Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cow and Chicken

Cow and Chicken was easily the worst atrocity to ever have been shoved down our throats from the notorious Cartoon Network storyboard contest (more on that later), one that failed spectactularly and a failure which the channel refused to give up hope on. Even after it dropped like a stone, CN refused to take the hint and did all they could to jumpstart it, refusing to give up beating the dead horse long after the obvious. How on earth could they have ever possibly thought that they ever had a working idea here?

Gimmick: the concept is that of a suburban family in which the two happily-married parents, whom we always see only from the waist down, have two "children", a brother and sister, but for some reason the "sister" is a cow while the "brother" is the chicken (uh, shouldn't that make it Cow and Rooster?). As if this suggestion wasn't nauseating enough regarding how this could be possible, the two parents in question are both human, a man and a woman (I know, I know -- you're now all thinking: Ewwwwwww. With a capital "E"). This concept, which is so many shades of wrong that it could outshade your average rainbow, is presented as an apparent "spoof" of family-oriented T.V. situation comedies.

Sound like a good idea?


A better word for Cow and Chicken, which was for several years running wildly overadvertised up the wazoo on its native Cartoon Network while also having individual episodes of it being frantically sandwiched into every single spare ten-minute time slot in between their other shows normally reserved for commercials that the channel could spare in a desperate attempt to jumpstart its consciousness in the public eye and hence make it a hit, could very easily be "awful".

When I first saw it after it had been turned into a full half-hour program years back, it resided on the channel's "Cartoon Cartoon" lineup, where it sat firmly wedged between the latest episodes of Dexter's Laboratory and The New Adventures of Johnny Quest, and was then-currently competing against the likes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and 60 Minutes. Cartoon Newtork, obviously, was betting against all odds that 60 Minutes was over the hill, that Star Trek no longer attracted large viewing audiences, and that fans of Dexter's Laboratory and Johnny Quest would be left too catatonic to change the channel.

What those poor unfortunates endured were visuals that easily rank among the ugliest ever seen in animation since Rude Dog & The Dweebs.

They also endured lots of attempts at "gross out" humour, stabs at sibling rivalry, and nonsensical gags regarding a member of the family taking it upon themselves to become a "superhero" after donning various spare clothing articles and household items.

These last three ingredients can and certainly have worked before, in instances when the writing was sharp, the gags right on target, and the chosen storylines reasonably intelligent. So far Cow and Chicken is batting 0 for 3.

Hopeful newcomer David Weiss feverishly bangs out his gag ideas as though terrified that his audience won't get his jokes and has to immediately clobber them over the head with another one a.s.a.p. in order to make them instantly forget how unsuccessful the previous one was. The animators and writers do as much with the material as the limp premise will allow, and the characters' voice actors all ham it up as much as Weiss wants, or will allow, which in either case is too much. A small hint of subtlely is provided here by an incidental character who appears every once in a while called Boneless Chicken, not because he is funny, entertaining, or in any way interesting, but because the character is the only one in the entire cast who has lines read in a normal, reserved delivery, offering a small touch of restraint to a show that can certainly use it.

Now it could very well be that I am being unfairly harsh here. It could very well be that this show just needs time to gain its footing. It could very well be that it may soon blossom into a truly well-developed hit and find a huge worshipful audience. It could very well be that it might one day become a huge marketing bonanza just as its creators obvious hope and will make them all rich. It could even very well be that one day it will be regarded as a timeless television cartoon classic in the same league as Scooby Doo, The Flintstones and The Jetsons. That could very well be, but frankly, modern cartoons tending to be what they are these days, I highly doubt it.

Now I could be wrong. Maybe funny animal cartoons are still as entertaining to modern audiences as all get out. Hey! Could that explain the reason why viewers everywhere have been tuning into channels like Boomerang to watch older --- and therefore much better --- funny animal cartoons? Naaah.

The Timon and Pumbaa Show

It can honestly be said that Disney's television animation division reached an all-time low with The Timon & Pumbaa Show, and not until House of Mouse would there be any genuine signs left of creative life.

By now it has become common knowledge as to just how lousy this show is, as even Lion King fans detest it. There are so many things wrong with this show that it simply is its own best review. But I'm going to comment on it anyway for the uninitiated so they'll understand why to stay away in case they hear of it and are in any way the least bit curious.

Removing itself as far from the Lion King's movie premise as possible without the slightest care or worry for the reaction of that movie's audience (of which I've never really been a part of, in all fairness), this show has for at least half of its produced episodes chosen instead to have Timon and Pumbaa travel all around the world.

Ok, first off, here's the main question: why was it so necessary to have Timon and Pumbaa travel all around the world? I have been wracking my brain to come up with a logical explanation for this phenomenon, only to finally come to the conclusion that there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for them to travel all around the world, except for the fact that it gave the writers and producers a conveniant excuse to shoehorn in a bunch of lousy Saturday morning cartoon cliches that they wouldn't have been able to otherwise cram in.

The plots are all automatic pilot ideas and situations. To wit: in the pilot alone, we watch in sheer disbelief as during the first of the two cartoons presented Timon and Pumbaa travel to Russia, where Pumbaa's grandfather is a famous ballet dancer, but his grandfather has an accident and ends up in the hospital with his foot in a sling, so he can't dance and that of course means that Pumbaa has to take his place, so Pumbaa dons a pink tutu for the performance while Timon readies himself as the orchestral conductor, and then in cartoon number two we watch as Timon and Pumbaa attempt to join a club led by some gophers or something, and they are told that they must first pass the initiation, and that for said initiation they must take a red collar with jingle bells on it and put it on the local lion, so they go to visit said lion at his cave while dressed as Santa's helpers, and say that the collar is a gift, and the lion cheerfully puts it on and swears that he'll never ever ever take it off, so Timon and Pumbaa return to the club proclaiming that they completed the initiation and ask can they join now, but the gophers are dubious as to whether they actually went through with it so they demand that Timon and Pumbaa retrieve the collar and bring it back just to prove that they did it, so Timon and Pumbaa return to the lion's cave and plan to get the collar back while the lion is in the shower, and we see that the lion has an extremely modern shower installed right in his cave, and before getting into the shower he unzips his lion skin and steps out of it, revealing that he actually has under it a thoroughly human body complete with boxer shorts...

So help me, I SWEAR TO GOD to you people that I am not making any of this up.

This goes far beyond any of a Lion King fan's worst fears for what could happen to their beloved franchise, and not surprisingly the show sank like a rock never to be heard from again, and rightfully so. It deserves to be buried in some desert someplace and forgotten, plain and simple.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

STUNT DAWGS - DIC Enterprises

Back during the late '80s, Ralph Bakshi decided to get permission to create an all-new Mighty Mouse cartoon for Saturday morning television. What he basically did was simply hire a bunch of artists and simply let them have at it; they were given the lowest budget in town and in exchage were allowed to do anything that they wanted. As a result, this artistic honesty made Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures an instant hit -- a program that felt at the time like a breath of fresh air during a moment when the merchandising tail had been allowed to wag the dog.

Unfortunately, as with always the case with something like this in any area of the entertainment industry, other producers seeing dollar signs in the "new style" completely misread the reasons as to why it had been such a success while bending over backwards to copy it. Instead of learning the lesson of "creators need to be in charge of their own output in order for it to work", they instead believed that "cubism", "funky" shapes, and "outrageous" ideas were supposedly the "new thing" and proceeded to flood the market with every single imitation imaginable. Everywhere you looked, you encountered everything from A Pup Named Scooby-Doo to Hammerman.

But now we have come to the absolute worst of this genre, the most unfunny cartoon that could ever have been inspired by Mighty Mouse or, for that matter, by anything else.

This one's unbelievable. You think you've seen bad cartoons in your time? Try this one on for size. It's an eyesore so bad, so awful, so putrid, so painful, so irritating, and so completely flat out totally and thoroughly useless, that you could start joking with your friends about how it could be used for Chinese-water-torture-style interrogation when all else fails. It's really something, a huge wad of ignorant design, style, writing, directing, vocal acting... hey, you name it, it screws it up.

But here's the weirdest part of this thing; exactly what inspired it besides the Mighty Mouse trend, and what genre is it convinced it's spoofing?

Oh well, I guess that's the sort of question you're not supposed to ask with a program like this, or at least that's what Do It Cheap Enterprises appears to believe, anyway. For the record, it appears to be something that some marketing moron attempted to dream up from scratch somewhere along the line in an attempt to be original, and if that's the case then I can say that in that one sense they did appear to have actually succeeded in accomplishing something here. The only reason I say this because the "stunt dawgs" in this cartoon resemble absolutely no known profession or position either real or imagined known to man, appear to be an ensemble of Hollywood stuntpeople doubling as crimefighters -- or something along those lines -- and I'm forced to admit that that is indeed an idea that has, I suspect, never actually been done before in any form of reality or fiction.

If it in fact already has, please don't bother telling me; I don't know to know.

And by the way, if there is an actual source of inspiration for this thing, please don't pass it along; I really don't want to know that either.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm pulling the plug on this commentary -- simply thinking about this annoying atrocity gives me a headache.