Is there anything in pop culture tied more closely to childhood than cartoons? Even for those currently in their golden years, cartoons of the 20th and now 21st century hold a specific, special place in the hearts of millions of people. For those born between roughly 1981 and 1994 - we dare not speak the "M" word - there are dozens of animated offerings that have stood the test of time well into 2019.
At least a handful of those cartoons will be getting the big screen treatment at 8 p.m. tonight, July 31, at Cartoon-a-Palooza at Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse. Scheduled screenings include episodes of "Ren & Stimpy," "Beavis & Butthead" and more. The event will also serve as a debut for "Knuckle Sandwich," a short film conceived by event coordinator Jake McClellan, who creates art under the name Knucklehead.
"I really wanted it to be a cartoon come to life, using these cartoons as partial inspiration," McClellan explains over coffee at Square One Coffee.
"Knuckle Sandwich" features an array of original characters created by McClellan, including Bev the Litter Bug, who picks up trash instead of discarding it.
McClellan's sense of theatrics was nurtured at Millersville University, where he ran the gamut of doing make-up, props, acting and even directing shows, including the musical version of "Heathers." However, he found that Lancaster's theatrical scene wasn't putting on the type of shows he could see himself in. McClellan found a jumping-off point last year at High Fever, the Village's monthly themed dance party, where costume design and execution is a major feature. By Halloween, he was a featured monthly performer.
"[High Fever] was a lot more creatively fulfilling," says McClellan. “Rather than trying to be 'Ensemble Member #5' in whatever show, I come up with the mix, the concept, the costume, the execution... and the money."
In the past weeks, McClellan has dazzled at both Lancaster and Harrisburg's Pride events. When we spoke, there was still glitter on his chest from the latter. Cartoon-a-Palooza is the first official Knucklehead-thrown event, and it's more than just an excuse to show classic episodes of animated TV.
"I really wanted to make an event so I could thank the people supporting me in High Fever and for the people that helped with the film, without it being a ‘hoity toity’ film opening," McClellan explains.
Aside from the main event, there will be a merch table filled with animation memorabilia and a special cocktail served with Capri Sun and green slime, for all the "Double Dare" fans out there.
McClellan said that the characters in "Knuckle Sandwich" aren't meant just to live on the screen - they're living, breathing creations that could appear in short films down the line, on the High Fever stage or even walking down the street.
“I’m not a Fulton theater triple threat dancer who can hit high notes, I’m a good actor that comes up with goofy characters," McClellan says with a grin.