted all the while. Megatron is particularly great, waxing about the good ol’ days on Cybertron, passing out mid-speech. They describe it as being “over-charged,” but they’re not fooling anyone. Apparently in another episode, the Autobots describe consuming oil like fine alcohol, savoring the substance “respectably,” as opposed to the degenerates downing Energon like fish. I mean, there are limits, right?
9. Rotten Fruit
If anything, Chip N’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers should get a gold star in slipping under the radar with this drunken reference. There are actually a lot of brilliant, under-the-radar adult gags in the Disney Afternoon repertoire (something I hope to talk about in a couple of weeks), and Rescue Rangers gets a couple of great ones in “Zipper Comes Home.”
Rejected after a misunderstanding between him and Monterey Jack, Zipper heads to the “Barfly” to wallow in his sadness. In the establishing shot, a fly is kicked out because he can’t hold his fruit; it then cuts inside to a piss-poor tavern with sad-sack insects surrounded by apple cores. Take a moment to realize that rotten fruit ferments – thus becoming alcohol in the process – and you’ll realize that out of all the entries (save the Hey Arnold! one), this is the most direct showcase of animated “kiddie’ characters getting actually drunk off something actually alcoholic. It’s sad, silly and savvy all at the same time – this list isn’t in any particular order, but this entry totally wins.