Ad Space: Shaggy & Droopy Do Pulp Fiction

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
Cartoon Network

The Promotion:

The Pitch:
Kids love Tarantino movies, right?

At first blush, this network bumper makes no sense.

While young children are not the sole audience for Cartoon Network, it’s fair to say an ad starring Droopy Dog and Shaggy from Scooby Doo, that talks up such programs as Pound Puppies and The Smurfs … it’s probably not meant for the older viewers in the audience. But if it’s meant for the younger crowd … I mean, even in the 90’s, how many pre-teens can you expect to be familiar enough with Pulp Fiction to get the reference here?

But that’s the beauty of doing this sort of reference humor in kids’ entertainment.

See, to adults, this works as a parody of the “Royale with cheese” scene from Pulp Fiction, taking the setup and dialogue from that scene, but rendering it absurd by replacing everything with cartoon characters. And, because it’s a parody, it’s legally allowed to replicate material from the film without facing charges of copyright infringement.

But for viewers unfamiliar with Pulp Fiction (like the many children watching Cartoon Network) this doesn’t register as a parody. Yet it’s still amusing, because the scene it’s based on was amusing, and the ad follows the beats of that scene closely enough to have the same sort of appeal.

That’s one of the tricks of children’s entertainment: you can ripoff jokes and characters and plots from all sorts of media, so long as you make them just ridiculous enough to count as parody, while your young viewers, who know nothing about the source material, think it’s all your original creation.

Think back to your own childhood. Think of the movies and TV shows you enjoyed. Think of how many of them contained references to other movies and TV shows that you wouldn’t learn about for years. Did kid you recognize you were seeing a reference you didn’t understand? Or did you think what you were watching was endlessly creative, because, gosh! where do they get all these ideas?