Tag Archives: Cartoon Network

The Powerpuff Girls: Twas a Blight Upon Christmas

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Usually during the month of December, I give myself a short break from reviews. Many of the old Christmas specials aired on television range from good and charming to downright goofy, but people can still be just a little bit touchy about them. Even the worst, most nonsensical stories seem to get a pass.

Well, screw that! Let’s tear apart one of my old childhood favorites!

ppgxmas

 

The Powerpuff Girls: T’was the Fight Before Christmas aired in December 2003 on Cartoon Network. The original show ran from 1998 to 2005, and began to dip down in quality towards the end, something that is often referred to as “seasonal rot.” Long-running shows tend to have the hardest time maintaining quality, as production members come and go and the creativity well dries up. Different priorities begin to clash, and meanwhile studios demand more episodes, more relevance to drive the interest in merchandise.

As you might guess, this Christmas special is but one example of the writers scrambling for ideas and a quick cash grab.

pp05

 

The plot is this: Princess Morbucks (a somewhat unique Powerpuff Girls villain due to lack of superpowers and age proximity to the heroes) doesn’t like Christmas. Due to her father’s downright obscene wealth, she apparently didn’t question why Santa Claus never brought her any presents up to this point. She even somehow rationalized the massive stacks of coal piled outside her door every year as being “from Daddy’s coal mines.”

After this angry epiphany, brought on by the Powerpuff Girls’ pointless shaming at school earlier that day, Princess ventures all the way to the North Pole to switch out the naughty and nice lists, tricking Santa into giving her what she’s always wanted: superpowers.

pp17

 

Now I liked this special when I was a kid, but that was mostly because it has nice Christmas colors and decorations everywhere, and characters that I liked were in it. I’ll admit that I never understood, even in the regular tv show, why Princess specifically wanted to be a Powerpuff Girl. I’m sure she wants to be the best of the best at everything, but then she could just take those powers and go off to do her own thing. Why did she want to be a part of a group of girls she didn’t like, share interests, or any common values with?

Probably because she’s a kid. Evil and bratty though she may be, Princess lacks in logic. She just wants to be popular, even with the people she holds contempt for. Fair enough.

But setting that aside, nothing about the setup of this special makes any sense whatsoever. Not in the context of a “Santa is real” story, and certainly not in the context of the in-story universe itself.

untitled213

 

First of all, Princess attempts her sabotage plan on Christmas Eve itself, and before her scheme was even conceived, she already received a delivery of coal. That implies that Santa was already out doing deliveries at that time, so by the time she gets to his workshop, the lists should either be with him in his sleigh or scrapped to make room for next year’s lists.

For one throw away joke, Princess should be too late.

Secondly, supposing that Princess wasn’t attempting this so late in the game, is Santa really that stupid? Hasn’t he been looking at these lists for months, prepping toys for specific children? This wouldn’t bother me so much if, as some other weird joke on the writers’ parts, the naughty list wasn’t literally a sticky note with one name on it. The nice list is huge, so even if Princess was a master at forging handwriting, Santa is an idiot for thinking that his naughty list magically grew 100,000,000 times bigger in the…what, 10 minute bathroom break he probably took to leave alone in the first place?

naughty nice

 

“But that’s the joke!” you say. “He didn’t check his list twice!”

…Um, that’s more than “not checking it twice,” guys. Think about it: Santa and all of his elves must have Dory-level short-term memory loss for not one of them to notice the list sizes changing at the last minute. It’s not like it’s that hard to remember the one person you’ve marked off as naughty, year after year, but wouldn’t he have a giant bag of coal marked “Princess,” for his weird, sadistic hobby of trying to burry bad children alive? Wouldn’t he see the names on the presents and wonder why his now unusually-tiny nice list wasn’t matching up?

He has only one other “naughty” list, the permanent plaque for those truly irredeemable kids, but the writers clearly only included that as a little in-joke for themselves. We can see that they have what appear to be their relatives’ names carved into there.

untitledjknvhevbhjevbhj

 

And as a fan of the show, I do wonder why the fem-devil villain character, Him, isn’t evil enough to get on any of these naughty lists. Considering that he’s brainwashed the entire city of Townsville with hate and took over the future, enslaving and zombifying everyone, Santa seems to have some seriously screwed-up priorities.

As you can see, while the concept for the story isn’t that bad, the execution is very poorly thought-out. It is a cartoon, sure, which means that it can get away with a lot, but not all cartoons operate on, say, Wile E. Coyote physics. Charlie Brown is a cartoon character, but he would still probably die if a piano fell on his head.

Even for a silly, made-for-kids show, the plot is flimsy beyond the suspension of disbelief.

But it’s not just the story that sours this special for me. I always found Bubbles pretty annoying at the worst of times, second only to Blossom and her know-it-all arrogance, so let’s combine one girl’s worst traits with another girl’s worst traits for even more annoyance! Bubbles is not only baby-ish and high-pitched; now, she goes around being smug to her sisters about how good she is and how thoroughly she prepared for Santa.

nebkjcvijvhc

 

Although, to be fair, yes, Buttercup is an idiot for waiting until the day of Christmas Eve to send out her wish list. I know she’s not the designated “smart one” of the group, but unless she plans to copy Johnny Bravo and hand-deliver it to Santa herself, she should mentally and emotionally prepare herself to get some toys that…*gasp* aren’t on her wish list!

…Yeah, that’s another thing. I know that these are all kids and kids are pretty selfish, especially around a time of year that supplies them with tons of presents seemingly out of nowhere, but I can only excuse so much at that in a character I’m supposed to enjoy watching. Especially when it comes from already-annoying characters.

And then Bubbles, pretty clearly motivated by the existential horror of potentially not being as good as she thinks she is, checks her family’s and every other family in the neighborhood’s stockings and trees to make sure that she wasn’t the only one shafted. It’s apparently excused, though, because she only used x-ray vision. It’s not like she broke into each house individually and started rooting through stockings and such…

Except she might as well have done that.

jchawdhjvjknevjkne

 

Okay, so maybe she and her sisters do occasionally express concern for the other kids out there who will wake up shocked and disappointed, but up until Princess shows up to taunt them with her newly-acquired powers, the Powerpuff Girls seem mostly like they just want to go ask Santa what gives with their stockings. And just because Bubbles’ motive changes doesn’t mean that it makes her actions alright. It’s okay to snoop through other people’s things if they might have got something you didn’t?

But besides Princess. Bubbles is the character that gets the most attention, so supposedly she’s the one in the right here…so huzzah…

The last thing I’ll bring up is that Santa, even excusing all of his other clear negligence and stupidity, is kind of a jerk. I’m sure the writers thought it’d be funny to do a parody of the traditional jolly old Saint Nick, but this guy is just unpleasant to watch. For one thing, he’s got an ugly design, even in a show full of bug-eyed little girls.

powerpuff-girls-christmas-3

 

He clashes with the rest of the special’s overly-happy aesthetic, like the boys and teenagers skipping around with dopey smiles and the narrator calling train sets “choo-choos” to force a rhyme to work. He calls all the children of the world names when he’s annoyed at them, he shouts menacingly at Princess and the Powerpuff Girls to answer a question he asked them, and he stomps around almost like a giant monster that they should be defeating. Santa also keeps saying “Check it!” in this weird, faux-cool-kid voice, and things like “I don’t need no stinking list!” (which pretty obviously, he does). That is extremely stupid and out of place, and definitely makes him seem like he’s in the wrong line of work.

You know who did a beleaguered Santa well? Rankin Bass.

yw-santa-2

 

This incarnation stayed in character, but understandably got a bit burned out with his job.

The Powerpuff Girls: T’was the Fight Before Christmas may still charm some, and it’s relatively harmless, so I can’t tell you not to watch it. I still catch it on tv from time to time, despite the fact that, under any kind of scrutiny, it falls apart like a bad gingerbread house. It’s silly and colorful, and as I said, the visuals are just right for the holiday it’s representing. The scene where the girls race Princess to Santa’s workshop is pretty entertaining, and hearing them rib each other for being occasionally outwitted and pummeled by her is funny in that mean-spirited Simpsons kind of way.

jcvbhvbh

 

Lastly, in line with that whole permanent naughty plaque thing I mentioned above, I find it hilarious that the special shows a scene of Mojo Jojo preparing for Christmas, like he actually expects Santa to leave him presents. That’s right, kiddies: a spoiled child is the absolute worst, but being an evil genius who repeatedly tries to destroy and take over the city, that’s A-Okay!

It’s laughably stupid, in that sense.

What I’m trying to say is that the special is not completely irredeemable, especially if your kids are fans of either of the shows (Powerpuff Girls 2016 can go die, roasted on an open fire). But it won’t hold up for any adults who didn’t grow up with it. Some pretty colors and a throw away reference to A Christmas Story can’t save something this flawed.

Plenty of people still seem to enjoy it, but it’s a lot lazier than they give it credit for.

 

3.5/10

*All images belong to Cartoon Network. 

 

Steven Universe, and Why You Should Be Watching It

steven_wallpaper_01_1024x768

 

It’s hard to put into words just how wonderful Steven Universe is.

I’ve put off this post for a while now because…I just didn’t know what to say about it. Its first few episodes left me confused and adrift, but after much binging, I was left speechless in awe.

How do you describe what you just know in your heart?

It’s a charming show with interesting, dynamic and likeable characters. The Crystal Gems come from an alien world of super beings known simply as Gems, each of whom has a stone somewhere on their body that gives them life and power. The Crystal Gems protect the Earth from invading forces, usually in the form of Gems from their home world, their creations, or space monsters, all while trying their best to train and raise Steven, a half-human half-Gem and the son of their former leader, who became him while at the same time giving birth to him.

tumblr_static_8hy2m7sxdyck0k88gs0s8ooo0

 

…It sounds complicated, and it sort of is, but you’ll understand it more if you watch the show.

Steven has to learn to be a Crystal Gem, but he also has to learn to be a man too.

Greg

 

He sees his dad, who is a beach bum in charge of a car wash in their seaside town, from time to time and maintains a good relationship with him, despite the admittedly unorthodox way Steven came into the world, but he is primarily raised by three moms, each of whom step into roles as friends, sisters, and trainers from time to time as well.

The Crystal Gems must learn to understand and relate to the humans that they protect and vice versa. Steven acts as a bridge between the two, guiding them as they guide him.

It’s a show about the complexities of relationships; a slice of life with magical girls from space.

The story is just so out there, but the relationships feel believable and sympathetic. They go on grand adventures in some episodes, and hang around town in others, as Steven learns valuable life lessons. The humor was an acquired taste for me at first (having only just recently gotten into Adventure Time), and I’ll admit that I still don’t tend to laugh out loud, but by the time 11 minutes are up, I always find myself satisfied and smiling.

The visual style is definitely reminiscent of Adventure Time; which makes sense, because Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar worked on the show. But you can see anime and pop culture influences sprinkled in generously as well, colored with nice, almost soothing palettes. The many “women” (the Gems themselves are genderless, but they take on female attributes) of Steven Universe come in literally different shapes, sizes, and colors, but each has a unique personality and is beautiful in “her” own way.

IMG_20150410_113032

 

No one insists that all these ladies look the same.

The voice cast is also pleasantly varied.  Steven is voiced by an actual kid (which rarely works out well on t.v. because of lack of talent or direction), and he does a wonderful job portraying an awkward, caring sometimes obnoxious but always well-meaning youngster.

Estelle plays the Crystal Gem’s leader, Garnet, and she is very good at being serious and stoic when she needs to be, but also supportive and even silly. Pearl, played by Deedee Magno-Hall, is clean and orderly to the point of neurosis at times, but she is a skilled, graceful fighter who loves to share Gem history with Steven. And Michaela Dietz’s Amethyst is impulsive, messy, and fun-loving, but also surprisingly emotional and childish. They all care deeply for one another, despite clashing frequently about minor details.

There’s an air of gender queering around the show as well. The Gems can fuse with one another by dancing together (Dragonball Z, anyone?), and the result is a larger single being with new strengths and personality.

The Next Sentence Contains A Spoiler: Steven and his crush accidentally fuse one night and spend the rest of it running around in a single, androgynous form that draws attention from girls and guys around town: End Spoiler.

Two Gems have also been stated by the powers that be to be romantically involved with one another.

Amethyst’s gem is right on her chest and she can pull her weapon out of it.

Amethyst_Whips

 

These are jarring only in the sense that most shows aimed at children don’t acknowledge sexuality and gender identity at all, let alone weave it into plot points and display it so proudly. The show acts like it’s nothing at all, and that is absolutely amazing.

Steven himself exhibits quite a few feminine traits, but we never see him maliciously teased or forced to conform to what our society would expect. He adamantly defends his unusual family and encourages others to be themselves and do what they think is right.

e17

 

He can be genuinely funny, but he strikes you as the kind of kid who would laugh right along with you, and be happy that he got that response. That reminds me of myself as a girl just a little bit, when I was really young and didn’t pick up on peoples’ judgments as easily.

Steven Universe is weird in many ways, but its unique characters and storytelling make it utterly fascinating and heartwarming.  Things can turn surprisingly dramatic and emotional on a dime, then switch back to silly and upbeat, all while keeping you invested and sympathetic. Characters you may not have liked at first grow on you, or if they don’t, you at least get where they’re coming from.

Also, the theme songs are gorgeous and catchy.

 

Seriously, just watch a few episodes. Adults can get just as much out of the show as kids can. If nothing else, Steven Universe will be remembered for its daring, encouraging kids to understand what families really are and the many ways they can come together and support one another.

9/10

*All pictures, video clips, and other media belong to Rebecca Sugar and Cartoon Network. None of the images or sounds belong to me.

CftC: Ed, Edd n Eddy’s Boo Haw Haw

Welcome back to:

october

 

Ed, Edd n Eddy was one of those “love it or hate it” kind of shows. The whole premise – three kids try to scam the rest of the cul de sac out of their money – is kind of mean-spirited, although the show was pretty good about giving consequences to the right characters. All of the characters had their mean moments, but it also felt very innocent; reminiscent of how kids can just be cruel, sometimes with seemingly no reason.

And intense gross-out gags usually appeal to boys, anyway.

Still, I loved it.

Ed, Edd n Eddy was definitely one of my favorite shows. It was colorful, and the art style really bloomed in season 2 and up, managing to look both pleasant and colorful, and silly and grotesque when it needed to. It had its silly and gross-out moments, but by the standards of most modern cartoons (modern Spongebob, Sanjay and Craig, etc.), I’d say the latter was fairly restrained. The characters were funny, and the zany schemes were over-the-top and fun; fake enough that you knew not to try them at home, but real and kid-ish enough to be put together with odds and ends, boxes, and duct tape.

40% of it was stuff I didn’t mind much, an 60% of the show was honest fun and heart.

The show began running on Cartoon Network in 1999 and ran for 10 years and 6 seasons in total. While designing a commercial, Italian-Canadian cartoonist Danny Antonucci conceived Ed, Edd n Eddy. He approached Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon with the series, but both channels demanded creative control, to which Antonucci did not agree. Finally, a deal was ultimately made for Cartoon Network to commission Ed, Edd n Eddy, after they agreed to let Antonucci have control of the show. The series’ TV movie finale, Ed Edd n Eddy’s Big Picture Show, aired on November 8, 2009.

All_3_eds

 

Of the main trio, there is Eddy, the short one in yellow. He gets a few redeeming moments, but otherwise, his character is pretty static: he is the Scrooge and head con artist of the group. Edd, the tallest kid in the Where’s Waldo shirt, is the muscle and lovable moron with the most creative imagination…and the poorest hygiene. Edd, more commonly referred to as “Double Dee,” is the smartest, most mature and finicky of the group. He is a good-natured but beleaguered nerd who cleans and straightens obsessive compulsively, and tries to keep a handle on his two crazy friends. Eddy uses him frequently for his own ends, but typically includes Double Dee on the rewards (and punishments) he receives from the other kids in their neighborhood.

Also, Double Dee wears a sock on his head, and I don’t think we ever learned what he’s hiding beneath it. The show’s writers sure loved to tease it, though.

While the friends could fight and be shallow or selfish to one another, their bond felt natural and as true as any friendship in kiddom. It helped some that the trio were all pretty equally low on the cul de sac social hierarchy, but they almost never ditched each other when a rare opportunity for popularity presented itself anyways. The social politics were nowhere as mean and unpleasant as that with Penny’s friends on The Proud Family, although I liked that show a lot too.

eKanker_Sisterstumblr_inline_nbnd4bJggh1rwsjoi

 

Other notable characters include Kevin, the aloof and irritable “cool kid” jock; Nazz, the cool girl and practically the entire cul de sac’s love interest; Jonny “2×4,” (so named for his large cranium and imaginary friend, a fence board with a face drawn on it named “Plank”) who sometimes rivals Ed’s lack of self-awareness and intelligence; Sarah, Ed’s bossy, violent little sister; Jimmy, Sarah’s overly effeminate friend with dental work; Rolf, an out-of-touch immigrant farm boy with strange customs and behaviors; and the essentially trailer-trash Kanker sisters, May, Marie, and Lee, who torment the other kids and occasionally stalk the Eds to try to force them to be their boyfriends.

It toed that fine line between cartoony, matching its art style, and semi-realistic, with very little honest to goodness supernatural stuff. There was plenty of violence, too, but it had a bit less cringe content to it than something like Tom and Jerry. The kids represented various age groups and cliques, and were all redeeming in some way. Yes, even the loathed Kanker sisters.

And, similar to Peanuts (perhaps inspired by it), adults never speak coherent words or appear onscreen at any point.

The official Halloween Special came out in Season 5, on October 28th, 2005.

Boo_Haw_Haw

 

Though certainly not as great as The Great Pumpkin, Ed, Edd n Eddy’s Boo Haw Haw has some of that same fun, imaginative spirit, while still taking place on a regular old night of trick or treating.

The premise is this: Eddy’s offscreen prankster of an older brother (Eddy looks up to him immensely, but is constantly abused by him) leaves him the map to a place called “Spook-E-Ville,” where the candy abounds. He convinces the other two Eds to join him, and all the while Ed is suffering from massive, graphic hallucinations as a result of binge watching horror movies. The colors were very pronounced in this special, and always in dark contrast with one another. The animators got to have fun with the designs of monsters in Ed’s Horror-vision, and the characters all wear costumers that either mirror or just speak volumes about their personalities. Eddy is Elvis, Ed is a viking warrior, Double Dee is the bubonic plague (dubbed throw up by Eddy), Sarah is a princess, etc.

Ed,_Edd_n_Eddy's_Boo_Haw_Haw

It reminds me of Lucy from The Great Pumpkin, particularly her insistence that the witch costume didn’t represent her at all. And poor Double D is like the smart Charlie Brown of the group, trying his best but ultimately getting handed with a bunch of rocks.

At least the Eds never let life get them down.

The ending is pretty predictable, even by the show’s standards, but I won’t spoil it for people who haven’t seen it. It’s still a fun ride to get there, and sometimes, that’s the most important thing.

7/10, so check it out! But beware if you’re not a gross-out fan.

*As per usual, most of the pics don’t belong to me. The title card does, though. Twas done by the gracious and talented Zero, who can be found here. Check her out! 🙂