Cartoons Step-by-Step: Danny Phantom Episode 1

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Plot: One month ago, Danny Fenton’s life changed forever when he walked through a ghost portal of his parents’ invention and accidentally activated it while inside. The incident made him half-ghost, allowing him to maintain the look of a regular boy but also gaining ghost abilities and the ability to transform into a more proper ghost form, Danny Phantom. Unfortunately, Danny’s activation of the portal has also made it so that ghosts can sneak into the human world and cause havoc. Danny’s taken it upon himself to stop these ghosts with his powers while trying his best to keep his powers a secret from everyone else but his two best friends, Sam and Tucker.

In the series premiere, Danny’s first opponent is a lunch lady ghost that attacks Casper High after Sam changes the menu to exclude all meat items in lieu of an ‘ultra-recyclo-vegetarian’ menu, much to the lunch lady ghost’s disdain.

Breakdown: Ah, Danny Phantom. Arguably Butch Hartman’s best work. A simple tried and true tale that, to be honest, we’ve heard a thousand times before, but done in such a way that brought a fairly fresh spin on the story with plenty of memorable characters and storylines along the way.

Actually, put another way, it’s like the story of Spider-man but melded with Ghostbusters.

And, really, if you want to dissect this, it is a whole bunch of cliches, some even taken from Fairly Odd Parents. An unpopular kid who has trouble fitting in at school, bullied by the school jock who gets away with nearly everything, also targeted by jackass teachers, is given abilities that make his life even more complicated. The only two people who know about his powers are his two best friends, the tech genius Tucker Foley and the opinionated goth chick, who is obviously set to be a love interest, Sam Manson.

His parents are basically two bumbling idiots who never catch onto Danny’s secret in the least and are always causing trouble for him with their weird behavior in ghost hunting and odd inventions. However, they do help out inadvertently sometimes by inventing things Danny can actually use, even if his parents have no clue how to make them work.

His sister is the one who seems to break tradition here as she seems to fancy herself a psychologist in training who always tries her best to seem adult and mature. She deeply cares about Danny and worries about his well-being growing up in a household with such odd parents.

Our first enemy, the lunch lady ghost, is admittedly not very threatening. In fact, not many of the first season ghosts really were. However, that’s alright here. We’re just being introduced to the world and the characters, so having a somewhat silly ghost who actually can hold her own, even if her attacks are silly, is fine. They’re all mostly meat-based, even if she has some pyrokinetic abilities. Most of her abilities can be eaten or squished, but they can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when Danny doesn’t have a good grip on his abilities quite yet and even has trouble keeping his Danny Phantom form.

It’s interesting that the only reason the Fenton Thermos starts working is seemingly because Danny puts some of his ghostly energy into it, but does that fix it permanently or does he need to keep feeding it that way when he needs it? Because other non-ghost characters use the thermos in the future.

The conflict between Sam and Tucker felt a bit odd in this episode. Usually they reserve episodes where the main character is caught between two fighting best friends for when they’re a bit more established, but here they just jump right in. I won’t say it’s a bad part of the episode, because it does highlight one of the main character traits of Sam in a decent manner, though I don’t think the same can be said of Tucker.

I mean, I’m pretty sure the fact that he loves meat stays true throughout the series, but it’s never really given any actual attention in the future to my recollection. Plus, I find it kinda immature that Sam doesn’t drop the issue when the school starts being attacked because she changed the menu. I know I said the Lunch Lady Ghost isn’t a big threat, but it’s still possible for her to hurt people, especially with her minor pyro powers, and Sam still won’t budge an inch.

Other than that, the only real notes I have is that there aren’t many jokes that work very well in this episode. Either that or they just don’t hold up very well. Jack had a few entertaining lines, but that was about it.

Rating: 7/10 Not starting off very strong, but it does what it needs to do and some more in a pretty entertaining manner.

Next episode: Parental Bonding: Danny asks his crush, Paulina, out to a dance, but has to deal with a dragon ghost in the meantime.

Final Notes: Addressing the theme song, it is indeed the earworm we all know and love. However, I can’t say I’ve ever been crazy about it in regards to quality. The fact that it starts with ‘Yo!’ is already kinda cringey and there’s a serious scent of 4Kids music to the whole thing.

Like Fairly Odd Parents and many many cartoons from the 80’s and 90s, the theme song explains the entire plot in expositiony lyrics, which is actually kinda necessary because, as you can tell, the show does not start with an origin story. It was meant to, but apparently they scrapped it when the theme song was finalized. They explore the origin story in an episode that comes much later, however, when they decide to give Danny his own emblem.

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