Before it was one of our favorite nerd spots, Boing Boing was the name of a boy invented by Dr. Seuss who could only speak in sound effects. After appearing on a children’s record in 1950, “Gerald McBoingBoing” would become a landmark animated short, famous for its artistic use of caricatures, not the realistic figures and scenes made popular by Walt Disney.
For their efforts the animators at United Productions of America won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short. In 1994 it was voted #9 of The 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time. Fast forward to now, and Gerald, it turns out, may have had a form of autism. As Roving Mom writes of the Golden Book adaptation, also by Dr. Seuss,
it struck me that Gerald, who at the age of two when "kids start talking…didn't talk words [but] went boing boing instead" (Seuss. p. 2 & 3), appears to be a child with pervasive development disorder (PDD), which includes Autism and Asperger's Syndrome. Beginning early in life, kids with PDD exhibit lags in many areas of development such as speech, social interaction; and may engage in repetitive behaviors.
In the story, Mr. McCloy is disquieted by his son's 'affliction' and I noted that both parents struggle to come to terms with Gerald's differences. The boy is rejected by the school teacher and ostracized by peers. It is only after someone else realizes the value of his talents that Gerald achieves fame and acceptance, and ultimately parental pride. I imagine the attitudes might have been quite typical of the 1950′s, and it is fortunate that parents are now more informed thanks to resources that are easily accessible.
While, my two year old enjoyed the sound effects in the story such as "boing", "boom" and "bang", I found the story perfect for teaching acceptance of self, and embracing differences in others. It also provided the opportunity to share with my toddler that each of us is different in many ways, and that is what makes us special.
I think you’re special too, BoingBoing.