Tag Archives: cartoon

April Bonus Review: C.O.P.S

Last month I said that I was going to look at a cartoon based off of one of Hasbro’s properties. Naturally, I had to pick their most famous toon, C.O.P.S. For the very few of you who haven’t heard of it, COPS was a late 80s cartoons based off of Hasbro’s toy figure line of COPS & Crooks. So, let’s delve into it and see how it holds up, before Michael Bay directs a shit film based off of it. 

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Story:

The show is set in the futuristic Empire city where the Big Boss and his gang of crooks are always up to some untoward activities. Fortunately, the city has COPS (the Central Organisation of Police Specialists) to fight against these nefarious schemes. Each episode basically deals to the Big Boss or one of his cronies coming up with some scheme to steal loot and the COPS having to foil them. 

The biggest issue with the series is just that it’s satisfied with being a generic children’s show. It never tries to do anything unique or interesting and it easily could have. And this was a premise that could easily have gone above and beyond.  Cops and Robbers with a sci-fi twist could make for an amazing kid’s show. All they needed were some ongoing story lines with character development. You know, like those 90s super hero cartoons that were coming out three years later. Instead, what we get is a bog-standard show where they foil the plot of the week and move on to the next one. I think the only time we even get a multi-part episode is the Case of COPS File One.

And you can tell the writers don’t care that much because there are pretty consistently things they don’t bother thinking through because they either can’t be asked or they want to just get the next episode out and they figure children won’t notice. So, you’ll have an episode where Bullseye has his helicopter stolen because he just leaves the cockpit open. Goofus leaves his expensive work helicopter out in the open while he buys doughnuts. Gallant locks it up and keeps the keys safely with him. In the aforementioned COPS File One there are characters who are called by their code names before they actually have Code Names. Because it’s hard to remember that Bulletproof’s real name is Baldwin Peabody Vess or that Mainframe’s is Tina Cassidy. There’s also one where they have invisible crooks and no one thinks to let the cyborg puppy loose to nibble on their bums. And I fucking know kids spotted that one because kids aren’t that stupid. They know dogs have great senses of smell. 

That being said, I can’t say anything about the show’s writing is truly bad. Yes, it would have worked a lot better if they’d taken more time to develop their scenarios and thought through them properly,  but  they’re kind of entertaining as they are. Honestly, if I was watching this as a kid I’d probably find it diverting enough. And it does have some awesome ideas like the cyborg pup or the crook with a sub-machine gun in his chest. Yes, this cartoon from the late 80s has actual guns. I wasn’t just talking shit when I said that 4kids is made up of overly sensitive cock munchers. 

Characters:

The big issue with the characters is just that they’re bland. the series could have really benefited from taking more time to give the characters real senses of personality and from having some crooks who could put on the façade of being respectable at times when they weren’t just trying to look good in front of their mothers. 

Art:

Honestly, this is not a good looking cartoon. There are things that definitely could have worked. The character designs, overall could’ve worked. The futuristic technology could have been great as well. Unfortunately, the animation itself seems to have had a very limited budget resulting in awkward movements and expressions. As well as stuff that’s just heavily recycled. Then we have the villainous bloke with dwarfism, Small Guy. He and his gang appear in two episodes and their designs change pretty noticeably from one to the other. It’s like they couldn’t even be bothered to go back and look at what they’d done before so they could keep it consistent. And the combination of crap animation and inconsistent art just doesn’t look good. That’s another thing this show needed, a budget that wasn’t being heavily embezzled for cocaine. 

Sound:

Honestly, the voice acting isn’t bad. It’s pretty “meh” but it’s far from the worst I’ve ever heard in a kid’s cartoon. It’s definitely better than Defenders of the Realm or Spectacular Spider-man. One issue with it is the budget. There are episodes where characters will appear and be featured quite prominently in scenes, but won’t say a bloody thing. Presumably because they didn’t want to pay for more voice actors. The music is pretty good, actually. The theme tune has a good beat and would’ve been pretty amazing without the lyrics, which consist of saying the word “Cops” periodically. In case you aren’t sure what you’re watching and need reminded twenty seconds before they show the logo. 

Final Thoughts:

COPS was a show that could have been amazing. I’d honestly like to see Hasbro get a studio that gives a shit with competent writers and revive it. Just to see the concept done justice. In fact, I’ll do it. I’ll even promise to not heavily imply that every single character isn’t straight. Which would be unusual for my writing. Still, the sixty five episodes are passable enough. If you’ve got a wee one at home, they’ll probably be entertained by it. My final rating is a 5/10. It’s mediocre. 

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March Bonus Review: Pryde of the X-men

The X-men are, without any doubt, one of my favourite super hero teams. At least, they were back when Chris Claremont was doing his nearly two decade long run on the team. When he was still a couple years away from the end of his run, there was an attempt at making a television series based on the mutant team. It was 1989 and Marvel wanted to follow in Hasbro’s footsteps of making successful cartoons based off of their licenses to sell toys. So, why did Pryde of the X-men ultimately fail, thereby forcing us to wait for three years before the team would actually get their cartoon? Let’s take a look.

Pryde of the X-men.png

Story:

We open with Magneto being transferred, presumably to some prison, by a military convoy. Fortunately for him, the White Queen comes to his rescue. Weren’t his ties to the Hellfire club something he had for pragmatic purposes while he was the headmaster over the New Mutants and a member of the X-men? I guess the cartoon universe is just different. Cut to young Kitty Pryde driving to the X-mansion clutching a letter. Turns out, Xavier found out about her powers and, instead of wasting his time visiting with her parents to get her enrolled in his school (like what he did in the comics) he just decided to send her an ominous letter about how he knows her secret. The X-men run off to answer an alarm while Magneto leads the Juggernaut, who doesn’t even like mutants save for Black Tom, on an attack to steal a Cerebro circuit while Xavier is home with just the young Kitty Pryde. Now, it’s up to the X-men to foil his machinations and save the world.

The first issue with this as a pilot is just that they introduce far too many characters at once. Not only do we have the X-men, with Xavier, Kitty, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, Cyclops, Dazzler and Wolverine but we also have a huge number of villains with Magneto, the White Queen, Juggernaut, the Blob, Pyro, Toad and little Lockheed hanging around their base for some reason. The next issue is with the action. We don’t actually see our heroes fight as a team or accomplish that much. Rather, the villains come at them one at a time and the X-men have one member bugger off to face the villain who shows up one on one. Save Storm who gets left behind to mind the atmosphere. And that doesn’t make for particularly compelling action. Seriously, compare it to the two part Night of the Sentinels from the good cartoon where we see the X-men fight as a team. We see every member contribute and we see robots getting torn to pieces in the final action sequence, which is about the same length as the big action scene here. Trying to connect all your major villains also really doesn’t work when you’re using a team like the X-men.

About the only bit of praise I can give this one is that the very basic premise could have worked. Having a seasoned team with a young mutant being added in who has to prove herself and learn to cope with her own abilities could have been used in a much better cartoon. You know, like the early 90s one where a team of seasoned mutants is joined by you Jubilee who has to learn to cope with her own abilities and prove herself. In all fairness, though, it could have also worked with the X-men team they used in this.

Characters:

So, fifteen characters was clearly too ambitious for a pilot introducing the whole premise and the natural consequence is that the cast is really under-developed. There are some more specific issues, though. The first is that Colossus awkwardly refers to himself in the third person. Then there’s Nightcrawler. Poor Nightcrawler. Every time he appears in a cartoon they seem to really screw him up. Even the good cartoon. In this one, he comes across as kind of pervy and as someone you really don’t want near children. Remember when his appearance made Kitty uncomfortable in the comics so he was nice to her but generally kept a respectful distance until she was able to get comfortable with him? In this he gets kind of aggressive about forcing the issue and Neil Ross’s unintentionally creepy voice acting just makes it so much worse.

Speaking of characters who seem to be written perpetually badly in adaptations, let’s talk about Shadowcat. In the comics, she’s a young genius who comes across as a very bright youngster but is still believable as a youngster. This suffers the same problem as certain other adaptations where they decide to make her far less intelligent and more of a generic good girl. Magneto also suffers from losing his complexity and being made a more generic villain, like he was in the silver age. I guess Larry Parr just didn’t want complex Jewish characters. Or he just isn’t good with complexity period. That’s also a distinct possibility.

Art:

This is one area where I can, as a whole, give the cartoon credit. Toei did a lot of the animation work on this and it does look pretty good. I also do like the costumes it uses. Even if they did forget Magneto’s gloves and just left his hands bare and they made Wolverine too tall.

Sound:

Any good will I might have from that is quickly cancelled by the sound. The acting in this is horrendously bad. Patrick Pinney gives Wolverine an Australian accent which is just stupid. He’s Canadian. What’s next, an X-men adaptation that has him voiced by an Australian doing a really poor fake American accent? No, I’m sure no production studio could possibly be that idiotic. The accents in this are just awful in general. Neil Ross’s Deutsch accent is bad. Dan Gilvezan’s Russian accent is terrible. The voice acting just comes across as low effort, no skill and they did get some people who can voice act. They got Frank Welker, for instance. The music is okay. Not anything good but decent enough.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, it’s not surprising that Pryde of the X-men failed to transition into a full series. It’s not the worst X-men adaptation I’ve ever seen but it is pretty bad. The writing’s a mess, the characters are completely uninteresting and some of them are handled in off-putting ways, the acting is atrocious and it just fails to do the team any justice. Which is a pity because, like I said, this team composition could have worked if they’d put some effort in. My final rating is going to be a 3/10. Still better than what Madhouse did with the group. I guess Marvel tried too hard to copy Hasbro without understanding why they were a success. In fact, next month I’ll look at one of Hasbro’s toy-based cartoons and let’s see why it worked for them.

January Bonus Review: Mortal Kombat- Defenders of the Realm

MK Defenders.png

So, I’ve been critical of a bunch of anime based off of video games this month. As such, it seems fair to talk about something American as well. The eternally miss-spelled Mortal Kombat franchise has had a lot of adaptations. Films, card games, & several television series. This was the first television adaptation.

Now, you might think it’s a patently bad idea to make a children’s cartoon out of a series that’s notorious for its extreme violence and was instrumental in making rating systems happen. Of course, you only think that because you’re objectively smarter than anyone who was instrumental in making this project a reality. So, give yourself a quick golf clap on that one.

Story:

The basic story behind this is that our world is being invaded and the “heroes” of Mortal Kombat, Sonya Blade, Liu Kang, Jax, Subzero, Kitana, Nightwolf & that former cop no one likes band together under Raiden’s guidance to seal the portals that open up into our world and repel the invaders by ripping out their spinal columns or just by punching them a lot. That’s the experience people think of when they think of Mortal Kombat.

So, beyond the premise and this being a very poor fit for a children’s cartoon, what’s wrong with the writing in this series? well, the first thing is the pacing. This cartoon basically has long, boring conversations of exposition while quickly glossing over things like “should we trust this guy who seems suspicious?”  Seriously, any time something comes up that could lead to anything remotely interesting the writers quickly lose interest and jump to a shit action sequence. Then we have the series’ efforts to be “cool.” They’re just really cringe-worthy. They try to make “combat time” sorry, I mean “kombat time” into a major catch phrase for fuck’s sake. And if you thought wearing the other peoples’ outfits and just relying on them having no security was a stupid strategy, this cartoon gives us such gems as “run directly at the killer robots and punch them.” And let us not forget the “nice, wholesome” lessons that Mortal Kombat has to teach us. Like how much leverage and force you need to tear someone’s jaw off of their skull or there’s the lazy, tepid stuff you can get from this cartoon. Like that teamwork is good or that being evil and stubborn can make you immortal. Thanks, Defenders, that’s a great lesson for the little kiddies.

Characters:

Take the most generic heroes and villains you can think of, cover them in faecal matter and leave them to rot for a couple decades and you’ve got a  reasonable facsimile of the characterisation in this cartoon. It doesn’t even have the decency to be basically consistent. You get Raiden flip-flopping over whether or not he’ll actually fight or  Nightwolf deciding that he needs to rely on his instincts more and his machines less only to go back to the way things were and never mention it again.

Art:

I don’t know if there’s time to actually cover everything wrong with the artwork without writing a fecking novella. I’ll try to cover the big issues. First off, the facial expressions in this barely change. Everyone has their default look that just stays largely stagnant and it results in a lot of situations where their expressions don’t match what’s happening. Secondly, the action sequences are shit. They’re very slow and deliberate. So, you get scenes where someone will take a hit and very slowly fall back like they’re the world’s worst wrestler and they almost forgot they were supposed to get knocked over. The backgrounds are really lazy too.

Then we have the character designs. Most of the characters in this have their navels exposed, but none of them have navels. Did the studio think showing a belly button would be considered lewd? For that matter, a bunch of the guys have their chests showing but none of them have nipples. It’s like looking at really badly made dolls. Then we have Kitana’s boob situation. Instead of just using her MK II design, they decided to give her a toned down version of the MK III boob window. But, they decided to do it without showing any actual breasts through it. Are Kitana’s boobs supposed to be triangular and pointing off to each side?

Sound: 

In all fairness, they did get some people who can act. I mean, Cree Summer is in this. Voice of Penny Gadget, Elmyra Duff, Hyena  & She Hulk, to name just a few. Unfortunately, the director seems to have given them all explicit instructions to not show emotions or act. So, it sounds really terrible. Even the music is bad, and the film this is supposed to be a follow up to had some stellar music. So, you’d think that would be the one thing they could manage to get right.

Final Thoughts:

Defenders of the Realm is outright terrible. It’s a cartoon that took an idea that was already bad and did everything wrong when executing it. It’s a surprise it managed to even last thirteen episodes. My final rating is going to be a 1/10. If you’re going to watch it, get some snarky friends together and get your enjoyment out of incessantly mocking it.

December Bonus Review #4: Frosty the Snowman

Frosty is a short Rankin/Bass production from the tail end of the 60s. It was written by Romeo Muller, a man who was best known for churning out holiday specials like origami cranes. So, does it hold up decently enough? Let’s have a look.

Frosty.png

Story:

A bunch of kids get out of school after being treated to the world’s worst magician. That might be unfair. He may be a better magician than those blokes who try to convince you that vaccines are dangerous. Their routine doesn’t even make sense. They just spew bollocks and act like they’re trying to be serious. In any case, the magician, Professor Hinkle, discards his hat because he can’t do tricks with it properly. The children decide to put it on their snowman, which they’ve named Frosty, and it brings him to life. We then follow Frosty’s quest to get to the North Pole before he melts & Hinkle’s quest to get his hat back because now he knows it has some real magic.

The first issue with this little special is that the characters might be too dumb. So, these kids decide they need to get Frosty a train ticket to the North Pole and then when they’re told how expensive it’ll be they just say “we don’t have any money.” I’m sorry, but kids know what money is. They might not know the value of it but they know what it is and they know you have to pay for things. It would be one thing if they didn’t have enough because they under-estimated the price. That would be fine. But they went to a counter to buy a ticket without having any money. One of the children even decides to join Frosty on his trip to the North Pole because it’ll be fine as long as she’s home for supper. Okay, these kids obviously have some understanding that this is a long trip or they’d just walk. Why would she think it was a good idea to ride with him in a freezer car if she needs to be back in a couple hours or so?

Speaking of odd things, she’s the only one he asks to go with him. With an entire group of children following him around town and such, he picks out one to include on his adventure. It’s a good thing the children are such non-characters or that might hurt their feelings.

I will give the little piece some credit. For the short time it has, it manages to  show the stuff it really needs to. We see Frosty and the kids play. We get a sense of danger, but not too much because that might scare the wee ones. And then we get our obvious happy ending.

Characters:

So, the children are one-note non-characters. Our villain is a generic “evil for the evils” type. That leaves us with our titular Snowman. The issue with Frosty is that his writing is kind of uneven. There are some things that he hears and just understands while there are others he needs an explanation for. Because “traffic light” is just so complex while the idea of “trains” is just self-explanatory. Either have the magic snowman be imbued with knowledge by virtue of being magical or have him as a naive innocent who doesn’t understand the world. Don’t try and do both.

Art:

I’m probably going to make some people upset with this one but Rankin/Bass productions don’t have good art. They’re very lazily drawn and have very slow movements. I don’t want to be too critical since this is rather old but there were a lot of better animated works out at the time. Various Looney Tunes programs, any of Disney’s longer films from the time like The Jungle Book or The Sword in the Stone. For that matter, Wacky Races was from the same period and looks much better.

Sound:

The acting in this is kind of stilted. I’m sure Jackie Vernon was a fine comedian, but his delivery is very artificial. June Foray doesn’t have that problem as much, probably because she’d been voice acting for over two decades at that point. But she still doesn’t sound good. Jimmy Durante’s narration is definitely the best part in terms of audio. Then we have the music. A lot of the special has various characters singing the song that this short was based off of. Singing it once would be fine in a half hour, but it gets done so bloody many times that you will want to bludgeon a toddler to death.

Final Thoughts:

I don’t want to be too critical of this little special since it was obviously made for small children and it’s also really old and, therefore, suffers from a lot of the clichés of the time. Besides, it’s pretty harmless and I can’t fairly call it bad. That being said, I certainly can’t call it good. It’s a really vapid, uninspired, and rather cynical attempt to cash in on the holiday season. Ultimately, Frosty is a snowman with some yellow snow at his core. It’s a special that hasn’t aged well. I have to give it a 4/10. So, have some happy holidays, Everyone. Be good to each other and to your dogs. Especially to your dogs.

December Bonus Review #3 Tiny Toons: Night Ghoulery

Night Ghoulery.png

I know what you’re all thinking. “Ktulu, you madman, isn’t this the complete wrong time of the year to review a Halloween special? Shouldn’t you be doing something winter holiday related instead?” Well, I felt like having a look at this one and maybe I’ll do one of those later. I wouldn’t want to be too predictable in what I review. 

Night Ghoulery was a slightly over forty five minute special back in ’95. The idea was basically to spoof a bunch of spoopy ideas and have a bit of a macabre even with the Tiny Toons cast. 

Story:

The special is organised into a bunch of different shorts. We’ve got a Tell Tale Heart parody with Plucky and Hampton. A Frankenstein parody with Elmyra & Dizzy. The between sequences poke fun at the Twilight Zone, as does one of the actual shorts. Buster & Plucky take on an old Abbot and Costello film. My favourite is probably the Night of the Living Dead parody with the Wacky land gang. It’s really bloody funny. 

The biggest downside to this whole thing may very well be that they try to do too much. There are little sketches here that really would have benefited from having some more time while there are some weaker ones like The Devil and Daniel Webfoot or Fuel that could have been cut out without losing much. Now, I’m not saying those particular bits are bad. They’re decent enough. I’m just saying there are much stronger premises for shorts in the special that could’ve benefited from a bit more time that the shorts that are merely all right could’ve been sacrificed for and it would’ve benefited the whole thing. I  would suggest that it might be because they wanted to include as many characters as possible, but Plucky is featured in a good four of the shorts while other characters only appear in the intro and outro. So, I don’t think they really factored in trying to include everyone. 

That being said, the parodies they have work pretty well. The worst you get are ones that are decent. The best you get are really funny. The writers of this were really good at making things a bit macabre without making them frightening or veering into territory that might be considered questionably child friendly. They do also make their parodies, even ones of older material that most children won’t have seen, enjoyable & zany even to those who aren’t familiar with the source material. So, good on them. 

Characters:

If you’ve seen Tiny Toons, you know what to expect from the cast. If you haven’t, the cast is a bunch of zany animal characters in the same vein as Looney Tunes. The character used the most for the special is Plucky Duck. Probably because he tends to get used for a lot of comedic pratfalls and suffering. Which makes him valuable for slightly macabre horror parodies.

One thing I will give both this special and Tiny Toons in general, they’re very good at taking these kind of simple, zany characters and putting them in situations where they can really work off of each other well. 

Art:

The artwork for the special isn’t quite as colourful as the series proper usually is. It uses a lot of darker shades in a lot of the shorts in keeping with the horror aesthetic. There are some good sight gags throughout. The animation team manages to pretty successfully meld the visual aesthetic of the old horror works with the brighter, more fun aesthetic of Tiny Toons. It looks pretty nice. 

Sound:

All the familiar voices are present. The ones you’ll hear the most of are Joe Alaskey & Tress MacNeille as Plucky & Babs respectively. Joe pretty much puts a different spin on the Plucky voice for every short he’s in. Including a very nice Shatner impression. Which leads to a bit where Hampton asks Plucky if he’s ever going to talk normally in the special. Just like in the show proper, Tress is pretty spot on with her Babs’ vocal parodies. The music is nicely done. They retooled the theme tune from the main series in a way that makes it different while also similar to the ordinary one. 

Final Thoughts:

Night Ghoulery is a pretty enjoyable little special. The parodies work well whether you’re familiar with the original works or not. There are plenty of funny moments. The voice acting is quite good. If you’re someone who enjoyed the Tiny Toons cartoon, you’ll definitely like this. For myself, I’ll give it a solid 7/10. 

November Bonus Review: Gravity Falls

Gravity Falls is a Disney cartoon that ran from ’12 to ’16 with two series and forty episodes. At its time, it got a lot of attention and a lot of adults were praising it as being an example of what a kid’s cartoon should be. Which I kind of ignored because I’ve heard the same thing about a lot of other cartoons, some of which have been utter bollocks. So, I’ll be watching through it for the first time for this review. Shh, don’t spoil it.

Gravity Falls.png

Story:

We follow twins, Dipper & Mabel Pines, as they stay with their Great Uncle Stan at his Mystery Shack tourist spot in the small town of Gravity Falls Oregon. While exploring in the woods, Dipper finds a mysterious journal that talks about the strange supernatural phenomena happening in the town. Following up on the things mentioned therein will lead to the two having one unforgettable summer filled with adventures & mystery.

I honestly can’t think of any major narrative problems with this series. It’s stories are pretty straight forward & very optimistic, both of which are fine. It can be predictable, for an adult, but it’s intended for children. So, I don’t see any problem there either. If anything, a show for children should be a bit predictable for adults. Since we have a lot more experience with media and, with it, trope knowledge.

In stark contrast, I have to give the series a lot of credit. The strange world of Gravity Falls is highly inventive and it does some subversive stuff. Like having highly cheerful gravediggers or bringing unicorns into the equation only to have them take the piss. Going along that vein, this series is really bloody funny. There aren’t many things that get me bursting out in uproarious laughter. I usually end up having more a quiet chuckle when I find something funny. This got me laughing my arse off quite a few times. Sometimes with jokes that are kind of old, but they just executed very well. To give an example, there’s a line from Grunkle Stan about how “he can’t find the remote and he refuses to stand up” that really got to me. It’s a joke I’ve seen many times and that normally wouldn’t get anything out of me, but the combination of the jape with the channel he’s got on, the distance he actually is from the telly & the delivery makes it really funny. I also appreciate that some of the lessons they bring up are important ones that I haven’t seen in a lot of cartoons. Like the fact that an absent parent doesn’t really care about you and you may as well forget about them and appreciate the people who do care about you.

Then, we have the finale. This one is full of twists and turns. It has a lot of strong triumphant moments and some more melancholy bitter-sweet ones. It has some really sweet scenes, and I’m not using “sweet” in a slang sense. It also has some epic bits that I don’t want to spoil. One thing worth noting is that the theme tune actually changes for the finale episodes. Yes, this series makes the theme tune an important reflection of the state of things happening in the series. Which is a nice tough that you don’t see in many things. The ending is absolutely amazing is what I’m saying.

Characters:

About the worst I can say about this aspect is that some of the mystical creatures they encounter lack individuality. The Manotaurs are pretty much interchangeable, as are the gnomes, as are the unicorns. Which I can’t fault them for too much, especially since the creatures tend to show up as a major part of one episode and then kind of go to the background. Overall, though, I really like the characters. The major characters have just the right level of complexity and development. The side characters may be largely defined by their quirks, but they’re an endearing lot. I freaking love the happy funeral directing couple, for example. They have the best morbid jokes.

Art:

The art uses a relatively simplistic style, but it uses it to great effect. The surreal and bizarre scenes are really well done. The character designs are memorable. I don’t even care that some characters have those weird, huge muppet noses. The scenes flow nicely too. There’s real effort put into making the series look nice and it pays off.

Sound:

Here’s an area where I have some issues. Dipper sounds too old. He’s supposed to be twelve, but his voice sounds like someone who’s gone completely through puberty and possibly started University. Then we have Grenda. One of the big “jokes” surrounding Grenda is that she has a super husky voice. Which is used in an actual humorous way all of once. Other than that, it just comes across as bad acting. I don’t have any real issues with the rest of the cast. They can be exaggerated at times, but there’s always a reason for it. The music is good. I especially like the theme tune, which is evocative of the whole surreal aesthetic except when it changes for the ending stretch. In which case it’s evocative of the situation they’ve found themselves in.

Final Thoughts:

I honestly didn’t expect to like Gravity Falls as much as I did. Especially given my history with cartoons that are lauded as “amazing” & “perfect for adults too.” But it more than won me over with its ceaseless charm, endearing characters, creative scenarios, strong sense of humour & virtually everything else. Ultimately, compared to everything I liked about the series, my few complaints are pretty mild. This is one I’ll probably re-watch at some point. My final rating is going to stand at a well deserved 9/10.

July Bonus Review: Spider-man Unlimited

The late 90s were a bad time for Marvel cartoons. There were animated versions of the Avengers, Spider-man & Silver Surfer and none of them lasted for longer than a single series. So, where exactly did Marvel and Saban go wrong with these properties? I might look at the other two later and give a really detailed answer, but I’ll start with a look at Spider-man Unlimited and let’s see where it went wrong.

Spidey unlimited.png

Story:

We open with John Jameson preparing to launch to the newly discovered, mysterious, Counter-Earth. Peter Parker is taking pictures when he notices Venom and Carnage sneaking aboard the shuttle. He goes to stop them but fails. The shuttle launches with them aboard and crashes on Counter-Earth, seemingly killing John. Naturally, the public blames Spider-man because no one noticed the symbiotes going aboard or happened to take video of the historic launch. Because why would you? Eventually, a video comes from John Jameson explaining that he’s on Counter-Earth and warning of some kind of danger that could threaten Earth if it’s not stopped. Spidey responds by hijacking a shuttle and going to Counter-Earth. Not to deal with the situation he just wants to bring John back. Does he seem like the type of heroic person who would face that kind of threat? He finds out that this new Earth is a lot like ours, but it’s got beast people and normal people and the beast people are in charge under the High Evolutionary.

There are two massive issues with this cartoon and I’ll list them both before explaining how they come into play since they’re frequently connected. The first is that it never really commits to its Counter-Earth gimmick. The second is that the writers can’t be bothered to think anything through. Let’s look at Spidey’s journey to Counter-Earth. He announces to everyone that he’s going to rescue John and clear his name. Then, in the exact same voice, he tries to explain why he’s going as Peter Parker in a truly pitiful attempt to salvage his secret identity. To make this even more inexplicable, he tries to hide the fact that Peter Parker is there from John because if John knew he’d figure out the truth. Now, think about that for a moment. Literally everyone on regular Earth knows. If them knowing is a give away, your secret identity is over. Period. There’s no need to try and hide it any more. John’ll just find out when he returns and learns that Parker left with Spidey. But the writers want to keep the secret identity because it’s in the comics and everyone knows that element of Spider-man stories.

The symbiotes are another great example. In this cartoon, the symbiotes are part of a great hive mind called “the Synoptic” but they still talk to one another like two separate beings because they wanted them to retain something of their unique identities. They also display new powers, becoming liquefied or opening holes in their chests to let projectile weapons pass through them. However, in spite of that, we’re still expected to believe that they have human hosts. Because Cletus Kasadt really has no torso and Eddie Brock can become mush. It makes perfect sense until you spend a millisecond thinking about it.

Spidey’s motivations  are also impacted by this combination of not wanting to commit and generally not thinking. He keeps whining that it’s not his planet or his fight because the writers don’t want to have a story about Spidey as a resistance fighter. They want him to swing around New Yory city, yes Counter-Earth has its own, and fight bad guys, including Counter-Earth versions of Kraven & Electro, because it’s more similar to what he actually does. Seriously, if you just wanted to have Spidey swinging around and fighting crime you should’ve just skipped the whole Counter-Earth bollocks.

There are some smaller issues too. The final episode ends on a cliffhanger, because they wanted to punish the five invested viewers they had. Spidey’s signature wit is basically absent. I mean, they try, but they’re really bad at it. For example, when he meets the knights of Wundagor Lady Vermin says they shouldn’t fight because he looks fair to her eyes and he responds with “And you look most rat-like to my own.” Somehow, she considers this flattery even though it’s just a description. Does she also think it’s flattery when someone says that she’s pale? There’s a point where Venom says he’s history and his response, in Unlimited fashion, is to say that History was never his best subject. He prefers Phys Ed, before knocking some support pillars over. That’s the best he could come up with in that situation? What about “History’s written by the winners. You’ll never decide what goes in the books.” or maybe “I just hope they remember my ability to bring the house down.” Either of those would have been much better and fit the character better. And there are moments that don’t make sense, like the guy who can become moving bandages being unable to use his powers to escape a cage with openings that he should be able to fit through.

Characters:

Here’s another major failing of the cartoon. These characters are boring. There’s no reason to care about anyone in the resistance because they’re such non-characters. the High Evolutionary was more interesting in the one episode of the 90s X-men cartoon he appeared in than he manages to be in the entirety of this where he’s the big bad. Then again, that show had competent writing. This version of Spider-man comes across as whiny and completely lacking in endearing qualities.

Art:

I can give the artwork some praise. There are some nice visuals and the action sequences look fine. There are some issues. Spidey’s new costume is trying way too hard to be “extreme.” Most of the symbiotes look identical and leave identical growths on their hosts which is boring and causes you to question what makes the ones we’re familiar with different besides the writing being terrible. This series also has the most unimaginative tattoos. John has one that just looks like the pencil outline of a crescent moon. And there’s another dude in the Resistance who has one that’s just the word “Mum.”

Sound:

The acting is mostly passable enough. It’s not good, but it’s functional. Then there’s Rhys Huber. He is truly awful. Michael Donovan is a bit rubbish too, but nowhere near that bad. The music is, likewise, pretty passable but not good.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, I think this series failed because of unlimited poor decisions. It can’t decide whether it wants to do the same old types of stories or have its Counter-Earth gimmick and the result is a mess. There are constant dumb writing choices that are, frankly, insulting to the audience. Because kids aren’t stupid. They can tell that there’s something off when it’s that blatant about it. In general, it’s just bad. My final rating on this one is going to stand at a 3/10. If you guys are interested, maybe I’ll look at the other two at another time and explore why they failed to grab audiences.