It's been a long time coming, but at last, the cartoon section of The Gameroom Blitz has been updated!  There are five fresh reviews, along with a sharp new layout and a snazzy 21st century logo that's a big improvement over the decidedly Web 1.0 title used in the past.  And oh yeah, be sure to leaf through some of the old reviews for retrospective commentary and editor's notes.



It would be easy to claim that Total Drama Island is simply a method of indoctrinating children to expect nothing more than typical reality show fare from entertainment, dumbing television further down than it already has been and ultimately creating a perpetual spiral of stultification that proves, once and for all, that "pop will eat itself".

Of course, that doesn't mean I'm not going to make this claim anyway.  This show has no valid reason to exist: whatever flaws Drawn Together had (including, but by no means limited to, mean-spirited "humor"), it at least had the potential to be entertaining and possibly even satirical.  Total Drama Island is in some ways even more offensive, in that it lacks even the pretense of ambition.  I would go so far as to say that this show represents everything that is wrong with "kids today" (particularly the laziness and apathy) but I'm only 27 and thus too young to tell kids to get off my lawn (also, I live in an apartment).

As to more substantive criticism, the show is essentially Survivor: The Animated Series, with all the idiocy that entails, with what appears to be the contents of Genndy Tartakovsky's dumpster as the obligatory cast of idiots.  It not only fails but flat out refuses to push the medium.  If Drawn Together was (in addition to its other crimes) a waste of potential, Total Drama Island is just a waste.


Combine the hard-edged heavy metal wankery of bands like Danzig and Black Sabbath with the crude, senselessly violent humor that's become an Adult Swim trademark, and you wind up with Metalocalypse.  Created by Home Movies producer Brendon Small, Metalocalypse is a backstage pass to the daily lives of five self-indulgent rock stars.  When they're not performing their latest hits while slaughtering their legions of rabidly loyal fans, the members of the band are dealing with petty personal issues or immersing themselves in wrongheaded product placement.  Metalocalypse's Flash animation is surprisingly high quality, with backgrounds and characters that are both dripping with gruesome detail.  However, if you're not a fan of heavy metal, the show's overblown satire will just leave you staring at the screen in stunned horror.


Something's fishy about this brightly colored action series, and it's not just the heroes.  With their oversized heads and undersea features, the stars of the show look like a horrible hybrid of The Powerpuff Girls and a discarded Japanese lunch box.  As unappetizing as these beady eyed characters may be, the rest of the show is even worse.  Sushi Pack tries to offer the same winking humor as the series that inspired it, but pulls way too many punches and coughs up way too many clichés and object lessons for the jokes to be effective.  Even the vocalizations are lifeless, with one villain sporting the worst Christopher Walken imitation in recorded history.  Hey, we all love Walken's creepy, halting delivery, but if you're going to put it in a cartoon, at least do it right!


Spectacular?  Maybe not, but it's good enough.  The Spectacular Spider-Man marks the return of animation vet Greg Weisman, who was also responsible for the later seasons of W.I.T.C.H. and Gargoyles prior to the woeful Goliath Chronicles.  Aside from a few hidden references to his past work, Weisman's influence isn't readily apparent, but the quality of the series is up to his usual standards.  The Marvel mythos has been shaken up a bit to keep the storyline surprising, and the animation is incredibly lively during fights, with Spidey snaking his way through an onslaught of pumpkin bombs, lightning bolts, and metallic arms.  The pubescent Peter Parker isn't all that appealing when the mask comes off- in fact, the high school scenes as a whole are best left forgotten- but the series delivers where it really counts.


This show shouldn't be as good as it is.  I mean, it really, REALLY shouldn't be as good as it is.  Modern computer rendering is already hanging on the eerie edge of the Uncanny Valley as it is... it doesn't get any less creepy when the renderees include such oddities as a metaphor-mixing rooster sensei and an evil astronaut piranha made from green horseradish.  You'd have to work hard to make your characters as strange and unlikable as these ones... yet despite this handicap, Chop Socky Chucks just barely works.  It's on the low rung of Aardman productions for sure, but the snappy dialog, frantic fights, and way-out-there storylines somehow redeem this series.  I'm starting to think that Aardman made this completely ludicrous cartoon on a bet... and won.


Some fifteen years after Capital Critters, L'il Bush once again proves that political cartoons are best reserved for the Sunday paper.  The biggest strike against this show is that George W. Bush, as unintentionally comical as he may be in real life, doesn't make for a likable cartoon character.  The political humor lacks punch, too... clever riffs on current events are practically non-existent, replaced with scattershot stereotypes that may or may not be accurate reflections of their targets.  For instance, the elder George Bush is rightly portrayed as a milquetoast wimp who lets his hair down by putting ice in his tap water.  However, Dennis Kucinich is painted in broad strokes as a lilliputian flower child, a representation which flies in the face of his fiery performances at the 2008 primary debates.  The lackluster Flash animation would be forgivable if the humor wasn't so lazy, but as it stands, L'il Bush is just as disappointing as regular Bush.



Huh-huh, this show has two metalheads who sit on the couch and go to high school and stuff.  This show is awesome.  It rocks harder than AC/DC and Metallica (or "Death Rock" and "Skull"*) put together, huh-huh.  I, like, saw it a while ago, and it still holds up, huh-huh.
Yeah, heh-heh.  It's like, by the dude who does King of the Hill.  Anderson looks like that Hank Hill dude, heh-heh.  I heard he did this movie with dudes working at this place where they give their computers a virus, heh-heh.
Huh-huh, yeah.  The animation looks kind of dated, and they, like, spend most of the show acting like Siskel and Ebert with music videos.  But, like, it's still good.  Huh-huh.  It's really funny and stuff.
*Apparently, they changed the emblems on Beavis & Butt-head's shirts on the licensed merchandise.  I can only venture as to why, but I think it has something to do with not wanting to have to pay AC/DC and Metallica royalties for the merchandise, as they probably did for the show itself.
It's a testament to the quality of Rumiko Takahashi's work when her worst animated series is still entertaining enough to watch.  Still, InuYasha seems like a total phone-in when compared to Rumik's outrageous comedies and wildly inventive, gorgeously animated action flicks.  It's not especially original, borrowing heavily from Japanese mythology, and the reluctant romance between the hot-headed title character and the Japanese schoolgirl who falls into his world seems half-baked next to the passionate crushes of Ranma 1/2 and Urusei Yatsura.  Oh, and speaking of Kagome, there hasn't been a more self-centered, abusive, and whiny bitch on television since the 1980's, when prime time soap operas ruled the airwaves.  Her shrill shrieks of "SIT, boy!" make even the picturesque scenery and lively fight scenes hard to endure.  If only there were a code word to make her explode into the same bloody chunks as the demons that InuYasha frequently slays...

The creators of One Piece bring you twenty-two minutes of pure, distilled stupidity... or thirty, if you count the commercials.  Just what is Bo-Bo-Bo about, anyway?  I'm still not sure, but here's what I could gather from the episodes I've seen.  Bo-Bo-Bo is a burly blonde armed with an afro and living nose hairs.  Think of a cross between Hulk Hogan, Bob Ross, and Al Bundy and you've got the right idea.  Throughout the series, Bo-Bo-Bo defends hair everywhere from an army of bald men running with scissors, animated gelatin, an ice cream vendor (I hope that's ice cream on his head...), and wrestlers with talking duck hats.  It's a very surreal, very Japanese experience, with the show's English translators going to great lengths to make sense of the unending absurdity.  In the end, though, there's nothing anyone can do to explain this show's existance on these shores... or why Bo-Bo-Bo was created in the first place.
It's Highlander for the junior set as high school student Kiyo battles evil along with a wide-eyed, mop-topped boy in a royal blue dress.  Yup, it's a Japanese action series, all right!  Anyway, the kid is packed with latent super powers that only his adoptive brother can unleash.  As he defeats rivals (mostly small animals and other puppet-like children), Zatch Bell inches closer and closer to becoming the king of his home world.  It's a concept that could work, and does for the first couple of episodes.  However, it doesn't take long before the rocky relationship between Zatch and Kiyo is conveniently smoothed out.  Worst of all, the show constantly straddles the fence between an action and comedy series, and isn't particularly compelling as either.  The fights are limited to exchanges of energy bolts (didn't we already see this sort of thing on Dragonball Z?), and the humor is largely dependent on facial expressions that are more freaky than funny.
BEN 10
Tired of cartoons with ordinary super heroes?  Well, this series features ten, ten, TEN alien creatures, all rolled into one bratty boy!  Yes, Ben Tennison commands the abilities of ten intergalactic heroes in this unique show that offers up plenty of action along with a welcome touch of lighthearted humor.  Although you'd think a kid with that much power would be nearly unstoppable, he's often held back by the temperamental nature of the watch he uses to transform, as well as his own impulsive behavior.  This and the occasional plot twist keeps the action fresh and unpredictable, even if the artwork seems like it was lifted straight from Teen Titans.
Believe it... or not, this highly anticipated Japanese cartoon isn't as fantastic as everyone had expected it to be.  Naruto has its moments, but in comparison to Samurai Champloo, this story of ninjas in training comes up woefully short.  On one hand, the artwork is vivid and sharply rendered.  On the other, the fight scenes are prefaced by far too much exposition ("Before I finish you off, let me explain in excruciating detail the techniques I'll use in this battle!"), and some of the characters are downright irritating.  Especially brooding, self-absorbed Sasuke... but especially snobbish, lovestruck Sakura.  But especially stubborn, smartalecky Naruto!  All right, pretty much everybody here under the age of eighteen is obnoxious.  Luckily, the teachers have a lot more personality than the students, but even they can't hold Naruto together for more than a few episodes.
I can't say I was expecting much from this show.  Was it the rough artwork in the previews?  The awkward title that suggests the writers were out of ideas before they even picked up their pens?  That theme song that's forgettable at best and just plain annoying at worst?  I'm not sure, but I have to admit that the series far exceeded my low expectations.  When a clerical error sends ordinary grade schooler Adam Lyon into a den of real lions (and tigers and bears, oh my!), he's got to struggle to not only stay on top of his education, but the food chain as well.  Adam's best friend at the school is also his closest genetic relative, a spider monkey named Jake whose hyperactivity often lands the pair in hot water with the rest of the students.  The humor relies a bit too heavily on animal instincts, but the writers do hit the funny bone from time to time with situations and sight gags that bring back memories of Ren and Stimpy's first (and best!) season.
How do you bring together two things as completely different as feudal Japan and 20th century hip-hop, without making the resulting combination seem forced and ridiculous?  First, you hire the creators of the legendary anime Cowboy Bebop to do the writing.  Then you get leading animation studio Geneon to bring the scripts to life with richly detailed artwork and fight scenes so dynamic and intense, you'll feel like you're there, narrowly dodging each sword strike.  Finally, you hunt down only the best translators and voice over artists before bringing the finished product to America.  The result of all this hard work is a sharp action series made that's even more brilliant by its many contradictions.  If you're burned out on Japanese animation, Samurai Champloo will almost certainly bring you back into the fold.

More than cheese... more than wine... above all else, France's number one export is aggravation.  The country's latest attempt to get under the skin of the rest of the free world comes in the form of a cartoon named Code: Lyoko.  It's an awkward coupling of computer rendered action and hand-drawn artwork that pushes the story along... or more accurately, drags its lifeless corpse from one end of each episode to the other.  The rendered scenes are definitely the better looking of the two segments, because things actually happen in them... however, with their barren environments and dead-eyed heroes, they're just barely an improvement over Mainframe's decade old Beast Wars series.  The traditional animation lacks even more luster, with a failed faux-anime style that leaves the cast of middle schoolers with faces so sharp-edged, you could use their chins to cut glass!  The worst part of Code: Lyoko has to be the repetitive storylines, usually capped off with one of the most infuriating deus ex machinas to ever creak its way onto a television screen.  When Ulrich and his squad of net-surfing nerds can't outsmart Zana, that most malicious of computer viruses, they simply press a button to reverse time and snatch an undeserved victory from the jaws of defeat.  There is no consequence or effort involved... a touch of the enter key is all it takes to delete their failures forever.  Is there a key I can press to send this bomb back to its home country?


Contrary to what the title may suggest, there's nothing really new about this Disney series, set after the events of The Emperor's New Groove.  It's got the same characters as that frantic fairy tale set in ancient South America, and even warms over many of the same jokes.  The only significant difference is a storyline lifted straight from Disney's earlier Hercules series... self-centered and sarcastic Kuzco has to attend classes in order to keep the right to rule his people.  Yeah, I don't follow the logic, either.  Luckily, the decision to recast Eartha Kitt and Patrick Warburton as the bumbling villains makes a lot more sense.  On the downside, David Spade is absent from this class, replaced with a low-grade imitator who just can't serve up the smarm like his predecessor.  The show is so tame that you'll probably follow Spade's lead and drop out of School after just a couple of episodes.


The controversial comic (probably already replaced in your local newspaper with a rapping pit bull) has become a cartoon, and it couldn't have been more perfectly adapted.  Creator Aaron MacGruder has taken his all-African-American family out of the confines of a four panel comic strip and given them the freedom to be more than just a mouthpiece for his political views.  There's still plenty of social commentary here (which cuts both ways, drawing blood from both the white establishment and the conformist, often irresponsible black community), but it's delivered with detailed storytelling and satisfyingly complex character development.  All this makes the Freemans a more genuine family than most you'll see on television sitcoms, even when they're conning a freshly-pimped car out of Xzibit or having dinner with long-dead civil rights leaders.  The aggressive political commentary guarantees that The Boondocks won't be the next Simpsons, but it's got a pretty good shot at taking the torch from South Park, that other classic animated series with its best days well behind it.

UPDATE:  The second season of the show is definitely an improvement over the first thanks to smoother, more expressive animation.  However, these episodes have varied wildly in both quality and theme.  Attack of the Killer Kung Fu Wolf Bitch and Stinkmeaner Strikes Back are in the Adult Swim hall of fame thanks to their outrageous comedy and frantic action, but then there are episodes like Attack of the Katrinians and The S-Word, which fray the nerves with astonishingly self-centered and irresponsible characters.  Hopefully in its third season, The Boondocks will stop undermining the appeal of its cast and continue to offer the wild situations that makes the series shine.


If you've already seen Jake Long: American Dragon, there's going to be a lot about Juniper Lee that will sound familiar to you.  A hip Asian kid defends the human world from magical creatures, and sometimes vice versa, occasionally relying on the wisdom of a talking dog and putting up with the antics of an obnoxious younger sibling.  There are some important differences, though.  Like most of Warner Bros.'s answers to Disney's cartoons, Juniper Lee is more daring and imaginative, with a tongue as sharp as Jake Long's is forked.  There's more fight to the fight scenes, more comedy in the comic relief, and more character to the characters.  Instead of quickly fading into the background, June's friends have personality, and a reason to exist aside from taking up empty camera space.  Finally, Juniper herself is a lot more appealing than her Disney counterpart, who's got a bright future ahead of him as a spokesman for Poser Mobile.


It's easy to dismiss this as a lame Spongebob Squarepants clone... mostly because that's what it is.  The role of the energetic, painfully optimistic sponge has been passed on to a banana-lipped monkey (who somehow manages to be more irritating than the character he so clearly apes), and the disgruntled, more than slightly effeminate mollusc of choice is a slug, rather than an octopus.  Even when it's not lifting ideas directly from Nickelodeon's most popular cartoon, Lazlo remains a completely predictable experience.  Look, Lazlo's bunkmate has a Hindu accent, because he's an ELEPHANT, and elephants come from India!  Oh, and did I mention that he's a glutton?  You know, because elephants are really big and fat.  Sad to say, the entire show is like this, coasting on the fumes of much too familiar characters and situations.


Manic, mean-spirited, and mindbendingly bizarre, Billy and Mandy is the kind of show that makes Nickelodeon executives dive headfirst into the slime-covered tunnels they call their homes.  Fortunately for all of us, the show's fate isn't at the fickle hands of the first network for kids, but Cartoon Network, which cuts its cartoonists a bit more slack.  Anyway, here's the 411 on this series.  Darkhearted, domineering Mandy and her impossibly stupid friend Billy not only cheat Death, but force him into an eternity of humiliating servitude.  While he's busy doing their chores, Billy and Mandy use Grim's dark powers to annoy everyone within a twelve mile radius.  That includes nerdalicious neighbor Irwin, dentally-impaired goddess of chaos Eris, and my favorite of the bunch, Hoss Delgado.  Imagine the heavy artillary of Bruce Campbell, the boundless testosterone and flowing locks of Kurt Russell, and the barrel-chested brutality of Sylvester Stallone all blended into one over-the-top action hero, and you've got a pretty good idea of what to expect from this guy.  The first season of Billy and Mandy was weighed down by too much bathroom humor, but later episodes were chock full of hilarious pop culture references, broadening the appeal of the series and making it one of the best shows in Cartoon Network's primetime schedule.

UPDATE:  Billy and Mandy's last great moment was The Keeper of the Reaper, where the two title characters fought for custody of The Grim Reaper.  Modern Primitives was also a late high point of the series, with Billy tormenting a reanimated Fred Flintstone.  However, the films that recently aired on Cartoon Network were kind of a downer, particularly the aimless Wrath of the Spider Queen and the Kids Next Door crossover which proved just how mismatched the two shows were.  Series creator Maxwell Atoms announced in 2007 that The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy had been cancelled, and that he was hard at work on a spinoff starring the show's ancillary characters.  However, without Billy, Mandy, or former writer C. H. Greenblatt, it remains to be seen if the tentatively titled Underfist will be a success.


Sure, it's more faithful than most animated adaptations of popular video games, but is it fun to watch?  Eh, not really.  Viewtiful Joe has the same sketchy comic book look as Capcom's GameCube hit, and even stars the same voice actors.  However, the flashy fights that made the video game so intense have been replaced with awkwardly translated exchanges between Joe and his foes.  You can tell when the show is trying to be funny, but thanks to the clumsy dialogue and an unwelcome helping of censorship (Joe's throwing a lot more than alfalfa at those cowboys in the wild west episode!), it rarely ever is.  Like far too many cartoons based on video games, this henshin's a no-go, baby. 


Cartoons from the decade of decadence,
given another look twenty years later


It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Heck, it may have even seemed like a good cartoon back when you were eight.  However, after seeing it twenty years later, you'll grudgingly admit that out of the many animated adaptations of popular video games, the first also happens to be one of the worst.

Saturday Supercade takes all your favorite game characters from the early 1980's and awkwardly crams them into the most unlikely sitcom situations.  Frogger is now a journalist for a swamp newspaper, taking orders from a web-toed J. Jonah Jameson along with his girlfriend and a turtle who sounds uncannily like übernerd Woody Allen.  Q*Bert's found his way back to high school in what can only be described as an animated American Graffiti, illustrated by a seven-year old M. C. Escher.  Finally, in another unwelcome tip of the hat to the 1950's, Donkey Kong Jr. hangs out with a teen greaser who's like Fonz without the edge.

The resulting hour of television is every bit as bad as the above descriptions would suggest.  Like most Ruby-Spears cartoons from the late 1970's and early 1980's, Saturday Supercade is a cheap imitation of Hanna-Barbera's already lackluster output.  The scripts are full of dumb sight gags and awful puns, and the characters are either too plain (Mario, Frogger) or just plain annoying.  Donkey Kong and his son are the best- or should I say worst?- examples of this.  The big ape's brainless stuttering is supplied by comic burnout Soupy Sales, while his offspring apes the mannerisms of the world's most universally hated cartoon sidekick, even replacing Scrappy-Doo's cries of "Puppy Power!" with the equally grating "Monkey Muscle!"

Despite the questionable quality of Saturday Supercade, plenty of prominent figures in the world of kids' television were responsible for its creation.  In addition to Ken Ruby and Joe Spears, that Mighty Morphin' Egyptian Ranger Haim Saban, and Batman: The Animated Series co-producer Paul Dini all had their hands in the production of the series.  Saban supplied the ridiculous yet disturbingly catchy theme song (those seem to be his specialty, if Kidd Video and the Power Rangers are any indication...), and Paul Dini chipped in some scripts for Frogger. 

Even with this all this talent behind the wheel, and even with last-hour changes that added the more relevant Pitfall! and Space Ace cartoons to the mix, there was nothing that could stop Saturday Supercade from a collision with the flaming wreck that the video game industry had become in 1984.  Even if video games had remained popular through the mid 1980's, it's doubtful that this corny throwback to the dark ages of animation would have survived the onslaught of the Thundercats, Voltron, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


Yes, it's yet another cartoon where the stars get trapped in a strange new dimension and spend the rest of the series desperately trying to find their way out.  It's a plot device that has been wrung dry by everyone from Samurai Jack to the Smurfs, but few have used it with the same flair as Haim Saban.  In those other cartoons, you feel as frustrated and helpless as the characters themselves, but in Kidd Video, you're happy to be along for the ride.

Years before striking gold with the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Saban enjoyed moderate success with Kidd Video, an animated journey through a vibrantly colorful world that's equal parts Alice in Wonderland and avant garde music video.  Here, the musical expressions are interpreted literally, and even the fairies are clad in leotards and leg warmers.  It's a world that reflects the trends of the 1980's as well as its creator's passion for songwriting.

The stars of the show, a band of teen musicians, find themselves sucked into this land after catching the eye of the sinister Master Blaster.  The Master wants to chain them to an unbreakable contract, forcing them to sing for his pleasure and profit for the rest of eternity.  However, our hip young heroes won't stand for this exploitation.  They spend most of each episode running from this thinly disguised commentary on the greed of the recording industry, stopping just long enough to catch their breath and exhale it in the form of a campy pop song.

Kidd Video is a perfect snapshot of the decade of excess, with the low production values expected from 1980's cartoons, but the clever imagery and catchy beats so common in 1980's music videos.  When the two balance each other out, you're left with an animated series that, while not up to today's high standards, certainly stands above much of the dreck that was on television twenty years ago.  It's one of the few cartoons from the time that had something to say, aside from the usual "Hey kids, buy my merchandise!"


You'd think that Marvel's cartoons would have been a cynical attempt by the company to cash in on characters like Spiderman and The Incredible Hulk, but you'd be oh-so-very wrong.  Well, mostly wrong, anyway.  While Marvel and its subsidiary Cadence never passed up an opportunity to make a cartoon based on one of its successful comic book series, they also bravely stepped outside those boundaries, making shows that were uncommonly good by the low standards of 1980's animation.

One of these cartoons was Dungeons & Dragons, a remarkably accurate and genuinely entertaining show based on the tabletop role-playing game invented by Gary Gygax.  When a handful of kids take a ride on a suspiciously named theme park attraction, they wind up stranded in a hostile medieval world, hotly pursued by the demonic sorceror Venger.  The teens are given a thin chance for survival when a mysterious old man grants each one abilities that were tailor-made for them.  Hot-blooded but pint-sized Bobby is crowned with a barbarian's horned cap, while sarcastic comic relief Eric is given a shield and the appropriate title "Cavalier."

With their new powers, the young band of heroes begin their search for a way back home, locked in an eternal stalemate with the wicked Venger and his minions.  It's not a particularly original storyline- dozens of other cartoons have tread on the same territory- but the quality of Dungeons and Dragons is what sets it apart from the rest of the pack.  The animation, though not always smooth, is impressive for its detailed, realistically drawn characters.  The dialogue, though sometimes a bit stiff and redundant, really helps develop the characters and the world around them.  Then there's Venger... oh yes, Venger.  The writers really hit the mark with this guy... with a voice filled with hatred and a pair of wild eyes peeking out from a scarlet cloak, Venger manages to be more threatening than any three 80's cartoon villains put together.

Dungeons and Dragons isn't Cadence at the top of its game.  The series doesn't compare favorably to the original G.I. Joe, with its larger, more appealing cast of characters and flashier animation, and it's at least a dozen experience levels behind The Tick, the hilarious superhero satire produced under the Sunbow brand name.  At the same time, Dungeons and Dragons is more than a match for 80% of 80's cartoons, with enough action and wit to satisfy most fans of the game that inspired it.



"Jake's Grandfather: The horn does not make the unicorn.
Jake Long: Actually, it does. Otherwise, it's just a horse. "

Jake Long: American dragon revolves around Jake Long, a normal 13-year-old kid from NYC who lives with his family, which consists of his father, mother, grandfather, little sister Haley, and a Chinese Pug named Fu Dog. When he's not hanging out with his best friend Trixie, or his laid-back, Boomhauer-eqsue buddy, Spud, he's crushing on the new girl in school, Rose.  Jake also has a secret... he is the latest in a long family line of heroes that are also dragons!  His grandfather and Fu Dog (who can talk) train him in his never ending battle to protect the Fantasy Realm creatures that live in New York from being captured or destroyed by the evil Huntsman (and his sidekick, Huntsgirl) .

The cartoon is a very entertaining, solid offering; with an inventive concept, lots of action, and character designs that are a breath of fresh air.  Jake's red dragon alter-ego is an interesting mesh of Eastern and Western influences.  The show's backstory reminded me of "Big Trouble In Little China"-- a magical, mystical world existing right under our noses.

While the first two episodes of Jake Long were uneven, the rest of the series has been stellar.  It's packed with plenty of well-executed chase and action scenes, fresh humor, and well written characters.  In a welcome change from most Disney animated series, the story events and character arcs that happen in Jake Long permanently affect the course of the show-- it's been a real treat watching the characters grow. The only drawback to one's enjoyment of the show is that Disney has shown an annoying tendency to air some episodes out of order.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Unlike Shawn, I didn't like this show at first.  Jake Long's constant fronting brought back uncomfortable memories of Vanilla Ice, but the fact that he's usually put in his place by his grandfather and friends makes him more slightly more palatable.  Also, I love the occasional celebrity appearances on American Dragon, even if they don't make a whole lot of sense.  Just listen to Monty Hall bellow, "and I'll be the most powerful game show host!" and try not to crack up!






The Tick was one of the greatest shows Fox ever had on their channel.  It was a series about a nigh-invulnerable 7' "wise fool" superhero and his neverending battle for truth and justice.  Plus, he had one of the best battle cries ever.

In this series, the city of... The City... is full of superheroes hiding in plain sight.  From the patriotic American Maid to the mysterious Die Fledermaus, The City was full of bizarre (and in some cases derivative) superheroes.  One day, an enigmatic hero known as "The Tick" came to town.  He took under his wing a sidekick known as Arthur, a former accountant who dressed as a moth.

In addition to this, the villains were rather interesting.  From Chairface Chippendale (whose failed attempt to write his name on the moon stared down from the night sky as the series went on) to The Terror, an older-than-dirt villain surrounded by lackeys like a man-eating cow and "Stalingrad," a dead ringer for the former leader of the more-recently-former USSR, the bad guys of The City had their evil plots foiled by the always vigilant Tick.

But one of the greatest things about this series was Mickey Dolenz.  Yes, the former Monkee Mickey Dolenz.  In the beginning of the series, he was the voice of Arthur, and he actually did pretty well as the "regular guy who winds up in bizarre situations involving evil villains and/or monsters" in the show.  However, they eventually replaced him with Rob Paulsen--who, while not horrible, seems more at home playing the "smart-ass" role than the "befuddled sidekick" role.  The show was still good after that, however, so if you see it (it's going to be on Toon Disney), it wouldn't kill you to check it out.



Robot Chicken is a claymation show on Adult Swim that has rapid-fire spoofs on pop culture. They cover such varying gags as a Real World series with superheroes, presidential campaign ads (and their expressions of approval of the message contained therein), Very Special Episodes, and Fox reality shows. Some of the stuff will amuse you, some will offend you, and the rest will do both. That said, very few shows would have a Michael Moore documentary on the former "Masters of the Universe" or the world's most one-sided fistfights caught on film. Also, the "Transformers" segment in the first episode actually was mentioned on a medical association's site as a vehicle to raise awareness of prostate cancer. You'll find a link to the reference here.

If I had one complaint about this show, it's that it's too short. Even for a fifteen minute show, it feels like it should have lasted longer. That said, it's probably one of the best ways I can imagine to kill fifteen minutes... and your fond childhood memories of cartoon heroes.


This action series is a huge departure for Nickelodeon, a network whose programming blocks have traditionally been populated by hyperactive, abstractly drawn characters.  You won't find any of them here, though.  Avatar is heavily inspired by not only Japanese animation, but Eastern culture as a whole... young Ang travels across the wide, mountainous expanses of a fantasy Tibet with his friends.  Along the way, he uses the power of wind to battle hostile members of three rival tribes, each with their own mastery of an elemental force.  Ironically, the Japanesque artwork that has become tiresome and predictable on other networks is a welcome breath of fresh air on Nickelodeon.  It not only offers viewers a break from the crack-addled antics of Spongebob Squarepants and The Fairly Oddparents, but it also lends the kind of excitement and urgency to Avatar's fight scenes that you'll never see in Nick's other, far less impressive action show Danny Phantom.

UPDATE:  Avatar is still one of the most clever, exciting, and original series on Nickelodeon.  It's a terrible shame that distinguished voice actor Mako is no longer with us, but at least he went out on a poignant note with the Tales of Ba Sing Se.  In this episode, Mako's character Uncle Iroh visited the grave of his long-dead son, and choked back tears as he sang his child's favorite lullaby.


So OK, like, there's this show about these three self-absorbed teenage girls, who aren't just girls, but are like totally spies and some junk.  And while they're at school trading insults with the class bitch, they fall through trap doors and stuff and are given assignments by some British guy who's, like, a total rip-off of Q from those James Bond movies.  He gives 'em these gnarly weapons made from all those things a girl's just got to have, like makeup mirrors and junk, and then they run around in super tight spandex and foil the plans of weird bad guys.  Like, how weird?  Probably about as weird as like, the pervs who thought the teenage spies would look hot in tight outfits.  Gross-o-rama!  If that's not bogus enough, you should like, see the artwork in this show.  It's from France and some junk, but they try to make it look like it's from Japan or something.  Yeah, like anyone's gonna be fooled by valley girls who look like Sailor Moon!  Totally Spies isn't grody to the max... I mean, the animation's pretty good and there's a lot of action, but girls who act like THAT in this day and age are major joanies.  Like, you know what I'm sayin'?


We are... we are... we aren't bad, actually.  I was pleasantly surprised by this French series, which offers a deeper storyline and more natural dialogue than other cartoons with a cast of adolescent girls.  When they're not hanging out at middle school, the stars of W.I.T.C.H. battle invading creatures from an alternate, medievel universe.  Each of the kids has the power to harness a natural element, but if their unusual striped stockings are any indication, all of them are in constant danger of being flattened by falling Kansas farmhouses.  All right, so they look a little ridiculous, but they know how to fight... and the interaction between these young heroes is considerably more geniune than what you'll find in Winx Club or Totally Spies.  The series isn't compelling enough to keep the average adult interested, but at the same time, you won't find yourself complaining when your kid sister or niece insists on watching it.

UPDATE:  Gargoyles producer Greg Weisman was at the helm of this series during its second season, which probably explains why it managed to elevate itself above other girl-centric action series like Winx Club.


I have an itching suspicion that Krypto the Super Dog was given life by a half-dozen businessmen with dollar signs dancing in front of their eyes, rather than a creative cartoonist with a clever idea.  Krypto is your usual story about a boy and his dog, except the dog is endowed with super powers and high intelligence.  After a few episodes, you'll wonder if there's any reason for the boy to exist.  After a couple more, you'll wonder what dark forces Warner Bros. used to bring Hanna-Barbera's animators from the 1980's back from the dead.  After a few more episodes, you'll grind your teeth at the canine bastardizations of famous DC superheroes like Batman.  And after that... who am I kidding?  You'll have stopped watching long before then.

UPDATE: The comment about undead Hanna-Barbera animators was eerily prophetic... as it turns out, Krypto's characters were designed by animation veteran Iwao Takamoto, who died shortly after the series debuted.  For the record, he died of a heart attack, not of acute embarrassment.


Everyone's favorite webslinger has gotten a lot more sophisticated in the twenty five years since this series debuted, but kids who grew up watching Spiderman and his Amazing Friends will swear by it to the bitter end.  Take me, for instance!  I'll admit that the show's got flaws when compared to the Spiderman cartoon of the mid 1990's.  It doesn't even try to adhere to the plot of the long-running comic... Spiderman and his sidekicks, the shapely Firestorm and wisecracking Iceman, just fight their way out of ridiculous situations, throwing a web here, a punchline there, and a random Marvel supervillain in jail at the end of each neatly wrapped up episode.  As compensation for the stiff writing and animation, the producers throw special guest stars like Tony Stark (sans the Iron Man suit) and The Incredible Hulk into the mix.  When even that's not enough to soothe the savage nitpicking of obsessed comic book geeks, they invite Spiderman co-creator and shameless camera hog Stan Lee to explain away all the plotholes, often creating new ones in the process.  With all this in mind, it doesn't sound like Spiderman and his Amazing Friends deserves such a high rating.  Perhaps it doesn't, but it does deliver a truckload of what the later Spiderman cartoons and even the recent films offer in agonizingly small amounts... comic relief.  Rather than endlessly whining about his dead uncle and love life, this Spiderman loves his job, fighting the forces of evil while dishing out one-liners like a spandex-clad Alan Alda.  Now THAT'S the Peter Parker I know!


You wouldn't expect much from this cartoon at first.  Just look at the artwork... it's as derivitive as it can possibly be without sparking a lawsuit from Nickelodeon.  Imagine what would happen if The Fairly Oddparents creator Butch Hartman was beaten over the head with Groo the Wanderer's heaviest club, and you have a pretty good idea of how Dave the Barbarian looks.  Even the pace of the show closely mirrors Nickelodeon's frantic cartoon comedy... but the humor is what sets Dave apart from its obvious inspiration.  The cowardly title character and his family of oddballs battle such hilariously ineffective villains as a scheming pig and a time-travelling nerd, ultimately winning the conflicts because they're just slightly less pathetic than their foes.  The voice acting is terrific, featuring some of the biggest names in the business, and the writing at its best is as refreshingly unpredictable as the first seasons of Ren and Stimpy and Spongebob Squarepants.  Dave the Barbarian may have been cut from the same cloth as Nick's best cartoons, but Disney used a pretty sharp pair of scissors to do it.


Anne McCaffrey novels and NASCAR racing collide in this unique computer rendered cartoon.  After a period of instability between humans and dragons, the two species have come to an understanding, and even race in competitions.  The reptiles in Dragon Booster aren't your typical winged beasts with fiery breath and a temper to match.  These creatures are scale-covered greyhounds; sleek, lanky, and unfailingly loyal to their riders.  However, that loyalty is tested when a villain and his scheming son try to spark a war between humans and dragons... a conflict that can only be prevented by a stable boy with a talent for racing and a secret identity.  As you may have already guessed, the fresh storyline is Dragon Booster's greatest asset.  It's an oasis of originality in a parched desert of redundant Japanese action shows and loud, obnoxious animated comedies.  On the downside, the visuals are every bit as disappointing as the premise is unique.  The producers tried to mimic the look of hand-drawn animation with minimal shading and thick outlines, but this approach just makes the characters look ugly and flat.  If the creators of Dragon Booster had gone all the way and used old-school artwork rather than settling for cost-effective rendering, the show could have been fantastic.  As it is, it's good enough to satisfy, but not good enough to truly impress.

RETROSPECT:  My word, what was I thinking?  There's no way this series deserves a six, regardless of the originality of the storyline.  Nerd Corps deserves credit for stepping up its game with the improved Storm Hawks, but even that has some of the quirks that made Dragon Booster hard to watch.  If I were making a call on this show today, I'd give it a five, and that's being generous.


Shinzo was originally supposed to debut five years ago on Fox, but Disney's acquisition of Haim Saban's properties put an end to that plan pretty quickly.  If Disney had been smart, they would have taken the opportunity to bury this predictable Japanese cartoon for good, rather than airing it well after the novelty of anime had worn off.  Maybe Shinzo would have been amusing in the year 2000, but now, it's just another white-capped wave in the endless sea of Japanese animation, a body of water which has slammed into our saturated shores for the past half decade.  Past a somewhat original storyline (a young human girl is protected by three alien warriors, who merge to form an especially powerful knight), Shinzo doesn't even try to distinguish itself from other Japanese cartoons.  You'll find the same effeminate villains, the same skill-enhancing cards, and the same colorful but largely inert artwork you've already seen in dozens of other shows from the far East.



The latest Power Rangers series to come out in the US (at least until SPD) evokes the original series, with everything from the high-school setting to the robotic dinosaurs. In fact, they even managed to add one of the original rangers (Tommy) to the program. Add to that the most ambitious villain I've seen in a long time anywhere (instead of simply conquering or destroying the world, the vile Mesogog wishes to revert it to a prehistoric state) with one of the best "evil hiss voices" that I've ever heard from anyone not named Tim Curry, and this series is a should-see for anyone who enjoys Power Rangers.



The town of Jefferton has a mayor who has a bizarre "open-door" policy, which involves his taking ideas from anybody who walks in from the street. Enter Tom Peters, the perennial "idea man" who has bizarre ideas filling his head to the point of rupture. With this combination, hilarity is bound to ensue.

The characters are cutouts of actual people in blue and white, never really moving their mouths. This makes it look sort of like something by Roy Liechtenstein. The writing by Bob Odenkirk of "Mr. Show" infamy is pretty decent. The plot of any given episode essentially goes like this: Tom has an idea, the Mayor implements this idea, the idea backfires in some way, hilarity ensues.

Surprisingly, given its place on Adult Swim, there seems to be little mature content or subject matter. In fact, the only instance of this show I saw that could be construed as being offensive in any way was an episode in which Tom wants to make a World War II-themed restaurant for educational purposes. The mayor's nephew-- a 27-year-old who, as the result of his inhaler, looks, sounds and acts like a 12-year-old-- hits Tom in the head with a brick after his inhaler gets knocked away accidentally, then hijacks the project, turning the restaurant into a Chuck E. Cheese clone, complete with singing animatronic Hitler and Tojo (and piano-playing animatronic FDR).

In all, the series is fairly amusing, by-the-numbers plot and bizarre art style notwithstanding. If you're up at that time of night, it wouldn't kill you to sit through an episode of it.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  I personally hated this series, but I hate Tim and Eric's Awesome Show Great Job! even more.  It's not so much a "show" as two guys making fools of themselves on camera.  Truly a series for the braindead, meme-hungry YouTube generation.

And now, it's time for the...


Ah yes, the cornocopia.  We don't think much about this woven, horn-shaped basket loaded to overflowing with delectable goodies.  At least, not until Thanksgiving, when we get the opportunity to hold it over our gaping mouths and empty its contents straight into our stomachs.

Then there's the day AFTER Thanksgiving.  That's when the major networks dispense with the usual afternoons full of game shows and Oprah, and instead air nothing but cartoons to pacify all those bored kids who've got three more days before school and a half pound of sugar coarsing through their bloodstreams.

Since you've got the day off too, you'll probably be watching a lot of these shows along with the kids.  Be warned, though... some of these animated series are so awful, they'll nearly make you bring up last night's helping of turkey and gravy.  After where it's been, I don't think anyone's going to want to see your meal make an encore appearance.

Lucky for you, The Gameroom Blitz is here to help.  We've got nearly a dozen cartoon reviews to help you decide what's safe for you to watch, and what will leave you scrambling for the bathroom... or, if you can't quite make it there, that plastic bag which used to hold all your Christmas shopping.  At least, I hope you emptied it out first.


I was sorely disappointed by the first original action series in the Jetix programming block, but at the same time I guess I should have seen it coming.  After all, the first cartoon created exclusively for Toon Disney was one of the worst animated series ever made, a soulless clone of The Powerpuff Girls with none of the creativity and even worse artwork.  Super Robot Monkey Team Hyper Force Go! (whew!) is marginally better than Teamo Supremo, but it's certainly no more original, swiping most of its ideas from Voltron and Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.  Instead of unearthing mighty lions or prehistoric beasts, however, the main character discovers five brightly colored, abstractly drawn monkeys, who pilot a boxy robot that looks like it was dug out of the bottom of a cereal box.  Doesn't quite have the same impact, does it?  That would be forgivable if Super Robot Monkey, er, whatever were a parody of giant robot cartoons like Megas XLR, but it's not brave enough to satirize the mech culture, and the fights aren't stylish enough to make you forgive the series for its timid approach to the subject matter.  This show provides so little incentive to watch it that you start to wonder why Disney didn't skip making it entirely and just fill its time slot with commercials.

RETROSPECT:  I think I was too rough on this one.  The animation sucks, but I've been told that it was designed that way to capture the spirit of classic Japanese cartoons like Astro Boy.  On top of that, it just seems like more thought was put into the plot (as jumbled and random as it is) than the simplistic storyline of a child-oriented cartoon like Sushi Pack.  If I were making the call today, I'd bump this one up to a five.


I want to like Atomic Betty, I really do.  This Canadian creation isn't all bad... the voice over acting fits the characters like a glove, and some of the characters are surprisingly original.  My personal favorite is IQ Maximus, a diabolical but bumbling intergalactic evildoer who's part Ming the Merciless and part Siamese cat.  He's got the intellect and subtlety that most cartoon villains lack, and you've just got to appreciate that.  On the other hand, Atomic Betty is kind of aimless despite the title character's frequent journeys to outer space.  The artwork, presumably done in Flash, lacks impact, and Atomic Betty's adventures on Earth, where she's just plain Betty, take a lot of the fun and excitement out of the show.  It's just not that fun to watch Betty try to keep her mother's spoiled cat from wrecking the house when you know she could be out saving the universe... and trading witty banter with IQ Maximus.  Did I mention that he's my favorite character in the show?


I imagine this show is going to piss off a lot of hardcore anime fans.  After all, it takes everything they hold dear and punches an eight foot wide hole through it.  Well, they may not appreciate the pointed satire of the giant robot culture, but I sure as hell do.  Megas XLR is truly a guilty pleasure if ever there was one... it almost seems sacriligeous to enjoy a series that pokes fun at such a cherished Japanese cartoon tradition.  Perhaps it's because a show like this one, which takes a fifty-foot mech and outfits it with nudie mudflaps, video game joysticks, and a hula-dancing bobblehead, is long overdue.  We've sat through twenty years of television depicting giant robots as invincible war machines, piloted by soldiers in tight spandex and silly helmets.  Nobody's ever stopped to consider just how ridiculous the concept really is, even after a decade of increasingly silly Power Rangers episodes.  Fortunately, the creators of Megas XLR have, taking the familiar formula, turning it upsidedown, and shaking it violently.  They've kept the enormous mech, but replaced the squeaky clean heroes with a couple of irresponsible slackers who seem more like they'd be at home in the film Clerks than fighting the galaxy's greatest threats.  But fight they do, frequently taking out not only the monsters, but half the state of New Jersey in the process.  It's this care-free and totally irreverent approach to the material that makes Megas XLR one of the most welcome cartoons on television today.  It's just a shame that it didn't come earlier, when the Power Rangers and Gundam were still hot properties.


Adult Swim has brought us yet another parody of a corny Hanna-Barbera cartoon from the 1960's.  This time, however, the satire is a great deal more subtle, bringing us an entirely new cast of characters rather than just stiffly animating the old ones.  There also was a lot more work put into this mockery of Jonny Quest than there was in either Space Ghost: Coast to Coast or Sealab 2021.  There's real animation this time, rather than the tilting of heads and the blinking of eyes.  Cartoon Network was able to get away with that in the past, but there's no way they could have done it here.  To be a truly effective parody of Jonny Quest, you've got to have exciting action sequences, and plenty of them.  The Venture Brothers doesn't skimp on the chase scenes or the violent fights, and they're all outrageously over the top, thanks to the Venture family's bodyguard.  Brock Samson is a former government agent with muscles of iron and pure testosterone flowing through his veins.  He's such an intimidating figure that the mere mention of his name would strike fear into his enemies... if he bothered to leave any of them alive.  Brock is definitely the star of this show, but that's not to say that there aren't any other great characters in The Venture Brothers.  Dr. Thaddeus Venture takes the emotionally distant father in Jonny Quest to the next level, being a self-centered, bitter man who spends more time popping pills than taking care of his two sons (they're both weenies, so you won't feel too sorry for them).  Then there are the ingeniously ineffective bad guys... with names like Girl Hitler, Underbite, and The Monarch, you probably know what to expect from them (here's a hint: not much, especially with Brock around).

UPDATE:  The second season of Venture Bros. was even better than the first!  David Bowie's mock appearance on Showdown at Cremation Creek (loaded with loving references to his past work) makes me wonder why the real-life singer decided to contribute his voice to Spongebob Squarepants instead.


The television adaptation of Sonic's latest adventures is a success, but not due to its own merit.  The truth is, the storylines are pretty bland, and the action isn't nearly as exciting as just playing the games on the Dreamcast or GameCube.  However, when compared to previous Sonic cartoons, particularly DIC's embarassing The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic X truly excels.  The artwork is gorgeous, with brightly colored, sharply drawn characters streaking through lush forests and bustling cities at the speed of sound.  High-quality, hand-drawn animation like this is truly welcome at a time when most studios settle for third-rate computer rendering, or even worse, Flash.  The characters' personalities are accurately depicted in Sonic X, as well... Knuckles is consumed by his distrust of Sonic, Robotnik is as pompous as he is bulbous, and Tails is cheek-pinchingly adorable, even if he doesn't contribute much to the storyline.  In other words, he's exactly like he was in the video games.  Sonic X doesn't compare favorably to original action cartoons like Megas XLR or Teen Titans, but it's miles ahead of other kids' shows based on popular video games.


There's nothing like a little age regression to take the wind out of an arrogant junior detective's sails.  That's the lesson learned by Case Closed: One Truth Prevails.  When Jimmy Kudo stumbles across members of an organized crime syndicate while  solving a murder, he's knocked out and force-fed a pill containing a lethal poison untracable by an autopsy.  At least, that's what the goons thought they were giving him.  It turns out that the pill, still in its prototype form, turns back the clock on its victim, transforming the cocky teenager into a small child.  Considerably more vulnerable than before, he adopts an alias and gets adopted by his former girlfriend and her incompetant, booze-swilling father, who just happens to be a professional detective.  It doesn't take long before Jimmy, as pint-sized Conan Edegawa, secretly solves all of Richard Moore's cases for him, using his cunning and a handful of inventions from his father's brainy friend. 

It's a promising scenerio that charges out of the starting gate but runs out of steam near the finish line.  The first two dozen episodes of Case Closed were exceptional, featuring brilliantly conceived crimes, a host of suspects with well-developed personalities, and the occasional red herring to keep you guessing.  However, as the series progressed, the once fizzy formula grew flat, with plot devices that went from merely tiresome to downright infuriating.  After dozens upon dozens of cases, I don't buy that even dimwitted Richard Moore would remain blissfully unaware that Conan hits him with a tranquilizer dart just before a suspect is revealed as the murderer.  Any detective worth his magnifying glass and pipe should know that darts leave marks, and anasthesia that strong can be dangerous when abused.  Yet, Conan tranqs the fool in nearly every episode, unconcerned that the next dose could be Richard's last. 

Case Closed was recently cancelled on American television, so we'll never know how the series was resolved.  However, I can't help but think that the final episode will end with the little brat being hauled away for manslaughter after Detective Moore dies of an overdose.


Teen Titans strikes an awkward balance between a silly, Japanese-flavored comedy and a more serious, Bruce Timm-inspired animated drama.  The show's best moments happen when it tilts toward the latter rather than the former... the fight scenes are both clever and exciting, and the interaction between the heroes (including team leader Robin, creepy goth chick Raven, brawny tech expert Cyborg, and shapeshifting comic relief Beast Boy) helps define their personalities and adds dimension to what would otherwise be a straightfoward action show.  However, all this is regularly interrupted by attempts to lighten the mood with sight gags taken straight out of an episode of Sailor Moon.  The stars frequently shed their more realistic physiques for short, marshmellowy frames when arguing with each other... this technique, known as "superdeforming", can be an effective means of breaking tension with comedy, but it feels desperate and artificial in a television show created by Americans, featuring characters from a Western comic book series.  Teen Titans is still worth watching, but after a couple of episodes, you'll find yourself wishing that the writers would pick a direction for the series and stick with it.


I could blame Super Milk-Chan's shortcomings on its stiff English translation (faithful to the Japanese script even at the cost of humor and comprehension), but I can't help but think there's more to it than this.  I have to believe that the show just wasn't that great to begin with, even in its native Japan.  The voice acting is poor, with the same kind of emotionless script reading that was common in anime from the early 1990's.  The animation isn't much better, using simplistic, largely inert artwork along with the occasional live-action film clip.  Worst of all, the storylines just never go anywhere.  They mirror the plot of The Powerpuff Girls, with an inept politician frequently calling the title character, a small blue-haired baby, and begging her to battle the forces of evil.  He would have been better off putting Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup on his speeddial, because Milk-Chan doesn't seem interested in doing anything other than sucking her bottle, welching on her rent, and reminding her caretaking robot that it's a "dumbass".  You can only imagine how old this formula gets after you've seen it in three straight episodes.


There are a lot of gross, disturbing, and just plain awful things in this animated reality series, but what's most offensive is that absolutely none of the jokes in Drawn Together are funny.  You'll be shocked and horrified by the antics of the show's eight cartoon stereotypes, all living in the same cramped penthouse, but you won't be laughing.  Not even a little.  Perhaps it's because the blackhearted writers go too far, desecrating the audience's childhood memories by turning Superman into a sex slave and making a full course meal out of Snow White's faithful animal sidekicks (video game fans don't even WANT to know what they've done to Pikachu or Link from the Legend of Zelda).  Then again, it may just be that there's no purpose to the rampant cruelty and cartoon character assassination in Drawn Together.  While South Park can take crude humor and use it to make a statement, the only thing Drawn Together seems capable of saying is this... "Hi, I'm written by assholes!"

UPDATE:  Drawn Together didn't improve much in its second and third seasons, going from hateful and disgusting to merely mean-spirited and tasteless.  I don't know if the less objectionable content was a direct result of the writers tempering their cruelty, or if I've just become desensitized by shock humor in the three years that this series was on the air.  Either way, the show became slightly more watchable by the time it was canceled.


Ever find yourself pining for those golden, olden days when your best friend in the whole wide world was eight feet tall, covered in spots, and invisible to everyone but yourself?  If so, you're going to love this cartoon from Craig McCracken, the creator of the Powerpuff Girls.  It stars an ordinary kid named Mac and his buddy Bloo, a mischevious little blob who bears an uncanny resemblence to Pac-Man's next lunch.  When Mac's mother gets fed up with Bloo (unlike the imaginary friends in our world, these ones are very real to everyone), she informs the boy that it's time his pal pack up his bags and move elsewhere.  Fortunately for him, there's Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends, a halfway house for made up monsters whose creators have outgrown them.  They remain there until kids with less vivid imaginations come to adopt them, but Bloo is so incredibly obnoxious that there's no hope of him finding a new family.  That's good news for Mac, who isn't quite ready to let him go, but bad news for everyone else in the house, who has to put up with his sharp tounge and knack for getting into trouble.  As you might have guessed from this scenerio, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends is a cartoon that will appeal most to younger viewers.  However, even adults will appreciate the clever storylines (there's a parody of unwitting Internet "celebrities" like the Star Wars kid that has to be seen to be believed) and the cast of characters.  Almost everyone can relate to at least one of the imaginary friends, which range from a wildly emotional, Spanish-speaking monster straight out of a Maurice Sendak book to the apparent offspring of a legendary basketball player and a mistreated Tickle Me Elmo doll.

UPDATE:  Hard to watch the second time around, due to the hyperactivity of the characters.  There was a brief parody of the show on The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy called "Fister's House for Crazy Weirdo Made-Up People," where the unbridled energy of the madly bouncing creatures was so intense that it caused the house to explode.  At the time, the satire was hilarious.  Now, it's hard to distinguish from the actual series.


The problem with cartoons, it seems, is that just about anyone who's rich and famous can get one just by asking for it.  What's even worse is that, for the most part, these cartoons are created for just one purpose... to soothe the savage egos of the celebrities who inspired them.  This was the case with Little Rosie (a show whose title was changed to accommodate a spelling error on one of Tom Arnold's tattoos), B.R.U.N.O. the Spy (starring Bruce "I see dead careers" Willis), and Hammerman, and it most definitely applies here.  Instead of washed up rappers or obese, emasculating hags, Hi! Hi! Puffy Ami Yumi stars two Japanese recording artists who are best described as a dull-edged Shonen Knife.  In real life, these two women are nearly indistinguishable from one another, and I doubt that anyone would go to the trouble of figuring out which one is which.  However, in their cartoon debut, one is cute and demure, the other is aggressive and hot-tempered, and both don't sound anywhere NEAR Japanese.  Fortunately, their living stereotype of a manager (most likely on loan from Super Dave Osborne) is Japanese enough for not only them, but the entire continent of Asia as well.  The trio travel from town to town in their happy fun mega joy bus, performing in each city while holding down odd jobs.  Apparently, their music alone isn't enough to pay the bills, and after you hear it you'll understand why they spend as much time making taffy and performing in circuses as they do making cliche'd J-pop albums.  What you won't understand is how anyone on the art staff could get paid for their work... Hi! Hi! Puffy Ami Yumi looks primitive and ugly, even by the low standards of Flash animation.  Fortunately, like the many ego-driven celebrity cartoons before it, Puffy Ami Yumi won't last long.  After all, Cartoon Network's gotta make room for the exciting debut of George Clooney Wars!

The new season of Saturday morning cartoons wasn't quite as new as I'd hoped.  Fox introduced a handful of (mostly forgettable) new series, while the WB was content to stick with last season's line-up.  Since so little has changed, I'll just review a bunch of random cartoons that haven't yet been covered on the site.


Everyone who complained that the original Turtles cartoon was too silly and that its storyline bore only a faint resemblence to the comics created by Eastman and Laird will be overjoyed by this new series.  However, the folks who actually LIKED the  cartoon from the 80's may not be as thrilled to discover that their favorite green ninja teens are taking their jobs a lot more seriously.  Villains like Shredder, who supplied little more than comic relief in the first series, are more geniunely threatening this time around, and many of the characters have either been changed to more accurately represent their comic book counterparts, or removed entirely.  Still, even fans of the original will have to agree that the new Turtles cartoon is superior.  The artwork's more detailed, the fight scenes are exciting and dynamic, and there's better character development... each of the heroes has his own distinct personality, unlike the first show where every one of the turtles acted like skateboarders who fell head first to the pavement one too many times.

STATIC SHOCK (third season)

In its first two seasons, Static Shock did the unthinkable, featuring a young black superhero while avoiding all the dumb stereotypes and ethnic pandering that usually comes with the territory.  The result was an entertaining cartoon that everyone could enjoy.  Unfortunately, the WB recently changed all that, deciding (in its infinite lack of wisdom) that the show wasn't "black" enough and that it needed to be retooled to focus on its target audience.  These condescending and completely unnecessary changes have made Static Shock a much more painful experience.  Watch as Static abandons his old costume and tries on some fly new threads!  Listen to the funky hip-hop beats that spice up all of Static's fights!  Check out Static as he rescues brat rapper L'il Romeo from the forces of evil and returns to his homeland to meet an African superhero!  Run from the second story window of my house as I proceed to throw my television set through it!  Ugh.  Perhaps the producers think they're "keepin' it real" by giving the show a more urban flavor, but in my opinion, the first two seasons of Static Shock were a lot more honest, and certainly less desperate.


Just when you thought the Power Rangers had run out of power entirely, along comes Ninja Storm to turn up the juice.  The latest extension of the long-running series is a welcome return to the Power Rangers' roots... the writing is campy, the pace is brisk, and that obnoxious ecological theme that made the previous series so unbearable has been thrown into the nearest garbage can and hauled away to the city dump.  It's almost as if the producers realized what a collosal mistake they'd made with Animal Force and decided to start from the beginning.  They made a wise choice... the Power Rangers haven't been this much silly fun since the days of Bulk and Skull.


Oh, look... the 70's are back!  Again.  The decade that would not die has inspired more than its fair share of television shows, and Funky Cops, a broad parody of cheesy crime dramas like Starsky & Hutch, is the latest of the bunch.  As you might expect, the cartoon is just as stylish as the decade that inspired it, but it's also pretty flawed.  There aren't many memorable jokes, and the combination of traditional animation and cel-shaded computer rendering is even clumsier here than it was in Kirby: Right Back At 'Ya.  Still, I've got to give the creators of Funky Cops credit... it had to take guts to sell Fox on the idea of a cartoon series that takes place before most of its viewers were even born.


All right, all right... I may have misjudged this one.  When I first saw commercials for this show, horrible visions of Bebe's Kids and dozens of brainless UPN sitcoms danced through my head.  However, even with its afro-topped babies and a sassy old granny named Sugar Mama (groan...), The Proud Family really isn't that bad.  It's technically a cartoon, complete with lively, colorful artwork, but the show feels very much like a sitcom thanks to storylines that are better structured and more down-to-earth than your typical animated series.  It's also got a more relaxed pace than many of today's cartoons, making it a pleasant alternative to the hyperactivity of Dexter's Laboratory and The Fairly Oddparents.


You'd think from the title that this was Nickelodeon's answer to the underappreciated Whatever Happened To Robot Jones?.  It turns out that it actually has a lot more in common with a much more popular Cartoon Network series, The Powerpuff Girls.  Once again, Nick stole animators from its rival to create a cartoon that could only be described as "suspiciously familiar".  The title character, an unusually cheerful android, is more versatile than Blossom, Buttercup, or Bubbles, and she's also got two human friends (a small, whiny brat and his older brother, who somehow reminds me of Frye from the late, lamented Futurama) who supply the show with some comic relief.  Past that, it would seem that there's very little difference between living your life as a teenage robot or as three superpowered kindergarteners.


Modern day revivals of the Looney Toons franchise rarely ever work.  For every minor success like Tiny Toon Adventures, you're left with a steaming pile of disasters such as Baby Looney Toons and Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries.  The problem in a nutshell is that even when these shows aren't made just to cash in on a lucrative license, the writers and producers just aren't on the same wavelength as the creators of the original cartoons.  They can't reproduce the zany physical comedy of Chuck Jones or Robert McKimson, so they instead exaggerate the characters' already over the top personalities and throw in dozens of references to modern pop culture.  Duck Dodgers is a perfect example... it's based on the futuristic scuffles between Daffy Duck and his archenemy Marvin the Martian, but it lacks the clever sight gags and spontaneity of the original cartoons.  The writers thought it was much more important to repeatedly remind us that Daffy is a self-absorbed loser, a joke that was worn thin years before there even WAS a Cartoon Network.  I'm not saying that Duck Dodgers is a complete failure... it can be funny at times, but often times, that humor feels forced.  When Daffy says goodbye to an obsequious robot assistant which sacrifices itself to save him, you're not sure if it's intended as an homage to the woefully ignored film The Iron Giant or just crass product placement by the same company that released it.

RETROSPECT:  I was ambivalent about Duck Dodgers at first, but warmed up to the show in a hurry after watching its Samurai Jack parody, Samurai Quack.  This episode let the air out of Genndy Tartakovski's pretentious action series, lampooning everything from the overused split-screen effects to Jack's constantly revealed and evidently absorbent undergarments. Today, I'd probably give Duck Dodgers a seven, if just for that episode.



PROS: Possibly one of the most humorous and "horribly wrong" shows on TV.
CONS: The suits couldn't handle the controversy.

Very rarely does a show come along that amuses, educates and horrifies the viewer.  That has you laughing your sides apart one minute and shaking your head in disbelief the next.  That has the ability to amuse you as it offends you.

Yes, my friends, Family Guy is that show.

In 1999, some argued that the Simpsons was getting stale.  Enter Seth MacFarlane, a former Hanna-Barbera and Disney employee, to bring his own fractured take on the American family.  What he made was one of the most star-crossed prime-time cartoons in TV history.

Family Guy chronicled the tales of the Griffins, led by Peter, the ignoramus father, but also included his loving wife, Lois; his dim-witted son, Chris (voiced by Seth Green); his self-conscious daughter Meg (voiced by both Lacey Chabert of Wild Thornberries fame and Mila Kunis of That '70s Show fame); his evil genius infant son, Stewie; and his intelligent, talking dog, Brian.

Each episode of the series would have multiple plot lines going on at any given time, such as "Stewie's first birthday" coinciding with "Meg's desperate quest for acceptance leading her to join a cult."  Often, the storylines will tie together, such as in this one, where Peter retrieves Meg from the cult to go to Stewie's party, but the cult leader follows them home, leading a paranoid Stewie (who believes that his parents are conspiring to put him back into the womb) to kill the cult leader... off-screen, of course.

Also, the episodes each had a certain bit of wrongness to them.  Such examples as Stewie saying "(leeringly) I smell a dirty diaper!... (disgusted) My God, why does that turn me on?!" to a baby girl and the infamous "Road to Rhode Island" episode's scene with Stewie singing showtoons to airport security, accounting for one of the show's many falls from Fox's prime-time schedule.  This show is not for the easily offended or uptight, believe me.

However, one of the funniest things about the show was the out-of-left-field nature of some of the humor.  Such things as everyone saying "Oh no!" in response to Peter being sent to jail, only to be followed by the Kool-Aid Man breaking through a wall and shouting "Oh yeah!" come to mind.  But one of the most out-there examples of this humor involved Lois beating up aggressive New Yorkers who occupied the town for the annual "leaf change."  This consisted of Peter provoking the New Yorkers to attack, then Lois (a black-belt) fending them off.  The climax of this scene involves Peter saying "Krypton sucks," thus incurring the wrath of the three evil Kryptonians from Superman II who banish them to the Phantom Zone.  Pure left-field humor here, people.  Pure left-field.

However, the show was quite star-crossed.  It proved too controversial for Fox (try and figure that one out), who pulled the show numerous times.  The "final straw" came in an episode called "When You Wish upon a Weinstein," in which Peter wishes for a Jewish person to come along and help him with his financial troubles.  The episode had some interesting moments, including Peter marveling at many famous Jewish people... Bill Nye, half of Lenny Kravitz, and finally, Optimus Prime.  Yes, that Optimus Prime.  The episode ends after an aborted attempt to get Chris a bar mitzvah in Vegas, after which they are accosted by vengeful nuns.  That said, the episode really wasn't that offensive; I think it was more of a "third strike for stealing a loaf of bread" situation.

All in all, Family Guy was one of those shows that really forces you to laugh.  It can be seen either on Cartoon Network at 11:30pm Sunday-Thursday or weekdays on TBS (yes, that TBS) at 2:30pm (yes, that 2:30pm).  Try not to miss it.  It's quality stuff.



PROS: It's Transformers, it has Starscream, it has Cyclonus, it has old-school Optimus Prime, it has a bad-ass Megatron
CONS: Minicons seem too much like Pokemon, "out-of-character" alerts abound, they made a Constructicon into an Autobot, bad animation, annoying kids, one of the Decepticons is called "Ironhide" in the Japanese version.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Exhibit B in the case of Transformers v. Japanese Post-Beast Wars Series.  This evidence displays that the defendant brutally mangled continuity, severely damaged the personalities of many of the characters, and most importantly, may have killed the reputation of Transformers as a whole.

The show introduces a race of robots called "Minicons."  These creatures are really neither good nor evil; they are mere tools for those who wield them.  They came to Earth to hide from those who wished to use them--the Transformers.  Unfortunately for them, the Transformers also came to Earth.

Certain things about the show made it appealing to me upon first blush.  First of all, they had the old-school Optimus Prime (aka Convoy).  After seeing him as a gorilla, a white lion (in Beast Wars 2nd), a mammoth (in Beast Wars Neo), and a fire-truck (in Robots in Disguise), it's good to see the producers get back to basics.  That brings me to another good point about this show-- it has Starscream.  True, with Chris Latta occupying a pine box, it's not the same, but it's nevertheless nice to have him back.  Also, for the hard-core enthusiast, they have Cyclonus (who was one of the "new blood" introduced after the movie).  Megatron's looking pretty awesome, as well... he transforms into a tank.  Meanwhile, Optimus Prime can actually merge with his trailer to become "Super" Optimus Prime; something that hadn't really been done in the old Transformers series.

However, there is so much wrong with this series that it scars my very being to recollect it.  First of all, the Minicons.  They seem like Pokemon or Yugioh cards... whoever has the most and strongest will win.  Secondly, the "out-of-character" characters.  Cyclonus is a wimp, Starscream is too sycophantic, even legitimately apologizing to Megatron after wounding him in battle.  Thirdly, the betrayal of what we know.  Scavenger, a Constructicon from the G1 series, appears here.  After a few episodes, his true nature is revealed... as an Autobot.  This is bad.  Very bad.  Also, Demolishor, the requisite "big dumb bad guy" is called "Ironhide" in the Japanese version-- Ironhide originally being one of Optimus' most trusted lieutenants.

Anything else?  Yes.  The animation.  It's as bad as Robots in Disguise, if not worse.  We're talking "can't move and talk at the same time" here.  Also, the annoying kids.  For all the bitching people did about Beast Wars, at least it didn't have annoying kids.  Also, Terrorsaur was a better Starscream than this Starscream (though some would argue that Waspinator played the part better later on, heh).

In short, I feel a void in my heart where my love of all things Transformers used to be.  Don't get me wrong; I still love Transformers.  Just not "all things" Transformers.  And especially not this iteration thereof.


If the new season of cartoons will be remembered for anything, it'll be that it's introduced more changes to the major networks' approach to Saturday morning television than any other year... perhaps even more than when NBC said goodbye to all of its cartoons and replaced them with news reports and teen sitcoms like Saved by the Bell.  ABC's One Saturday Morning is now just ABC Kids, and many of the series you remember from last year have been retired along with the old format.  Fox has taken things one step further, starting entirely from scratch with a new block of shows created by 4Kids Entertainment, the producers of Warner Bros.' Pokemon series.  CBS, still adjusting to the Viacom acquisition, has evolved its own Saturday morning schedule, adding Nickolodeon series with a broader appeal than Nick Jr. shows like Little Bear and Blue's Clues.  The WB is the only network that hasn't completely overhauled its Saturday morning format, and even they've swapped out half their cartoons for new series.  No matter where you turn, and what station you turn to, the viewer's going to find a very different Saturday morning than the one they remembered just weeks ago.

The most surprising thing about Fox's new line-up is that, despite outward appearances, it really hasn't changed all that much.  All the shows are new, and yet they're really not... Ultraman Tiga is clearly a substitute for the unceremoniously dumped Power Rangers: Wild Force, and Fighting Foodons fills the void (or perhaps the empty stomach?) left by the absence of Digimon, Fox's first attempt to draw kids away from the Pokemon fad.  Speaking of Pokemon, Kirby is not too far removed from his Nintendo cousin Pikachu, babbling like a toddler while reminding us constantly that he is, in fact, Kirby.  The only series in the Fox Box that doesn't seem totally derivitive is the refreshingly funny Ultimate Muscle.  It's yet another Japanese series in a cartoon block almost entirely dominated by them, but Ultimate Muscle is soooo much fun to watch, and features a wrestling theme that hasn't yet been bled to death by the major networks.  It's almost enough to redeem Fox's new line-up... almost.  Even with Ultimate Muscle around, it's this writer's opinion that Fox's alliance with 4Kids Entertainment is a monster of a mistake even Paul Bunyan couldn't fit in his pocket.  Fox was better off staying independant... when every single show in a Saturday morning line-up is produced by the same company rather than a variety of them, that company's approach is bound to get old and tired quickly.  When a single show stops pulling in ratings, a network can easily cut it loose, but having to dump three hours' worth of shows will be far more inconvenient.

Both ABC and CBS have taken similarly proprietary approaches to their Saturday morning series... every cartoon on ABC is produced by Disney, and all the shows on CBS were pulled straight from Viacom's other network Nickolodeon.  CBS's strategy is the most cynical of any of the networks... regurgitating their already overplayed shows on another network doesn't make them any more appealing.  ABC fares better... they've created a wide variety of new shows, each with their own specific audience.  However, there's still a noticable lack of creativity in the animation itself... The Proud Family, Kim Possible, and Fillmore all use variations of the heavily outlined, stylized, and exaggerated artwork made famous by the comic Penny Arcade.  In addition to this, every series but the frankly unnecessary Power Rangers: Wild Force deals with life at school, a depressingly familiar subject to its target audience.

That leaves us with the WB, which remains independant but nevertheless has replaced several of its own series with Warner Bros. properties.  Scooby-Doo's been revived, and for the first time in twenty years, it does not suck.  I repeat... the new Scooby-Doo series DOES NOT SUCK.  You may now scrape your jaw off the floor, as well as anything else that may have hit the ground after you heard this news.  What's New, Scooby-Doo? is largely the same as the original Scooby-Doo series, but it's fun to watch the cast retrace their well-worn steps in a series that's relevant to both adults and younger viewers.  Warner Bros. has also turned Osmosis Jones into a television series, putting the same microscopic characters in a new, younger host (it's best not to contemplate how they got there).  Apparently, they're convinced the concept still has legs, even though the film did almost as much business as Ralph Bakshi's animated flop Cool World.  Finally, there's a cartoon called Mucha Lucha which, like Ultimate Muscle, hopes to spark kids' diminishing interest in professional wrestling.  This lightweight series, featuring an unlikable combination of stereotyped characters and simplistic Dexter's Laboratory inspired artwork, has about as much chance of drawing an audience as the quickly forgotten Los Luchadores.  On the plus side, at least the characters aren't fighting the Taco Bell dog... yet.

It's always exciting for a cartoon fan like myself to get up early in the morning to catch the newest animated series.  Unfortunately, this season's shows, with only a few exceptions, gives the average viewer the impression that the networks are even more desperate to wring money from kids, or have just stopped trying.  This season has brought with it a lot of big changes, but I suspect that even they won't compare to the nasty surprises waiting in the future.


BEST NEW SERIES ON THE WB: What's New, Scooby-Doo?
"ARE YOU STILL HERE?" AWARD: Power Rangers: Wild Force
"GO AWAY!  WHY WON'T YOU GO AWAY?!" AWARD: Yu-Gi-Oh!: Buy More Cards
PC CRAP AWARD FOR FORCED SENSITIVITY: tie, The Proud Family, Teamo Supremo, and Pelswick
BEST HERO SINCE DAN HIBIKI AWARD: Kid Muscle, the cowardly star of Ultimate Muscle
SAME AS THE OLD BOSS AWARD: Kirby, for being Pikachu (new color and shape notwithstanding)
RENDERED UNWATCHABLE AWARD: Kirby: Right Back At 'Ya, for pointlessly blending hand drawn art with computer rendering
CUTIE Q AWARD FOR MOST ADORABLE NEW CARTOON CHARACTER: tie, Claudia and Pai Tin from Fighting Foodons
TOY PLOY AWARD FOR TRANSPARENT MARKETING: tie, Kirby: Right Back At 'Ya and Yu-Gi-Oh!: Buy More Cards
FUNNIEST NEW SERIES: Ultimate Muscle (you can probably tell that this one's gonna get a lot of positive awards)
"WHATEVER" AWARD FOR INDIFFERENT PROGRAMMING: Viacom, for spreading its overplayed Nick cartoons on CBS like the fetid fertilizer they are 
"WOW, IT DOESN'T SUCK!" AWARD: What's New, Scooby-Doo?
"WOW, IT DOES SUCK!" AWARD: Teamo Supremo
LOST IN THE CROWD AWARD: Stargate: Infinity, for being the sole American series in the Fox Box schedule
"ME TOO, ME TOO!" AWARD: Mucha Lucha, which could be as enjoyable as Ultimate Muscle if it really, really tried.  No, not REALLY.
NOW YOU CAN IGNORE THEM AS CARTOONS AWARD: tie, Stargate: Infinity and Ozzy and Drix
BEST CELEBRITY VOICE AWARD: Ricardo Montelbahn from Kim Possible.  In second place: Hector Elizondo from Mucha Lucha
"NUTS AND GUM, TOGETHER AT LAST" AWARD FOR WORST CARTOON CONCEPT: Fighting Foodons, a Pokemon rip-off with monsters made of food.  Yes, monsters made of food.
BEST NEW SERIES: tie, Kim Possible and Ultimate Muscle
WORST NEW SERIES: Without a shadow of a doubt, Teamo Supremo


Kid Muscle's probably the worst excuse for a hero you can imagine... he's a whiny, neurotic coward who comically overreacts to just about everything.  He's also one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoon characters!  He's just bursting with hilariously overwraught emotion... whoever is doing his voice should be paid double for it, because he's definitely putting in twice the effort.  Kid Muscle isn't the only reason this series, based on the Bandai toys from the 80's, is such a guilty pleasure.  Ultimate Muscle is silly, scatological, and even vaguely disturbing at times (I know it's wrestling, but do we have to see so many shots of men's heads tucked between their opponents' thighs?), but you can't help but laugh at some of the jokes.  When you don't see them coming, they're even funnier, and Ultimate Muscle has a talent for surprising you with humor and bizarre characters you wouldn't expect from a Saturday morning cartoon.  Ultimate Muscle is trying very hard to make pro wrestling the next big thing in children's television, and for its sake I hope it succeeds.


Fox cooked up one heck of an obvious Pokemon clone with Fighting Foodons... the title character Chase even sounds just like Ash, and there are more than enough silly (and suspiciously familiar) puns to go around.  There's even a villain who sneaks around trying to thwart Chase's every move... Claudia doesn't seem to have any reason for antagonizing our hero and his sidekicks, but on the plus side, this slender pink cat girl looks a lot better in womens' clothing than James from Team Rocket ever will.  Both the heroes and their mutual enemy can summon monsters which fight for them and spend a lot of time saying their own names.  It would seem that the only difference between Fighting Foodons and Pokemon is that the monsters are made from things you'd find on a restaurant menu.  This actually makes the series even harder to take seriously than Pokemon, because there's no way anyone's going to be intimidated by a monster truck made of spaghetti or a reptile who quite literally has a piehole for a mouth.  Fortunately, the animation in Foodons is just as bright, colorful, and attractive as it is in Pokemon.  Nevertheless, it's the most shameless Pokemon clone yet, and we really didn't need even more of these shows.  Your best move would be to avoid Fighting Foodons so the networks won't be encouraged to outdo themselves with an even more blatant ripoff (although frankly, I don't see how this would be possible).


Hey, whaddaya know!  This new Scooby-Doo series isn't bad... which is a big surprise considering the last twenty years of shows.  There are no unnecessary sidekicks you're guaranteed to hate and no ridiculous new storylines to upset the dynamic... just Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, and his friends, putting a slightly new spin on what they've always done since the sixties.  There's more dimension to the artwork, everyone's wardrobe has been redesigned, and faster paced rock tracks have replaced the campy 60's tunes in the chase scenes... and that's pretty much all that's been changed.  It's a familiar formula, but we know all too well what happens when Scoob and the gang stray from it.

UPDATE:  Yeah, we know what happens when Scooby-Doo strays from the formula first established in 1969.  Things like Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get A Clue! happen.  In case you haven't seen that show (and I don't recommend that you start), it stripped away half the cast and replaced them with a dimwitted cyborg doctor and Shaggy's even more stoned uncle.  It actually made me nostalgic for The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, Flim-Flam and all. 


I'm sure Fox was overjoyed to get this cartoon, because in addition to being based on a Nintendo video game, it's just as silly and inane as the WB's megahit Pokemon.  And just like with Pokemon, Kirby: Right Back At 'Ya has killed any enthusiasm I might have had for the games before the cartoon debuted.  You've got to love all of the artistic liberties they've taken with the storyline, too... Kirby's now a brain damaged Pikachu wannabee, lacking his assertiveness but retaining the voice that made Pikachu the object of hatred for thousands of adults.  King Dedede is no longer merely "naughty", but an oppressive, selfish bastard with a distinct Foghorn Leghorn accent.  In addition to all this, the producers have added a lot of unnecessary new characters, including two badly colored, abstractly drawn brats, dozens of clueless townspeople, and a disagreeable snail sidekick for Dedede who again, strongly resembles another character (in this case, The Big Cheese from Samurai Pizza Cats) but isn't nearly as lively or likable.  They've somehow managed to squeeze (Fo)lolo and (Fa)lala from The Adventures of Lolo into this mess, as well... fortunately, they're smart enough to stay quiet and keep from completely ruining their own reputations.  Thanks, Nintendo.  You know, I USED to like Kirby a lot, before you raped the character of his dignity with this desperate marketing ploy disguised as a cartoon.  No more.


This series was originally designed for Toon Disney, the cable network that became television's official cartoon landfill after Cartoon Network got its act together and improved. ABC should have kept it there.  This is not only the worst animated series in ABC's fall 2002 schedule, but the worst show in ANY network's schedule and the worst cartoon I've watched in a very long time.  I'd like to say that Lame-o Supremo tries to capitalize on the success of the Powerpuff Girls, but the fact is that it doesn't TRY at all.  The jokes are few and far between, replaced by the constant use of idiotic catchphrases with absolutely no hope of catching on.  Hell, I've heard flatulence that has a better chance of being enthusiastically repeated by today's youth.  The characters are totally unoriginal, fitting perfectly into various racial categories... there's the cocky, assertive white leader, the Latino brat with mucho attitude, and the perky Asian girl.  Will you care about any of them?  Thanks to their wafer thin, totally predictable personalities, probably not.  To put it simply, anyone who likes the Powerpuff Girls will hate Lame-o Supremo.  Anyone who hates Powerpuff Girls will hate this even more.  Guess where I fall into this equation?

RETROSPECT:  Hmm... nope, still sucks.


Power Rangers made an effort to appeal to older children in its later years, but it never went quite this far.  Ultraman Tiga features more complex storylines, older actors, a darker soundtrack, and less colorful sets and costumes.  Another big difference between this show and Saban's former cash cow is that it features the original Japanese actors, dubbed over with sometimes cool but mostly silly voices.  Aside from all that, well, it's still just a battle royale between men in ridiculous spandex outfits and giant monsters.  While Ultraman Tiga does all this better than the newest Power Rangers series, it's not as fun to watch as Power Rangers: Time Force, or for that matter, Ultra 7, the ancient Ultraman series Ted Turner brought to the United States in the late 70's.


The probable end of the Power Rangers series is much like the beginning... the characters have all went back to piloting animals just like in the good old days.  Unfortunately, the producers (which may or may not include Haim Saban) have included elements from another kids' series, Captain Planet... the Rangers are now environmentally aware heroes, fighting monsters born inside landfills and toxic waste dumps.  As you might imagine, these dumpster demons are the worst Power Rangers villains yet... it's probably only a matter of time before the Rangers are battling fast food leftovers or Dyperion, the disposable despot pieced together from soiled undergarments.  As far as I'm concerned, the entire Power Rangers series needs to be thrown in the trash.  There was a reason Fox sold this dried out husk of a franchise to ABC... there was absolutely no more money they could squeeze from it.



Gainax has made some strange productions over the years.  Their most famous one, of course, is Neon Genesis Evangelion.  The deep and sometimes confusing series is loved by many and hated by many, but everybody who has seen it has some sort of opinion on it.

Knowing this, one can go into FLCL (pronounced fu-ri-ku-ri) with a certain expectation that the anime will blow your mind.  I sat through all six episodes in a marathon session with some friends at school, and I can honestly say that it did blow my mind (along with the main character's).

The story goes like this: Naota, a young boy whose older brother went to America to pursue his dream of becoming a big-time baseball player, is an ordinary boy with an extraordinary life.  His father is an otaku (anime fanatic) who runs a grocery store, his grandfather is a classic "dirty old man," and his only acquaintance seems to be his brother's girlfriend Mamimi, who seems to tolerate him mostly to "take the edge" off her sexual appetite (nothing serious--nothing beyond ear-nibbling, at least).  Their hometown is fairly dull, with the exception of a giant iron-like structure that looms ominously in the outskirts.  But one day, everything changes.

A pink-haired psychopathic crazy woman runs Naota down with a moped.  She then resuscitates him and bashes his head in with an electric guitar (which, oddly enough, she revs up like a chainsaw).  The blunt-force trauma manifests itself into a large "horn" on Naota's head, which seems to hurt whenever it sticks out, as if something is trying to escape.  The worst part is, the woman (named Haruko) won't leave him alone now, and seems to be after his head.  She eventually finds her way to Naota's house (as he discovers in an odd hyperkinetic manga-like sequence) and becomes the family's "maid." Back to Naota.  One night, the "horn" ruptures in synch with the "iron" letting off massive amounts of steam.  Out of the horn escape two robots--one of which has a TV for a head.  The TV-head fights the other robot until Haruko comes in and uses her "acoustic equalizer" on the TV-robot, which then gets the "programming" knocked out of it.

Mamimi seems to think the TV-robot is an angel, and calls him Cantide, an angel of fire from a video game she plays.  Her devotion to the angel leads her to a building she accidentally burned down as a child, and eventually Naota finds his way to where she is.  Of course, it's party time from there, and another robot rears its ugly head out of Naota's head.  This time, however, Cantide eats Naota alive, and they "fuse" into a super form of Cantide.  Cantide then transforms into a cannon and fires a bullet at the enemy robot, destroying it.  As the bullet returns, it forces Cantide to revert to normal, proceeding to crap Naota out in a humorous sequence. Later, it is revealed that the robots are actually the product of an intergalactic business empire called Medical Mechanica.  MM uses the "irons" to smooth out planets, draining them of all their resources in the process.  Haruko has been chasing them across the galaxy because she wants something that they have--the Pirate King Atomsk--and she's willing to step over anything she has to--including hearts.  As she gives chase, a mysterious man (with even more mysterious eyebrows ;) named Amarao chases her, attempting to keep the fate that befell his planet from befalling Earth.

[Uh, could you explain that again?  Very, very slowly this time. -ed.]

To elaborate further on the events in the story would ruin the plot and destroy any incentive to see this series.  Besides, it's only six f'ing episodes.  But, I will say that the cast of characters is excellent here... from the main character to his associates, every character seems pretty well-defined.  And Haruko seems to take on quite a few get-ups over the course of the series, from a motocross rider to a baseball player to Dennis the Menace to even the classic "bunny-girl" outfit.  Also, the music is excellent as well; it's by a group called The Pillows, a J-rock band.  And even the bad guys seem to be better and better each time--in episode 5, the "bad guy" starts off as a gun-like growth in Naota's head, and when it breaks out, it's a "cousin It"-like desperado figure that keeps growing gun arms.  When it's finally felled, it takes on the form of a hand and lies dormant until the climax.  This is in stark contrast to the "severed arm" that served as the villain in the first episode.

The only reason I scored it so low is because, as I mentioned, it's only 6 episodes.  I think they could have easily squeezed 13 episodes out of this, but what do I know, I'm not a producer.


I hope that this will once and for all end those claims from blindly loyal otaku that Beast Wars ruined the Transformers franchise and that the Japanese cartoons were much better.  I can tell you from watching just one episode that Beast Wars kicks the everloving crap out of this lousy new series... and after several, even Beast Machines is starting to look pretty good.  Robots in Disguise is like some horrible fusion of the old Transformers series and Digimon, except this show's lanky, saucer-eyed kids serve absolutely no purpose and the Transformers have no depth, development, or realistic personalities.  The storylines are idiotic, the villains (Predecons?  HA!  These aren't the Preds I know!) are generic, bumbling nincompoops, the voices are straight out of Digimon, and the animation is... is... wait a minute, IS there any animation?  The characters are completely motionless for seconds at a time, and when they DO move, it's not fluid or convincing.  What a lifeless, brainless, soulless, and dickless series.  The next time a clueless Japanophile tells me how great the Japanese Transformers cartoons are, I'm going to transform HIM into a soprano.


Before Pat's party, I only had the chance to watch one episode of this animated sitcom based on the film.  That's because ABC had only let it run for two episodes, despite what the Clerks website will lead you to believe.  This ties Clerks with WB's The Oblongs as the shortest running cartoon ever.  Unlike The Oblongs, though, this show already had a fanbase (people loved the Clerks movie), and its overall quality COULD have drawn in other viewers if ABC had given the series an honest chance rather than killing it prematurely and pretending that it didn't exist even during the two weeks they carried it.

If you haven't watched the film (hey, it could happen... I haven't seen it yet), here's the scoop... Clerks is about a pair of guys working the cash registers at a convenience store and the video rental place next door.  One of the clerks, Dante, is fairly responsible and probably deserves more out of life than he's getting, but he's held back by his own neurotic behavior and his friend Randall.  Randall's an easy going, sarcastic, and mildly insane fellow who doesn't really care about his job at the video store.  His coming in late and screwing around has anchored both himself and Dante to their dead end jobs, but that's not poor Dante's only problem... he's also got to put up with two slackers, Jay and Silent Bob.  One of them never speaks and the other never thinks... I'll let you figure out who does what.

The Clerks cartoon adds some new characters, like the sinister Leonardo Leonardo (voiced by Alec Baldwin, who does his absolute best impression of David Warner), his henchman/publicist Plug, who looks like Oddjob but sounds more like Richard Simmons, and Charles Barkley- yes, the basketball player- who gets humiliated in each and every one of the show's six episodes. 

No, that's not a typo.  The creators of Clerks had intended the series to last at least six episodes, but since ABC was willing to show only two of them, they released the entire set on DVD.  Fortunately, my friend Pat was a fan of the Clerks movie and bought the DVD package so he could see the episodes that weren't aired on television... and he let me watch a few of them as well at his last gaming party.

Anyway, enough background... back to the review.  How would I compare Clerks to the other more adult-oriented cartoons on television?  Well, it isn't as good as early episodes of The Simpsons... frankly, nothing is that good.  However, I would prefer watching this to any of the (rather depressing) new episodes of that series.  Clerks is written from a younger perspective, so the comedy is fresher, more unpredictable, and less desperate than The Simpsons has been lately.  It looks better, too... the artwork is still pretty simple (ever read the online comic strip Penny Arcade?  It's very similar to that), but the thickly outlined, exaggerated characters in Clerks are much less generic than the citizens of Springfield.

The Clerks cartoon could have been a lame attempt to capitalize on the (moderate) success of the movie, but luckily, that didn't happen.  This series is good enough to turn you on to the Clerks franchise even if you haven't seen the film.  If you've got a DVD player and don't just remember series like The Critic and Duckman, but fondly remember them, you've got to get this.


Somewhere in the universe, a militant race of insects have sent their best soldiers to infiltrate and eventually take every other inhabited planet by force.  Fortunately, we don't have much to worry about, because Earth was sent Zim, an arrogant yet utterly inept officer who was given a bogus mission just so his leaders could get rid of him.  This bug and his rusty but rarely ever trusty robot sidekick Gur have enough trouble just blending in... the minute Zim attends elementary school (the only place where his size won't make him look suspicious), another student questions his flimsy disguise and quickly makes it his mission to catch Zim and reveal his true identity.

Invader Zim is a much different cartoon than what you'd expect to see on Nickelodeon... the artwork isn't derivitive of Ren & Stimpy, or the Powerpuff Girls, or Klasky-Csupo's crap, or, well, anything else I've ever seen.  The best description I can come up with is that the Zim characters and backgrounds look like something a graffiti artist would draw if he were too busy running from cops to touch up his work (mental note: buy Jet Grind Radio when Meijer's puts all their Dreamcast games on clearance).  There are a lot of flat-shaded 3D objects (like the effects in Futurama) in the first episode, but now that Zim's on Earth I doubt they'll be used very often in the future.  The humor's more low-key in Zim than in other Nicktoons, too... there's some slapstick, but older viewers will think the more subtle details, like the interior of Zim's house (complete with robotic parent dummies that greet him at the door and a toilet next to the refrigerator), are just as funny.

I am a little worried that the battle between Zim and his nerdy classmate will wear thin after a few episodes, but if the writers can keep the show innovative past the premiere, I suspect that it'll at least be popular with a small base of fans.  Of course, we all know what Nick likes to do with cult hits, but with any luck they've learned their lesson from Ren & Stimpy and will leave Invader Zim alone.

UPDATE:  Again with the prophetic predictions!  Nick put the screws hard to Jhonen Vasquez shortly after Invader Zim debuted... they never fired him from the show like they had the creator of Ren and Stimpy, but they made it extremely difficult for him to finish episodes by demanding that certain episodes be edited for content.  Viacom should have expected the series to be at least a little controversial, considering that its creator had previously written a comic book called Johnny the Homocidal Maniac...


Combine the fast-paced action of The Powerpuff Girls with the tinkling toddlers of Rugrats, and what do you get?  Nothing worth crawling out of the crib for, that's for sure.  Not only is Mega Babies unoriginal (you've sunk about as low as you're going to go when you start borrowing characters from one of Mel Brooks' least memorable films), it's really gross, with bulging red veins, noses overflowing with chunky green snot... and worse.  This is more of an endurance test than a cartoon... I still haven't gotten through an entire episode.

UPDATE:  Here's a letter I received from former Mega Babies director Wade Konowalchuk back in 2004.  My apologies for not publishing this earlier...

"I just wanted to correct you on something in your site.  You have the TV series “Mega Babies” listed as Sony Pictures/Cinar.  It is actually CineGroupe, NOT Cinar who produced it.  One other thing… as for the reference to Mel Brooks’ least known movies being used as our model for our characters.  As the co-director of this series (before I got fed up with poop and snot all the time, and transferred to another series), I cannot remember at all ever even discussing Mel Brooks in development of this project.  This idea came from the warped minds of the creators, Christian and Yvon Tremblay, who actually just think like that.  It is a moot point, but I just thought I would bring it to your attention. 

As for the “humour” of the show…  I agree.  It is crap.  Goes to show how the pistol-like American “wit” (I cannot believe I used “wit” and “American” in the same sentence) of American producers can ruin a show.

Wade Konowalchuk"


Remember Multiplicity?  Well, you would have if it didn't have all that wacky camera work.  Anyway, after a cloning mishap, one of Michael Keaton's several characters explains, "You know how when you make a copy of a copy, it's not as sharp as the original?"  Well, that applies to spin-offs as well.  Warner Bros.' first Batman series was one of the most enjoyable and unique animated shows ever, and nothing gets the adrenaline flowing like its futuristic sequel, Batman Beyond, but The Zeta Project doesn't deliver like its two predecessors.  Zeta stars an android spy with reservations about his programming.  He tries to run from his destiny as a disposable assassin with the teenage runaway he befriends, and the two are hunted down by government agents who want their secret weapon back.  There are likable characters, exciting close calls, and even a great end sequence where Zeta and his friend analyze relics from the past century, but the animation is only fair- Batman's trademark stylized characters don't look like they belong in such bright backgrounds- and the show just doesn't have the impact of the two Batman series.


There are two things that are very wrong with this animated series.  This first is, well, it's an animated series.  People expect computer rendering from Toy Story, and this spin-off just doesn't have it, opting instead for drawn artwork that's just as vividly colored but not nearly as impressive (not impressive at all, actually).  The second is that Tim Allen doesn't play Buzz, which is both disappointing and hard to understand, because this was the only role that proved Allen had any merit as an actor.  I guess even all that, as damning as it is, wouldn't necessarily ruin Buzz Lightyear, but the fact that it's not as original, or as well drawn, or as good as Disney's other film-based cartoons, does.  This show didn't need to be made, and even the producers seem to realize this.

RETROSPECT:  Repeated viewing made it clear that this show was more clever than I realized, with a light touch of that famous tongue-in-cheek Pixar humor.  On top of that, I've grown to enjoy Patrick Warburton's voice, even if he has been overutilized by cartoon studios in the past five years.  I'd give Buzz Lightyear of Star Command a six or even a seven, depending on the episode.



I was convinced from the ads that Disney's Recess would be a crummy politically correct chronicle of the lives of a handful of elementary school students, and that Warner Bros.' Detention would be more cynical, and better yet, funnier.  Nope, sorry Jess, not even close.  Recess' characters have less predictable personalities than I'd expected, and some of the storylines are actually pretty clever and enjoyable.  Take, for instance, the episode where TJ desperately tries to make friends with an uninterested fellow student.  This thankfully had a more realistic ending than I expected... finally, Disney is starting to realize that not every story has a happy ending!  I wouldn't have made a film out of Recess, but then again, I wouldn't have even bothered with Detention.  The artwork is primitive, even for a Recess rip-off, the characters are obnoxious, especially the fat-assed principal, and... oh man, I could go on, but since WB cancelled the show, I won't have to dwell on it.

Actually, there's a similarly themed show I'd prefer to talk about that's better than Recess or Detention, and that is...


OK, so maybe this is just a humble little cartoon without any of the sadistic villains, dynamic fights, or extreme sports events you'd expect to see on Saturday morning television.  On the other hand, Hey! Arnold's got qualities many of those thirty minute toy ads DON'T have, like a unique style of artwork complete with backgrounds done in colored pencil (I'm not sure why, but this looks great!), and a cast of characters with personality and depth.  Despite their strangely shaped heads, weird haircuts, and gangly limbs, the kids in this show are the most human cartoon characters I've seen on television (well, next to the families in more adult-oriented animated sitcoms like The Simpsons).  It's fun to watch how the situations in each episode affect Arnold, his friends, their relationships, his friends' relationships with their families, and so on... it's like an emotional ripple effect that impacts some characters more than others.  Also, the writers were brave enough to take the spotlight off Arnold and shine it on other characters from time to time, keeping the show from becoming redundant (a problem with most long-running animated series.  You can only find so many ways to have Gargamel chase the Smurfs, after all...).


Hey, another superhero cartoon!  I love these, especially when Warner Bros. makes 'em.  They did a great job with Batman, Batman Beyond, Superman, and (to a lesser extent) The Zeta Project, and Static Shock is, well, super too.  I was worried that the series would be either politically correct garbage or chock full 'o stereotypes because of the inner city setting and racially diverse characters, but all of this actually comes to the show's advantage... it's easier to relate to the heroes and villains in Static Shock than the typical crusaders who hide themselves away in bat caves, or halls of justice, or some other well guarded fortress of solitude.  Virgil's especially likable... everything about him and his Static Shock alter ego comes together nicely.  He's clever, hurling both insults and bolts of energy at his foes, and his ability to create and control electricity makes him powerful, but not unstoppable.  Heck, even his costume is perfect!  This series might have been created for inner city kids, but I'm convinced that anyone who likes comics will enjoy it.


Y'know, Saban, I am really getting sick of your fifteen million Power Rangers sequels and clones, and judging from the ratings I know I'm not the only one who feels this way... what?  This isn't one of Saban's shows?  It's by the same guys who made The New Addams Family for the Fox Family Channel?  Well, whatever.  You can't really blame me for making this mistake, because Los Luchadores has everything you hated about the Power Rangers- the exaggerated ethnic stereotypes, the lame special effects, and the villains who aren't even appealing, let alone intimidating- and tries to infuse this overused formula with the current pro wrestling fad, which just makes the fight scenes even more unconvincing (Mexican wrestlers are some of the most talented fighters in the business... but you'd never know this from watching these morons...).  Worst of all, the female character looks like a cut-rate Rainbow Mika cosplayer.  If THAT doesn't slap the bony hand of death on the shoulder of this series, I don't know what will.


I guess Cartoon Network should consider this a compliment.  Instead of milking Klasky-Csupo for yet another crap series (I guess they were too busy making that McDonald's video!), Nickelodeon instead stole a few writers from Dexter's Laboratory and cooked up a series with the same simple artwork, the same warped humor, and the same screamingly fast pace.  The storyline, about a boy who's ignored by everyone but his two wacky, dimbulb fairy godparents, sounds pretty inventive, but even with this (surprisingly small) difference, Nick's answer to Dex seems like they're just rephrasing the question.

UPDATE:  It's a kick in the face that this series has lasted nearly a decade (counting its Oh Yeah! Cartoons debut) while the brilliant Invader Zim was canned after just two years.  Way to pick a winner there, Sumner.


Truly devoted anime' fans are going to gripe and complain Fox Kids is butchering the show... and while this may be true, they need to consider this:  this is Saturday morning television we're talking about, and Escaflowne pushes this admittedly stingy envelope about as far as it's going to go.  In fact, I have to give Fox credit for having the bravery to run this series instead of cramming yet another Pokemon clone down our throats.  Escaflowne, like Robotech and Akira, is what you might call old school Japanese animation... it's got a meaty plot, wonderful animation, and focuses on science-fiction concepts like mechs, the fourty story tall robot warriors who seem to appear in Japanese cartoons regardless of the setting.  Unlike most of the anime' on network television, Escaflowne has strong character development and interaction, and even the heroes have the occasional scuffle, usually fueled by pride or unfortunate misunderstandings.  And although I'll admit that I don't know what was clipped out of the original Japanese series, I think Sunrise has done an excellent job bringing it to this country... the only thing I can really complain about is the voice of one of the villains.  Now I realize that most of the power-hungry tyrants in Japanese pop culture are supposed to be a little fruity (just look at Amakusa in the Samurai Shodown games!), but did they really need to give this guy the voice of a twelve year old girl?  Eh, oh well... with any luck, this little dickweed will be mech toejam in a future episode and it'll no longer be an issue.  Anyway, Escaflowne is a great series, but I don't expect it to last long (has any really good Fox Kids show other than Eek! The Cat and The Tick stayed on the air for more than two seasons?), so catch it while you can... and sharpen up those VCR programming skills so you can hold onto a few episodes even after Fox replaces the show with something stupid.


Wow.  I'm not even sure how to start this review... one thing you can definitely say in Flint's favor is that it's original.  So original, in fact, that it's hard to follow exactly what's going on.  OK, so you've got this little caveman with a talking cement hammer he refers to as his dad who runs around with two kids and a bunch of silly little Pokemon outcasts, travelling through time to stop an evil dominatrix who takes over peoples' minds with a giant rubber stamp?  Just how did Flint's father become a giant stone mallet?  Who the heck are these kids, and why don't they realize that the chick in the tight leather outfit is really their elementary school teacher?  Are the animals there for any logical reason, or were they just thrown in so Haim Saban can cash in on the pocket monsters craze he's already leeched from with Digimon?  I mean, yeesh, it's weird.  Anyway, this is your typical Toei cartoon... the kind of thing Japan sends us to keep their landfills from overflowing.  It's cute, it's silly, and it's insubstancial... kind of like a thirty minute screen saver for your television.  Fortunately, it's not awful, so you won't have to dig through your couch for the remote whenever it comes on (unless you're watching Fox Family Channel and Two of a Kind is up next).


Hey!  I used to love this when I was a kid! My brother and I had a bunch of the toys, and we loved 'em, even though they all looked like a cross between R2-D2 and an industrial strength vacuum cleaner... huh?  You mean this has nothing to do with Max Steel's Robo Force?  Aw, shucks.  Oh, I see... this is a computer rendered series with a kid who's an "extreme" (yawn...) sports junkie by day and a cybernetically enhanced spy when the sun goes down.  Well, I guess Max Steel is pretty good for what it is, although frankly, I'd much rather have the garbage can-droids from the early 80's.  The biggest problem with this new show is that it's always just centimeters within impressing you, but it never quite reaches its mark.  Some of the animation is outstanding... the characters in some scenes move just as fluidly as real people would, but some of the characters (particularly that nerdy Hispanic dude and the crusty old man who both act as Steel's advisors) look like extreme crap.  Worse yet, although the cast of characters is ethnically diverse, none of the stars (including Max himself) are especially interesting... and the villains are just silly.  The undersea foe Max fights from time to time looks like he's got a Nerf brand skull... and we've all seen that guy with the gigantic rows of shiny metal teeth in the commercials.  I'm not crazy about this show, but if it's popular enough to inspire a rip-off on Fox Kids (Action Man?  Isn't that the name of the crappy G.I. Joe knock-offs you'd find at your local dollar store?) there must be something good about it.


Let's see... a clumsy young schoolgirl runs around in incredibly short skirts and other kinky outfits, trying to defeat monsters that were let loose from tarot cards before a mysterious male rival can get to them.  The only thing missing is a furry sidekick and mentor... oh wait, that's here, too.  Fortunately, all the qualities that made Sailor Moon enjoyable are in Card Captors as well, and there are even a few improvements... for instance, the voices are more subdued and the animation is of a higher quality, with more detail and fewer repeated scenes.  I've got to wonder about Sakura's relationship with Madison- it's very Project A-Ko, even though both characters are identified as twelve- and the title song is downright revolting (Nelvana hasn't come up with music this obnoxious since they were producing the Care Bears!).  Still, Card Captors is still good for a nostalgic recharge if you're suffering from Sailor Moon withdrawl but your cable company doesn't carry Cartoon Network.

UPDATE:  I talked to a friend about this several years ago, and yes, there really was a romantic relationship between Madison and Sakura.  The producers didn't do a very good job of hiding this, did they?


I underestimated this descendant of the Batman animated series in every possible way.  I thought bringing the Batman series into the future would be a mistake, as the Batman Forever film seemed to indicate.  I was wrong.  I thought Will Friedel (Ben Savage's emptyheaded brother on Boy Meets World) would make a terrible Batman.  I was wrong.  I thought he would replace the first Batman, Kevin Conroy, completely, and again, I was wrong.  So for those of you keeping score, this cartoon is terrific, and I'm a complete idiot.  Anyway, Batman Beyond blends the gloomy artwork from the original series with a more hard-edged futuristic look that will instantly remind Japanimation fans of the cult classic Akira, and the blood red neon signs and dark cityscapes work beautifully together.  The quality of the animation, along with the high-tech plots, intense fights, and cameos by old Batman characters (including Bruce Wayne himself, who's too old to throw punches but talks his successor through battles with an intercom system) make this series just as good as the one that inspired it.


Here's another series based on a DC comic that lept my (admittedly low) expectations in a single bound.  Superman was never as appealing as more vulnerable heroes like Batman and Spiderman, but this series gives him a lot more dimension than Hanna-Barbera and Filmation's cartoons ever did.  The scripts get both your mind and heart pumping, the characters are pretty likable (Lois Lane's got both a sexy figure and a measurable IQ this time out), and Superman actually gets hurt when the bad guys drop a tank on him, but rarely falls for the old "pass the kryptonite" play that Lex Luthor used so effectively on the Superfriends.  Supes is still a little dull and overpowered, but the writers never let him turn into a total clod.  Now that's a feat on par with outrunning a speeding bullet or shoulder checking a locomotive!


Toon Disney made a lot of mistakes since its debut, but one of the biggest has to be passing up the more serious Sonic cartoon in favor of its badly drawn, badly written, badly voice acted, and downright disturbing syndicated cousin. If you thought Jaleel White was grating as Steve Urkel, just wait until you watch him revisit every cartoon cliche' known to man with the help of the whiny little brat who plays Tails.  Oh, golly, Sonic just dressed up as a salesman to outwit Dr. Robotnik (voiced by Lohn John Baldry, who's the only good thing about this show.  I didn't much care for the Darth Vader treatment Robotnik got in the weekend series) and his pair of lamebrained lackeys.  I'm sure Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker are flattered.  Speaking of Dr. Robotnik, can a single episode of this cartoon go by without him bending over, revealing his almost cavernous buttcrack?  Did the writers actually think this was funny, or do they just have some gross sexual fetish involving overweight mad scientists?


The last thing cable television needs, besides a Food Network 2, is another Ren & Stimpy clone.  Still, there's something I like about this one.  The underwater setting lets the writers pull off weird sight gags that wouldn't be possible anywhere else (you've gotta love those flocks of chirping scallops!), and Spongebob himself is a charmer, with a heart of gold and a brain roughly the size of a coral polyp.  Best of all, the storylines are weird, but in their own deliciously different way, unlike some cartoons which stripmine ALL of their ideas from Ren & Stimpy (I won't name names, but if there's an ampersand in the show's title, you know it's a rip-off).

UPDATE:  This show took a huge dive after the film was released in 2004 and writer C.H. Greenblatt left to work on The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.  It's all about Spongebob now, and his childishness and constant overreactions have made watching this show a trial.  There was even an episode that hung a lampshade on Spongebob's irritating behavior by having the rest of the cast abandon him in Bikini Bottom.  You know, kind of like what the viewers have done to Spongebob after Chowder debuted on Cartoon Network.


OK, so maybe this is just 4Kids, but it's hard to believe even they can't see Pokemon for what it really is... a thirty minute Nintendo commercial.  To be fair, the animation is very nice- I stop short at "gorgeous" because other Japanese cartoons which WEREN'T trying to hawk toys and games looked even better.  Aside from that minor concession, Pokemon is complete, unadulterated, take-it-to-the-curb-on-Monday garbage.  The monsters are for the most part huggably cute, but any chance of your becoming attached to them is instantly shattered the moment you discover that all they can say is their own names (not exactly the world's most subtle marketing ploy, is it?). After you hear Pikachu squeal "Pi-ka-CHU!" for the nineteenth time, you'll feel like punting the overgrown gerbil for a field goal.  Around this time, you're waiting for a cool villain to shake things up, but all you get are two imbeciles who spend most of the time tripping over each other and their own pet, which looks like an alien's idea of a Siamese cat. The entire fiasco is capped off by an excruciating Pokerap listing thirty of the characters available in the GameBoy games as well as not-so-subtle hints scattered throughout the show's dialogue. The ONLY reason I'm giving this a five is because of the stylish artwork and the fact that Video Power (starring Stivi "Will Act Like A Dipshit For Food" Paskoski) was so much worse.

UPDATE:  Not much has changed about Pokemon in the ten years since its debut.  Characters like Brock and Misty have taken an occasional vacation from the series, only to return in later seasons.  The American voice cast was purged in 2006 after Nintendo took the reins of the show from 4Kids, but even that hasn't made much of a difference.  Ash sounds like he's going through puberty and/or smoking three packs of cigarettes a day, but everyone else sounds roughly the same.  The bottom line is that Pokemon is still Pokemon, and it still doesn't interest me much.


I've always been a fan of the Transformers... heck, what child of the 80's wasn't?  And even though the toys themselves were kinda lousy, the Beast Wars series was the best thing to happen to the franchise in a long, long time.  I was really looking forward to this continuation of Mainframe's charming computer rendered series, and while I'm pretty happy with it, the new, darker look (obviously inspired by the film Tron) and lopsided battles are a little depressing. The new character designs are a turn-off, too... Megatron has this whole Master Control Program thing going on that I'm not sure I like, and the Maximals are so freaking creepy looking that anyone new to the series would probably mistake them for the bad guys.  I'm sure this was the intention of the animators, but it doesn't mean I have to like it...


Take two of my favorite pastimes, science-fiction and cartoons, slam 'em together, and you've got this strange yet deeply satisfying series from The Simpsons creator Matt Groening. Apparently fed up with the direction his previous creation was going (downward), Matt decided to take his view of the world one thousand years into the future.  The result is a fusion of dark humor and scientific theory that's sometimes a little clunky, but almost always hilarious.  It's hard to find a television series these days with one character you can really identify with... in Futurama, there's at least two (my favorites are Bender, a robot with a vice for every occasion, and Leela, a one-eyed babe who handles tough situations with a combination of strength, agility, and withering sarcasm).  Even better are the humorous looks at such science-fiction concepts as lunar inhabitation and Star Trek's prime directive (called Brannigan's Law by a real space cadet who's a little Flash Gordon and a whole lot of William Shatner).  Futurama's sci-fi slant could be its downfall- the show just isn't as mainstream accessible as The Simpsons- but you can count on my watching it 'till the bitter end.  I just hope that won't be for a while... I'm not asking for a thousand years' worth of shows, but five seasons (just enough to get it into syndication) would make me pretty happy.

RETROSPECT:  Futurama got a whole lot better in its second season.  The voice work was tightened up, background music punctuated key scenes that were once awkwardly silent, and the storylines struck a careful balance between character development and demented science-fiction comedy.  In short, it had evolved from a merely solid adult cartoon to one of the best ever made.  Today, I'd give Futurama a nine, even after taking the slightly disappointing film Bender's Big Score into consideration.


If you thought Warner Bros. cartoons couldn't possibly get any more annoying than Freakazoid, brother are you in for a surprise.  Tom Ruegger's first attempt at an educational series tries to keep the audience awake by jazzing up its history lessons with berzerk characters, and succeeds a little too well... in fact, I'd wager that the only thing kids will really learn from listening to Tress MacNeillie shriek incessantly as a time-travelling groupie is the location of the mute button on their remote controls.


I wasn't expecting much from this clumsy forging of traditional hand-drawn and computer rendered animation.  Nevertheless, Xyber 9 turned out fairly entertaining thanks to an original, surprisingly complex storyline and some of the best voice over artists in the business.  You just can't go wrong with Tony "Mr. Evil" Jay and Rene' Auberjonois (formerly of Deep Space Nine fame) as Xyber 9, although Rene' seems remarkably cowardly for such a powerful weapon.  I'm still not sure if the computer rendered vehicles were meant as a cheap gimmick or a way to lighten the burden of the animators, but the series is still fun to watch, if just a bit artistically schizophrenic.


Sad to say, despite some really cool science fiction concepts, Spiderman Unlimited is no better than Fox's first Spidey series.  At least all of those crappy computer rendered backgrounds are gone, but there are plenty of new annoyances to take their place, like waaay too much shading and a trendy (although thankfully subdued) techno soundtrack.  You can laugh if you want, but I'd take NBC's Spiderman and Friends over either of these anyday.  That show may have been campy, but at least it didn't try to transparently cash in on the fads of the moment.  Besides, you're not going to find a chick as hot as Firestar in either of Fox's new series... and I do mean that in every sense of the word!


I'm a fan of Mainframe Entertainment's past work (the Beast Wars really heated up in its last season, and Reboot is a real innovator in the field of computer rendered cartooning), but this Canadian CGI studio just comes up deuces in this series, based on the short-lived Trendmasters toy line.  War seems to be the last thing on the minds of these characters, who by the way aren't particularly interesting in and of themselves... I was reaching for my tough actin' Tanactin after I saw the wimpy little midget with the flaming head.  The final blow is the scenery, which is dull, dark, and depressing, a far cry from the artwork in Mainframe's first two series.


I'm new to the South Park phenomenon... I've only been able to catch one episode and half of another at a friend's house.  I suppose that means I'm in no position to judge the show, but I have to agree with its detractors... South Park is crass, obnoxious, and disgusting.  The only difference between the folks who condemn the series and myself is that I like it that way!  The writers really have a knack for coming up with hilariously inventive situations for the characters, so it never feels like they're trying to use the profanity and violence as a Band-Aid to patch up any flaws.  You've gotta give some credit to any show that can envision Barbra Streisand as a towering Japanese monster, or Leonard Maltin as Ultra Seven (even though I still can't imagine a connection between the tempremental singer and Entertainment Tonight's resident hack critic).

UPDATE:  South Park is still entertaining ten years later, although the creators' tendency to use the show as a platform for their political views is a little disconcerting.  Two recent episodes about the Internet suggested that Trey Parker and Matt Stone are dangerously close to echoing the sentiments of the telecommunications industry in the net neutrality debate.  More funny, less political schilling, please.


This is really no better or worse than Pokemon; just different.  When the kids in this series find themselves in a bind, their pets evolve into menacing fifty-foot tall beasts and destroy everything in their path while mixing it up with the bad guys (proving that Mr. Saban can't help but milk the Power Rangers concept for all it's worth even when he's ripping off other shows).  The translation to English was obviously rushed (and censored!  When one of the girls in the show is pestered by a talking piece of Digidung, she constantly refers to it as a "lemon custard".  Well, at least she got the "turd" part right...), but like Pokemon, the artwork is slick and the dubbing is at least passable.


I just don't get it.  Dexter's Laboratory is a great show, and so is Sailor Moon... combining them should have been a sure-fire recipe for success.  Yet, I can't sit through more than ten minutes of this hybrid by former Dexter's Lab producer Craig McCracken.  The odd quirks of both series have been amplified to such an extent that the end result is completely unwatchable... the oversized eyes that made the Sailor Scouts so adorable nearly wrap around the Powerpuff Girls' heads, and the artwork is so heavily outlined and stylized that you'd swear real kindergarteners were responsible for it.

RETROSPECT:  I was way, waaay too rough on this one.  I didn't like it at first, but episodes like Meet the Beat-Alls and the Christmas special revealed that The Powerpuff Girls was a smarter show than I thought.  This became even more obvious after I watched the Japanese spin-off, which was entirely stripped of the subtext in the original.  Mojo Jojo even stopped finding awkward ways to repeat all his sentences!  Anyway, I'd give the show a six or seven if I were rating it today.


Al Jean and Mike Reiss wrote scripts for some of the best Simpsons episodes ever produced, then went on to produce two sitcoms that were quickly cancelled (you'll understand why if you saw any episodes of Homeboys in Outer Space).  It appears as though they've struck a happy medium with the PJs, an animated series that's strictly middle of the road fare despite the best efforts of Eddie Murphy and Will Vinton.  Eddie supplies the voice of the cranky building superintendant, and Will sets the stage with some amazing foam animation and special effects (how the hell do they create that smoke around the rastafarian, anyway?), but the jokes are alternately tasteless and discomforting.  You'll find yourself squirming in your seat when Eddie's character barks, "Kids, prepare to meet your future!", and the urban urchins excitedly shout back, "It's bleak, isn't it?  I bet it's bleak!".  This satire of inner city culture is better than what you'd find on UPN, but the jokes are only funny until you sit back and realize that some people actually do live like this.


Well, okay.  A magician doesn't strike me as the world's manliest superhero, but hey, this is from France... Anyway.  This action series is heavily inspired by Batman's own animated adventures, right down to, ahem, "borrowing" Batman Beyond's futuristic setting.  Of course, it's nowhere near as entertaining, but you can't blame Gaumont for trying.  The artwork's generic (think Spiderman) and the voice-overs are a little silly, but the storylines are fairly original, which is a plus.  The characters aren't overly rehashed either, although I haven't been given any real reason to care about them one way or another, a factor which made Batman and its offspring so gripping.  If Gaumont spiced up the animation a bit and give the cast more depth, I might have a reason to watch this more regularly.


OK.  I don't plan to spend much time with this crap, so let's make this brief. Listen up, networks:  you can't make a G-rated version of South Park.  You can copy the simple animation, you can create characters with their own unique personalities, and you can lower the production values to the floor to make the artwork even crappier, but without the raunchy humor, the concept just doesn't work.  Frankly, the only reason people WATCH South Park is to watch Kenny die and Cartman swear.  Take that away, and all you have left is a moving test pattern.  Oh, wait, I take that back... there was a cartoon short on Three Friends starring a dog with clearly visable testicles, but that was more disturbing than funny, and it had nothing to do with the show itself other than keeping its viewers from slipping into a coma.  Now that I mention it, what the hell was that doing on a so-called "family" channel?  Do the people who run this sorry network even bother to check their shows for content before running them?