Every once in a while, I watch list videos on YouTube even knowing that I’m going to be annoyed and disappointed. (No, Ms. Mojo, there is literally no song from Rent that’s more powerful than “Somewhere” from West Side Story; I will not be taking questions at this time.) The worst way they annoy me, however, is putting things in the wrong category. You can “technically she’s a Disney princess” all you like; putting Anastasia facts on lists of Disney animation facts misses that she wasn’t created a Disney princess, the movie was by someone who had long since left the Disney studio, and you’re simply perpetrating the fallacy that all American animation is Disney that some people manage to still hold.
There’s a sad fact those of us who used Napster back in the day will tell you, and that’s that every funny song ever recorded has been labeled as being by Weird Al at some point. I’m sure he doesn’t mind being associated with the likes of Tom Lehrer and Allan Sherman, but no, he did not record “Fish Heads” any more than he recorded some much more recent low-quality parody actually by someone’s cousin. The fact is, some people just get associated with a certain thing and anything even vaguely approximating it gets lumped into the same category even if it’s only a sad approximation.
Gary Larson has a lot to say on this subject, I’m sure. Oh, it’s fine if it’s Bizarro or Non Sequitur, I suppose, or anyway less bad. It’s got to be the most frustrating when it’s one of those cartoons that was drawn by someone who doesn’t even get to sign it for a greeting card or something. They’ll all get passed around as Far Side cartoons, even when they don’t have the slightest wit or intelligence. You can picture Larson looking at them and thinking, “Oh, come on. My work isn’t always great, but even Cow Tools is better than that!”
It’s the hazard of controlling your niche, it seems. In the US, animation is niche and therefore all animation is Disney, since feature animation was for years pretty much Disney’s sole domain in the US. Weird Al is far from the only successful creator of novelty songs in US history, but most of the others had faded by the time he became truly successful. Gary Larson isn’t the only person who does what he does, but he’s the best and most successful. To your undiscriminating aunt, you can see how she’d mistake a certain kind of surreal whimsy with being exactly like The Far Side.
They’re victims of their own success. They aren’t the only ones, either, just the best-known. I suspect people with all sorts of niche interests can tell you a similar “but aren’t they the same, really?” from their own field. There are superhero comics beyond Marvel and DC. Quite a lot of Brahms or Debussy got labeled Mozart or Beethoven on Napster, too. It’s one of the hazards of fame, and the worst of it means you get the really terrible stuff thought to be yours as well as the stuff you wouldn’t mind having created.