In this new golden age of animation, there’s no lack of cartoons or for one’s DVD library. The sheer diversity guarantees something for everyone’s taste. That said, here’s another dozen bits of crazed ‘toon tomfoolery. Hope you find something you like amongst these dozen dollops of derangement
DUCKMAN: SEASONS 3-4 (Paramount) (7 DVDs)
Now it can be recalled. With this set the last seasons of Duckman are again available for mass consumption.
Actually, this mass existential hallucination conceived by Everett Peck (Squirrel Boy), and the husband-wife team of Gabor Csupo and Elaine Klasky (early Simpsons, Rugrats) holds up well in the decade it ended production. Duckman, his rapidly expanding family, Cornfed and their blue and pink plush assistants plunder and blunder their way through the mysteries of life, proving it to be one of the truly underappreciated animation masterpieces of the 90s.
The sad news is something like Duckman can’t be created anymore. Aeon Flux and Liquid TV, too. They were turning heads with sheer inventiveness and out-and-out lunacy. Then again, as Greg Berger (Cornfed) says in the EC, there was an enlightened, bohemian hipness back then, Something solely lacking these days. Not only was this one of the first true adult animated TV shows, it was a ridiculous bit of wit and even a little wisdom, or at least craft. You can see where much of Adult Swim and South Park and got inspiration, or at least the realization they could do things on TV that you never saw on He-Man.
So true fans of intelligent TV, rejoice. Complete the collection and marvel at just what a real animation classic this was. It’s a true keeper.
and the rest…
ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS/The Chipettes (Paramount)
The 50-history of these rhythmic rodents had their shares of highs and lows. Still, when creators Russ Bagdasarian and Janice Karman, decided to Alvin and company girlfriends, they hit a true nadir.
Being this was 1982, Bagdasarian and Karman made the chipettes look like Cyndi Lauper and other pop big hair divas of the day, supplied them with the lamest covers of the period, then gave the Chipettes voices that made dogs howl in pain. The situations the six ‘monks were then found in were even more hackneyed.
The reason the female crew is being reintroduced is the upcoming live action sequel, which casts Drew Barrymore, Miley Cyrus and Joanna Levesque in the voice roles. Can Chipmunk babies be far behind? If so, then it’s time for pest control.
BEN 10: ALIEN FORCE Vol. 2 (WB)
This middle third of the first season finds Ben Tennyson and company take their first major casualty (Grandpa Max) as well as one of the funniest bits in the series.
This 4-episode sampling find creators McDuffie & Murakami alternating between serious action and then spaced out comedy. The episode where Ben goes on his first date, and endures “pet” problems, is a solid hoot. The following episode, where Ben and Gwen meet their “grandmother,” is solid drama by any standard. Hope to see more of Grandma Tennyson in the future, the very near future.
The EC includes a short deconstruction of a scene from the last episode herein. Would have been nice if M&M added some commentary. Otherwise, a solid continuation of the tale.
CLAYMORE /Ch.. 2: The Point of No Return
This supernatural anime series is quickly gaining a rep as a series to keep one’s eyes on. The first volume introduced us to the two primary characters of Rocky and Claire. The young boy survived his village being torn to shreds by ghoulish-like monsters called Yoma. Claire is the ronin-like knight who killed the Yoma and took the boy as her new charge. The trick is, to have the strength to kill the Yoma, Claire had their blood injected into her…and sooner or later she will become a monster herself.
This volume is primarily concerned about the origins of Claire, the Claymore that adopted her, and their tragically short history together. It sets up a number of things for the next 16 or so chapters, particularly solid motivation for the young knight, certain conflicts and consequences that we all know will come in the future, and one final twist that should keep things interesting.
As for the animation? Well, it’s prime Madhouse (Batman: Gotham Knight, Black Lagoon, Vampire Hunter D). Enough said. If you love solid fantasy/horror, you now have no excuse.
FRISKY DINGO Vol. 2 (WB)
Did last year’s presidential elections cause some sort of temporary dementia over there at Williams Street?
Prosecutorial evidence #1: This second season of the second series from Sealab 2021 creators Adam Reed and Matt Thompson take up where the debut left off, which was with super-inept super-villain Killface’s Annihilatrix going off. Fortunately for the world, some couplings melted, causing our planet to be moved about three feet off its orbit. It also cures global warming. Killface sees this as a perfect opportunity to imitate another super-villain, Lex Luthor, and make his unintentional good deed the focus of a presidential campaign, as a Democrat no less. This means KF’s counterpart, the equally inept Xander Cruise/Awesome X, must run against him as a Republican. Hey, people forget George 43 was the prototype of Animal House’s Blutarsky.
But when you think about it, Killface does bare an uncanny resemblance to one of this year’s candidates, particularly around the ears. That both the villain and the president elect also appear to espouse certain bleeding heart leftist sentiments should not be ignored either.
The only real sad news now is apparently Thompson and Reed have broken up their partnership, so we’ll never know how Crews and Killface will handle the extraterrestrial invasion of Earth (by KF’s mom!). Until then. these 12 episodes--replete with its dancing penguins, deranged secret service agents, duck hunts, the Xtacles and giant ant babies—are a superlative metaphor for present day politics.
As for Exhibit #2? Read on…
GOLDILOCKS & THE THREE BEARS (Genius)
After viewing this latest effort from Jim Henson Productions. When they decided to call this series “Unstable Fables,” did that include the quality? One’s thing for certain, this is the most cliché-ridden fractured fairy tale they’ve produced yet.
In this permutation of the age old kid story, Goldy (Jamie Lynn Spears) is a spoiled rotten TV personality forced to live with a weak hybrid of Yogi Bear and The Flintstones. Even with Brooke Shields and Tom Arnold as mom and pop bear (and to be honest they’re actually decent voice talent), this script is so vile with its contemporary critiques and inept family values, it’s amazing to think it comes from such a quality house as Henson. The round and cuddly CGI also is nothing to tell the kids about either.
In all, this bowl of cold, stale, tasteless pile of porridge should be dumped down the disposal.
KYO KARA MAOH/Season 2 Vols. 8-9 (FUNimation)
This gender- and mind-bending series had a terrific first season. It looked like it was going to top itself with its second. The continuing tale of Yuri, who maybe an ordinary, baseball-loving teenager on Earth, but is a Demon King in a parallel dimension proved to be a rich world full of rich fantasy, solid gags and intriguing possibilities; particularly when one compares the standards of the “demons” to the humans.
This second season, where Yuri could very well end up a pawn and goes against the gods who formed this universe had its initial moments. Unfortunately, these last two volumes of this season don’t deliver what they initially promise. Like the latest season of Heroes, character motivation gets twisted inside out and their pretzel logic ruins an initially decently conceived story.
Does this mean the series is a total disappointment? Not really. There’s a third season going down in Japan, and it apparently has put the show back on track. Being this was originally a Geneon title, we’ll have to wait to see if FUNimation picks it up. Let’s hope it was just a sophomore jinx.
THE LITTLE MERMAID II: Return To the Seas
Special Edition (Disney)
Before I start gutting this fish like some chum, realize this sequel to a true Disney classic was released in 2000, when then head Michael Eisner was losing his grip in the Magic Kingdom.
The initial concept wasn’t bad. Our original mermaid princess married her true love and they got busy. The end result is new Princess Melody (Tara Strong nee Charendorf). At the same time, it turns out LM’s original villain had a sister, Morgana (Pat Carroll), and she’s looking for some payback.
This is fairly acceptable plotting for a sequel. From there all we are given is a lukewarm reboiling of the Cinderella/Repunzel storyline with Melody further rehashing her mother’s previous mistakes for an added touch. To add insult, cast like Jodi Benson (Ariel) sound as if they phoning their performances in and the animation lacks all the luster and depth of the original.
The word is Disney is putting this one back in the vaults, along with the original LM in the near future. Let’s hope it stays there.
METALOCALYPSE Vol 2 (WB)
Back on the political speculation begun on Frisky Dingo 2.
While FD had fun with Killface becoming president of the U.S., this show did an episode where Nathan Explosion became governor of Florida. When you look at it retrospectively, Explosion didn’t really do any worse than another President’s brother as far as driving the state into a hole in the ground. Then again, this second season establishes a heavy metal band taking over the world can probably do no more damage than those currently in charge.
Of course, when you do rule the world, you do garner your share of enemies. Some of said nemeses would make Jack Bauer run away like a frightened pup, too. Its commentary on the entertainment industry is also spot on. That’s the beauty of this satire. Creators Tommy Blacha and Brandon Small speak brutal truth.
On the extra content front, you’ll probably have a blast trying to find it. Have patience fanboys. There is actually a ton of it, if you figure out where to look. Now all we need is a new CD of Dethklock music and this will be perfection.
TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED: Season Two (Paramount) (2 DVDs)
When we last looked in on this latest incarnation of robots in disguise, Optimus Prime managed to hold the Decepticons at bay. Season Two picks up with Prime and his Autobots having to pay the price for their heroics, particularly when the Autobot Elite Guard come a knocking.
While some may object to the latest animation style, it truly is a vast improvement over the overly complex and stiff one of previous trilogy (Cybertron-Armada-Energon). The plotting and character development is also a lot more straightforward and, quite frankly, enjoyable. New characters like Stealth or the human girl Sari are also plainly more believable than the grim and gritty previous cast.
So, yes, this version of the Autobots is aiming more for a younger crowd. At the same time, the creative people behind it feel like a far more reasoned, developed and mature batch than the last.
TRIPPING THE RIFT: SEASON 3 (Starz) (2 DVDs)
So…it looks like the Spaceship Bob and its sexually depraved crew has finally set off on its last voyage. Probably a good thing, too.
There were still situations Captain Chode and his shipmates found themselves in that lived up to the incredibly vulgar and hilarious first two seasons. At the same time there were episodes where you had to believe the creators knew it was the end, and were spending more time looking for new jobs instead of completing the one in front of them. It felt like they went for slapdash resolutions much more than they used to.
On the plus front, Jenny McCarthy follows a succession of pin-up types (Gina Gershon, Carmen Electra and Terry Ferrell) as the voice of Six. It would have been fun to give the comedienne some good lines to say. Stephen Root (Chode), Maurice LaMarche (Gus) and the rest of the crew also do the best with what they got. The animation also seemed less inspired than the first two seasons.
It was a fun trip while it lasted.
NEXT COLUMN: What better to follow a ton of toons with than a ton of terror?