Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) The Owl House

Plot: Luz is a self-proclaimed weirdo, and she usually has no problem showing it. However, those around her have problems with it, including her mother. While Luz’s interests and behaviors are generally harmless, though a bit chaotic, Luz’s mother urges her to just be normal. She even signs her up for a summer camp that emphasizes being normal as much as humanly possible and tells her to trash her weird stuff, including one of her favorite books on a fictional witch. Luz is not happy about this, but for the sake of her mom she decides to go along with it.

As she’s about to get picked up for summer camp, she’s lead away to a mysterious door that brings her to the Boiling Isles, a world where human things are a mysterious novelty and myths and monsters reign. She meets the Owl Lady, the great witch, Eda, who promises to bring her back home to her world if she helps her with a special task.

Breakdown: Cards on the table, I’m kinda cheating here. I’ve seen several episodes of The Owl House and have enjoyed every one I’ve caught. However, I’ve never seen the first episode, and Disney+ just got the series, so I’m not cheating too much here.

The Owl House does seem to work on a somewhat tired premise – kid who thinks they don’t belong finding a place they belong in a mysterious new world – but they do it with such a cool flair and a lot of clever writing that I won’t even ding it for that. I won’t lie, when Luz mentioned that one of the reasons that she’s weird is because she makes AMVs and writes fanfiction, I literally almost gasped at how eerily relatable that was to me when I was her age.

I will ding it a tiny bit for being too on-the-nose with their message – it’s okay to be weird and it’s wrong to punish people for their quirks. For most of the episode, it’s fine, but the start of the episode is just too much. Like, I get how they want us to like her mom, and it’s clear that she loves her, but she’s basically telling her daughter to her face that she’d love her much more if she just changed her entire personality and conformed in the most boring way possible. She also encouraged her to get rid of something as innocuous as a fantasy book about witches.

Everything else was really great, though. The writing is snappy, funny, clever and exciting, the characters are a bunch of fun, especially Eda, the art and environments are really cool, the animation is fluid and well done, Luz is easily identifiable and lovable, same for King, who has one of the coolest designs I’ve seen in a long time.

As an introduction episode, it does its job extremely well. You’re introduced to the premise, their universe and the characters in a natural manner that is paced very well. It doesn’t introduce some huge conflict or evil that will need to be addressed like many shows of this type tend to do. And, honestly, I prefer it that way. Not every show needs to make big promises it probably can’t keep anyway, and sometimes a more laid-back approach is better. This episode definitely leaves you wanting more either way. I look forward to finally watching every episode, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for The Owl House.

Continue Yes

Recommended Audience: It’s Disney so it’s nothing too bad, but they do show limbs and heads being cut off as non-graphically as you can, and they mention death a few times. 7+

Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) Invincible

Plot: Growing up with the strongest superhero on earth, Omni-man, as a father, Mark always looked forward to the day he’d develop superpowers and follow his dad into the skies to fight crime. However, at age 17, he had yet to develop a single power. It seemed like Mark was destined for a life as a normal person, like his human mother, until he finally started displaying superhuman abilities. Under his father’s brutal yet caring tutelage, Mark finally suits up and gains his footing as the superhero Invincible.

Breakdown: As a big fan of superheroes and cartoons, I couldn’t ignore the hype train surrounding Invincible – especially after the finale aired and blew up Twitter with shocked and amazed reactions (I managed to avoid spoilers, though.) So, I grabbed a ticket for the aforementioned hype train, went down the tracks for a bit and….

Oh.

My.

God.

Holy.

Shit.

Okay, backing up, the first half-hour of the episode is rather by-the-books coming of age superhero story – even hitting the old beats of ‘gets beat up by bully before powers, badasses the bully post-powers’ and ‘really stupid-looking makeshift first costume.’ However, even if it is a tale as old as time, it was a really well-done version of this old song and dance. Tropes and cliches are fine if you can spin them well enough and make them memorable in your own style.

I love how they set such a grounded tone, how well-written and realistic the dialogue was and how brutal Omni-Man proved he could be, even though it’s obvious he was doing it out of love and concern. When he hit Mark for real, I audibly gasped because damn I felt that. But I didn’t hate him for doing that because, well, yeah, he’s going to have to learn how to take hits like that and to always keep his guard up if he wants to be a superhero. It comes with the job. Better he learn that with his dad than out in the field where he could legitimately get hurt.

Mark’s a bit on the bland side so far, but he’s not annoying or unlikable, which is a great thing because he so very easily could have gone that way. I was rooting for him in the end, especially when he finally donned his proper suit.

I was enjoying it all well and good, but I still had the lingering thought in my head….’Hey, when do we get to all that brutal stuff everyone was talking about?’

Then I got to the last ten minutes.

Wow.

That was one of the most shocking things I’ve seen in ages. It was like Ga Rei Zero’s first episode ending on steroids…and hulking out…..while going Super Saiyan. I really don’t want to say anything more to avoid spoilers, but I’m not kidding when I say my jaw was dropped for nearly all of the last ten minutes or so.

I was going to give this a strong ‘Yes’ before that point, but that ending just completely shattered the idea of thinking about saying ‘No.’ You can’t not continue after seeing that display.

Verdict:

Continue Yes

I enjoyed this first outing immensely and I can’t wait to see the rest of the first season, especially if the finale is as shocking as everyone was saying it was. Probably not a suitable choice for people who don’t have a stomach for gore, and maybe not for people just not interested in the superhero genre (even though, honestly, I think even those people would find something to enjoy) but otherwise, this looks like a really incredible show.


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Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) Pelswick

Plot: Based on a series of newspaper cartoons by John Callahan, Pelswick follows the life of Pelswick Eggert – a paraplegic boy who wants nothing more than to live a normal life.

Breakdown: I usually don’t do Episode One-Derland entries for shows I am actually familiar with, but it has just been so, so, SO long since I watched Pelswick that I felt the need to do one here.

I watched Pelswick when it first aired on Nickelodeon, and I remember enjoying it quite a bit. It wasn’t my favorite show or anything, but I thought it was a pretty good series. It was really cool that it gave the spotlight to a paraplegic main character when you typically can’t even find many side characters in shows that are in a wheelchair or just generally have disabilities, especially back when this first aired.

The writing was also good with a style that reminded me a lot of Doug what with all the fantasies and cutaways, but actually….ya know….funny and interesting. (No hate on Doug, but it can be quite the bore sometimes.)

Now, Pelswick’s not making me bust a gut in laughter or anything, but it did have its charms and made me smile a few times as I revisited it. It also had some fairly clever writing and commentary.

This episode tackles the subject of Pelswick being barred from the eighth grade camping trip due to his special needs. Someone fought back in his stead, even getting a lawyer involved, and because of this push, instead of allowing Pelswick on the trip, they just canceled it altogether. The eighth grade camping trip is a big deal to a lot of people, so the situation gets heated quickly. It turns into a huge spectacle as many people start protesting against Pelswick to get the camping trip back while there were also many others supporting the rights of handicapped individuals and fighting to let him go on the camping trip.

Throughout the story, we get the reactions of various people that range from understandable to silly to silly but understandable on the grounds of parody. Many of Pelswick’s classmates are pissed off that the trip is canceled, which is understandable since it was such a big deal.

Some people are getting so pissed about it, however, that they’re purely protesting Pelswick as if he was the one who made this decision when it was technically against him. And when I say protest I mean they have signs with his face on it but crossed out in red and offer anti-Pelswick hot dogs at the picket lines.

You also have the younger kids in town, including Pelswick’s younger sister, Kate. They’re angry that they won’t be able to destroy the bedrooms of their older siblings while they’re on the camping trip, which is silly, but yeah totally something they’d do.

There was also a group of kids who were perfectly depicting the hypocrites you tend to see in these situations. They were going off about Pelswick being selfish for doing this while they were being selfish during their whole conversation. Not only is the narrative of ‘What a selfish thing to do. Why isn’t he thinking of what we want?’ inherently selfish, but they’re furthering the point by having them literally take the seats out from under two other kids so they could sit.

Then, on the opposite side, you have the ones supporting Pelswick, many of whom are fellow disabled individuals who are fighting for their rights, which is, of course, entirely understandable. But they also go a bit into silly territory by having pro-Pelswick hamburgers and a giant Pelswick balloon.

Likewise, while this situation does suck, the school had a relatively reasonable explanation for doing this. Their insurance didn’t cover individuals with special needs outside of the city limits. With the push against the decision to keep the camping trip but bar Pelswick, they felt they had no other choice but to cancel the trip entirely.

And even if we do go down the route of them getting better insurance coverage, the steps needed to achieve that would’ve taken too long as the trip was that weekend. It’s not just a matter of improving their insurance – it’s a matter of whether they have the money to do that, and if they don’t, allocating funds from one place or another to meet that demand. I think everyone knows how much red tape and bullshit there is in budget discussions, especially when it comes to schools.

For nearly the entire time, Pelswick believes his father/his connections to the state senator is the one who did all of this. He’s an ultra-’PC’ person to the point of parody. He’s definitely a good person, but he doesn’t realize that there is a limit when it comes to not trying to step on anyone’s toes. He actually says the line “Nobody’s wrong. They’re just differently right.”

He also does and says some things that come off like he’s one of those people who pats himself on the back for being, for lack of a better term, “woke” but he may actually be a rare occurrence when he doesn’t realize he’s doing it.

Here is one of his first lines of dialogue. “I’m showing your siblings the folly of gender-based stereotypes by cleaning and cooking dinner while nurturing Bobby and reading Kate a story about tolerance and equality.” If he were just doing this, it wouldn’t be anything worth noting, but the fact that he pointed this out so specifically is what makes it come off like he’s trying to pat himself on the back.

I actually think his dad might be a play on the critics of John Callahan’s cartoons. He was always criticized for being “politically incorrect” (Though Callahan would prefer the term “Survivor humor” – himself being paralyzed from the shoulders down and a survivor of a harrowing childhood) and he didn’t much care for those people at all. In fact, he was quoted as saying he really only cared about the responses he got from individuals with disabilities, which were overwhelmingly positive. When it came to everyone else, he liked pushing their buttons and seeing how far he could go with his dark and biting humor. His cartoons even sometimes caused people to boycott and protest the publications he was working with, and even created some issues with sponsors.

In this circumstance, if what I believe of this character is true, then the point of Pelswick’s dad is obviously poking fun at people who are uptight about not offending anybody and walk on eggshells around those who are different while still acknowledging that these people mean well.

Anyway, back on point, his father goes to the senator to get her to do something about this, so Pelswick thinks the lawyer, who is the one who kicked up the fuss, was hired by either his dad or the senator. Turns out, it’s neither. He was hired by his crush, Julie.

Julie is a character who prides herself on her strong sense of justice. When she learned that Pelswick was being barred from the camping trip, she took it upon herself to start all of this for him because she felt bad at the idea of him being all alone while everyone else was off camping. However, it got out of hand and she couldn’t stop it.

Pelswick is ecstatic to hear that she cared about him so much that she’d do this for him, but it also kinda goes against Pelswick’s whole point. Pelswick was annoyed because, during this whole situation, no one would listen to him about what he wanted. They just kept pushing their own narratives and agendas while pushing him to the side, even though his face is plastered all of the town because of it.

Julie never bothered talking to Pelswick about this. In fact, once the trip is canceled, we don’t see Julie again until the reveal that she was behind it all. She just felt bad for him, so she took action without even mentioning it to him once.

But what’s even worse is that she had to have known Pelswick was becoming the town punching bag throughout this whole thing, but she didn’t talk to him or even try to clear the air about who was the one who started all of this until Pelswick came out and asked at the rally. Even Pelswick points this out.

Pelswick: “You cared enough about me to make me totally miserable?”

This is said in a dreamy voice, by the way. He’s flattered that she did this.

So, in summary, the girl who prides herself on her strong sense of justice just let the guy she was trying to defend be attacked for a few days all because she was seemingly too chicken to own up to what she did. Kay.

By the way, in regards to their dynamic, Pelswick doesn’t make off being entirely angelic either. He actually has a ‘Nice guy’ moment, verbatim. When some bullies get done picking on Pelswick, Julie talks about what terrible people they are but then ends on saying she’s oddly attracted to them.

Pelswick: “It’s….the curse of the nice guys! The beautiful girls are always attracted to jerks and lunkheads.” Then he has a fantasy sequence where he imagines himself 20 years in the future. He’s rich and crying into thousand dollar bills as he imagines what could’ve been with Julie while he’s also driving by Julie who is now married to his bully and has a miserable life working at some dilapidated gas station in the middle of nowhere.

Don’t worry, Pelswick, I’m sure you’ll find that special subreddit someday.

The resolution to this episode is a little confusing. The Vice Principal says his hands are tied in this because of the insurance reasons I mentioned before. Inspired by the advice given to him earlier by his guardian angel, whom I’ll address in a minute, Pelswick asks if they can hold the camping trip in the VP’s new giant backyard at his new house.

Now, first of all, I think the writers are greatly misinformed on how much a public school vice principal would make. Certainly not enough to buy this big house with a massive backyard and a pool with a giant tower of a diving board.

Secondly, I don’t think it was ever brought up before this point that the Vice Principal has a new house with a huge backyard, so this solution kinda comes out of nowhere.

He does let the kids camp in his yard, everyone has a grand old time, and Pelswick even gets to touch Julie’s hand.

The end.

Skipping back to the guardian angel thing, Pelswick has a guardian angel named Mr. Jimmy. Whether or not he’s real is questionable, but he appears in every episode and offers Pelswick advice, usually in a rather confusing and random manner. When I rewatched this, I remembered that the Disney Channel Original Movie, Miracle in Lane 2, basically had this exact same thing. In that movie, the main character was also paralyzed from the waist down, and he had frequent conversations with ‘God’ who took the form of a fictional famous race car driver. I looked up what year Miracle in Lane 2 was made in, and it premiered the exact same year as Pelswick, 2000, though Pelswick premiered in October whereas Miracle premiered in May.

COINCIDENCE?!

*Dramatic music*

Yeah, probably. I mean, Mr. Jimmy and ‘God’ don’t act anything alike, and most of the interactions with ‘God’ are in a more serious tone when Justin needs help. Plus the race car driver motif thing

By the way, watch Miracle in Lane 2, it’s an awesome movie and one of the few times Disney Channel really got serious and kinda dark. The early 00’s were the butterzone for that. So Weird, In a Heartbeat, a few other more serious DCOMs….I miss those days.

As a first episode, this one works pretty well. It introduces us to Pelswick and explores his personality and desires fairly well. We get introduced to his friends, his family, his crush and even his bullies all in one go. I can’t really say I loved any of the characters, but I liked Pelswick and Ace most of all, and even Goon had his moments. As far as I remember, they never explain how Pelswick became paralyzed, but according to the Wiki, the series creators imply it was due to a car accident, which mirrors John Callahan’s situation.

The only other thing I really want to talk about is the art. I nearly didn’t even really bring up the art because, despite having my criticisms of it. I had read up on John Callahan while I was writing this review and realized it was based on his cartoon art, which he had created after he gained some mobility in his arms. He was able to hold a pencil between his hands and draw.

As a result, I didn’t want to criticize the art, but then I realized I’d be missing the point of quite literally everything I’m discussing here. I’d be keeping quiet about something because the person behind it was quadriplegic, and John Callahan seemed very dedicated to ensuring that people with disabilities weren’t pitied or treated differently. Granted, this isn’t directly his art, but it is heavily based on his art.

So, here goes.

The art is very, very weird. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Klasky/Csupo shows, but more off-model. Many people are given huge bulky bodies with thin heads, short little t-rex arms and massive noses. Their eyes are always both seen from the side, like one must be dislodged from their head. I can’t even begin to make sense of Pelswick’s dad’s head, who also has eyes that seem like they’re just installed in his glasses.

It’s very stylized – you can quickly tell this is a style meant to be in newspaper cartoons – but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s very weird. Weird doesn’t necessarily mean bad, I wasn’t cringing while watching it or anything, but I did find myself baffled as to the design choices many times. The animation is also simple, but it works.

Continue Yes

Pelswick is definitely a unique show that I’m sad was mostly lost to time, especially considering that it puts a spotlight on the lives and struggles of individuals with disabilities – that’s rare enough as it is, but for a cartoon aimed at children it’s nearly unheard of. It has a pretty good sense of humor, good writing and mostly likable characters. If you have the means, give it a look.

Final Notes: Because it was airing on networks for kids, Pelswick notably needed to have more of a positive/optimistic spin that was quite a bit different from the crass and darker humor Callahan used in his cartoons.

Right when Pelswick was airing, another cartoon based on Callahan’s work, called Quads!, was being aired in Canada – produced by the same team and company (Nelvana included, surprisingly). According to what I’ve read, it was a much more adult-oriented show that better reflected Callahan’s style of humor. It never got a US release. Interestingly, though, both shows ended in 2002 and both shows had two seasons/26 episodes.

Truth be told, I don’t really have a lot of interest in seeking out this show. I’ve mentioned before that crass humor really isn’t my cup of tea, even if it’s well-written, and just reading the character bios on the Wiki page for Quads! leads me to believe that it wouldn’t be any more fitting for me. I’m not criticizing his style of humor – especially considering Callahan only created and produced the shows, he didn’t write for them. Even from what I’ve seen of his newspaper cartoons (a few of which I found to be pretty funny) I can tell this that particular type of humor is not for me. It’s not something I seek out, nor do I tend to be entertained by it usually when I stumble upon it. I respect it fully, but it’s not my style.

Sadly John Callahan died at age 59 in 2010 from complications related to his quadriplegia as well as respiratory issues. He had such an impact on the world of cartoons and people with disabilities that a biographical movie, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (the title being a reference to one of his most popular cartoons) was made in 2018 starring Joaquin Phoenix. The movie was mapped out in the late ‘80s, but had a lot of difficulties finding a studio that would take on the project, and many delays and broken deals plagued it over the years.

Callahan was even quoted as saying “We’re all gonna be dead by the time this film is made.” And, sadly, Callahan did die eight years before the movie was finally released. To make matters worse, Robin Williams was initially pegged to star in it, but he had also passed away before the movie found a studio (and was too old to play the part by that time either way.) Callahan had also said he wanted Phillip Seymour Hoffman to play the part if Williams ever wasn’t an option anymore, but he, too, passed away before everything was set in stone.

Still, it looks like Joaquin Phoenix really immersed himself in the role and did a good job. I’d like to see the movie if I ever got the chance. Not only does Callahan seem like he was a funny and genuine guy, but he also has a very interesting backstory that I’d love to see explored on film.


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Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) ToonMarty

Plot: ToonMarty follows the adventures of Marty, the mascot of ToonMart who becomes alive when a billboard is hit by lightning. Together, he and his friends Burnie and Holly have fun in Toonville under the supervision of Marty’s boss, Jack. (Excerpt taken from Wikipedia for reasons I’ll explain in a second.)

Breakdown: Hey guys, did you know Tubi was a thing? Apparently it’s like Peacock but run by Fox. Weird.

Anyway, one of their available shows is ToonMarty, a show I really didn’t have many expectations for, but pleasantly surprised me. ToonMarty manages to capture the goofy, somewhat random and rubbery style of older cartoons while still fitting into the modern animation world with its writing and jokes.

I found myself smiling an awful lot while watching the first segment, and, somehow, none of the characters got on my nerves, which is especially surprising considering the main character is one of those Spongebob-esque hyper optimistic and happy people. Like Spongebob, he’s endearing without being really annoying (Well, okay, Spongebob can be very annoying sometimes.)

The reason I completely ripped the description from the Wiki is because this episode doesn’t explain the main plot at all. I only watched the first segment before deciding to write this, but the other half of the episode also isn’t the origin story. As far as I can tell, the second episode contains Marty’s backstory, which is kinda weird.

Marty’s origins aren’t even touched upon in the opening theme either, so, needless to say, I was quite shocked when I read that description.

This episode touched upon the fact that Marty either doesn’t have a dad or is estranged from him, because he was surprised to hear that fathers are supposed to spend time with their sons, which did make me wonder….but I never expected the answer to my questions would be ‘Well, it’s because he’s a living mascot who became sentient when a billboard was hit by lightning.’

In that respect, the first episode fails, but it succeeds in every other avenue. It establishes several of the characters quite well, it gives us a taste as to the general vibe of the entire series and it provides a fun, funny and interesting story to draw you in.

The art and animation aren’t that special, but they’re also not that bad. This is a French animation produced for Teletoons, and it’s actually on the higher end for those parameters. ToonMarty was actually produced by Sardine Productions. They have a bunch of other kids shows, and I recognize approximately zero of them.

It looks like it…MIGHT be animated in Flash, but I honestly can’t tell if it is, so that’s good.

I do like the fact that they add some classic 70s style aesthetic in there sometimes, especially during the opening theme song. That was pretty cool.

Final Verdict:Continue Yes

Sadly, ToonMarty only lasted one season and 20 episodes (40 segments) but I think I’ll really have fun watching the rest of the series.


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Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) Code Monkeys

Really? That’s the quote you’re going for for promotional purposes? Okie dokie.

Plot: Set in the 1980s, in an 8-bit video game-esque version of the real world, game designers at GameaVision develop new games while basically being as unpleasant as possible.

Breakdown: The very first scene in this show is of one of the main characters humping his computer to somehow make it unfreeze.

And that was Code Monkeys, everybody.

Next time we’ll talk about…..

…..Oh fine. I’ll continue.

Let me procrastinate for a minute, however.

Code Monkeys was a show made by Adam de la Pena, who has also has his writing hand in such tasteful pies as The Man Show, Crank Yankers, Minoriteam and…Bratz: The Movie?….Okay that last one’s kinda weird, though there’s also a bunch of stereotypes in that movie too.

It was picked up by G4, the channel that had X-Play and things that weren’t X-Play.

I love how one of the blurbs by reviewers listed on the Code Monkeys Wiki page, Scott Jon Siegel of Joystiq, backhandedly shades G4 by saying “there was hope that G4 could deliver something actually watchable. [Code Monkeys] isn’t.”

Before anyone acts like I’m a prude who just wants to slam this show because of its crass humor – rude/dark comedy is not my forte by a long shot, but I can enjoy it on occasion when it’s done well. Problem is, so many entries in the ‘crude humor’ world are just ‘lol it’s funny because it’s gross or offensive.’ You want a good example of this? In the opening credits, we learn one of the characters is named Black Steve. He’s the only black guy. The joke is he’s a black guy named Steve so his name is Black Steve.

I was going to give them the benefit of the doubt a little since their boss is Steve Wozniak, so maybe they were calling him Black Steve to jokingly differentiate himself from Wozniak, but they don’t call Wozniak by his first name – they call him Woz – and Wozniak is supposedly only in this episode, yet his name sticks the entire series.

Sadly, I don’t think I can put this off anymore, and I honestly think this needs a step-by-step overview in order to truly give the scope of how bad this is, so let’s get started.

—————————-

We get our theme song, which I wish I could appreciate because it’s a Jonathan Coulton song, but I can’t because it’s like they messed with the audio so I can barely hear the vocals over the instrumentals. Right at the title card, someone yells ‘I love you, whores!’ They don’t even want you to think for a second that they’re trying, do they?

Our cast of characters works in a game design company called GameaVision, and the entire show is drawn and animated like an 8-bit game, which, I’ll admit, is pretty cool and unique. They even use the video game display around the border to add some extra bits to scenes and jokes.

For instance, in the aforementioned computer humping scene, they have a progress bar at the top that says ‘Bone Level’ and slowly shows a bunch of bones as the character, Dave, reaches climax. Yup. Comedy gold. Also, they kinda edit it poorly here because, in order to, I guess, introduce the other character in the scene, Jerry, halfway through they change the name at the top to say Jerry, but the Bone Level meter is still going up, so it kinda makes it seem like he’s also about to climax.

Jerry points out the rotting donkey carcass in the room and asks Dave to get rid of it, but he says it’s useful. He points this out by pretending the donkey is a tauntaun, uses a lightsaber to cut it open and hops in to stay warm while he naps even though they’re in a warm office building and this is stupid.

Steve Wozniak comes in (he’s even voiced by Steve Wozniak, supposedly.) He owns this company for some reason and wants to know what games the boys are coming up with. Dave shows him his new game Hobo Killer where you just murder hobos. They’re not attacking the characters or anything – they’re just standing there and the character stabs them to death. How fun.

Woz calls them for a meeting, and we get a kinda clever shot where the boys walk down the street..or…hall or whatever this is, and it’s like a platformer, but there’s more inconsistency in the little display up top. Back in the office, the health meter was depicted as being a bunch of hearts. Out here, it’s a Megaman-esque group of tiny bars. It doesn’t affect anything, I just thought it was interesting…

We meet Black Steve, who is brandishing a gun, which I guess is okay considering they live in a video game world. But we’ll later learn he’s just a gun-toting trigger-happy jerk who is racist against white people. Woz supposedly gave the gun to him for game inspiration.

Black Steve tells us about his new game idea called Cracker Barrel where you literally shoot crackers (Ya know….white people) in a barrel. Also, the follow up joke is that Black Steve isn’t even a programmer – he’s the accountant. Also, that isn’t really a joke so much as them wanting to make the Cracker Barrel joke so they had to hide the fact that he wasn’t a programmer from us long enough to say that.

Wait, if he’s the accountant, why did Woz give him a gun for game inspiration?

We next meet Todd – Hmm, let’s see. A show about game programmers made in the mid-2000s that is gunning for every stereotype imaginable. Could Todd possibly be a gamer stereotype?

Would you look at that? He’s a gigantic geek, very overweight, sniffs a lot, loves food, is crazy into medieval/DnD stuff (and wears a viking helmet for some reason) to the point where he changes his speech patterns, calls his office his lair and acts like he has no solid grasp on reality, has garbage all over his office, still lives with his mom and apparently is so close with her they waste no time strongly implying that they’re either in an incestuous relationship or are just borderline.

Here’s how subtle it is;

Todd: “Mother and I share many passions. One of which happens to be OUR passion for nachos. The second is MY passion for her.”

They accompany this with a little thing in the corner that says ‘Creepy Points’ with a number going up, which is kinda cute, but you couple that with them pointing out in dialogue that it’s creepy and us already knowing that it’s creepy and, again, you’re being way too blatant with the ‘jokes’ to the point where it’s almost unfunny.

Next up on the ‘let’s meet the entire cast’ docket is Mary – who is currently in the women’s steam room. Dave comes in and promptly starts snapping pictures – even sneaking underneath her to look up her towel.

At this point, I should mention another problem crude humor shows and movies almost always have –  unlikable characters. In shows and movies that function entirely on gross-out and offensive humor, they almost have to make their characters unlikable assholes in order for them to keep making these jokes. And, as a result, you very, very quickly stop giving half a shit about what happens to any of them.

It’s like in horror movies where they tend to make all of the characters dumb annoying self-absorbed teenagers. The movie stops being scary because you start rooting for the killer to come and spare you the torment of watching them on screen any longer.

Likewise, in these crude humor shows and movies, I don’t care what happens to these assholes one way or another, so why would I care to keep watching? The only nice-ish people are treated like crap too, which is another theme in those shows and movies, so the entire experience is just unpleasant. The only way that could work is if the humor is just so goshdarn clever and hilarious that it’d be worth sitting through their crap to get to the jokes, but it’s not.

Anyhoo, Mary is the only female programmer at the company, so obviously she’s an outspoken feminist who is working on a game where she teaches girls about their periods while also making it action-packed enough to market to boys. It’s called Red Rhonda….

Predictably, Dave makes a bunch of sex jokes at her, including implying that he wants to have anal sex with her. In case you’re wondering why Dave hasn’t been fired 100x over by now, Woz basically lets him do whatever he wants.

Speaking of that, they all reach the meeting room where Dave is seen peeing in a urinal. Woz told him he could install one right in the meeting area so he wouldn’t have to let his microwave burrito get cold, but the urinal has no pipes so the urine ends up all over the floor.

Woz gives his big announcement – he’s selling the company and he wants Dave to butter up potential buyers. Why he’s giving this responsibility to such a massive idiotic jackwad, I don’t know.

And, of course, it’s very plainly obvious that Dave intends on sabotaging these meetings. We can get that from his attitude instantly turning around and his sneaky voice, but, of course, the little display in the corner has to have an insincerity meter going up just to really drive it home.

The first buyers are from Family Works – a gaming company dedicated to proving that games can serve a moral purpose. They’re dressed like complete dorks and talk like complete dorks with a dorky company, so Dave takes him to our next character introduction – Clarence.

Clarence is gay and you can pretty much predict how his character talks and acts from there just on how they’ve treated every other character.

Clarence is in some sort of weird party room with pink walls, a giant Wham poster and a disco ball. He’s wearing nothing but a speedo, and there are two very stereotypically gay men hanging out in the hot tub. The Family Works people are disgusted and leave, and the scene ends with Clarence diving into the hot tub to give blowjobs to the other two guys.

…Oh Clarence does the music for the games, in case you were wondering. He has a microphone in this room, so it’s fine.

Dave brings some investors from Canada to Todd’s office, and they pretty much give up on staying on the stereotypical gamer thing with him because what he does next just makes no sense for anyone.

He strips naked and starts doing a word association game with the guys. Dave leaves and locks them in the room, saying they’ll be in there for several hours, which seems unnecessary. Meanwhile, Todd keeps getting way too close to them and even grabs them a couple times.

What even was that? I honestly can’t make sense of what they were trying to do there. Todd is definitely out of touch with reality, but even in his mind he shouldn’t be able to make sense of what he’s doing.

The next scene nearly made me turn off the episode. It’s not just not funny – it’s just literal potty humor, par for the course – it’s the fact that they basically give you a literal countdown timer to the joke.

Here’s the setup. Clearly, there’s a turd in the microwave. It’s massive. It’s practically the first thing you notice when the scene starts. There’s a timer at the top of the screen saying the microwave will be done in one minute. Gee, I wonder if the microwave explodes with poo-poo in one minute. Oh look, Dave’s even pointing out that there’s a turd in the microwave 30 seconds before the timer is up. Uh-oh, Woz is stepping right next to the microwave as the timer winds down.

Now, to their credit, the timer doesn’t reach zero before the microwave blows up and coats everyone with poop, there was about 17 seconds left, so there’s the slightest bit of surprise there….At least there would’ve been if they didn’t also manage to screw that up by including warning beeps right before the microwave explodes. So even if you weren’t watching the countdown or taking note of the very obvious clues, the show still alerts you to the impending punchline. It’s almost like they’re trying extra hard to make sure you don’t laugh.

Why was the warning even going off at 22 seconds anyway? Usually, if a microwave has a ‘nearing end of cook time’ warning beep, it will be three to five seconds before the timer is up – not 22 – that’s such a random number.

(I know I should note that the microwave as a whole wouldn’t blow up because of poop, but I thought I’d give them that much leeway at least.)

As a cherry on this literal shit sundae, the title at the bottom of the screen that usually says ‘Code Monkeys’ changes to ‘Gross Me Out’ after this. Yes. We get it.

I can try to make this scene work better. Have the microwave running, but don’t clearly show what’s in there. They discussed Dave liking microwave burritos, so we can just think he’s microwaving one. Have the scene go about normally, let Dave subtly situate the buyers in front of the microwave then BOOM. Microwave blows up, poop everywhere and Dave just non-chalantly explains that he regularly microwaves turds or something.

It’s not a great fix of that scene, but it’s at least trying.

Anyway, Woz isn’t even mad about it because he’s an idiot.

After a transition that tells us to have a ‘Happy Turdsday’ Woz explains that his desire to sell the company is based on his love of computers, not games. He wants to make computers, even though Dave says it’s a passing fad, which is kinda dumb because computers and games go hand in hand.

Since Dave scared off all of the other potential buyers, Woz has no choice but to go for his only option – Bellecovision, which I think is supposed to be a reference to ColecoVision? Bellecovision is an ridiculously boring game company that drives their employees insane, which is the polar opposite of GameaVision, where they basically let their employees do nearly anything they want. Dave is really against that option, but it’s either them or some dude named Larrity.

Woz goes to the other employees to get their say in the matter since he doesn’t want to sell it to either of them without their blessing, which is odd because it seemed like he was fine selling it to those other buyers without asking them about it.

The vote is split with half wanting to sell to Bellecovision and the other voting for Larrity. Jerry is the deciding vote, but he doesn’t want to vote because he’s torn.

When the commercial break comes, they put a little ‘Pause’ note on screen, which I legitimately thought was clever and a little funny. But then they kinda ruin it because, instead of just immediately picking up where they left off once the pause button is taken off, where Jerry is already being asked whether he will choose Larrity or Bellecovision, they have Mary immediately ask if Jerry will choose Dave or her, and I just don’t know what that’s supposed to mean. She voted for Bellecovision while Dave chose Larrity, and I guess that’s it, but she doesn’t even know Larrity – none of them do – and I can’t see why she’d want to gun for a game company that is seen as super boring, unless she’s also meant to be super boring.

Black Steve nearly murders his coworkers for no reason, and then Jerry chooses Larrity.

The majority wins, and the company is sold to Mr. Larrity.

Our first interaction with Mr. Larrity is in the men’s bathroom where Dave is humping a condom machine to get free condoms….

Larrity is an old rich white guy from Texas and, again, you can pretty much gauge how his character is portrayed from that information alone.

He’s brought his son, Dean, along with him, and Dean is just a muscular idiot.

Larrity brings Jerry and Dave along to talk about the new changes he’s going to be making to the company. First, he’s canceling all holidays, including Christmas and…”Jew Christmas.” Again, that’s not clever at all. It’s just putting an offensive slant on it.

Larrity claims he doesn’t know anything about video games, which is a mighty weird statement to make considering he lives in a video game and is currently completing a platformer as he walks down the hall (or street? It’s very difficult to know what these platformer corridors are. They look like streets, but they’re inside the building?)

Clarence dances in wearing a bright blue and pink jumpsuit, singing out that he’s gay – and surprise of all surprises, Larrity wants to fire him immediately.

Next, Larrity demolishes the women’s bathroom to make more space for the men’s room so he can pace back and forth like a tiger before he takes a dump (I’m not even really paraphrasing.) Mary asks what the women are supposed to use, but Larrity just says it’s not his problem.

Larrity comes into Black Steve’s office and tells him he’ll be sharing an office. Before he even finishes his sentence, Black Steve shoots him because he doesn’t want to share an office. Larrity’s okay, though, because he’s wearing a flak jacket. He’s so impressed by Black Steve’s shot, however, that he agrees to let him have his own office, at least until the ‘rematch.’

They have a group meeting where Mary is immediately stifled because Larrity only cares about what the male employees are doing. The only reason she spoke first was because he said he wanted to hear what the ‘ladies’ had for him, but then he stopped her and explained that he was using ‘ladies’ as a derogatory term for the men.

Todd starts a presentation, and we get this.

Todd: “I know what you’re all thinking. ‘Todd! How can you top yourself after your brilliant game Space Blasters?’”

Mary: “Wow, Todd is such a douche.”

….Thank….You…Mary. I never would’ve gotten that from his overall behavior and the fact that, when he was introduced, his character intro screen was this:

The line is so awkwardly placed, too. Maybe it doesn’t come across like that in text, but it’s just weird that she chose right then to say that. She either should have said that after he was done with his presentation or after his first line, which was “Well, since I’m the best, I’ll go first.” It’s like she interrupted him just to call him a douche.

Todd’s game idea is Space Blasters II, which is the same game as the first one with two ships. Everyone loves it….I think? I honestly can’t tell if they’re being sarcastic or genuine.

Dave is up next with his game, Nazi Sniper, where you shoot Nazis. Larrity initially likes the idea, but then is less than enthused when he realizes the Nazis are the bad guys in this game. Get it? Because he’s a Nazi sympathizer.

Larrity introduces the new game tester for the company, his “son” Benny. The company, not him, “illegally adopted” him from Korea. And, as with everyone else, he’s basically what you’d expect a racist depiction of a ten year old Korean boy to be. The main twist being that he’s very, very hyper because Larrity has been loading him up with Pixy Stix and sugar, to keep him awake longer so he can work non-stop, and cigarettes to stunt his growth. I’m not exactly certain why they need to stunt his growth, but here we are.

Larrity finishes off the meeting by appointing Dean as head of development.

Todd and Black Steve meet later to plan the assassination of Larrity because everyone’s now regretting voting for him to buy the company. Yeah, killing him. That’s the logical progression of events….though I suppose he already tried to kill him once, so why not aim for that ‘pre-meditated’ label?

In order to get Black Steve to agree, he has to hand over cash, his van and his prized sword, Excalibur. When he hands the sword over, Todd dubs Black Steve the Black Knight. He threatens to kill him if that’s a racist moniker…which…yeah, of course it is. That’s a given. Why are you okay with everyone calling you Black Steve but you get all murder-y when you’re given the title of Black Knight?

Black Steve lays in wait in the vending machine and opens fire on him, but Larrity reveals that he’s outfitted all of the vending machines with bulletproof glass and metal, so it didn’t work.

Dave tries to convince Woz, who is already the founder and CEO of a company that looks exactly like Apple, just with two bites taken out of the logo instead of one, but it doesn’t work. Woz doesn’t like the changes he’s learning of either, but he has no power there anymore and doesn’t want to return to the gaming world. Instead, he tells Dave that it’s his time to shine and that he should lead the charge to make changes at the company if he’s so bothered by them. That’s actually very reasonable…or at least it would be if he were talking to anyone other than Dave, who has shown to be nothing but lazy and abhorrently irresponsible and doesn’t deserve his time to shine.

Todd and Black Steve try another assassination attempt by hiding Black Steve in a giant cake (and he’s insulted that the cake is vanilla) but it fails and he’s gruesomely murdered by a falling piano trap Larrity had set up in his office…(Remember, though, this is a video game world, so it doesn’t stick. He’s dead for a lot longer than Jerry was earlier (he died in the first platformer scene) though, and we never see him respawn.)

The rest of the employees are filling out applications at Bellecovision when Dave comes in with an inspirational speech to bring everyone back to GameaVision, which works quite easily.

Back in GameaVision, Larrity is repeatedly branding Todd like a cow, and he thanks Black Steve for ‘letting him in on his secret’…..which…I guess means he was warning Larrity of the assassination attempts for some reason. Doesn’t make any sense because Black Steve is racist against white people and would logically be super against a racist white guy, but I guess they bonded over guns? If Black Steve was in cahoots with Larrity…why did Larrity kill him with the piano? Shouldn’t that have broken their bond over firearms, or is killing each other a bonding thing between them too?

And…uh….that’s it. They take a group photo with all of the employees, and I guess everything’s all better…suddenly….with no real resolution.

We end on a scene where Dave explains that he pooped in the brownie bowl and wiped his ass with every brownie. Lo and behold, everyone’s behind him in shock having eaten the poop brownies because they’re all have no sense of smell or taste, apparently.

The end.

Finally.

—————————-

I actually had high hopes for this at first because the aesthetic made it seem promising, and the premise seemed like something I’d definitely get into, but Code Monkeys is one of the most unfunny things I’ve seen in a long time.

The only thing that’s even slightly humorous about it is some of the changes they make to the video game display. Some of them. Most of them are quite boring, and several of them just try stacking onto a joke we’re either watching or listening to, so it’s pounded into your head so much that it goes from simply not being funny to being annoying.

So many jokes act like you’re too stupid to understand them, even when they’re the most basic ‘jokes’ in existence. Every few minutes, they’re holding your hand through a joke. It’s like a stoner comedy version of Dora the Explorer if Dora thought you were brain dead.

If I ended this review with “And that’s why Code Monkeys is the best cartoon ever made.” I’m certain you’d be able to tell from everything else that I was being sarcastic. Now imagine that I added a /Sarcasm to it. A bit much for this situation since the sarcasm is very apparent – makes it less funny. Now imagine that I made a gif of a video game display where it said ‘Sarcasm’ with a meter going up and added that to it. That’s be way too blatant and just not funny at all anymore, wouldn’t it?

That is how a third of the jokes in this episode work, with everything else just being stupid ‘we can’t think of jokes so here’s something offensive’ humor.

Crude humor/dark comedy is really, really, really hard to do right. And when it’s done wrong, it fails about 100x as hard as any other comedy because now it’s not just not funny, it’s unpleasant.

You can’t confuse dark or crude comedy with just being dumb. It’s the adult equivalent of waving keys in front of a baby’s face. ‘Hurr hurr, it’s funny because it’s racist or sexist or gross. Or hey, sex is funny. Let’s just mention sex or show a character humping things, that’ll get a laugh.’

The least they could’ve done through this whole thing was give us a resolution to the conflict, but the episode just kinda ends. Nothing’s really solved. Dave did get the other employees back, but they didn’t even show them leaving until after Dave had his final conversation with Woz…which is the same scene Dave gets them back. When they come back to the GameaVision offices, they don’t talk to Larrity or do anything. Larrity just brands Todd over and over and kinda bonds with Black Steve.

Is he going to stop being a jackass now? Is he going to reverse all the changes he made? Is he still going to fire Clarence? Who knows? But they’re together now, and that’s all that matters – even though it’s very clear that they all hate each other and aren’t really friends.

I have to give credit where credit is due, however, because this does work pretty well as an introductory episode. Most of the characters are given full introductions (except Clare, the receptionist, who, according to the Wiki, is basically the other female stereotype in that she’s an airheaded tramp. Also like four other people in the group photo that I don’t even remember seeing weren’t introduced either, but I don’t think they’re all that vital since they’re not listed on the main character page.) and the setup is laid out for us very clearly.

I was kinda surprised to learn that Dave is being treated as the main character because, in my opinion, he’s the least likable character in the whole cast besides Larrity. I really thought Jerry would’ve been the focal character given he’s the most likable and reasonable, but nope. He’s basically the deuteragonist.

Other than that, though, I could live my whole life never thinking about this show again and it would be all the better for it.

Final Verdict:

Continue no

Final Notes: Code Monkeys did find an audience and was reportedly fairly successful when it aired back in 2007, but G4 still canceled it after being on the air for two seasons/one year for some reason.

In 2017, Adam de la Pena wrote a tweet saying “And then there’s this….gameavision.com” which was supposedly hinting at a revival, but that obviously never happened. Just out of curiosity, I visited the website to see if there was any other information, and all the website says is ‘© 2020 gameavision.com.’ It’s interesting because they had to have recently updated the page to say 2020, but there’s still no information whatsoever on what they might be planning, if anything.

Adam de la Pena also doesn’t seem to be working right now. His last entry on IMDB was writing for a Netflix talk show hosted by Chelsea Handler in 2016-2017 titled ‘Chelsea’ and…uh…the reviews were not good.

It seems like someone at Netflix or something tried to seed the reviews and ratings because half of the reviews are perfect scores and singing the show’s praises so much you’d think it cured cancer while the other half are giving two to one stars and saying it’s a horrible pile of garbage. And guess what? Most of the positive reviews are very clearly by bots or people who were paid off, because the reviews for that show were literally their only reviews and they had no actual profile.

From what I saw of the reaction to the show on other websites, it seems the negative reviews were the most accurate. (Fun fact: Chelsea is the only show made by Netflix to have episodes removed from the platform. They removed 66 out of 90 episodes, supposedly to help people find the newest episodes, but they have other talk shows on the service that they didn’t do this to, so it’s just really odd.)

Of course, I had to look at the IMDB for Code Monkeys too, and it has a respectable score of 7/10. However, nearly all of the actual reviews give it basically perfect scores and said things like ‘Ingenious’ ‘Hilarious’ ‘Masterpiece’ ‘Brilliant’ and only two reviews were bad to moderate, which got labeled as unhelpful.

Sure seems familiar but in an opposite extreme. I wonder if many of the people giving this series rave reviews only have Code Monkeys as their lone review, as if they only signed up to give that positive review. Being fair, several of the positive reviews also seem to be genuine, but I still feel like this was another case of rating seeding.

I’m not accusing De La Pena of having anything to do with this, if it is really a case of buying ratings and reviews, but it’s just a weird coincidence. Maybe I need to take off my tinfoil hat.

I will fully admit that maybe the series gets funnier over time – maybe there’s something good buried deep in the literal shit that I’m not seeing – but you’d never convince me this series is anything close to a brilliant hilarious masterpiece.

I wanted this series to be a brilliant hilarious masterpiece – maybe a lost gem of sorts – but it’s not. It’s just terrible. It’s a unique concept that could’ve been really great but ended up being an exploding turd in a microwave.

Like always, if you enjoy the show, that’s cool, don’t let me stop you from enjoying it, but I am moving on.


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Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) Wander Over Yonder

Plot: The ever-happy Wander and his trusty steed, Sylvia, explore the outreaches of space and save its inhabitants from the treachery of Lord Hater.

Breakdown: I’ll be honest, even though I had heard a lot of great things about this show, I went into this with unease. At face value, this series has a lot of trademarks of two other popular shows I’ve reviewed that I either hated (The Mighty B!) or just didn’t mesh with (Mighty Magiswords). And those trademarks, again at face value, were randomness being mistaken for comedy and louder=funnier, I guess.

I was really worried that Wander Over Yonder would just be another one of those shows, even if it was created by Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends creator, Craig McCracken.

However, to my surprise and delight, it didn’t turn out that way. Yes, Wander Over Yonder is very bouncy and quick, but it’s melded with a lot of clever humor, very likable characters and voice acting that is both fitting and doesn’t grate on the nerves. When I heard Wander ‘s voice, I was very shocked. It’s a rather normal voice, though obviously inflected to be cartoony and peppy a bit. Usually, the main characters in shows like this have high-pitched overly exaggerated torture device voices, but Wander, voiced by Jack McBrayer, is perfectly fine to listen to.

Speaking of sounds, however, there are some instances in this first episode where I honestly can’t make out what they’re saying, especially Hater’s minions who continuously chant something I can’t make out. Even when Wander repeats it, I can’t understand what he’s saying. It really sounds like ‘Tastes great, less filling.’ but I sincerely doubt that’s it.

The music is a nice change of pace, being of a more country style without being super western. It’s very catchy and easy on the ears.

The art is pretty unique, and the art coupled with the animation is an interesting amalgamation of Dr. Suess, old 1920’s animation and modern styles. It’s very cool, even if some shots are a little jarring.

As for how this episode works as an introduction, it’s pretty good. We don’t learn of Wander’s background or anything, but we learn a great deal of who he is, who Sylvia is, who Hater is and how their dynamic will largely play out. We also begin to get attached to these characters and get a relatively good grasp on their world all in an impressive time frame of 11 minutes.

Final Verdict:

Continue Yes

Wander Over Yonder is certainly a great example of how to do the classic fun bouncy style of cartoon correctly. It kept putting a smile on my face and I can see it being one of those feel-good shows I watch whenever I need a lift in my spirit. The only sad aspect of this is that Wander Over Yonder was canceled after two seasons, despite the massively positive reception. Another one of those shows where I missed out on something great while it was still around.


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Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) Mighty Magiswords

Plot: Warriors for hire, the clumsy sibling team of Vambre and Prohyas, trek out on quests as they collect magiswords – powerful swords of an endless array of shapes, sizes and powers.

Breakdown: I hate that this disappointed me as much as it did.

I had heard a decent amount of good chatter about this show before I finally gave it a watch, and….I just….I didn’t enjoy myself.

My first impression of Mighty Magiswords is that it’s one of those shows that tries too hard, and, as a result, it ends up just basically being a lot of noise. All of the characters are loud and have overly exaggerated mannerisms. Normally, I wouldn’t have much of an issue with that, these are cartoons afterall, but everything goes at such a breakneck pace that you can’t really absorb the jokes when they come along. Some of the jokes hit with me, but everything else was like driveby comedy.

I honestly had such difficulty following along properly that I couldn’t even absorb the main characters names, which is especially odd because the theme song is one of those ‘explain the plot’ songs. I had to look at the Wiki to get their names jotted down. At least I remembered enough to make a suitable plot synopsis.

The hook of the magiswords is interesting, and I can see where the concept would make for a lot of comedy, but I can also see this shtick getting old fast. Basically, magiswords are a grab bag of pretty much any power they can think of from completely useless, like tomatoes and bacon powers, to somewhat good like making your arms super muscular.

The main characters seemingly already have a plethora of these swords that they can wield whenever they please, though it’s impossible to know exactly which ones they have. There was one battle in this episode, and they were whipping out magiswords with chewed bubblegum powers, laser pointers and even frog missiles.

In some ways, this show is kinda reminiscent of old, old, OLD cartoons where they’d pretty much just pull the world and everything in it out of their asses while they do kooky shit and bounce around, but in many others it reminds me of some irritating modern shows, like The Mighty B!, and that’s not a good thing.

Maybe I’m just an old curmudgeon who can’t find a taste for these mile-a-minute insane shows that rely heavily on randomness and yelling for their comedy, but this one just didn’t hit with me.

The art is alright, though there’s not a lot to make it stand out much. I do like that they made Vambre at least a little curvy and stocky instead of being overly stick-ified, but that’s really all the notably positive stuff I have to say in the realm of the art and animation.

I didn’t even really notice the music too much. That was another thing that just kinda got swept up in the rushing waters of this show.

Final Verdict:

Continue no

I can see how some people might like this series, and maybe I’m just missing something, though I’m certainly not the first person to have these criticisms. As far as I can see, it’s just not my cup of tea.


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Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) Wakfu

Plot: Yugo is a mysterious child who was adopted by an innkeeper named Alibert. When Alibert found Yugo in the forest, a message was magically conveyed to him – This boy has incredible power; the ability to manipulate Wakfu, which, as of now, manifests itself in the creation of portals – and when he grows up he’ll need to embark on a journey to find his true family. Several years later, Yugo discovers his latent abilities and Alibert reveals the secret of his past to him so he can finally start his journey and find his real family.

Breakdown: This series is based on Wakfu, the MMORPG, which is a sequel to another MMORPG, Dofus. I’ve never played either game, though I have heard pretty good things about them.

That being said, I’ve also heard great things about this series. It’s even popular to call it France’s answer to Avatar the Last Airbender. I think my jury’s still out on that claim for now.

Yup yup, this is a French cartoon (and just to sate people who might bring this up – it can also qualify as an anime) And my experience with French animation is surprisingly limited, mostly contained to Totally Spies, Code Lyoko and Sonic Boom, which is weird because I love those shows…well….two of them.

Other than that, I’ve seen a handful of French short animations, which tend to be largely and heavily artsy. Not that that’s bad at all, but I have to be in the mood for that.

As an intro, this first episode does okay. It’s a bit too quick with the pacing, though. Especially near the end where they basically jump from ‘Oh Yugo has portal powers’ to ‘Yugo, you’re destined to embark on a journey to find your real family. I know because the magic floaty glowing text told me when I found you.’ in about five seconds.

It doesn’t really do proper world-building though. I was struggling to write the plot section because I wanted to include aspects of the world but I soon realized that they didn’t really explore it very much. I caught glimpses of dragons and magic and Wakfu, though they don’t really explain what Wakfu is – I know Alibert and Ruel are bounty hunters, but I don’t understand why their main weapons are shovels.

The main enemy is a robot guy thing named Nox, and he seemed really interesting and cool, but I’m kinda unclear on what he is considering this is a largely fantasy-based world yet he’s clearly a robot/cyborg thing.

Speaking of characters, I found myself liking mostly everyone so far. Yugo’s a cool little kid. He’s responsible, he’s always helping out his father and I like his comedic moments. I especially enjoyed his brief bits of banter with Alibert, such as when they’re being attacked by someone possessed by a demon, customers run out of the inn and Yugo starts panicking because they didn’t pay their bill, but Alibert assures him by saying he’ll remember their faces.

Alibert is pretty cool too. He seems like he’s a great dad and an equally great bounty hunter.

Ruel is greedy, but entertaining. He provides some good information and can seemingly hold his own in a fight, despite his age.

The only one I didn’t much care for was the mysterious cloaked dragon guy who left Yugo in the woods. However, I’m 99% sure that’s just because his voice acting coupled with his animation really throws me off. I was shocked to learn that he was voiced by a woman. No wonder the insanely deep voice sounded artificially distorted and weird.

Speaking of voices, apparently, despite the love of this show, most Wakfu fans vehemently suggest not watching the dub (Especially S3, which features an entirely new cast.) I kinda brushed it off because most people bark ‘Dub bad!’ without any real justification for it, but yeah….it was kinda justified. Half of the cast is perfectly fine. Not amazing, but fine. I especially liked Yugo and Nox’s acting. However, the other half is either unfitting to the point of the voice not really fitting any living being I can think of, like dragon dude, or the acting is really strange like they’re reading from a script that only has one to five words per page.

I’m not going to harsh on the dub too badly, however, because the English dub was produced by the series own producer, Ankama, done at Flix Facilities LLC. and it was funded through a Kickstarter. The third season, however, was co-produced and dubbed by Netflix.

I really liked the art in this series. It’s very stylized while still being fairly simplistic. The colors pop, the landscapes are quite beautiful and the characters are all very distinctive from each other with easily identifiable silhouettes, there some cool design choices in regards to hair and clothing. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I want Yugo’s hat thing.

However, the animation will take some time to really gel with me. This series is animated entirely in Flash, which, while being a joke to a lot of people, is still an incredibly useful animation program. And let me make it clear that I am very aware that there are many great and beautifully animated series that were animated in Flash. Some of my favorite cartoons were made with Flash.

The thing is, it’s also cheap and easy enough for most animators, no matter their experience or skill level, to use, which leads to the market being oversaturated in series that tend to look like trash and give the software as a whole a bad name.

Flash animated works tend to have what I like to call ‘Paper doll syndrome.’ Basically, you can instantly imagine where all of the hinges are when something is animated. Instead of moving naturally, it looks like a bunch of separate parts moving together because some unseen puppeteer wills it that way.

They also tend to have a weird bounciness to them. Like once they start moving, no matter how slight, once they stop their bodies feel the need to bounce in the other direction a bit for no reason.

Wakfu has both of these problems, but it not due to lack of skill, experience or budget. As far as I know, Wakfu’s budget was very high. The show is praised for its animation in spite of the aforementioned trends – and I can see why. It’s extremely dynamic, flows fairly well and the action scenes are done in a manner that is fast-paced without looking sloppy or weird. I definitely feel like characters, creatures and objects are interacting with their environment and that everything is real within their world.

A good chunk of my unease here is likely just a general dislike of the bouncy paper-dollness as a whole. It’s incredibly distracting to me and reminds me a lot of those cheap badly produced Flash shows that do that a LOT.

Hopefully, I just need to get used to it here.

The music is also REALLY good. I love the opening theme song, and the background music is very fitting and well-made.

Final Verdict:

Continue Yes

Honestly, I’m really not expecting Avatar-level quality here, but I think it will be a fun watch, and I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the series. I think I’ll switch to subbed, though.


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Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) Craig of the Creek

Plot: The Creek is an amazing place where kids from all over the neighborhood gather to explore, have fun and stake their claims. Craig, along with his friends Kelsey and JP, spend their days adventuring in the Creek while Craig works to create a full map of this utopia for kids.

Breakdown: You know what we’re really lacking in today’s animation world? Shows where normal kids just have fun being normal kids. Granted, yes, this show has an exaggerated view on kid life, at least where the Creek is concerned, but it’s grounded, humble and has a very real feeling to it.

That’s not meant to be a sleight on any show with fantastical elements. I absolutely adore shows with fantasy, superheroes, magic etc. But sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and relax with a show that is more rooted in reality. The only other show I can think of off the top of my head that has a similar realistic setting is The Loud House, and I haven’t watched much of that show.

Craig of the Creek has an air about it that’s very similar to Recess. The area they frequent is ruled by kids in various manners with each kid serving a different role or being a part of a specific group within the area. The imagination involved in both creating this world and in the kids who bring it to life is fantastic and very entertaining.

Even though, again, this is exaggerated, it’s not to the point of being terribly unrealistic.

Take this episode, for example. Craig is a cartographer of sorts. He wants to draw a full map of the Creek. There’s a spot on the map that hasn’t been explored, and he and his friends want to explore it to be legendary adventurers in the Creek. However, the area is a small spot located in a massive field of poison ivy. So they treat it like this epic adventure by getting suited up from head to toe in makeshift hazmat suits and even set up a tether with a fishing line to find their way back.

Something starts attacking them from the ivy, but it’s not a monster, it’s a kid who is immune to poison ivy. He has a big family and can’t get any privacy, so he uses his immunity to poison ivy to create a small sanctuary in the clearing of the poison ivy field where he has placed a trampoline. Craig, sympathizing with his plight, considering he has a similar situation, marks the spot as dangerous and warns everyone to stay out.

Being respectful of this kid’s sanctuary and privacy means much more to him than being a famous explorer in the Creek. And even his friends go along with this with no argument.

We even get a very nice and beautiful moment after this happens when they return home.

This show has all of the markings to hit all of the right buttons in regards to characters, story, comedy and even heartfelt moments. Plus, it’s definitely appealing to child and adult audiences alike. Not only do they not talk down to the kids, but this series is basically a nostalgia bomb for adults, especially if you lived in a small town.

They introduce the characters and establish the world very well. They have the dynamic of the three main characters solid right from the start. I particularly loved Kelsey. She is definitely my favorite character so far.

Final Verdict:

Continue Yes

Craig of the Creek has a very strong start, and it has a very refreshing concept that really brings me back. I can’t want for more adventures at the Creek.


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