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Animation Archivists Fantasy

Examining a basement newspaper archives in ‘Stretch Armstrong’

Coming down to the “newspaper archives.” This is clearly another stereotype often employed.

When watching this series, I stumbled upon another mention of archives, more positive than any of the other ones I have reviewed in the past.

In the “Fast Times” episode (season 1, episode 7) of the animated series Stretch Armstrong & the Flex Fighters, two of the protagonists, Ricardo and Nathan, a Korean-American kid, do research as the internet goes down. As such, they can’t access the digital databases. One character, Kane, even says that before the digital revolution they would have archives, hard copies of records, but now everything is online. Another cautionary tale, a bit like what those 1990s Hollywood films focused on.

They do research in his grandfather‘s “newspaper archives” which is literally in the basement of his house. As I noted in my last article, putting archives in a basement is a common theme in fictional works.

Inside the archives

 

Broader view of the newspaper archives

 

The grandfather talks to them

Anyway, there is a sense the archives is messy, with one character saying the records are “melting.” Nathan’s grandfather [1] acts like the archivist, asking them what they need, like that medical doctor, Doctor Oldham, did in Gargantia. So, they lie and say they are doing research for a person at school, saying they need to look through his stacks because the internet is down. He responds interestingly, echoing digital archivists who would also laugh at the idea that stuff that is online is there forever:

Grampa? Nobody needs newspapers anymore, everything’s online now, the internet is forever. Ha! The shelves are local, the stacks worldwide.

He then asks them what they are looking for…

They are looking for anything about “Harkness General.” As he ponders how to respond to them, saying it rings a bell. That ends the first part of the archives scene, coming to a total of about 45 seconds. That’s because the story comes back to another of the protagonists, Jake, in their attempt to catch the villain who can summon electricity. We then come back to the archives later on, where the grandfather finds something, and what he finds surprises them, while they are still looking through old newspapers for clues.

He connects the dots and comes to the realization that his grandson, Nathan, and his friend Ricardo, and Jake (unnamed) are the Flex Fighters. What a smart guy! He was able to figure this out, but somehow no one else can? He does admit he was a former reporter who can smell the scoop. This extends the scene in the archives to a little more than a minute. The next scene shows Wingspan (otherwise known as Nathan) displaying the newspaper they got from the old newspaper archives. It shows that Harkness General was an energy company devoted to “maximizing conventional power sources,” and how, when Rook took over energy production for the city, the company was put out of business. In the process, their villain, Dr. Sarah Kamen, lost everything and blamed Rook for it all.

Rook realizes she has been beating them, so he gives them all specialized bikes. Later, Nathan says that his grandfather knows they are the flex fighters but vows not to tell. And hey, something else pops up at the end of the episode. A library! The second time it made an appearance in the series, with Jake hiding from Riya, who he likes, too afraid to face her.

Jake does get what he wants, with Riya agreeing to go with him to the dance. She realizes he is different than any of the other people, yet she hates the Flex Fighters, which obviously will create a complication for him in the future. Interestingly, in the following episode, “Lie Sandwich,” the Flex Fighters encounter something which had been “archived” in the storage facility, following existing procedure. Furthermore, Nathan’s grandpa offered to cover for them and say they are working for his newspaper and by the end of the episode, Jake takes him up on this offer. This grandfather, by the end of the first season, was accepting of Nathan’s role as a Flex Fighter.

Many episodes later, episode 4 of season 2, “Rise of the Tech Man,” the newspaper archives reappears! At the beginning of that episode all the characters there (Jake, Nathan, and Ricardo along with Erica and Riya) along with a cat. Riya praises Nathan’s grandfather for the fact he has records no one else has about Rook Unlimited, which makes her overjoyed. So great to see that in a character. The archives serves a role once more!

The grandfather also talks about the clampdown of information by Rook, the show’s villain by season 2, and how he has an archive of records that is kept safe from them. If Rook knew it existed, however, then he would probably destroy it. However, he hasn’t done that yet because Rook doesn’t know their real identities at the present time.

At this point, we can ask ourselves: what kind of organizational methods is he using anyhow? I mean, come on! Yes, the materials are organized into local and international areas, but is there any rhyme or reason for how the information is stored? Is it in subject areas? Considering the grandfather is a former reporter, I would imagine that there is some sort of organization, although I’m not completely sure if there is an index. I say that because in the first episode we see the newspaper archives they are doing a lot of digging to find out about the company. You wouldn’t be doing that if there was more of a proper index, perhaps.

In continuing to watch the series, in another episode, “Biomass,” there is a brief scene in the newspaper archives. The grandfather knows their teacher, they find out his family fell through the ice and that he has been alone ever since! It turns out that the robot plant of the teacher, Savic, is planning something… and Savic is the monster, Biomass! The location has become a bit of a meeting place for the show’s heroes, to say the least.

At the end of the episode, the grandfather meets Savic, now just a normal professor. The grandfather then declares joyfully when walking into the room: “some say I’m packrat, archivist I say!”

I chuckled a little at this line. This is perhaps the best portrayal of an archivist I have seen in animation up to this point.

The newspaper archives comes up one more time in the series. The protagonists meet Nathan’s grandfather and Savic there in the episode, “Masters of Order.” They look at newspapers for more info about the Epsilon Society. The grandfather tells them to keep searching for any amount of information to help.


Notes

[1] Voiced by Shab Shimono, the character is only called “Grandpa” in the credits of the episode “Fast Times,” “Grandpa Park” in the credits of the episodes “Rise of the Tech Men,” “Biomass,” “Masters of Order,” while he is not credited in the episode “Lie Sandwich.”

By histhermann

Marylander with MLIS who loves archives, libraries, genealogy, reviewing pop culture, and writing fictional stories. UMD '19 & SMCM '16 grad. I've been running various WordPress blogs for a while now, about genealogy, libraries, archives, and more.

10 replies on “Examining a basement newspaper archives in ‘Stretch Armstrong’”

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