The first time I stumbled upon Dominique Jolin's Toopy and Binoo Show, I felt a little perplexed. The cartoon stars a speaking, or rather overly talkative, always enthusiastic rat in a striped shirt with a silent white cat as his friend and sidekick. Both of them get into the most bizarre adventures, most of which end up being figments of their imagination. Due to the show's popularity with my highly picky toddler son, who happens to adore it to bits, I could not resist the urge to watch and analyze this original cartoon.
From a clinical perspective, Toopy is a highly complex, if not troubled individual (i.e. rat?). His neuroses are a fresh breeze in otherwise stale and one-dimensional cartoon characters, such as classical figures like Mickey or Goofy. This one is, in fact, an unapologetic, in-your-face narcissist. He never stops short of telling you how wonderful or rather “fabulous” he is. He becomes the central hero of all of his adventures, whether he is Tarzan (yes, his Tarzan howl is quite entertaining or annoying) or a princess in a pink dress (yes, you read right).
Toopy manages to transcend gender stereotypes with ease and natural poise. What might be offensive or even unthinkable in other situations or cartoons, for example, Toopy turning into a fairy, wanting to be a mother, or obsessing over his favorite color pink is merely an expression of this rat's shiny personality. Sure, many so-called concerned parents are immediately puzzled by Toopy's sexuality, but in the end, I doubt that this show will be the decisive factor for determining a child's later sexual orientation.
What is rather more disturbing is his proclivity for schizophrenia. He is, in fact, the rat's version of Don Quixote. Everyday objects are suddenly filled with magic and lift him to another world, a world of fantasy and speculation. Anytime he climbs up a slide, he ends up on the snow-covered top of a mountain with a mountain goat sipping tea. Ants suddenly become the size of dinosaurs, while toys, suddenly and without prompting, turn into life-size creatures and monsters.
Not that any of this should trouble an overconfident, almost reckless Toopy. He never stops bragging about his fabulous qualities and is almost too optimistic for my taste. His imagination is so fertile that I believe hanging out with Toopy shall offer not a single moment of boredom, something the silent Binoo must enjoy in his own way.
Binoo accepts his friend the way he is, with all his idiosyncrasies and warts and all; although Binoo doesn't speak, there is quite a lot of characterization. Binoo loves reading and he wears his glasses whenever he does. His favorite toy is Patchy-Patch. Binoo goes wherever Toopy goes; he is always up for adventures.
Sometimes he takes the ramblings of Toopy too much to heart. For example, when Toopy reads about the sneezing monster one evening, Binoo actually sees it appear on the bedside. Toopy's mental exuberance would indeed shake up even the most steady of characters, and he talks more than enough for two, which is probably why Binoo had to become a silent character in the first place.
So who in their right mind would recommend this cartoon to vulnerable toddlers? I think there is something truly magical about this show. Apart from the optimistic outlook, something that we should encourage in children as long as possible because soon enough they will be confronted with the harsh realities of life, there is also a universe of creativity and imagination lurking inside a child's mind just waiting, like a genie, to be unleashed and released.
At the same time, compared with many of the other shows out there, like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or mindless cartoons like Spiderman, He-Man ad infinitum, which are mainly an insult to any child's intelligence, I appreciate that there is the energetic pink-princess-loving Toopy to entertain both of us, father and son.