Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) | Chaotic

Plot: The trading card game, Chaotic, is sweeping the world by storm. Tom and his best friend, Kaz, love the game and play with their other friends all the time. When Tom gets a mysterious code for Chaotic, Kaz tells him it’s a special password in order to enter the REAL world of Chaotic. Tom doesn’t believe him until he finally gives in and inputs the code into his scanner. Turns out, Kaz was right. Tom is instantly transported to a virtual world where Chaotic players gather to have ‘real’ Chaotic battles, with themselves as the creatures. In his first game, Tom chooses his favorite creature, Maxxor, and faces off against his opponent, who takes the form of a Takinom. Tom can certainly win his fair share of card games, but can he find a way to win when he’s playing for real?

Breakdown: I have been aware of Chaotic for a while, but never gave it a chance in the past. When I wrote about the whole huge mess with 4Kids and Chaotic in my retrospective blog post series, I became very curious about the series and game. Since the TCG hasn’t been re-released yet as far as I know, nor has the online version of the game, and I’m not particularly interested in buying the old cards, especially since they seem expensive, I decided to just watch the cartoon series.

The series is entirely available on Peacock (And Tubi) for free, so that was lucky.

As for the first episode…..it’s one of the messiest first episodes I’ve seen for a show in recent memory.

I came out of it not only not understanding how the hell to play Chaotic even a little bit (they never once play a full or even half game in the entire first episode, and we only see a few cards) but I’m also entirely confused as to what even happened to Tom when he entered Chaotic, what the ‘real’ world of Chaotic even is, and they had the gall to end the episode by circling around to the literal cliffhanger that was at the start of the episode in a flashback and barely continuing it at all before putting a ‘To Be Continued’ on the screen and ending it.

I get that this is a two-parter, but at least do something more substantial with your part one to help the audience understand what the hell is going on or make things interesting.

To summarize, the episode starts with a fire-wielding harpy-esque character named Takinom, chasing after and attacking a muscly green dude named Maxxor through a frozen tundra. He’s cornered on a cliffside, our main character, Tom, explains in narration that he is actually Maxxor, Takinom blows fire on him and then the theme song starts. After the theme song, we flash back to how he got in that situation.

Tom is a new-ish/not new (?) player to Chaotic, which is a TCG that has an online version of the game where you can enter codes to obtain digital copies of your real cards, just like the TCG and online game 4Kids and CUSA acquired and adapted for the US. Tom is playing Chaotic with some random guy after school in the cafeteria, which….why wouldn’t you do that literally anywhere else? Unless it’s a legitimate after-school activity, most schools don’t allow you to just hang out in the school for any reason, let alone to play trading card games. There are so many kids there just hanging out in cafeteria – it’s like no one went home.

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It’s not just that they’re there when they shouldn’t be, it’s also weird because what kid wants to just hang out at school after hours, unless, again, you were part of an after-school activity? Usually any kid would want to be anywhere else BUT school – their house, a friend’s house, a local hangout, a rec center, a park, a basketball court, etc. That looks like a really nice school in a nice area. I can’t imagine aren’t options.

But whatever, they montage this game in about 20 seconds so you really have no clue what’s going on. They attack each other, Tom says something about sending his opposing monster to Nauthilax, his enemy’s energy is depleted, and that’s it. That is the first, and, no I’m not kidding, only time we see this game played in the entire episode. I never thought I’d say this, but, Bakugan, you have been surpassed in awful game explanations. I at least had some minor degree of understanding how Bakugan worked a little when I saw the first episode, and at least they showed a full game. Not Chaotic. Who cares about properly explaining that game this cartoon was literally created to help advertise?

After he wins, he gets a message over the game. It automatically opens, and a password pops up on his screen that makes his best friend, Kaz, super excited because he knows that’s a special invitation to the real world of Chaotic where he can play for real. Why he got this for just beating some rando at school, I have no idea. Kaz has been a part of the real Chaotic for a while and excitedly told Tom stories about it, but Tom never believed him. Considering Kaz is yelling all of this information in a crowded cafeteria and has told Tom about it a lot, I’d guess it’s not a secret. But also, like….no one seems to know about it? Even rumors? There are a lot of people in Chaotic when they get there – how is this not more common? I know that would be a really difficult thing to believe without proof, but there would be chatter about it.

Then again, maybe they wouldn’t, because apparently these kids are all 15 years old. I was about to criticize this further, but then I remembered all of the characters in Yu-Gi-Oh! are in the their mid to late teens….

Anyway, Tom blows him off until Kaz calls him in a panic in the middle of the night. He tells him he has to input the code into his scanner before midnight otherwise the offer to join the real Chaotic will end. Why exactly isn’t this information given in the message that contains the password? What if you need to wait to input the code? What if you don’t have access to your scanner for a few days? What if you don’t personally know someone who has already been to Chaotic? What if you don’t want to input the code at all because it’s some random code on a blank message from no one?

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Also, if you’re wondering what the scanner is for, apparently, later in the show, they can scan real creatures to get information on them I think – like a Pokedex. It also kinda works as a smartphone in that it’s also a camera, can be used for video chat, has a music player and a flashlight. As for the purpose of the scanner in their real lives in regards to the game, I have no idea. Chaotic cards have codes on them that are manually input into the online game to create digital copies of your cards – they’re not scanned. I have to wonder if 4Kids originally planned to make the real life cards scannable, including creating a real scanner kids would have to use to scan the cards, but then realized that was too expensive or impractical or something so they opted to keep the code system instead but forgot that made the scanner concept nonsensical in the TV series.

The scanners really have no real world purposes for the game, so why do they even exist? Why do any of these players buy them? Kaz tells him to input the code into his scanner, but also the scanner doesn’t have a keyboard, not even a virtual one, it just has a d-pad like thing, so I can’t imagine it’s for the purpose of inputting codes. Since the game is played online, you can probably just input the codes on your laptop.

Tom gives in, and, when he inputs the code, it at first seems like it didn’t work. His screen flashes, goes black and the scanner won’t turn back on. He then throws the scanner out the window into the garbage can on the sidewalk like a douchebag. Yeah, I imagine that scanner was expensive, you little shit. And I bet anything your parents paid for it. Don’t try to troubleshoot it, don’t see if you can get it fixed, just chuck it out the window into the garbage. Don’t tell me Dan has competition for one of the most obnoxious gaming show protagonists too….

Anyway, that’s not what happened….but it also is? In narration, Tom says that’s what happened, but he didn’t realize that there was more. We then cut to the ‘more’ in question. When Tom hit the button, he actually did go to Chaotic…..only not really? The best I can guess is that a duplicate of himself was sent to Chaotic – one that his real-world self is not aware of? How? Why? Dunno. They don’t explain anything.

When he gets there, it’s not any better. They basically just tell him “Hi Tom! Let’s get you to your first match!” without explaining where he is, what happened to him, how he got there, what the hell’s going on, why he’s being forced into a Chaotic match minutes after he got there and everyone knows he’s new, nothing.

Luckily, Kaz does help him a bit with setup through his scanner, but other than explaining how the interface works and giving him a hint about his opponent, he doesn’t explain anything else. Which you’d think he would because there’s that whole thing about him becoming the Chaotic creature and getting into a ‘real’ battle with another Chaotic creature would be something you should discuss a bit.

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When he is turned into Maxxor and his opponent into Takinom, he obviously has no clue what’s going on, what to do, how to utilize any of the game mechanics or anything – he just does what anyone would do in his situation and runs away. Kaz and a bunch of other players are watching the match from the lobby, and Kaz just acts horribly embarrassed for him and facepalms at the fact that he’s not playing properly, which, of course he’s not, no one’s telling him anything.

The end of the episode, like I said, is just barely a continuation of the first scene. Tom/Maxxor is cornered on a cliff by Takinom, who attacks him with fire. The continuation is that the fire causes Tom to fall off the cliff. We get a “To be continued” as Tom is falling and that’s it. They haven’t established any stakes here. This Tom isn’t real, right? His real self is still in his room, right? I can’t imagine him dying (or even getting hurt) in the game is akin to dying in real life because then narrator!Tom wouldn’t have been able to act as if the stuff about real Chaotic was something he learned about later. In addition, if this is a real Chaotic game, then I’d imagine him ‘dying’ at this point would just result in his creature dying and then moving on.

What even happens if he loses the game? I can’t imagine they bar him from Chaotic or anything. I don’t get it. What is on the line here? I doubt even kids would find tension in this.

It’s just so baffling. 4Kids – the kings of overexplaining every single thing – made a show where they just don’t explain anything out the gate.

I didn’t even touch upon the fact that the art and animation are awful. I know that they switch studios after season one from Bardel Entertainment to Dong Woo Animation and the art and animation get better for seasons two and three (Looking ahead though….not that much better. Definitely much better art, but the animation is still pretty rough.), but wow, this is just bad. It reminds me so much of the art and animation from those old eSurance commercials with that Erin lady. Old Flash animation leaves a lot to be desired as is, but this is not good.

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Overall, I’m kinda torn. If I had just watched this without doing all that research on Chaotic beforehand, I’d most likely drop it, but the fanbase seems to genuinely enjoy the show as much as the game. Bryan Gannon, head of Chaotic USA, said he planned on continuing the show, not rebooting it, which means there must be something to the story worth keeping, I’d assume.

I’ll probably wind up finishing this series just casually, maybe throwing out a review here or there, maybe for full seasons, but this, as a first episode, just failed so badly that I feel like I can’t really suggest it. There are several more card game or gaming related shows out there that I’d recommend way above Chaotic. I guess I’ll just leave this as an undecided and make firmer opinions down the line.

Verdict:

Continue Uncertain


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An Absurdly Deep Dive into the History of 4Kids | Part 15: The Chaotic Nature of Rumors (2005/2006 cont.)

2006 was a massive transitional period for 4Kids. Pokemon was out the door. Yu-Gi-Oh!’s initial run was ending. Several titles they had either dubbed or gotten the broadcast rights to were already either over or canceled. 4Kids had become heavily reliant on having at least two or three big titles to serve as their main sources of income. Losing one and having another start to walk off into the sunset was certainly a massive problem for 4Kids. They needed a new big hit, and they needed it fast if they wanted a chance at staying alive, let alone staying as a top contender in the world of children’s media.

In an effort to cast a wider net in the marketing and advertising world, 4Kids formed three new subsidiaries – TC Digital Games, LLC, TC Websites, LLC and 4Sight Licensing Solutions, LLC. We’ll talk about 4Sight a little later since their main hopes rested with TC Digital Games and TC Websites as they would be crafted specifically for a franchise that 4Kids hoped would be its newest biggest hit – one that it would produce in-house and own a majority of the rights to – Chaotic.

TC Digital Games, LLC was formed to be their trading card game company. Because of the massive and continued success of Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!’s TCGs, 4Kids invested millions in making an entire section of their company dedicated to creating trading card games. Their flagship game would be the aforementioned Chaotic.

Chaotic was made from an existing Danish TCG called Chaotic: Now or Never!, which was created in 2001 and was based on another card game called Grolls & Gorks that was released in 2000, which itself was based from a toy line called Dracco Heads. Chaotic: Now or Never! was unique in that they had codes on them which could be redeemed for online versions of the same cards and used in online play. The innovative card game had garnered quite a bit of popularity over time.

In 2003, former Upper Deck executive credited with helping make the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG a success in the west, Bryan Gannon, created the US-based Chaotic company, Chaotic USA Entertainment Group, to help bring the franchise overseas. The owners of Chaotic, Dracco Company Ltd. and Apex Marketing, sold the worldwide licensing rights for Chaotic to 4Kids on May 11, 2005. In December 11, 2006, the agreement between 4Kids and Chaotic USA was solidified to help make Chaotic exclusively an American franchise. The contract gave 4Kids the merchandise licensing rights through December 31, 2016.

Chaotic: Now or Never! would cease production in lieu of 4Kids and CUSA making their own sets of cards. The card game would experience numerous changes as a result of this shift. Not only would designs, names, card types and mechanics change, but so would the overall lore and storyline.

One thing that wouldn’t change, however, was the innovative online game integration. In addition to the TCG, 4Kids and CUSA also gained the rights to the patent for the game’s unique structure of having codes on the cards that could be redeemed online for digital copies of the cards that could be used in 4Kids’ and CUSA’s own American version of the online game.

TC Websites, LLC was made to help support this aspect of Chaotic. While there was some talk of TC Websites doing other things besides just managing the Chaotic online game, nothing else really came of it as far as I researched. In 4Kids’ financial documents, they also mentioned hopefully managing more TCGs in the future with TC Digital Games, but, again, nothing came of that either.

The most prominent report I found was that TC Digital Games and TC Websites had acquired the licensing rights to the NFL in October of 2009 and were planning on basically making an NFL version of Chaotic where they would produce football trading cards with codes that could be redeemed online for use in some online game they would develop, but there are very few articles about this, and all of them merely announce that the deal happened. No updates on development, nothing about when such a thing would be released, no mentions of it in any financial report or official document I read, no speculation – nothing. I can only assume 4Kids or the NFL must have backed out of the deal or it otherwise fell through.

4Kids’ partnership with CUSA granted them co-ownership of the two subsidiaries. TC Digital Games would be majority owned by 4Kids with 53% ownership later upped to 55% in 2007 while CUSA owned 47% later reduced to 45%. Unlike with TC Digital Games, the ownership of TC Websites would be a 50/50 split with CUSA, however, this would also change to a 55/45 split in favor of 4Kids in 2007. With this partnership and co-ownership, and now owning 32% of CUSA (with his Vice President, John Milito, owning another 32%) and 60% of the outstanding capital stock in Apex, Bryan Gannon would be made CEO of TC Digital Games and TC Websites – effectively making him the helmsman of the entire Chaotic franchise.

In addition to the TCG and online game, which would launch on October 24, 2007, 4Kids and CUSA would also work together with Bardel Entertainment and Dong Woo Animation to produce and distribute a new cartoon series based on the title that would premiere on October 7, 2006. The TV show, TCG and the online game were all interwoven. While the TCG codes allowed players to create their real-life decks in the game, the TV series would implement real strategies that would help players get better at the game.

The DVD situation with Chaotic is a little confusing. I can find several volumes of Chaotic DVDs, but most of them are just in French. From what I can find, it seems that Canada got a series DVD release in French, but not the US in English, which is extremely odd. The first two volumes claim they’re in English, but according to reviews it’s actually only in French, which is, I assume, why the Amazon and eBay star ratings are so low. I also found one box set in Portuguese.

I did find one full DVD box set available in English on Retroanimation.com, but I’m very wary of its legitimacy, mostly because the only other place I’ve found it is backtothe80sDVDs.com – a place that seems…..less than legal? Their bread and butter is selling DVD collections of old commercials, but they also sell a ton of DVDs of retro TV shows and movies, most of which either being cartoons or live-action kids’ media. I can’t remember for which show it was, but the last time I visited this site searching for DVDs of a show, it was clear they were just selling the TV rips to the show in a DVD format as the official DVDs didn’t exist. Skulking around a bit more, it seems that’s quite common of them to do that since the preview videos for House of Mouse and Dave the Barbarian (which never got a DVD releases) have the Disney Channel logos on them. From the preview videos of Chaotic, it seems like it’s legitimate because there aren’t any TV station logos, but they could have just taken the DVD footage from foreign DVDs and put the English TV audio tracks on them.

The other thing that makes me very wary about this box set is that, on the backtothe80sDVDs set listing, it says the box set comes with four hours of 1990s commercials….which….uhm…why? If this was legitimate, they wouldn’t include four hours of retro commercials as a bonus feature – commercials I’m also quite certain they’re not legally authorized to sell.

So yeah….don’t buy from there (Or RetroAnimation. I recently found out they’re bootlegs too.) – especially considering their privacy policy is two sentences long.

4Kids was extremely ambitious about Chaotic. They even publicly stated they planned on having the animated series last at least seven years.

Make no mistake, however. 4Kids and CUSA were both taking huge gambles with this outing. In the financial report for 2006, 4Kids outlines in detail the various risks associated with this venture, claiming that, should Chaotic fail, they would lose massive investments. According to the documents for that year, they had invested $10,000,000 in TC Digital Games and $20,000,000 in TC Websites out the gate. In addition, while Chaotic was still largely an American property now, their agreement with Dracco and Apex included a 10% net income fee annually.

Luckily for them, for all intents and purposes, Chaotic was shaping up to be a good success in its first year. It looked like it would become the life preserver 4Kids desperately needed when its future was looking grim. At its peak, Chaotic enjoyed the number three spot on the top TCGs on the market at the time, beating out Magic: The Gathering, but never quite beating out Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!. Chaotic also won out over Magic online with 1.25 million registered players on chaoticgame.com as opposed to Magic’s 150,000 players.

The show didn’t receive the same success initially. The animated series had a rough outing with the first season, but fans responded more positively to seasons two and three, which had a bump in production quality (moving from Flash to traditional animation and changing animation studios) and better writing. Still, the show wasn’t a huge hit or anything. According to as many ratings reports from Cynopsis Media that I could find between the years 2006 and 2010, it frequently lost out in ratings to TMNT 2003, Sonic X and Yu-Gi-Oh!, sometimes even Viva Pinata and Dinosaur King, and never once dominated the block.

When it was run later in the day in syndication on Cartoon Network, the situation was about the same – it did okay numbers at best, but never really broke out into big popularity. The show managed to get three seasons, airing primarily on 4Kids TV with season three moved to The CW4Kids, and reruns airing on a variety of networks and blocks such as Canada’s Teletoon and Jetix.

For about two years. Chaotic continued to be a decent success, but then, in 2010, Chaotic was canceled. The TCG ceased production. The online game went offline. And Chaotic as a franchise faded into obscurity with a moderately small but very loyal fanbase still keeping what was left of the game alive.

Many fans wondered exactly what happened. And when I started writing this article, I didn’t think much of it. Chaotic probably suffered the same problems every other canceled franchise or show did – it wasn’t making enough money. Little did I know of the massive rabbit hole I would wander into…..

Everywhere I looked, fans asserted that Chaotic was doing wonderfully around the time it was shut down. The show was doing fantastic, the TCG was selling well, the online game was doing well, they even had some console and handheld video game releases. In their eyes, it made no sense whatsoever that Chaotic died.

Some time after Chaotic ended, someone claimed that the reason for Chaotic’s downfall was a “series of lawsuits” in which 4Kids was trying to acquire the full rights to Chaotic from CUSA to maximize their profits from the property. 4Kids supposedly claimed that they somehow felt entitled to 100% of the rights because they had 55% majority ownership, which makes absolutely no sense. Basically, 4Kids was being greedy and trying to bully the franchise away from its original owners. However, this move blew up in 4Kids’ face spectacularly.

Not only did they not gain the full rights to the series, but at the start of the trial, the judge allegedly put a hold on the entire property – no Chaotic merchandise could be made or sold as long as the trial was going on, and, according to the rumors, the trial went on for about four years. No TV show, TCG, online transactions or other merchandise sold for a franchise for years would easily mean its doom. And, according to the rumor, it was.

According to the rumor…

I typically like to have at least some sources when I make any claims, even if the best sources I can get still aren’t entirely concrete. But so many people were parroting this story and asserting it as absolute fact that I went and wrote nearly three pages about this whole ordeal and how it was 4Kids at their lowest, proving them to be one of the scummiest licensing companies in existence without any actual evidence besides the words of the Chaotic fans. When I got to the editing portion, I decided I definitely needed some actual sources for this because it was too harsh of a claim for me to feel comfortable acting as if it was fact, even if this is 4Kids we’re dealing with.

However, no matter where I looked, no matter how many documents I scanned, I couldn’t find a single, solitary sliver of evidence that this lawsuit ever existed. I even asked the Chaotic Reddit community for literally any source for this claim, no matter how small, and all I got was someone telling me to watch the interviews with Bryan Gannon on Youtube.

There are three interviews with Bryan Gannon on Youtube, all of which I had watched in full before I went to Reddit, and none of which contained any mention of a lawsuit by 4Kids. The only interview that even mentioned 4Kids was just talking about how it took several years for Bryan Gannon and CUSA to get the rights back from 4Kids (then 4Licensing) after Chaotic died – only managing to finally get full rights back in 2014.

Someone else mentioned that most of the details about the lawsuit would probably be under an NDA, which makes some degree of sense, but you guys need to understand something here. My search engine skills are pretty damn strong. I am annoyingly curious, and I hate when I can’t find something, so I typically look for a very long time until I at least find some nuggets to work with. I can find some of the most obscure shit, and during the course of this deep dive I most certainly have, whether it was useful and interesting or not, and yet, somehow, I haven’t been able to find a trace of this lawsuit even existing. Forget getting details about it – I can’t find proof that this supposedly four year long lawsuit existed.

I even silently joined the Chaotic Discord server and looked for any post involving “4Kids” or “Lawsuit” or words of that nature, and all I got was people talking about the 4Kids lawsuit, but no sources for it, not even anyone explaining who told them the rumor in the first place. I had found two Youtube videos that stated this rumor as the reason Chaotic died, one of which may have been the source of the rumor in the first place, but all they said in the video was that it was something someone told them.

One of the reasons I decided to note the various lawsuits 4Kids has been involved in throughout the years at the end of each section has been to act as a demonstration of the level of detail the financial reports provide. 4Kids needed to note each and every bit of litigation they went through, no matter how minor, no matter if it was just their subsidiary going through it and not technically their main company, because these were official financial reports. They needed to be registered in legally official channels, and they needed to be presented to shareholders, who have a right to know about any major financial impacts currently going in the company they’re investing in, like, say, a multi-year long lawsuit that could literally make or break them and wound up allegedly destroying a big franchise that they helped create. NDAs, as far as I know, would never restrict them from merely reporting that the lawsuit existed. And it would be stupid on the part of 4Kids because that would mean they’d probably be withholding reports of massive expenses, which could land them in legal trouble with the IRS.

Even if I wanted to put on the biggest tin foil hat and say 4Kids, for some reason, was keeping this the biggest secret they could, there still would have been official legal reports of the lawsuit kept in legal archives available to the public. I looked in as many places as I could from publicly owned legal archive websites to official government archives and found absolutely nothing, even though I did find documents for all of the other lawsuits 4Kids and CUSA had been involved in separately or together, never against each other.

Stepping away from lawsuit talk for a minute, let’s discuss how Chaotic was objectively doing out in the wilds of the marketplace. In its first several months after release, Chaotic was doing alright and was staying near the top, it just wasn’t the huge hit 4Kids was hoping it would be. It was on a steady track of meeting revenue expectations, but not exceeding them. It wasn’t the next Pokemon or even Yu-Gi-Oh!, but it was holding its own. Even when Kahn would admit to being anxious about the massive undertaking of Chaotic, as late as February 2009, the LA Times responded by claiming that Chaotic was doing so well that Kahn’s “initial worries [were] proven to be unfounded.”

I have to wonder how Al Kahn responded when he read that article, if he did, because that article was released just one month before Q4 of 2008 reports would be released – Q4 2008 being the biggest hit Chaotic and 4Kids would ever take.

The Great Recession of 2007-2009 was hitting them hard. They were losing money across the board for any merchandise sales on any property they had left – and they were losing it to shocking degrees. 4Kids began laying people off and reducing operating costs to help offset the losses. 4Kids was already on wobbly ground when it came to their revenue, but they were getting by. 4Kids was clearly putting almost all of their eggs into Chaotic’s basket, because, truth be told, it was one of the last baskets they really had. Several times over 2008, their earnings were touted as being boosted by Chaotic sales, which were only going up. They needed Q4 to be particularly good in order to be as stable as possible.

I can’t stress enough how important Q4 is to companies that focus on children’s media/toys/merchandise etc. This is the holiday season, meaning what is typically expected to be a huge boost in sales that most any company needs, but especially 4Kids. However, instead, the fourth quarter of the year was abysmal.

Due to the financial crisis, stores were canceling orders for merchandise and even returning merchandise they had acquired in order to reduce overhead and save money. Particularly, many stores were reducing the amount of seemingly superfluous items like trading cards, video games and toys. Speculation from the way 4Kids words their reports also indicates that Chaotic’s lower popularity compared to other TCGs and shows/franchises contributed to Chaotic having higher levels of returned merchandise than competing properties.

Chaotic had trainwrecked. In Q3, they had $7.3mil in revenue for Chaotic, a number they hoped would jump up quite a bit in Q4 to help them meet projected earnings of at least a year-end total of $20-30mil. In Q4, they only managed $500,000 in trading card revenue from Chaotic. In addition, their net losses were up from $16,486,000 in Q4 of 2007 to $19,613,000 in Q4 2008, making their year-end earnings for Chaotic $15,276,000 – $5mil short of their lowest project earnings target. Overall for the year 2008, they wound up with a net loss of $36,819,000 compared to the net loss in 2007 of $23,326,000.

Al Kahn stated,

“The sharp economic downturn and associated severe deterioration of consumer confidence starting in September 2008 deeply impacted our licensing revenue and trading card game sales in the fourth quarter. Our results were also impacted by declining licensing revenue throughout the year from some of our more established properties. While we are extremely disappointed by our results for 2008, we implemented significant cost cutting initiatives in the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 that we expect to reduce our operating costs by $25 million in 2009 as compared with 2008.”

Source

“This decline in sales is primarily due to retailers and distributors reducing, canceling or returning orders in an effort to reduce their inventory as they respond to the rapid, steep economic decline. In addition to impacting sales, it also triggered an increase in our reserve for returns and allowances and a $3 million write-down of our trading card inventory.”

Even in the shadow of this this sharp decline, Kahn still remained optimistic.

“Despite the fourth quarter sales numbers, Chaotic finished the year as the number three selling trading card game in the U.S. behind Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!,”

“Looking forward, we believe Chaotic still offers a tremendous opportunity for 4Kids in the future as we roll out the Chaotic trading cards in the UK, France and Germany during the first half of 2009. Chaotic will also be bolstered by the revised and improved Chaoticgame.com website that went live on March 3 and is now available in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. We also expect additional Chaotic licensed products to be available from our master toy licensee, Spin Master, and our videogame partner, Activision Publishing, which is scheduled to release a Chaotic video game on the Wii™, Nintendo DS™, Xbox 360®, and PLAYSTATION®3 platforms in fall 2009.”

2009, however, would have its own set of problems. Chaotic’s sales were reportedly very unreliable as noted in 2009 because, according to Kahn, the conversion to “pay on scan” was making it so Chaotic wasn’t selling much at all on their reports. In Q2 of 2009, they mentioned during their earnings call to shareholders that they shipped $2.6mil of Chaotic merchandise, but it couldn’t be reported back as actual sales until it sold in retail outlets and their sales were reported back to 4Kids.

There’s something else you need to keep in mind about Chaotic. Since 4Kids was footing most of the bill for the production of the cards and the upkeep of the online game, their production costs were up quite a bit from previous years. Their trading card production costs were usually either the highest bill they had or at least in the top three.

In Q4 2009, 4Kids reported taking a $20,195,000 impairment charge related to Chaotic merchandise. Declining interest in the property had forced 4Kids to allow for drastic markdowns of merchandise already in stores, the returned merchandise was basically just collecting dust as retailers were not increasing their orders once they were reduced, and they were also taking losses on the TV show in regards to production costs versus returns.

I want to remind everyone that 4Kids expected Chaotic would have between $20-30mil in revenue in its first year – a number that was expected to grow as time went on.

We know it didn’t reach the first year projected goal. What of 2009?

Only $2,603,000 in revenue to offset that staggering $20.6mil loss that was added onto the $12,947,000 in losses for the trading card and game division in 2008.

In 2010, the year production would cease on Chaotic, TC Digital Games and TC Websites would report a mere $247,000 in revenue with $6,736,000 in losses.

As 4Kids reported, due to “continued lack of profitability,” TC Digital Games, TC Websites and, as a result, Chaotic, would all shut down production on September 30, 2010. Support for the website and trading card game would cease on October 1, 2010.

For some unknown reason, 4Kids would still latch onto their majority share of the rights for another four years, supposedly preventing the franchise from attempts at revival by CUSA and Bryan Gannon. However, the rights are back with them now.

Bryan Gannon stated a bunch of optimistic things about Chaotic’s future, including bringing the TV show back – not rebooting it, but continuing on in the storyline it left off – bringing the TCG back, bringing the online game back, though focusing more on a mobile app version, and creating Chaotic for a new generation of players and fans while also honoring and catering to loyal fans. Obviously, COVID has put a dent in these plans, but from everything I’ve heard they’re still plugging away.

I think that’s great, and I’m glad that, despite not being a Chaotic fan myself as a kid (Although, I was aware of both the show and the TCG) that the franchise will hopefully rise again and enjoy new life. Bryan Gannon seems legitimately passionate about the franchise, the fans appear to be even more passionate and excited, and I wish him, the fans and Chaotic all the best in the future.

I’d be one of the first to jump on a ‘4Kids bad’ bandwagon, but from all of the facts I’ve gone through, they didn’t do anything wrong in this circumstance. They just took a gamble and it failed because of factors mostly out of their control. They didn’t try to steal Chaotic from CUSA or Bryan Gannon just to eat up all the money they could from a franchise that was on life support. They didn’t allow the franchise to stagnate for years and eventually die while wasting god knows how much money on their legal team for a clearly fruitless venture instead of just dropping the supposed lawsuit as soon as the pointlessness was made apparent.

It just died.

Had the financial crisis not happened, Chaotic could have lived a more prosperous life, but let’s not fool ourselves. It wasn’t ever going to be a big juggernaut in children’s entertainment, it wasn’t going to break new ground, and it likely wouldn’t have saved 4Kids from the bankruptcy they’d soon suffer along with its inevitable death four years later.

As for why this rumor about a bunch of lawsuits came to pass, I have a theory. The Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit was coming up around the same time they shut the doors on Chaotic. I believe someone just either mistook the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit for one involving Chaotic or they purposefully bent the truth to stoke a ‘4Kids bad’ fire.

This would be more of a stretch if it wasn’t for the fact that the judge in the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit put a hold on the rights until the lawsuit was over. In the case of Yu-Gi-Oh!, 4Kids had brought up concerns about TV Tokyo and NAS selling the rights to Yu-Gi-Oh! when they were in the middle of preparing to release Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL. No matter the outcome of the lawsuit, if the rights were sold while the lawsuit was going down, they’d suffer a massive loss of income. In turn, the judge ordered a hold on the Yu-Gi-Oh! license until everything was cleared up. To be specific, this was just a hold on the licensing rights – not on any productions involving Yu-Gi-Oh!. However, that particular similarity felt like too much of a coincidence.

In all honesty, I can’t imagine any judge ordering that a company stop producing a product altogether just because a lawsuit over full rights is ongoing, at least in the circumstance of a supposed lawsuit over Chaotic. 4Kids would own the rights either way. If they won, they’d own 100%. If they lost, they’d go back to owning 55%. There’s absolutely no reason a judge would order a full production hold. That’s needlessly massively harmful to both companies in question and makes absolutely no sense.

In summary, always check your sources. The most important aspect of that being always make sure you have a source in the first place. I absolutely don’t blame the Chaotic community for spreading this rumor as there was no real announcement about the cancellation or the closing of TC Digital Games or TC Websites to work from, and that is on 4Kids’ shoulders. I sincerely doubt anyone in their situation is going to dig through long, boring and sometimes difficult as hell to read financial reports and earnings calls transcripts for crumbs of information regarding the cancellation of a trading card game and cartoon – that’s a bit unreasonable. The only reason I dug that much is because my brain doesn’t like not being neurotic for five seconds.

Rumors like that can spread like wildfire very quickly, especially if the people who seemingly started the rumors are trusted people in the community. It’s just a little disheartening that this rumor is still taken as fact by so many people. I know my blog doesn’t have that many readers, but I hope some individuals from the Chaotic community read this and help clear this matter up. To what end, I don’t know. It’s not like 4Kids is around anymore or it’s some massive wrong that needs to be righted, but maybe it’ll do something positive for someone.

If I am truly wrong and someone can actually provide me with concrete evidence of any kind that the lawsuit did happen, then I will gladly post a retraction to all of this and offer a sincere apology, but I legitimately worked my ass off for weeks trying to find anything that would actually be valid proof and I just couldn’t. It was all word of mouth from within the fandom.

As a final note, I do concede that it was still awful of 4Kids/4Licensing to latch onto the majority rights for four more years when they weren’t getting anything from it. I have no way of knowing why they did that, but it seems very petty of them. Legally, they were actually in the right here as their contract said their rights agreement would go until 2017, but they weren’t doing anything with the license, it was making them absolutely no money, and at least they might be able to get some income by selling the rights back. I guess we’ll never know the answer to that one for sure.

Next – Part 16: Yu-Gi-Oh No!

Previous – Part 14: (The Time Has Come)


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CSBS – American Dragon Jake Long Episode 5: Act 4: Scene 15 Review

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Plot: After wrestling it away from the Huntsman and Huntsgirl, Jake is tasked with protecting a scarab beetle that has the power to bring the dead back to life.

Meanwhile, he tries to get the attention of Rose, but finds that she’s preoccupied with an upcoming play about Antony and Cleopatra. In order to get closer to Rose, Jake decides to try out for the role of Antony.

Back with Huntsman and Huntsgirl, doubts begin to form in Huntsgirl’s mind about pursuing the beetle any further, believing the dragons probably already sent it back to Egypt. Huntsman refuses to give up the mission, stating it is their destiny to hunt down all dragons and kill them. Not only that, but the beetle is vital to their clan’s future.

He brings Huntsgirl down to the mysterious catacombs where he reveals the tombs of the past fallen Huntsclan members. He plans on using the beetle to bring them all back to life, creating a new army of Huntsclan warriors and wiping out dragons for good.

The next day, Jake lands himself the part of Antony, and he and Rose decide to practice their lines at his grandpa’s shop that night. She suggests practicing the kissing scene since it’s so vital to the play, but Jake, having never kissed a girl before, starts panicking and awkwardly babbling his way through the conversation. His state of panic leads him to accidentally releasing the beetle.

Jake tries to play it cool at school and gets another rehearsal date with Rose, this time at her house, even though she was reluctant to let Jake come over.

That night, Jake is amazed to discover that Rose lives in a massive castle-like mansion with her uncle. They’re about to rehearse the kiss when Rose suddenly freaks out. Her uncle has arrived home. She quickly hides Jake under the table before discretely throwing him out, citing that her uncle is very strict and doesn’t allow visitors. However, Jake lost the beetle again during the chaos after it had sneaked into his backpack.

Jake decides to bring Rose to Trixie’s house to rehearse. They prepare for the kiss scene again, but they both notice the scarab beetle fly out the window. Not wanting to alert the other of their secret identities, they make up a few excuses to quickly rush out and fight over the beetle. After the fight is over, the Huntsman arrives and takes the beetle for himself, revealing his plan to Jake.

Back at home, Fu Dog explains that the Huntsman is probably planning on using the beetle for a spell that brings dead people back to life. Under the light of the full moon, the Huntsman can indeed bring his ancestors back to life – and the moon just happens to be full tonight, the night of the play.

Later, with the help of Spud, Jake learns the location of the tomb of the Huntsclan. He, Grandpa and Fu head there to stop the resurrection, but they’re too late. Several Huntsclan members have been revived, but Fu Dog manages to grab the beetle to prevent any more from coming back.

Jake grabs the spell book and burns it, causing the revived Huntsclan members to die once more. The struggle continues between the Huntsman, Huntsgirl and the dragons, with Huntsgirl accidentally getting her leg injured in the process. Huntsman takes Huntsgirl and leaves, and Jake has just enough time to make it back to the play for Act 4 Scene 15, the big kiss, which is a good thing because without Jake and Rose, the play has been a disaster. Spud and Trixie have had to take the reigns, and it’s becoming an embarrassing display.

Jake makes it in time, but is shocked to see Spud taking over the role of Cleopatra. Rose couldn’t make it back in time, and Trixie was being so obnoxious that they yanked her. He’s forced to kiss Spud, much to his disgust.

The following day, Jake meets back up with Rose who apologizes for missing the play, citing that she got a sprained ankle at a family event. Jake is slightly suspicious as the injury seems very similar to the one Huntsgirl got, but brushes it off and finally asks Rose out on a real date.

She agrees, much to Jake’s delight.

Breakdown:

– Huntsman has a robot in his fireplace specifically designed to take off his glove to reveal his dragon birthmark? Talk about disposable income.

– What is with the trope of auditions having a string of complete idiots? I’ve been to plenty of auditions for school stuff before. They’re never entertaining. It’s just people reading the same lines over and over and being varying degrees of bad to okay.

– It’s kinda funny that Jake tries to be this smooth ladies man ‘mack-daddy’ but the instant Rose mentions practicing the kissing scene, he becomes a complete doof. Quite a realistic portrayal of a 14-year-old boy.

– I appreciate that Fu Dog is supportive about Jake being nervous about his first kiss.

– Jake: “Seriously, my church isn’t this big!” I never knew Jake was religious. That seems….a little…strange considering the various mythos that are real in this series. How does that work?

– Nice Darth Vader reference when Huntsman puts his helmet on.

– Of course the spell can only be done on the night of a full moon, of course the full moon’s that night and OF COURSE the full moon is on the night of the play.

– Why is Jake acting like, as long as he comes in before Act 4 Scene 15 (the kiss) that he’ll still be able to do it? Bringing in an entirely new actor in the middle, or moreso end, of the play for no reason is pretty stupid even for a junior high play. Not to mention, it’s a little insulting to the understudy to bail until you decide to show up then take the best scene in the play all for yourself.

– Why would they not have an understudy for Cleopatra? Why did the woman running this play not notice until Spud was out there doing both roles?

– I love how the cover of the Huntsman’s ancient spell book is literally just a picture of a skull and the word ‘Spells’

– Why would getting the beetle out of the moonlight not stop the Huntzombies but destroying the spell book does?

– They don’t actually have the balls to show the Jake/Spud kiss, but they do let you hear the audience gasping in response. I think they’ll probably skip the episode where the parents’ groups whine about the gayness.

– Macy Gray was in this episode!?! The hell?! She played the woman who was running the play and Trixie’s grandma. Two extremely small bit parts. Wow. Talk about a wasted cameo.

————————————–

This episode was fairly good but really, really cliché. Like, appallingly cliché. The school play kiss, the nearly missing the play, the nervousness because the school play kiss is a first kiss, the trying to keep a double life a secret while trying to do two really important things on both sides, the school play falling to pieces because the leads are missing etc. It’s all really old hat.

The aspect of bringing the Huntsclan back to life was interesting, but the payoff was really weak. The ones that did get brought back were no more powerful than any other brainless lackey, and they all had the same character design. They were also beaten in a predictable and easy manner. Not to mention that it was ridiculously easy to find the Huntsclan’s tomb. Spud found it through a few minutes of searching on the Internet…..SPUD found it.

I like that Jake and Rose’s relationship isn’t one of those annoying super-slow burns and that the development is realistic. It’s also nice that they’re allowing us to see Rose’s double life as Huntsgirl. It puts the audience in a unique position of connecting with her as well as Jake while knowing, and dreading, that their happy little romance will likely come crashing down once he finds out the truth.

Many similar shows would have the audience in the dark just as much as Jake is, and the big reveal would come later. This arrangement is much better.

………………….Seriously, Macy Gray was in this episode!


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Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) Delta State

Plot: Four amnesiac twenty-somethings with psychic powers are recruited to protect the world from fellow psychic beings called Rifters. The Rifters originate from the mysterious dream-like realm called the Delta State, and their main intent is to control the minds of everyone in the world. The four have no choice but to accept this dangerous task as it is their best chance at remembering their pasts.

Breakdown: This is one of those shows where I find myself struggling to discuss it properly.

Let’s start with the basics. Delta State is a show based on a (never released) comic book of the same name by Douglas Gayeton. It was produced by Nelvana and released by Teletoons on Canadian television in 2004, and it has the honor of being the first ever fully rotoscoped animated TV series.

The art style really makes it stand out from other animated TV shows I’ve covered. I’ve seen numerous fully rotoscoped animated movies and short films, but they typically do this to gain a more realistic appearance while also taking advantage of the creative benefits that come with animation.

Rotoscoping itself is largely viewed as a lazy form of animating since you’re literally taking frames of live action footage and tracing over them, but I do believe this form of animation was the right way to go for this specific series.

Delta State has a very….college-esque kind of vibe to it. That makes sense considering that the characters are all in their early twenties, live together and basically act like college students. Not to mention the fact that doing a Google search on this title results in mostly colleges.

The show also doesn’t have tons of background music and utilizes natural idle conversations quite well. It doesn’t feel like a show where the fate of the world rests on the shoulders of the four main characters, but by the end you start feeling the stakes.

The reason rotoscoping works well for Delta State is because of the Delta State. Technically, all of their psychic powers could be done in live-action just fine. Claire has the power of remote viewing, which can easily be done with practical effects. Martin is a telepath, which is done even more easily since no effects are needed. Philip has the power of psychometry, which allows him to have visions of past events related to items, which can also be done fairly easily with editing. Finally, Luna has precognition, which can also be done easily with editing.

The Delta State, however, is meant to be a dream-like realm – and in dreams anything can happen. In addition, like lucid dreams, various aspects of the world can be controlled with enough focus and effort. In fact, the name Delta State comes from the stage of deep sleep where delta waves develop. The Delta State sequences obviously benefit from being animated because animation allows you the same creative freedom that are necessary for dreams.

Additionally, we can gain a better understanding of how surreal or off this realm is considering that everything else is rotoscoped realistically. It’s just a normal city with normal people. The main four don’t even look like anything special. Since it’s rotoscoped and not live-action, we’re not distracted by the contrast of the live action versus the animation. It could have been fully animated as well, but then we would have lost the more realistic feeling the show is going for.

This is truly one instance where I really think full rotoscoping was the absolute best option to present the exact experience that the creators were going for.

…….But that’s not to say it’s perfect.

While the rotoscoping job was done well enough, I don’t care much for the character designs. The facial features of the people are done in such a craggy manner. In a way, it does help it stand out even more, but it’s just flatout ugly, especially the ‘noses,’ I don’t know why the noses are almost always just triangles. It baffles me. Why are they just triangles? It’s so distracting.

For everything else, I’m not really bothered by the craggyness. It gives it more of a cartoon/comic book style, and I like that. But the faces are just really….no. Martin in particular has it bad because not only does his face suffer like everyone else’s but his hair is just an anomaly. I get that it’s supposed to be spiky white hair or frosted tips, but it comes off more like his hair is Elmer’s glue, they stuck it to a wall, pulled him off when it was half dry and left it like that.

There is a sense of emptiness to the city as well, which is strange. There just aren’t that many people around. It’s understandable, because rotoscoping that many people would be a pain in the ass and expensive, but it kinda loses the realistic feeling if we’re in the heart of downtown and there are barely a handful of people here and there. Most of the time it really feels like only the most necessary people even exist in the city.

Speaking of characters, it’s also a bit difficult to get a grasp on the main four at this point. Admittedly, this first episode is a part one, so maybe the second part will allow me to get a better idea of the true personalities of each character, but so far the only one I feel I have a decent idea about is Philip. He’s a pretty nice and laid back guy who loves books. He’s also an awkward but not fully shy dude that I could definitely see myself hanging out with.

Martin seems like the looser cannon of the two guys in the group. He’s also seen flirting with Luna and saying he has a connection to her, which may or may not be BS, I dunno.

Claire is a responsible person, but not all that proactive. When Luna runs off near the end, she doesn’t do much to stop her, and when Martin confronts her about why she didn’t do more to stop her she says she was waiting for him….which….huh?

Luna is the most emotional of the group. She doesn’t care for Martin invading her privacy by reading her mind, which is totally understandable, but she also, as I mentioned, runs away near the end because she can’t take the premonitions or the mission of the Delta State anymore. This is probably fine, but I feel like it’s way early in the show for someone to be running off because they can’t take the pressure anymore.

It’s like how I felt it was weird that the first episode of Teen Titans starts with Cyborg leaving the team because he’s fed up with Robin. Stuff like that needs to be built up.

Then there’s Bodie, who was only in this episode for a short while. Bodie is their handler/mentor figure. He knows about the Delta State, does…stuff related to it, and is the one who recruited them to begin with. He seems pretty okay for now. He’s somewhat mysterious and a bit rough around the edges, but he’s not setting off alarm bells for me yet.

In regards to the story, they’ve set things up pretty well so far. Them all having amnesia of their entire lives up until two months prior to the start of the series is pretty interesting, and them all having various psychic powers instead of the same set is cool. It makes all of the characters necessary in some way or another instead of having one or two characters who outshine the whole group. I especially like how they use their powers in creative ways to achieve their goals. For instance, Claire can sense/see things psychically, and in this episode she learns she can do that over the phone because she needs to covertly see inside of a bookstore.

The idea of the Delta State is fascinating. It’s a dream-like state clearly linked to their subconsciouses, but it’s also an entirely different realm that mirrors our own world while also not. They can see little clues to their pasts throughout the Delta State, but they’re typically too busy dealing with Rifters to really focus on these little flashes of memories.

Sadly, so far, the Rifters only seem like evil psychics so far, but, again, maybe that will be better fleshed out in part two.

In this episode, they’re tracking a Rifter named Karla who initially appears to Philip at the bookstore during a book signing. They’re alone in the store because the author suddenly left due to unknown circumstances and apparently the people who work in the store don’t exist and other customers never visit. They flirt for a while, but she decides to leave since she has prior engagements. When she gives her signed book to him as a gift, he’s able to psychically see events connected to the book – the most recent of which being the author of the book running away from the store after being touched by Karla, seemingly being spooked by her doing something to him psychically.

The group, sans Luna, go off into the Delta State to investigate. They’re caught by Karla and her cronies, however. Back in the real world, Brodie and Luna start experiencing, I’d call them, glitches in the fabric of reality because of disturbances in the Delta State. Luna decides to set aside her unease about their situation and head off after them. She’s somehow able to fight off Karla’s goons quite easily, but they’re confronted by the image from a vision Luna had earlier, which was of a car approaching her. What she didn’t initially see, however, was that the person driving the car was her in the past. This revelation is where the episode ends.

As a whole, this is a perfectly good introduction to the show, especially for a part one.

I’m disappointed that it seems like this show has been largely lost to time. It’s not streaming anywhere, there are barely any articles or discussion pieces about it – it’s just kinda drifting in a void. It is on DVD, but only the first ‘season’ (I say that because there’s only one season and 26 episodes. I guess they split up the first season and called it two seasons?) and barely anyone has bought it. As of right now, the first DVD set of it on Amazon has only nine reviews, though a bulk of them are very good. Also, the description barely has anything about the DVD set like…how many episodes it has, what other features are on it, what quality it’s in, etc.

I had to do a Google search just to find what the back cover of the DVD set looks like. It has 13 episodes, a ‘The Making of Delta State’ featurette, and electronic collectible cards.

Verdict:

Delta State seems like a very cool show to me so far. Maybe not masterpiece material, but I do strongly believe that I’ll have an enjoyable ride watching the rest of the series. From the sparse amount of people I’ve seen who have watched the entire show, it is indeed a good one with a strong finale, so I look forward to sharing more of this show in the future to hopefully draw more attention to this largely ignored, but interesting and well made, series.


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AVAHS – A Scooby-Doo! Christmas Review

Plot: Scooby and the gang wind up in Winter Hollow for Christmas only to find that the place has been terrorized for years by the Headless Snowman. Each Christmas, the townsfolk are driven out of their homes by the monster, causing most of them to despise Christmas. Can Shaggy, Scooby, Fred, Velma and Daphne figure out who the Headless Snowman really is and melt him for good?

Breakdown: What’s New Scooby-Doo? was definitely one of the more popular branches of the Scooby-Doo franchise tree. I watched it quite a bit when it was on, especially enjoying its awesome theme song, but I never remembered it having a Christmas special.

A Scooby-Doo! Christmas is an enjoyable but overall fairly forgettable Christmas special. Story-wise, it doesn’t do anything to stand out from any other Scooby-Doo episode outside of mentions of Christmas, the very ending where they give gifts and stand around the Christmas tree, and a song or two.

A reviewer on IMDB said the mystery was way too easy, but I kinda disagree. I really thought it was the sheriff until they pointed out that the sheriff was acting suspicious, which is usually an indicator that they’re a red herring. I will agree with that reviewer in saying that the absolute ending was bunk, though.

Spoiler warning, even though this episode is literally turning 20 years old next year.

The culprit was a local professor, Higginson, whose great-grandfather was robbed by a man named Blackjack Brody who ended up dying in a snowman after being chased by an angry mob who were tired of being robbed by him. How did he end up in the snowman? I dunno, but it created a legend of a Headless Snowman. The professor’s great-grandfather being robbed of all his gold ruined Christmas forever….somehow. I guess that would make Christmasses difficult because they’d be rich otherwise, but he just ended up hating Christmas for some reason.

This isn’t even his dad he’s talking about. It’s his great-grandfather. Did they never recover enough financially for Christmasses to be fun anymore? Did their family just continue to be poor for all time? That can’t be true because the culprit is literally a professor. He has to have SOME money, I assume. Getting degrees ain’t cheap. He did get robbed on Christmas eve, but it’s not like anyone died. Is it really just a family perpetually mourning their lost ultra-wealth even when the man who robbed their ancestor is long since dead?

Using the Headless Snowman legend as a cover (by the way, the snowman’s not really headless. He can just take his head off and put it back on.), the professor created what is quite possibly one of the most implausible monster….I guess I’ll go with ‘robots’ to ever grace Scooby-Doo.

The Headless Snowman is legitimately made of snow from top to bottom. It has a cone-like…cockpit? in the center to allow the professor to manually control it. All of it. Every single part of it. It’s exactly like it’s living. The Headless Snowman can even detach his head and the head will still make noise and be perfectly animated. All of it is made of and connected by snow. I have no idea whatsoever how this thing works.

So the professor gets caught, his snowman melted, and he laments that he looked for his great-grandfather’s gold in the town every Christmas season by tormenting the townsfolk and….destroying shit. Because that’s definitely the most logical approach to that. Fred and Velma deduce that Brody hid the gold he stole in his home’s fireplace, masked as the bricks in his chimney.

Coincidentally enough, Brody’s old home was one of the homes the professor destroyed earlier that day, which left the chimney bricks in a pile of rubble. The professor accepts his jail-y fate, but, in a show of Christmas spirit, the town not only refuses to arrest him, but they also let him keep the damn gold.

Look, that’s real nice and everything, Merry Christmas and all, but this guy gets no sympathy from me. Did he even know his great-grandfather? This isn’t a matter of justice because the town actually tried to help his great-grandfather back then, and kinda succeeded considering Brody died as a result of trying to run from them. He just wants the gold for himself, making off like it’s in honor of his great-grandfather.

He tormented this whole town, destroying buildings and homes, traumatizing children and ruining the holidays of so many families for many years, AND he nearly got Shaggy and Scooby killed when they fell into a freezing cold pond because of him.

To his credit, he does share the gold with the town to help make amends, but I don’t think that’s enough. He still gets to keep however much he wants, and he still gets no jail time.

Bear in mind, most of what he did was completely pointless. There was no point in scaring the townsfolk, chasing people all over and destroying people’s homes. Why would he think the gold would be literally anywhere else but in Brody’s old house? Why would he not be able to find out which house was Brody’s house? They seemed to know exactly which house it was after they deduced that the gold bricks were used as regular bricks. Some professor you are.

Also, I refuse to believe that he can completely destroy a chimney with his bare…..snowman….sticks…and not reveal the gold when gently rubbing it reveals the gold.

End of spoilers

All in all, while the professor’s motives and ridiculous beyond reason plans were mind-boggling to say the least, this was a perfectly fine Christmas special. It’s also quite star-studded, featuring the voices of Daryl Sabara (Spy Kids) as the young Tommy, Kathy Kinney of The Drew Carey Show as the Sheriff, Peter Scolari as Professor Higginson, Jim Belushi as Asa, whom I didn’t even remember, and frickin’ Mark Hamill as Tommy’s dad. And we also can’t forget the amazing Casey Kasem as Shaggy, Mindy Cohn as Velma, Frank Welker as Fred and Gret DeLisle as Daphne.

If you’re in the mood for Scooby and Christmas, this is a decent enough special. I just wish it either had more of an overall focus on Christmas or a better resolution/motive.


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AVAHS – Yogi’s First Christmas Review

Plot: Yogi bear and Boo-Boo always miss Christmas because they’re hibernating all winter, but this year they awaken just in time to catch some Christmas fun.

Breakdown: You don’t hear a lot of people talk about ol’ Yogi Bear anymore. Last I heard anyone mention him was when that live action Yogi movie came out several years ago and uh….we don’t talk about that either.

Being fair, they did just release that new Jellystone! cartoon. I’ve heard okay things about that, but I haven’t really felt compelled to watch it yet.

I used to really love Yogi Bear. I had a Boo-Boo beanie baby, and, as a child, I spent a few weeks in a Jellystone Park camp and had quite a nice time.

That being said, I can’t remember ever watching this movie as a kid. It’s a nice enough Christmas movie with a lot of heart and some genuinely funny moments. I think its one weak spot, however, is its length. It just can’t justify having a nearly hour and forty minute runtime. It only barely (BEARLY hahaha) has a story, and in order to fill the runtime, they repeat the same shtick over and over.

The plot is that the ranger, Snagglepuss, Huckleberry Hound, Doggie Daddy and Augie are enjoying their Christmas up at the Jellystone lodge, but because of the mysterious and frightening events that plagued the previous Christmas parties, this might be their last Christmas at the lodge. Mrs. Throckmorton, the owner, intends on selling the lodge after this year’s Christmas party, so everyone tries their best to butter her up to change her mind.

Yogi and Boo-Boo are suddenly woken up out of hibernation by the festivities and join the fun, celebrating their first ever Christmas since they usually miss every Christmas while they’re sleeping.

Accompanying Mrs. Throckmorton is her miserable little shit of a nephew, Shively, who despises Christmas. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid, especially a spoiled rich kid, just hate Christmas in a classic cartoon. I mean, it’s common for little kids to be obsessed with presents on Christmas, but this kid flatout hates everything about Christmas and wants nothing to do with it, which just makes me wonder why he’s even on this Christmas trip with his aunt.

Shively is a horrible little gremlin to everyone. He’s so terrible that he even attempts murder on more than one occasion. When Doggie Daddy is in the ice fishing shanty, Shively tries to push it into a open spot of water so he’ll drown all because Doggie Daddy caught a bigger fish than he did. Later, he tries to kill Cindy and Boo-Boo by pushing their snowmachine onto a powerful geyser while they’re sleeping. He also unhooks Yogi’s skis from his feet right as he’s about to do a ski jump. The little kid’s a demon.

There’s a second antagonist named Herman the Hermit. He lives on Jellystone Park grounds, somehow (that can’t be legal, can it?) and he also hates Christmas because the ruckus caused by the Christmas party at the lodge bothers him. He’s been playing pranks on the partygoers every year, pretending to be monsters and other supernatural creatures, in an effort to Scooby-Doo them away.

You’d think he’d be the main antagonist, but he mostly takes a backseat to Shively and his bratty shenanigans. Although, they do end up teaming up in the end, they don’t really do much. They go to ridiculous lengths all to steal a box of decorations. There’s a helicopter crash involved.

Although I did find it funny when Shively fell into the frozen lake when Yogi saved Doggie Daddy from being pushed into the open water. Shively ran to his aunt to blame Yogi for it and get him in trouble, Yogi shows up, admits he did it, says he’s not sorry because Shively’s a brat, doesn’t give a reason for doing it and Mrs. Throckmorton is like “Well, thank you, Yogi. Yes, the little brat did deserve it. Maybe this will teach him a lesson.” I agree he needs to be taken down a peg, but that’s pretty cold (pun intended) to act like a little kid deserves to be plunged into a freezing cold lake.

Mrs. Throckmorton is intent on selling the lodge, but, through wacky circumstances, she’s continuously impressed by Yogi as he randomly and accidentally keeps saving her life. To the ranger and lodge manager’s annoyance, Yogi keeps getting promoted with better jobs in the lodge in an effort to kiss up to Mrs. Throckmorton so she won’t sell the lodge. Spoiler alert, she doesn’t sell the lodge. She donates it to an orphanage for use as a vacation spot for them, which is extremely nice, but, like, I’m pretty sure a better option would have been to sell the lodge and just give the money to the orphanage. Orphans need a lot of things, and I’m pretty certain a vacation home isn’t one of them.

Meanwhile, Cindy Bear is overall just being very horny for Yogi. The only reason she decides to wake up from her own hibernation and help out at the lodge is because Yogi needs her, and she spends an inordinate amount of time trying to get him to kiss her under the mistletoe. She gets TWO songs where she’s singing about Yogi kissing her. They’re good songs, but calm down, Cindy.

Speaking of songs, there are several, and they’re overall quite good, but none are terribly memorable. Sad to say, but I’ll probably forget most of these songs by the end of the week, and it’s Friday.

If you love Yogi and want some Christmasness with him, as well as some other classic Hanna-Barbera characters, this is a good movie to check out. While I stand by my criticism of the runtime (it could easily be 45 minutes) it has many moments that made me smile, and there were even some heartwarming moments in there. I enjoyed it for what it was, and I’m sure many others will too.


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Thanksgiving Special: Pepper Ann – Thanksgiving Dad Review

Plot: On Halloween, Pepper Ann gets a call from her dad telling her and her sister to prepare for a surprise from him on Thanksgiving. She believes he’s going to visit for the holiday, something that makes her super excited since she doesn’t get to see much of him since the divorce. But is she getting her hopes up for no reason?

Breakdown: No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. No, this isn’t a sign of the end times. I got a Thanksgiving special out, ON TIME, and it kinda sorta doubles are more Animating Halloween stuff….a little….it is for the first minute and a half. I’m counting it.

Like I’ve mentioned several times while doing these Thanksgiving special reviews, it’s very, very difficult for them to stray from the norm. Basically any Thanksgiving trope you can think of is here. Parent rushing to get the dinner to be absolutely perfect, basically a warzone at the grocery store, not being able to find one specific item that you need for the dinner, crazy relatives who won’t stop fighting, the yearning for the kid to eat at the adult table, and finally, the one thing practically no Thanksgiving special is without – the dinner getting completely ruined but it ends up okay in the end.

However, this special does add something that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen in any other Thanksgiving special – how kids with divorced parents deal with Thanksgiving.

Pepper Ann’s parents broke up some time before the series began, and their divorce is shown to impact several aspects of her life in the show. Thanksgiving is one of the key moments where family is supposed to be all together. However, that just doesn’t happen in many households with divorced parents. Either they have two Thanksgivings at separate times at both houses or they just stick with one and maybe get a visit or a call or something. I can’t speak from experience because I didn’t grow up with divorced parents, but that’s what I’ve gleamed from others.

It’s pretty cool to see a cartoon address this with not just one but two characters. You might remember that Pepper Ann’s best friend, Milo, also has divorced parents, but his parents divorced quite a while before Pepper Ann’s did so he has more experience in that area. Milo bounces from house to house on Thanksgiving – and he doesn’t spend any of it with his parents. He just wanders between his friends’ houses.

Milo is a bit jaded when it comes to family and Thanksgiving. He tries to keep Pepper Ann level-headed when it comes to her belief that her dad will visit for Thanksgiving. He doesn’t know that he won’t, nor does Pepper Ann know that he will, all he said was he had a surprise for Thanksgiving. Milo just knows from his own experiences that the parent who doesn’t get custody tends to drift away, and holidays like Thanksgiving end up getting lost more and more in the jumble as they build up a new life after the divorce. They just tend to forget and wind up sending money or gifts sometimes to make up for it.

Milo’s experiences are very sad, and I kinda wish that we had put a little more focus on his holiday bouncing around houses and not actually spending any time at home than we did with Pepper Ann. Both of their experiences are valid, of course, but, also of course, she ends up with a happy ending, for the most part, while Milo’s life with his broken up parents is still fairly sad. Like, does his mother and step-dad not care where he is right now? Does he not do anything for Thanksgiving with his family?

Pepper Ann was, sadly, mistaken. Her dad never did intend on visiting for Thanksgiving. His surprise was that he was piloting a blimp for a big Macy’s-style Thanksgiving day parade and got to wish her and Moose a happy Thanksgiving and give them a heartfelt message on TV. He also said he’d see them next week for visitation, which just begs the question….when is his visitation? Surely he had at least one visitation during the month between Halloween and Thanksgiving. Pepper Ann acts like she rarely ever sees her dad anymore. How infrequent are these visits?

This special was pretty entertaining for what it was worth. It never really got that deep into drama, not like As Told by Ginger or Hey Arnold would do, but they hit enough notes for a show like Pepper Ann. Also, there were numerous jokes that were pretty funny, and I was also fairly amused by Pepper Ann’s constant fantasies of her father trying desperately to get to the dinner.

Thanksgiving Dad is good, but not great. I don’t think it’s on anyone’s must-watch lists for the holiday, I barely even remember watching it when I was a kid, but it has some unique and grounded aspects that are worth exploring, and it has good humor and heart. Check it out while you’re waiting for the turkey to cook. Or while you’re recovering from Thanksgiving dinner. Or, if you’re not in the US…..just….watch it whenever ya want. I’m not your mom.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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Animating Halloween: Noctober | The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone (1979) Review

Plot: The Flintstones and the Rubbles win a trip to Count Rockula’s castle for a romantic weekend away and a great costume party. Things take a spooky turn when they discover that the real Rockula, and his cohort, Frankenstone, are living in the castle, and they’re none too happy to find their home filled with people.

Breakdown: This is about as close to a Halloween special as The Flintstones ever got, and as a Halloween special, I think it works pretty well. There are plenty of really funny moments and even some tense moments when the group is being chased by Rockula and Frankenstone.

I will say that, for what is seemingly a Halloween special, it is very weird that Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm never show up. For a while, I wondered if either of them even existed, but Wilma very briefly mentions Pebbles near the end of the movie, so I guess at least she does. What was she doing while they were gone that whole time?

Anyway, while I can’t say I’ll be rushing out to revisit this special every Halloween season, it was an enjoyable special that got me laughing and smiling numerous times. If you’re a fan of The Flintstones or even just Hanna-Barbera, you’d get a kick out of it.


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Cartoons Step-by-Step | Xiaolin Showdown Episode 5: Shen Yi Bu Review

XSEP5

Plot: The Dragon Warriors detect the presence of a new Shen Gong Wu – The Sword of the Storm, which allows the user to control powerful storms and become intangible. But when Omi, self-proclaimed expert on the sword, tries to explain the technical aspects of the weapon, Raimundo daydreams and ignores most of what he says.

His lack of caring on the subject causes him to lose the sword to Tubbimura – Jack Spicer’s newest crony. While losing a Shen Gong Wu is embarrassing enough, it’s stings even worse for Raimundo since the sword is a wind-based Shen Gong Wu and he’s the Dragon of Wind.

Realizing that his lack of focus and seriousness in his studies caused him to fail, Raimundo cracks down on studying.

Later, a new Shen Gong Wu is detected – the Shroud of Shadows, which allows the user to become invisible when cloaked. They track it down only to be met with Tubbimura again. Raimundo and Tubbimura start a Xiaolin Showdown over the shroud, but Raimundo calls for a Shen Yi Bu dare, which doubles the stakes – in addition to the shroud and their initial Shen Gong Wu item, they’ll also wager a second Shen Gong Wu. Winner goes home with five Shen Gong Wu. Tubbimura puts forth the Sword of the Storm and the Fist of Tebigong while Raimundo wagers the Two-Ton Tunic and the Eye of Dashi. Before starting, Raimundo calls for a third condition – swapping items at random intervals.

The showdown starts. It’s a challenge to stay on a rock. First one to knock the other off into the water wins. While Raimundo’s newfound knowledge and determination definitely show in his improved skills in battle, Tubbimura proves to be a formidable opponent. Raimundo barely holds on to the side of the tall rock, using the Fist of Tebigong to maintain his grip. However, the item switch causes him to lose the Fist at the worst moment, but he gains the Sword of the Storm.

He chooses to fall, shocking everyone, but Raimundo once again uses what he learned in his studies to change the tides. He combines the Eye of Dashi with the Sword of the Storm to catch himself in midair and fly over the water. He creates a tornado over Tubbimura, which launches him off the rock and into the water.

Raimundo is declared the winner of the showdown and goes home with five Shen Gong Wu.

Back at the temple, everyone discusses Raimundo’s progress. No one else on the team or even Jack Spicer knew what a Shen Yi Bu dare was, nor did they realize that they could combine Shen Gong Wu together. Master Fung mentions that no one has attempted a Shen Yi Bu in centuries, and winning one is exceptionally difficult.

Meanwhile, Raimundo continues to work hard on his studies to prepare for future challenges…..but he’s not above taking a secret break or two for video games.

Breakdown: This episode is probably the best of Xiaolin Showdown so far. While it was a pretty typical story as far as this series has been concerned so far (One of the group messes up because of a personal flaw, then they realize their mistake, work through it and win in the end) this is the best version of all of these types of stories.

Raimundo’s not being obnoxious, he just has his head up in the clouds (or in the waves, in his case) because he finds the subject to be boring. He clearly has an ego that allows him to think he can do this and still make off without any problems in his studies or battles, but he’s not really being cocky about it. He’s being a typical teenager. Studies are boring, so let’s just do the thing so I can goof off.

When he fails against Tubbimura because he didn’t listen to Omi explaining the Sword of the Storm, it’s a huge blow to his pride. He decides to buckle down, study more and actually engage with his role as the Dragon of the Wind.

Because he actually did the work, he manages to come through in spades, blowing everyone away with his newfound knowledge and skills, and not only getting the Sword of the Storm back, but also gaining the Fist of Tebigong and the Shroud of Shadows.

My main problem with this episode is that Raimundo goes a bit too far too fast. He studies for like a day or a few days and all of a sudden he’s such an expert that he even surpasses Omi, who was practically brought up on Shen Gong Wu stuff, and is doing things that haven’t been done or even discussed in centuries? In the end, Omi’s practically begging Raimundo to share his studies with him so he can get on his level.

It kinda comes off like Raimundo is ridiculously OP if he bothers to put in an iota of effort. I get that the message is to take your studies seriously and actually listen when people convey important lessons, but it gave me major ‘sudden shift in power scaling during a shounen fighting anime’ vibes when he started studying.

What’s even more disappointing is they didn’t really show him working for it much. We saw him pull one all-nighter, if it even was an all-nighter, and then boom he’s suddenly finding an invisible Shen Gong Wu in the water with no problem, using the other Shen Gong Wu like he’s an expert in them all, using Xiaolin Showdown battle conditions that no one else has even heard of, adding additional item swapping stipulations as part of his strategy, and using Shen Gong Wu combination abilities that haven’t been introduced yet. It’s a bit overboard.

That being said, the Xiaolin Showdown was really cool and well done. I also like Raimundo’s arc in this episode, even if they went a big crazy with his upgrade. Plus, the Sword of the Storm and Shroud of Shadows seem like really cool Shen Gong Wu I hope to see more of in the future.

If I have any more notes, it’s these;

– Haha. The fat ninja’s weight is one of his main abilities and his name is frickin’ TUBBImura. Spelled and pronounced that way. You see it written in the first scene.

– Dojo is allergic to Shen Gong Wu in this episode, and it has no purpose in this story nor do I think it’s ever brought up again. I don’t understand why, even as a joke.

Next episode…..

….Previous Episode


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Animating Laughter and Frustration: The Goofy Mess of ToonMarty

Finally, after years of doing Episode One-Derlands, I actually finished a cartoon that I featured there.

ToonMarty is a French-Canadian cartoon created in 2017 by Sardine Productions for our old friends, Teletoon. It’s about a happy optimistic boy named Marty who gets into various shenanigans in the toony world of Toonville with his friends, Burnie and Holly.

When I first watched this show, I was pleasantly surprised because, honestly, it didn’t look like it’d be worth much of a damn, but I actually found myself liking it. It wasn’t making me bust a gut or anything, but I fully enjoyed the episode that I had watched.

Cut to nearly a year later, and I’m reminded of ToonMarty as I’m looking through my saved series on Tubi, so I thought why not binge watch it and finally get one of these full-series cartoon reviews completed for a change?

So I did!

And I ended up feeling….very, very, very mixed.

I ended up also using this binge watch as an experimental show to try making a tweet thread about my thoughts on each episode, so if you want to see my brief responses to each episode, click here.

The experiment failed, by the way. I won’t be doing that again.

As you can tell just by skimming the thread, this series has pretty decent highs and fairly low lows. One minute, I’d be singing its praises, and the next I’d be frustrated beyond belief, then I’d be very bored. To get a better idea of what’s right and wrong with ToonMarty, let’s break everything down.

The Citizens of ToonVille

Marty is our main character. When lightning struck a billboard for ToonMart, ToonMart Marty being the mascot, he was brought to life. I mentioned in my Episode One-Derland post that I thought it was odd that they never explained his origins in the first episode, nor do they explain it in the theme song. He obviously has no parents and seems to live in ToonMart, which is very weird without context. If I had never read the description in the Wiki, I’d be terribly confused. I assumed that they would explore his origins in the second episode or at least later on – it’s the friggin’ plot to the show and the backstory to the main character.

But nope.

We never learn, outside of meta information, what Marty is. We just know he’s the mascot of ToonMart for some reason. For all the average viewer knows, Jack just hired someone off the street and used their image for advertising. It doesn’t ever really matter, but it’s still a very weird detail to overlook.

Onto Marty himself, he has very poor character consistency. Sometimes, he’ll be sweet and adorable and precious, but then other times he’ll be very selfish and childish, and many times he’ll be incredibly obnoxious.

I mentioned that Marty reminded me of Spongebob quite a bit, only not quite as annoying, but I take back that last part. They’re about even on that playing ground now. Marty lives for his job, is extremely happy and peppy, and is quite clueless and naive. On the more negative side, Marty loves playing pranks, and being loud and destructive. That’s why he’s such good friends with Burnie, a character we will definitely need to talk more about in a second. He’s usually harmless, but he doesn’t seem to realize where the line is until he’s long since crossed it.

The show has a habit of finding ways to torment Marty for no reason. It’s not constant, but it is there and it did get very frustrating. They acknowledge that Marty is meant to be this pure, cute beacon of sunshine that everyone loves, but the show still loves to find ways to make him suffer a lot when he doesn’t deserve it. This happens a lot in episodes where either he and Burnie do something together and he gets the blame or Burnie does something on his own and Marty gets the blame.

Marty is always at his best when he’s just embracing being a toon. He’s very proud of his toon nature, and it’s always entertaining to see him bouncing around and goofing off. I wish they had just kept him that way the entire time.

Burnie is a human pustule. He’s Marty’s best friend – the Patrick to his Spongebob for sure. He’s a lazy, food-obsessed moron. The thing that sets him apart is that he’s the son of a supervillain and has fire powers and flight. I mentioned in the Twitter thread that Burnie was starting to come off like a middleground between early seasons Patrick, where he’s a dummy but he’s adorable and entertaining, and late seasons Patrick where he’s just a complete and utter asshole.

I am here to report that I was also wrong on this part. He’s late seasons Patrick – in fact, he’s worse, in my opinion.

Burnie’s shtick is that he’s a lazy idiot, sure, but his more spotlighted character traits are that he’s a selfish, destructive, uncaring pile of sun-baked garbage. He hates Holly for no reason and is constantly making fun of her, pulling pranks on her or making her life miserable, and he’s always getting Marty into trouble. He only cares about himself, and unlike Spongebob and Patrick, you never really feel like their friendship is genuine.

It always feels like Burnie is just friends with Marty because the writers say so. Marty is friends with Burnie because he’s too much of a goshdarn nice guy to see the problems with Burnie most of the time. He has fun playing pranks with him, but that’s about it. He hardly ever holds Burnie accountable for his actions, and Burnie NEVER holds himself accountable for his actions. He’s usually being reeled in by Holly, but Holly almost always ends up being ignored, insulted, harmed in some way or D) all of the above.

You’d think a character like him would constantly get comeuppance, but he doesn’t most of the time. He comes in, causes trouble, acts like a prick, then the episode ends without him paying any price usually. The few times he does get his just desserts, it is beyond a welcomed sight.

Burnie has a pretty good and unique backstory in being the son of a supervillain, but they surprisingly don’t do much with that aspect of his character. He frequently uses his fire powers and uses his flight to avoid walking, but outside of some clear daddy issues and some infrequent encounters with his father, it’s very much an underutilized part of his character, which is a shame. I’d much rather explore that than deal with him being a jerkass.

I did mention in the Twitter thread that, at the very least, they acknowledge that Burnie’s a complete annoying asshole….but asshole characters are only really funny if they get their comeuppance, and just because your other characters recognize that a character is annoying doesn’t mean that he’s not still annoying. You have to introduce some likable character traits to him otherwise you’ll just spend every second of his screentime wishing he’d be locked in a cage at the center of the earth.

Holly is like some mixture of Sandy and Squidward. She’s a robot, but also the token girl of the group. She’s the smartest, most mature, and she acts as a grumpy straightman to Marty and Burnie’s shenanigans. Holly is constantly on the receiving end of torment from these two, which is never justified like it commonly is with Squidward. And like I said, she and Burnie hate each other with a passion for really no reason.

I really liked Holly. Outside of one or two instances, she was likable, nice and interesting. Her being a robot is especially interesting because, despite being a cartoon, robots are not technically ‘toons’ in the traditional sense. That’s one of the reasons why Holly’s the straightman in their dynamic. As a robot, she has a weird/sometimes quite poor sense of humor, and she’s always the voice of reason. They act like Holly doesn’t actually have emotions sometimes, but that’s very much not true. I don’t know why they imply that.

Unlike Burnie’s backstory, I don’t think they squander Holly’s robot nature too much. I wish they had done a bit more with it, but it was the best out of the three main characters.

Toonville is filled with many other frequent faces like Jack, the owner of ToonMart and Marty’s boss/father figure. I would say he’s the Mr. Krabs here, but he’s really not. He’s an old curmudgeon who keeps Marty in line when he can, and that’s about it. I liked him for the most part.

Suki is a spoof of anime, most specifically Sailor Moon. I thought Suki would be way more important than she actually was. She’s right up front in the title card, she’s in the promo poster, and the first episode put her on display for quite a bit. Plus, she’s Marty’s love interest. However, she is mostly just a background character for nearly the entire show. She pops up in nearly every episode, but it’s only for about 15 seconds and usually has absolutely nothing to do with the plot.

She had one episode where she was the focus, and that was mostly it for Suki doing damn near anything of note in this series.

There are many more problems with her character that I will discuss later.

Then you have Dr. Smartypants, who was my favorite character of the show. She has great lines, a very memorable personality, and I adore her comedic timing. She’s a monkey and the doctor of Toonville. She actually manages to appear more frequently than Suki despite not even appearing in the opening theme.

Super Simon is the resident superhero. He usually battles Burnie’s dad, Burnatron. While he initially comes off as very heroic and nice, he, for some reason, becomes an ass later on.

Burnatron is a villain. There’s not much to say here. He’s a slight ass to his son, but it’s never enough to justify Burnie’s terrible behavior. Burnatron can be pretty entertaining because he’s one of those villains who are more talk than action.

Carly is a parody of Hello Kitty. She’s pretty funny, and I usually enjoyed any scene that focused on her.

Lenny is a depressed sentient bench, who might as well be Eeyore. He could be kinda funny sometimes, especially in To Be Continued.

Hobo Jeb was about the closest the series had to a consistent villain. He’s a grumpy old classically designed toon. He and Marty hate each other for absolutely no reason. I understand Jeb hating Marty since Jeb’s just a mean person, but I have no clue why Marty hates him so much, unless it’s just because Jeb hates him.

Then there’s Grizelda, who is a witch. She hates toons and goofiness, but she could be pretty funny sometimes.

Chef and Saucy Chicken are local celebrities because they star in a show that is mirroring any chase dynamic in classic cartoons like Tom and Jerry, Bugs and Elmer, Sylvester and Tweety, Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote etc. They were pretty entertaining, but their shtick gets old real fast. There are two separate episodes that explore the fact that these two need each other in order to be happy/funny. It’s basically the same story with slightly different details. Considering these two are far from main characters, this was very odd and a waste of an episode.

What ToonMarty Does Right

One of my favorite things about this show is that it celebrates, well, toons. I adore animation, and I love when shows also clearly display a love of cartoons. Everyone’s a toon who knows they’re a toon. The world they live in follows toon rules. And several of the episodes take common cartoon tropes/mechanics and play around with them in a manner that is fun, clever and unique. Anyone who enjoys animation as a whole or is even simply a fan of old classic cartoons is sure to find some episodes that will get a laugh out of them.

Animated by Snipple Animation, who have their hands in a variety of projects such as the Ducktales reboot, Phineas and Ferb, the Animaniacs reboot and even the upcoming Proud Family reboot, the animation of ToonMarty is very fluid, energetic and does a good job at capturing the over exaggerated squashy-stretchy tooniness of classic cartoons. They even change up the animation style depending on the character. For instance, the characters based on older classic cartoons tend to bounce a bit more, and Suki’s animation sometimes has missing tweens and is more limited than the others.

ToonMarty also has a pretty good sense of humor. Even in the episodes that were mediocre or even bad, there was usually at least one moment that made me crack a smile. In their best moments, they made me giggle or at least consistently smile throughout an episode. ToonMarty tends to have fun with itself, and I appreciate that.

The voice acting was very well done. Everyone was very fitting in their roles, and they all brought just the right levels of energy to the characters.

The character designs are okay. They’re not most memorable or creative things in the world, but they have enough distinguishing markers to make them easily recognizable via silhouette.

The music is also alright. The opening theme really turned into such an earworm for me. I can’t go one day without randomly playing it in my head. The BGM music is okay too, but there’s one aspect of it that I’ll have to return to later.

What ToonMarty Does Wrong

There are numerous episodes that just seem mean-spirited. I already mentioned how there are several occasions where Marty gets tormented for little to no reason. In the episode Chicken Fricassee, Chef comes into ToonMart to complain about their products not being good enough to kill Saucy Chicken. In order to help his customer, Marty offers numerous products that eventually do kill Chicken, but then everyone, including Chef, Holly and Burnie, all of whom were helping him, turn on Marty and make him an outcast because Chef’s life basically relies on Chicken. Without Chicken to chase, he has no purpose as a toon. Turns out, Chicken was faking her death for the sake of having some down time, knowing Marty was suffering for it and not caring.

There’s another episode called You’re It! where Marty is randomly made It in a game of tag, but it turns out being ‘It’ is actually a disease that will kill him unless he passes it on or finds a cure. He suffers throughout all of the episode, and then the Wise Tree tricks him into doing a bunch of BS chores to unlock the secret to the cure, but she doesn’t actually know what it is.

Holly also gets a hell of a lot of abuse. In the episode, Spare Parts, Marty’s tasked with fixing Holly after she gets banged up while playing with Marty. She has only one stipulation for repairing her – don’t let Burnie be involved at all. Marty turns her off so he can repair her and, Burnie being Burnie, he shows up immediately after Marty deactivates her. Marty can’t stop Burnie, because Burnie’s a human canker sore who doesn’t listen to anybody. He takes great pleasure in destroying her body then throwing her parts in a box labeled ‘Free Garbage.’ Her parts end up scattered throughout all of Toonville, and Marty has to gather them all to reassemble her.

When Holly wakes up, even though she realizes it was probably Burnie who was responsible for her state, she still puts all of the blame on Marty and even organizes an army of cute woodland animals and brainwashes them to be hellbent on hating Marty.

Speaking of Burnie, I literally have written as a bullet point for this section in my notes ‘Burnie.’ I think I’ve driven the point home that Burnie is a thoroughly unlikable character, but I really need to emphasize how much he damages the show entirely.

There are so many episodes where my overall view was dragged down simply because Burnie was there and being obnoxious. No matter if he has bearing on the plot or not, his selfish, mean, rude, uncaring behavior and attitude was always a chore to sit through.

You can have characters be terrible people and still be well-written and fun. Angelica from Rugrats is a great example of that. She was the ultimate brat. She lived for tormenting the babies whether it really benefited her or not, but she had much more to her than just being a bully, and she almost always got her comeuppance for being a little toad.

Megan from Drake and Josh is a good example of a middleground between Angelica and Burnie. She was also a nightmare who loved playing pranks on her brothers, but there was a charm about her and there were some moments that legitimately redeemed her. The major issue with her, though, was that she rarely ever got comeuppance. She never got punished for her terrible behavior or her rude comments. Even though she never made it a secret that she was a demon, her parents never recognized that she was constantly doing terrible things to her brothers. This aspect of her character made her much harder to watch.

Burnie’s not just horrible on his own – he’s also a terrible influence on Marty, but I’ll explore more of that mess later.

I know some people might defend him on the grounds that he’s the son of a supervillain so it makes sense that he’s so terrible, but I don’t buy that. His upbringing may have spoiled him and made him lazy and selfish, but 1) He doesn’t much care for the supervillain lifestyle. He doesn’t get along with his father and is constantly rebelling against him when they’re shown together. If anything, it makes more sense and would be funnier if he were a nice and benevolent guy. He’s a huge fan of Super Simon, Burnatron’s archnemesis, so he’s already halfway there. And 2) They don’t utilize that aspect of his character enough to justify that explanation.

There are numerous inconsistency issues throughout the show. Some of them can be hand-waved due to cartoon logic, but others are harder to justify. Characters change personalities quickly, the rules of their world change a lot, and sometimes things just make no sense.

For example, in an episode called 15 Minutes to Save the World, the group realizes that, because they live in a cartoon world, reality resets at the end of the day. They decide to do whatever they want, free of consequences because the world will just reset afterwards. They’re shocked to find that, the next day, everything’s still a mess. They wonder what triggers the reset, and in the end they discover that the end of the episode marks the reset….However, that’s not the way it was shown in the episode. They showed how the reset worked earlier in the episode by having the world reset after a zombie apocalypse the instant the sun came up. Now it’s the end of the episode that triggers the reset even though the beginning of the episode is kinda, ya know, the opposite of the end?

There are some other more damning examples I’ll discuss later.

The show as a whole never reaches a point where it really breached the line into ‘great.’ Despite having some really good episodes, it just doesn’t stick in your brain very well. Even though I mostly enjoyed watching this series, I can totally see myself forgetting I ever watched it in a month or so.

ToonMarty never truly finds its footing and really lacks a distinct personality. It bounces back and forth between being about toons being toony and just being a typical cartoon sitcom. I really think if they had committed more to taking aspects of animation and being creative with them in a nearly meta way it would have done wonders for this show’s identity. Even just taking the aspect of the ToonMart and running with it to show funny shenanigans with the gadgets and the characters who use them would have been a good option.

Instead, it’s like it’s uncomfortable being itself and keeps trying to emulate other shows……which brings me to…

Is ToonMarty a Rip-Off?

I have been making a stronger effort recently to not jump on rip-off accusations. Not saying things can’t be ripped off, but I really think that the term ‘rip-off’ gets thrown around way too much lately. People really have to just accept that some archetypes, stories, dynamics etc. are common tropes in media and have likely been for years. Just because someone uses the same tropes but isn’t as successful with them doesn’t mean they’re a rip-off.

That being said, there were several times over the course of watching this show where I got major Spongebob vibes, and it wasn’t just from the main characters. Some of the stories are also reminiscent of Spongebob episodes.

Apparently, I’m not the only one getting these vibes. In my research on this show, I found one of the very few articles on the internet that discusses ToonMarty – an entry in Terrible Shows & Episodes Wiki (Yikes) with a bullet point list of the negatives and positives of the show as a whole, and one of the points was that it is really similar to Spongebob.

The first time I really started going ‘Hey…wait a minute….’ was in the first act of Where There’s Smoke, There’s Marty, which is very similar to Employee of the Month during the first act, right down to the ridiculous wall of Employee of the Month photos and being motivated by trying to beat someone else for the title, only here it’s against Hobo Jeb for the record holder of most EotM awards. I don’t know how a guy like Hobo Jeb earned so many EotM awards, but maybe it’s just a default thing because…Marty’s the only one who works at ToonMart now, and Jack’s not going to give himself the award.

That’s suspicious, but the rest of the episode was entirely different, so I don’t think I can justify calling ‘rip-off’ there.

Then there was The Suit Makes the Super Hero, where Marty and Burnie get trapped in Super Simon’s suit and gain his super powers as a result, prompting them to cause a lot of chaos and trying to cover up that they took the suit without asking, like Spongebob did when he got Mermaidman’s belt in Mermaidman and BarnacleBoy IV, but there was no shrinking powers involved with this story.

The most shocking moment of this came in the episode Marty’s Bright Idea. This episode feels entirely unique until the ending. Toons rely on idea bulbs to stay intelligent. This is another inconsistency in the show as they barely, if ever, actually use idea bulbs in the series, but it’s a cute play on this old classic cartoon trademark. Jack gets the year’s supply of idea bulbs from his supplier and tasks Marty with safely storing them because they can’t get anymore until next year.

Burnie, of course, coerces him into using the bulbs for random stupid crap. They go through all of the bulbs in just one day. Toonville soon devolves into a brainless wasteland, so Burnie and Marty head to the location of the supplier. When I mentioned this episode in my tweet thread, I hinted as to what the big ‘rip-off’ moment was by mentioning the episode of Futurama where they discover the origin of Slurm, Fry and the Slurm Factory.

If you’ve never seen Futurama (you should), in that episode, the crew wins a tour of the Slurm factory. Slurm is an incredibly popular drink that Fry is basically addicted to. In the factory, they’re shocked to find that Slurm is actually a bunch of goo that is expelled from the butt of a giant slug/worm creature.

And, well, guess where the idea bulbs come from. Yup. The butt of a giant slug/worm creature.

It’s completely random for such a detail to be shoved into an episode that otherwise has nothing to do with Futurama, but I can’t imagine something as specific as this was not just ripped straight from Fry and the Slurm Factory. The other stuff I can find a way to excuse quite easily, but this is too on-the-nose.

Looping back to Spongebob, ToonMarty also has some background music tracks that sound reminiscent of Spongebob music in that they use lap steel guitars. Spongebob’s trademark BGM is loaded with lap steel guitars to make their music sound more Hawaiian, tropical and ocean-esque. Their most iconic musical sting is one in which a lap steel guitar is used.

ToonMarty doesn’t use these tracks very often, and it’s usually briefly, but when they do it’s very distracting. It’s not only very Spongebob-y, but it doesn’t fit very well with the small town setting they’ve presented us with.

There’s a fine, fine line between ripping something off and gaining inspiration from something. This is a subject I really had to mull over after seeing something else shocking.

In the episode, You’re It!, they show a closeup of a progression drawing to explain how this It disease has been passed on through the years. The drawing at the end is clearly Spongebob.

Being fair, there’s also a drawing of a character clearly meant to be Mickey Mouse, and another…..that I feel I should know based on the art style alone, but I can’t place it.

Considering all of the nods that they give to classic cartoons like Mickey Mouse, does this mean that they’re treating Spongebob as one of those cartoons and are just gaining inspiration from them and giving them a nod?

I have no clue why that’s there or what that could be implying. If they really were ripping off Spongebob, I doubt they’d be dumb enough to draw attention to that by having a blatant image of Spongebob right there in the middle of an episode.

So my final verdict on this matter is no. I don’t think ToonMarty is a rip-off. I just think it has such identity issues that it borrows from other shows sometimes in order to feel more secure instead of really embracing the fairly fresh concept that they had all the way through.

Marty’s Bright Idea is a perfect encapsulation of that whole problem. It’s fully embracing its own toony meta identity for most of the runtime and then BOOM suddenly you’re thrust into an episode of Futurama for a few minutes. (For the record, I do think that one moment was entirely ripped off.)

The identity issues aren’t just present in the borrowing of material. The way that the characters will change personalities on a whim or the inconsistency issues I mentioned before are both symptoms of this. I really think if ToonMarty maybe got one more season it could have cemented itself a little more and improved overall, but, sadly, it never got a chance.

Top Five Best Episodes

Before I go over my actual favorites list, I’m going to share some honorable mentions.

9A: The Barber of Toonville – A pretty funny episode that plays with the trope of toons never changing their appearance, so they obviously never get haircuts, but Burnie needs one. After he gets his haircut, it snowballs into a really good episode of funny nonsense that I greatly enjoyed.

11A: Toon-derworld – Just a really good Halloween episode that I will probably cover in full this October for Animating Halloween.

12B: Hot Tub Toon Machine – The only episode that completely centers on the classic cartoons of yesteryear also does a good job of shining a spotlight on them. I love classic cartoons and wish they got more appreciation by modern audiences, so I think it’s great that they were celebrated here.

Marty ends up losing his color and becoming wrinkled and sore after spending way too much time relaxing in Burnie’s hot tub. As a result, he’s sent to an old toons home where he meets other toons that have aged out of the public eye. Marty, however, remembers all of them. When Marty winds up getting in trouble after trying to help them, the old toons team up and get their old acts together to help him get his colors back and escape. In the end, the old toons stay retired and enjoy their naps, but it was nice to see them get back in the game.

15A: Senseless Burnie (The Good Parts) – This episode had a really unique, creative, and downright trippy premise that was really fun to play around with. However, the thing that dragged this episode down will be covered in the worst list….

Onto the main list….

5: 20A – Marty’s Theme

This episode was a great play on the concept of a character’s theme music. In this world, a character’s theme music drives their emotions. If happy music is playing, they’re happy. Sad music for sad etc. Without a theme band inside their heads, toons don’t feel emotions properly. Marty loses his band after they have a big fight and break up. They leave his head to go pursue independent careers.

Marty shops for a new source of theme music and decides upon a yodeling crocodile who doesn’t understand English. This makes him happy all the time, which causes a lot of problems in his life.

This episode is loaded with funny moments and is very memorable. My only note is that it would have been better if the entire episode only played whatever was set as Marty’s theme music. That way we could react along with him. Instead we get the normal score and Marty’s theme music, so it kinda loses impact.

4: 16B – Psych-O-Marty

I know I’ve written a lot about how insufferable Burnie is, but this episode helps heal that wound slightly. Dr. Smartypants gives Marty the job of ‘tooning up’ the toons of Toonville in her stead since she needs a vacation. He does a surprisingly good job with everyone except Burnie.

Through a multitude of mental conditioning techniques, including a reference to A Clockwork Orange of all things, Marty makes Burnie realize that he’s a terrible person, so he dedicates himself to being good from now on. Problem is, the fabric of the world’s reality is dependent on toons staying in their typical roles. Burnie being the polar opposite of how he normally is starts causing everything to break apart. Marty scrambles to get him to be a jerk again, but Burnie won’t budge.

There’s this…weird glossed over detail of Burnie having an evil teddy bear as a child that may have made him a jerk? It’s just “He used to say an evil teddy bear made him do everything.” ….Oh. Okay. Is that for real or did little kid!Burnie just make that up as an excuse whenever he did bad things? We never find out. We never even see the bear outside of the costume version Marty makes for himself.

The ending was the best part of the episode because it comes out of nowhere and is pretty shocking.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy about this episode was the implication that they have to keep Burnie as this horrible nightmare person because that’s just the way he is and you can’t upset the natural order or whatever. Also, it’s a bit alarming because that means literally no character can grow or change lest the world be destroyed as a result.

Technically, this is just mirroring a facet of animation. Many cartoons, especially classic ones, wouldn’t have character development, or, if they did, it would just be in one episode and wouldn’t stick through any other episode. It was the consistent formula that kept people coming back. However, when you’re talking about one of the most obnoxious characters I’ve seen in recent years, I’d rather not have the idea of him not being an asshole sandwich be shot down so firmly.

Other than that, it was a really funny episode that I greatly enjoyed.

3: 7A: 15 Minutes to Save the World

I already said quite a bit about this episode, but I did really enjoy the way they played with the cartoon trope of the world resetting once an adventure is over. I also like that they got a bit dark with it by having Jack legitimately die and stay dead until the very end. The weakest aspect of this episode, however, is how it starkly contradicts itself as I mentioned earlier.

2: 3A – Where There’s Smoke, There’s Marty

Yet another great example of them exploring cartoon trademarks and playing around with them. Marty is trying his best to earn Employee of the Month because he only needs four more of those awards to beat Hobo Jeb’s record. Marty rushes around the store trying to do a bunch of work, but all the zooming back and forth is exhausting his smoketoon. A smoketoon is the smoke version of a toon that they leave behind when they speed off somewhere. All toons need their smoketoons to travel at any decent level of speed. Marty’s smoketoon gets so fed up with his constantly zooming around that he detaches himself from Marty and leaves. Because of this, Marty is too slow to do basically any work around the store.

With his record in jeopardy, he asks to borrow Burnie’s smoketoon, who, in a polar opposite situation to Marty’s smoketoon, is actually pent up with a lot of energy because Burnie’s so lazy that he doesn’t tend to use his smoketoon. Burnie’s smoketoon rushes Marty around to work, which makes him exhausted and allows him to understand how his smoketoon feels. In the end, both Marty and Burnie are reunited with their smoketoons under the conditions that Marty will take it easy sometimes and Burnie will try to not be so lazy.

I really enjoyed this episode a lot. My favorite part was when the smoketoons got into a fight and created a fight dust cloud. That kinda bent my mind and gave me a good chuckle.

1: 10B – Batteries Included

I’ve always loved the idea of a magic universal remote that can do anything to the world around you. This episode is one of the best takes on that premise. I especially loved when Holly made Burnie speak Spanish and kept him that way throughout much of the episode, when they added audio descriptions to Suki (making one of about three times Suki has a good joke/scene in the series) and when their batteries ran out pressing ‘slow mo’ and they had to wait centuries for the batteries to recharge even a tiny bit. That whole time they were basically in slow mo limbo was awesome. Very memorable episode, and one I would definitely deem my favorite.

Bottom Five Worst Episodes

Time for some dishonorable mentions…

5A: The No-Toon Bro Zone – This was the first sign of rough waters ahead for ToonMarty. It was the first episode I disliked. Burnie and Marty are being complete douchebags acting as “bros” and annoying Holly to the point where she goes to her private space to relax. The boys find her in the space and realize that it’s essentially a reality-bending area where you can get anything you want if you just say it out loud.

While Holly’s gone, the boys take advantage of the space and completely trash it. Marty also spreads the word of the place to plan a massive destructive party for everyone in town. Marty’s big mouth causes everyone to move into Holly’s place, and Marty, Burnie and Holly are not allowed in. When she tries to make the best of their time in normal reality, Marty and Burnie act like bored jerks not even trying to have fun.

The only reasons that I am a little lenient with this episode are that Holly gets her space back in the end, Marty and Burnie get punished for what they did, Holly learns how to relax a little better thanks to her time with Marty and Burnie being a fellow ‘bro’ and the jokes were alright.

6A: Candy Cute – This episode has many problems – all of them focusing on why Suki doesn’t work as a character.

This is the one and only episode that focuses on Suki. As I mentioned before, Suki is the character meant to be a parody of anime, most specifically magical girl anime like Sailor Moon. Sadly, however, it’s very clear that no one in the writer’s room actually knows much about anime to make this character work well.

You guys remember when really the only exposure people had to anime were things like Speed Racer, Sailor Moon and Pokemon? And how the bare bones of jokes involving anime based purely on a single digit number of shows were ‘The animation is cheap’ ‘The characters don’t blink’ ‘Woosh lines in the background whenever anything happens.’ ‘They overemote to things and gasp a lot.’ and ‘The lip-syncing is bad.’

Well, if you know that, you don’t need to watch this episode at all or pay attention to Suki.

Bear in mind, this show was made in 2017, long after we got a torrential flood of anime in the west and after it became basically mainstream to like anime. There’s no reason the jokes should be this lazy. The only kinda modern anime reference they make with Suki is that she also has cat ears, which I’m only giving a pass to because, despite cat girls being around for a long time, they weren’t really common over here for a while.

Then there’s the Japanese stereotyping. Suki is voiced by a white woman but speaks in an embellished Japanese accent. This is not only problematic, but it also makes no sense. Hardly any character in an English dubbed anime has a Japanese accent.

If they’re poking fun at non-dubbed anime….why is she not just speaking Japanese? Why not give her subtitles? You can even poke fun at the silly details of fansubs or something. Why make her speak English with a Japanese accent? That doesn’t convey ‘anime’ to me. It conveys….I dunno, weeaboo? Or a Japanese person cosplaying while speaking English for some reason.

She’s also very much into DDR, virtual reality and she’s, for some reason, completely obsessed with candy. Is that a Japanese stereotype? I can’t imagine it’s an anime thing…right? I know Japanese candy is supposedly really awesome, though I’ve never had any, but making her obsessed with it doesn’t make much sense to me if it’s a joke or reference.

Her candy actually seems like it has powers? In this episode, there’s been a string of shoplifting incidents in ToonMart, so Marty is tasked with taking everyone’s pockets at the door (Not checking – taking). Suki leaves behind her skirt, I guess, and Burnie being Burnie convinces Marty to rummage through her pockets. She keeps a ton of candy in there and Burnie just helps himself.

Eating the candy gives Burnie cat ears, which, by the way, look nothing like cat ears. Until this episode, I thought Suki had short bunny ears, and I’m still not convinced they’re not even though they specifically called them cat ears.

Suki adores candy, and Burnie becomes much more fun when he’s on the candy (This is sounding like an anti-drug episode for some reason.) However, in a very surprisingly twist, Marty reveals that he’s allergic to sugar, and eating more than just a teeny, tiny microspeck of it will make him really, really crazy and sick, so he can’t have candy. He likes Suki, however, and wants to have just as much fun with her as Burnie’s having, so he pretends like he’s eating candy for a while until he flips out, eats the candy anyway and goes on a sugar-fueled rampage.

This episode as a whole is largely mediocre, but I couldn’t get over how badly they screwed up making a parody of anime. They play with so much when it comes to other cartoon tropes, but it’s like they were contractually obligated to have a character who was based on anime since it was booming in popularity, but they didn’t know what to do with her because no one on the crew knew enough about anime to actually make creative and new jokes, which is a shame.

7B – Spare Parts – I’ve already said my piece on this episode, but it really is a terrible one. At the very least, Burnie gets “cuddled” by the giant Cuddles in the end, even if Marty and Holly also get squished.

And now for the lowest of the low points of ToonMarty….

5: 10A – ToonScout Marty

Super Simon’s at his absolute worst here. He’s trying to get merit badges in the scouts with Marty. He basically treats it like a joke, wants Marty to do everything for him, and acts like an oblivious jerk the entire time. He keeps earning merit badges for stuff Marty is doing and taking full credit without a single thought. Meanwhile, Marty, who was a model scout and loves all of these activities, ends up getting scolded constantly and has all of his badges taken away in the end.

The wrap-up to this episode plus some genuinely funny moments kept the episode from being unsalvageable, but it’s really annoying to sit through.

4: 12A – ToonMart Mutt

The reason I don’t care for this episode is the rampant animal abuse. Marty is a horrible, horrible, horrible pet owner who kills every pet he gets (usually a fish.) He asked Jack if he could get a dog, and Jack agreed, but only if he could keep a fish alive for one year. Marty unknowingly killed a fish once a day for 365 days, and Holly just kept replacing them behind his back to help him get a dog, which is absolutely abhorrent.

Holly means well, but she’s knowingly getting hundreds of fish horribly killed by Marty’s hands just to give him access to a dog that he will likely also kill?

Speaking of that, Marty does get permission to get his dog, but when Burnie realizes how much of a cushy life the dog will have (He’s not aware that Marty’s a horrible pet owner) he magically swaps places with the dog that Marty would most likely want.

Marty tortures Burnie in this episode, even though he thinks he’s being a good pet owner. He’s like Elmyra only worse. I can’t believe this episode actually made me feel bad for Burnie, but when we see his horrible, swollen, injured, hungry form after just one day with Marty, I was starting to get upset.

I would normally be right on board with Burnie getting some punishment, but 1) He didn’t deserve it in this episode, really, and 2) I can’t help but imagine Marty doing this to a not-Burnie dog, and that just makes me even more upset.

At least, at the end of the episode, Marty agrees with everyone that he’s a terrible pet owner and probably shouldn’t ever get a pet ever again, but goddamn that was rough to watch.

3: 15A – Senseless Burnie (The Bad Parts)

While this episode was very funny, weird and creative, I hit a wall of hatred with this episode when Burnie started insisting that Marty eat some super duper candy coated mega burger.

Burnie loses all of his senses after being exposed to yak hair. In order to sense things again, Dr. Smartypants suggests putting a brain leech into Burnie and Marty’s heads. Burnie’s will accept transmissions of sensory input, and Marty’s will transmit the sensations. Through Marty, Burnie can use all of his senses again. Problem is, he still can’t sense anything himself. IE if he wants to smell a flower, Marty has to sniff the flower for him.

Burnie has been really looking forward to eating this super special candy coated burger thing that is loaded with sugar, but since he can’t taste anything on his own right now, he wants Marty to eat it for him. Marty is allergic to sugar. It makes his head explode. (Yes, that doesn’t mesh entirely with what was mentioned in Candy Cute.) He wants to keep helping Burnie, but that’s basically asking him to kill himself, so he refuses.

In retaliation, since Marty claims he will do literally anything else….*sigh* Burnie forces him to do a series of horrible things to himself, literally torturing him until he gives in and eats the suicide burger.

The only thing that makes this even slightly acceptable is that Burnie still feels everything Marty is feeling, so he’s being tortured too. However, when you really think about it, this just makes Burnie look even worse as a person. He’s such a monster that he’s willing to torture himself to torture his best friend to force him into doing something that will seemingly KILL HIM just because he wants to eat a burger. Fuck Burnie, I swear.

He actually sneezes out his brain leech thing while torturing Marty, regains his own senses, but then keeps torturing Marty and tries to find the brain leech because he thinks the burger will taste better with Marty’s senses than his own.

Oh and one more thing. Burnie was also taking advantage of the fact that Marty thought he was the cause of Burnie’s senselessness by exposing him to some yak hair a while back. Turns out, Burnie owns a goddamn pet yak and is extremely close to it……even lickings its eyeballs…..

The fact that the rest of this episode is so good just makes me angrier at the bad parts.

2: 13A – How Marty Got His Toon Back

This episode I dislike for three reasons; 1) It’s just boring. 2) It is the absolute worst example of poor consistency in this show. And 3) It makes 100% no sense.

Grizelda hates toons and tooniness. On her birthday, she just wants some normalcy, but the toons are irritating her everywhere. She finally snaps and starts zapping every toony thing around her and taking away their tooniness, which kinda means she’s committing mass murder in a sense because most of the things she’s zapping are sentient and they lose their sentience when she zaps them. They’re just normal objects afterward.

In comes Marty, who is at his tooniest and causing trouble for her right before giving her an explosive when he finds out it’s her birthday. She zaps him too, taking away his tooniness and making him a regular person. He now has the capacity to feel pain and can die.

There are so many things wrong with this episode I have no idea where to begin.

Let’s just start at the basics. This premise is based on the trope that cartoons can’t feel pain, get injured or die. They just squash and stretch and turn into accordions, etc. no matter what happens.

Thing is, that’s not how cartoons work, nor has it ever been that way. Cartoons survive a hell of a lot, yeah, and like 15 Minutes to Save the World explains, the world just resets once the episode is over. The status quo is never challenged once the credits run. However, the way pain, injury and death works in cartoons is that they selectively choose when to have these things happen.

For example, a cartoon gets crushed by an anvil. It would be terrible and gross for the cartoon to explode in a bunch of meaty chunks and then end the episode because it’s now dead. It’s funny to watch him get flattened into a pancake and walk off angrily.

Likewise, it usually isn’t funny if a cartoon gets bit or burns themselves or sticks their hands in a mousetrap etc. and doesn’t respond with pain.

Death can also be worked with. I just watched a classic cartoon where the main characters die in an explosion in the end and hang out in heaven playing harps and it worked just fine.

As a result, this entire episode doesn’t make any sense even in concept. And it only gets worse from here. There have been and will continue to be plenty of instances of pain, injury and even death in ToonMarty, so even in-universe this premise makes no sense.

This is basically spelled out for us because Dr. Smartypants is telling Marty about his condition….I’m sorry Dr. Smartypants, what exactly do you do all day if toons never feel pain, get injured or die?

You want to know what episode immediately follows this one? Marty’s Exploding Head – where Marty learns so much so quickly that his brain is at risk of exploding and killing him.

But it doesn’t stop there. Even if you ignore literally everything about the way cartoons typically work or even how ToonMarty usually works, they’re still completely screwing up this premise. Why? Because Marty only barely loses SOME of his tooniness. He can’t change his outfit by spinning around really fast. He can’t crash through a wall and leave behind his outline. And he feels pain and is supposedly mortal now. These are really the only noticeable changes Marty undergoes when he’s de-tooned.

Yeah, he can’t change his clothes when he spins around really fast, but golly he sure is spinning really fast for someone with no toon powers.

Yeah, he can’t zoom through a wall and leave behind an outline, but he was still moving his legs so fast that they made that cartoon wheel of legs, which shouldn’t happen if he has no toon powers.

Here’s a brief list of every instance of Marty supposedly experiencing a lack of tooniness in this episode.

Burnie drops an anvil on Marty’s head. Marty just goes ‘ow.’

Burnie drops a piano on Marty’s head. Marty hurts, but still bursts through the piano without a scratch. He does mention he doesn’t get piano teeth or a circle of birds over his head, but that’s not the problem. If you were not toony, you’d be ultra dead right now.

Burnie torments him by creating a pellet of insanely spicy stuff. Burnie bites it and bursts out with fire breath, but Marty is forcibly fed it and experiences a lot of pain with the level of spiciness. Okay, I’ll give them this one I guess, but they’re still making him do toony stuff by making his eyes literally glow red in response. Also, eating spicy things and experiencing pain while also breathing fire – typical things toons do because the idea of eating the spicy thing and not feeling pain is typically not funny.

Burnie pushes him off a high dive. Marty crashes into the ground, leaving a crater, feels pain….but also isn’t dead or visibly injured at all.

Burnie rolls his eyes at the idea of bringing Marty to the doctor, and even repeatedly says the word ‘waaambulance’ (remember that meme from ten years before this show was made?) Even when he’s calling an ambulance, he tells the operator to send a “waaaambulance” for the “huge baby.” That doesn’t have any bearing on the logic of the plot, but I just wanted to highlight what a pile of crusty used band-aids Burnie is again.

Dr. Smartypants shows that tons of Marty’s bones are broken in an x-ray, yet he’s not in constant ridiculous levels of pain, nor is he given anything more than a head bandage…..his skull was one of the few parts of him not damaged in the x-ray, by the way.

Marty is crushed in the screen wipe transition. Being affected by transition effects isn’t a toon thing….????

Marty catches his leg in Grizelda’s door, feels pain, but his leg is still stretching out quite a bit, and he comically paused for several seconds before he actually reacted to the pain, which is another thing toons do when they get hurt.

Marty jumps up and stays in the air for several seconds, which is something he should not be able to do if he doesn’t have toon powers.

Marty puts a massive pile of explosives under Grizelda’s house to make a prank so funny she’ll give back his tooniness, but then he realizes that all Grizelda wants is normalcy, not pranks and tooniness. He takes the pile of explosives away, Burnie detonates them behind Marty because I wish Burnie would die already, leaving him singed and in a big crater with no other visible injuries….and not dead.

In the next scene, he has bandages on his torso, an arm cast and he’s using a crutch.

To get the ingredients for the nice, normal cupcake Grizelda wants, they climb a mountain, and Burnie chucks the dino eggs that they’re trying to get at Marty, because I really hate Burnie. The dino attacks Marty. I’d think the dino would attack Burnie for not only having the eggs but also destroying them, but why not torment Marty some more for no reason?

In the next scene, Marty doesn’t have anymore bandages or wounds than he did before. They’re getting petals from some flower, and the flower is happily offering some to Marty, but then Burnie just yanks some off of the flower because *various anger noises*. The plant grows to massive size, develops huge spikes all over it and attacks Marty, because again, let’s torment Marty for shit Burnie is doing.

A few more bandages around Marty’s face as he goes to get the lava. You’d think Burnie, the one with fire powers and flight, would be the logical choice to get this, but no. Marty has to hang down right by the lava on a rope and get it with a coffee mug. Him being this close to lava without getting burned is already pushing it for me, but the point where I really said ‘screw this episode’ was when Burnie does a goddamn cannonball into the lava, because why wouldn’t he do the absolute worst thing you can possibly imagine to Marty right now, creating a massive wave of lava that crashes over Marty….and the only additional damage we see in the next scene is more bandages. They don’t even do the typical burned look with his hair slightly on fire like the way toons normally react to getting burned.

I know I said it wouldn’t be funny to have a cartoon get realistically injured or die horrifically like they would in these real-life scenarios, and I’m not saying that should be happening in the episode, but that’s a large part of the main issue here. They shouldn’t have even tried to do all of these stupid stunts. They should have made something funny out of Marty trying to avoid getting hurt as much as possible because he’s mortal now. If pain and death are such a huge risk to him now, it’s just plain stupid to keep having him get into situations where anyone without toon powers would easily be horrendously wounded or killed.

Maybe have Holly and Burnie scramble in a panic constantly over trying to help Marty avoid all of the hazards of their world and this very dangerous adventure. Have them use their toon powers to help make up for his lack of tooniness. Or is it much harder to make something funny out of that when “Hurr hurr, Marty suffering” is so much easier to write?

After Grizelda gets her dino lava whatever cake, Marty asks if she’ll turn him back into a toon. She agrees as long as he doesn’t do anything toony until her birthday is over. He agrees to the terms and gets his powers back, but Marty quickly explodes with tooniness all over and goes nuts. Grizelda actually understands Marty’s inability to control himself, but she can’t control herself when it comes to using magic, so she turns everyone in the room into frogs.

You’d think that’d be the end of the problems in the episode, but we’re still not done.

Everyone is turned into a frog except Burnie, who is kissed on the cheek by Grizelda, which turns him into…Merlin, but it’s just Burnie in a Merlin costume, basically. Grizelda was shown earlier to have the hots for Merlin….so uhh…she picks him up and says “Happy Birthday to me.” with bedroom eyes, porn-ish music playing and Burnie quietly begging for help.

…What the hell was that? Again, I’m all for punishing Burnie, especially in this frickin’ episode, but this is crossing a lot of lines. Not only is this creepy as shit in regards to consent, but Burnie can’t be older than maybe his mid-teens at absolute best. I’d say he’s probably 12 or 13 or something, honestly. I would rather the episode ended simply with the group being frogs, but if this terrible joke did have to be in here, why not transform Jack? Earlier in the episode, it was shown that Jack was one of Grizelda’s childhood friends who also keeps playing pranks on her for her birthday. You could have worked that into it instead of basically turning her into a pedophile.

The best this episode did was acknowledge that some people just don’t like pranks and it’s not right to try to force them to enjoy them. If they want to have some peace and normalcy, respect that.

1: 17A – A Friend Too Close

I hate this episode because it’s not only bad it’s basically doing the same thing Psych-O-Marty did only worse.

In this episode, Marty and Burnie realize that they’re so destructive and obnoxious together that they’ve literally been banned from everywhere in Toonville as a duo. They get into a big argument blaming the other for being the troublesome one, and then they decide to stop being friends.

Marty starts doing well because everyone likes Marty, but Burnie’s all alone and miserable because no one wants to be his friend because he’s the human equivalent of the teeny tiny x on mobile ads that you can never hit exactly right the first three times so you end up getting redirected over and over. Unlike in, say, Drake and Josh where they did a similar plot in Josh is Done, this doesn’t result in some sweet moment or self-realization.

Instead, Marty, despite having a blast with his new friends, suddenly finds them all boring because they suddenly start talking about boring stuff. Apparently none of them want to play pranks either, even though that’s a trademark toon thing to do, as shown in How Marty Got His Toon Back. It’s not exclusively something only Marty and Burnie do. Hell, that episode even showed that Jack loved pranks, and he’s an old fogey most of the time.

On the other side of the coin, Burnie starts going insane with loneliness, even though it’s been half a day and Holly’s tending to him. He can’t stop crying, he’s pretending a plant is his friend, and he can’t even maintain a healthy relationship with his plant friend.

It’s gets so bad, and I can’t even believe I have to say this, but Burnie actually builds a bomb and says its for when he gets “a little angry and destroy-y.”……..Are we going to find some poorly written manifesto after this?

It later turns out to be a garbage and slime bomb, but they treat it like a real bomb until the end. Holly, the robot, even recognizes it as a legitimate bomb and rushes to deactivate it.

In the end, they act like Marty and Burnie are worse apart than they are together, which couldn’t be less true. Despite having Marty for herself for a while, Holly doesn’t get to spend more time with Marty because he’s too busy with his new friends. Meanwhile, Burnie’s annoying Holly because he’s so miserable when she can easily just leave. Everyone else is fine. No one is being bothered. It’s a bright and sunny day in Toonville.

The only third party being negatively affected here is Holly, and that’s easily fixed without getting them back together. They had to tack on the bomb thing to add more severity to this situation, which is very messed up. Like, ‘No, Holly. You can’t leave him alone. He might commit a terrorist act.’

Here’s my solution – Marty spends more time with Holly now that he’s free of Burnie. Burnie suffers for however long by himself because he realizes no one wants to be friends with such a terrible person. Then he gets jealous of Holly and Marty getting along so well. He wants to go full-blown supervillain as revenge, but he can’t bring himself to do it. In the end, I dunno….I can’t suggest any sort of ending where Marty and Burnie get back together because I just find this friendship to be extremely toxic.

Marty’s always a worse person with Burnie, and Burnie’s always an unrestrained typhoon when he’s with Marty. Marty’s a great friend to Burnie, and Burnie’s a horrible friend to Marty. The only person who keeps them under wraps SOMETIMES is Holly, and they just end up making her the butt of the joke. I didn’t come away from this episode with any sense that we got the better outcome. Burnie should just be written out.

Bonus Notes

I tried really hard to find information online about ToonMarty, but it’s mostly a dry well. It’s a weird instance of a show popping into existence and flooring it into nonexistence. The show debuted on May 1, 2017 and aired an episode almost every single day until May 25, 2017 and then the show got canceled. I have no clue why they aired it like this. Power-airing a full season of a show in just one month is kinda crazy, and sounds like some form of sabotage, but I can’t be certain. There’s so little information surrounding this show that I can’t really know anything.

Nickelodeon gained the international rights to the show, but it apparently never aired in the US during its initial run – only in France, Latin America, Italy and Canada. Practically every video I find on the show is a promo from Nickelodeon France’s Youtube channel. It doesn’t seem like anyone has talked much about it. Outside of the Terrible Shows and Episodes Wiki entry, I found one IMDB review, one forum thread talking about distribution of the show, a couple of brief news articles and that was about it.

Oddly, though, Sardine Productions did create an online game based on the show called Marty’s Special Delivery, but it doesn’t seem to work anymore. I found two links for it – one is broken, and the other is Sardine Productions own web page for the game where it leads to nothing but a JPG.

The Facebook page for ToonMarty last updated on March 4, 2021 to announce that the show was heading to KiDoodle.tv, something that was also celebrated by Marty’s voice actor, Brian Froud, on his Instagram. However, the ToonMarty Facebook page hadn’t been updated since 2019 before that and then 2017 before that.

Oddly, they never noted that ToonMarty was heading to Tubi to get a US release.

Final Judgment

I won’t lie, I was a little disappointed when I finished the show because I had higher hopes for it. Not massively high, but high-ish. In the end, I think it’s good at absolute best. It can be smart and funny, and the main basis of the show is strong, but I can’t deny that the low points are exceedingly low.

I think a major factor in your enjoyment level of this show is how much you can stomach obnoxious behavior. Because, while I can handle a few bad episodes just fine, the fact that Burnie is here…..existing, is a problem for me all the way through. He was constantly ruining scenes or even whole episodes just by being there, and there’s never an episode where he’s not there. Then the frequent torment of characters who usually don’t deserve it makes things even harder to enjoy.

I don’t regret watching this show all the way through. Like I said, even in the worst episodes, I’d still crack at least one smile, and it usually had me either smiling frequently and/or laughing a few times. Plus, there were some concrete moments of high-quality comedy and goofy fun. However, whether I recommend it is another story.

I’d say it’s definitely worth a watch of at least a handful of episodes. I don’t think you’ll regret it. On the other hand, if you watch those few episodes and still want to walk away, I definitely won’t be jumping up to make an argument against your decision.

ToonMarty is not a show that was slept on or is a hidden/forgotten gem. It’s just a pretty decent show that came and went so fast, I’d expect it to have its own smoketoon. It was a fun ride for sure, but there were many problems with the show that needed be ironed out in a second season that never came. I really believe if it did get a second season, it would have made a good effort to fix the kinks and leveled up to having at least a couple ‘great’ episodes. Then again, I could be wrong and they could have just doubled down on the mess and made it worse. We’ll never know.

The good news is, if the show does interest you even a little it’s available for free on Tubi, available for free (?) on KiDoodle.TV, and Amazon Prime Video also has the series for free streaming with ads with options to purchase the episodes.


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