By KJ Dell Antonia,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Mighty Mouse knock-off hasn't aged well.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
As the good guy, Atom Ant always wins out. But secondary accompanying cartoon shorts include characters ("hillbillies," for example) being rewarded for slovenly or lazy behavior, although it rarely works out well for them in the end. Stereotyping of women and minorities is quite distinct.
Violence & Scariness
Cartoon violence of the simpler form -- characters tied to railroad tracks, hitting one another in Three Stooges-like frustration, good guys punching bad guys and sending them flying, etc. Occasional use of weapons, but never to fatal effect.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Characters sometimes leer suggestively at female characters (or men pretending to be female); female characters may dress in tight/skimpy clothing.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters in some secondary cartoon shorts smoke pipes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this '60s cartoon doesn't just feature the eponymous ant, but another, secondary cartoon as well: the Hillbilly Bears. The ant-focused shorts offer fairly standard animated superhero violence, plus women in peril and (reflecting its original era) stereotypical minority villains. Any kid who watches cartoons has seen plenty of that. But Hillbilly Bears could be an unwelcome introduction to the practice of expecting an entire region -- or nation -- to conform to a certain stereotype.
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What's the Story?
ATOM ANT is a mid-'60s Hanna-Barbara cartoon about a superstrong, superfast flying ant. Sometimes he works at the behest of the police, stopping, say, gangs of picnic-stealing ants on motorcycles, and sometimes he fights bad guys on his own. The show's includes cartoon shorts featuring the adventures of the Hillbilly Bears, a sort of combination of the Beverly Hillbillies and the Flintstones.
Is It Any Good?
It's not exactly clear why he's "Atom" Ant; perhaps it's his superpowers making him the futuristic ideal of an ant. Older kids will laugh at his souped-up headquarters -- an anthill featuring a giant computer/telephone a la the Jetsons, along with a large collection of barbells -- but younger ones may well enjoy the flying and the spectacle of an ant lifting cars and the like.
As in Mighty Mouse -- and, really, all the superhero cartoons of the era -- female characters are invariably in peril and stereotypes like Latin lovers abound. While these generally go over the heads of young viewers, older kids will easily spot them for what they are. As for the Hillbilly Bears shorts, there's really very little humor beyond the stereotypes and the pratfalls, but at least it's short.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Atom Ant and his determined ways -- in addition to being heroic, he's rather stubborn: He wants to triumph his way. Is that always a good thing, or are there other ways to get what he wants? Families can also discuss the Hillbilly Bears. Is it mocking stereotypes, or playing into them? How are today's cartoons different from this show? Do you think they've gotten better? Why?
- Premiere date: October 2, 1965
- Cast: Don Messick, Howard Morris
- Network: Boomerang
- Genre: Kids' Animation
- Topics: Superheroes
- TV rating: TV-Y7
- Last updated: May 22, 2023
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