Real name: Carl Padgham
Review Star Average: 2.25/4
Keyframe's Managing Editor, animation critic and researcher (and former videogame critic). I'm stingy with my stars, so don’t expect a lot of high scores from me, a profile has to really work to earn its balls of fire facsimiles.
Presently, I review animation based on how they bear up to the peers in their respective categories - features-to-features, DTVs-to-DTVs, etc - rather than try to unfairly compare a high budget feature film with a low budget direct-to-video. Call it a category concession if you will.
I hope to never let nostalgia affect my reviews, but then nobody’s perfect. My favourite animated cartoons tend to fall between the original "Golden Era" and the late 80s to early 90s. My interest in animation goes back years. I enjoy playing video games but tend to find their animated adaptations range from awful to okay - I could say a similar thing to game adaptations of many animation licences.
While I may prefer traditional animation to CGI, I can watch almost anything and think that the story and characters are more important to a film, etc, than the medium of animation used in it.
For what it's worth, I have Asperger's Syndrome, a form of high functioning autism.
My Star to 10 scale ratio:
4.0 stars = 9-10 - Superb: One of the best films you could hope to see in your lifetime - insofar as I'm concerned, a rare gem in animation achievement.
3.5 stars = 8-9 - Great: That film that entertains all the way through, and never truly flounders, but is still missing the spark that seperates the great from the epic.
3.0 stars = 7-8 - Good: A film, etc, that is good, but not great, something you'd watch again, but might not go hunting down the Blu-ray or DVD - at full price - for.
2.5 stars = 5-6 - Mediocre: Straight down the middle, while it's watchable, you won't call it actually good per sé. On the flip side, neither is it actually bad.
2.0 stars = 3-4 - Poor: Not so bad as you cannot get through it, but you might not care to watch it again anytime soon, or remember anything about it immediately after it finishes.
1.5 stars = 2-3 - Terrible: Maybe there some redeeming factors, but they are few and far in a overwise horrid production.
1.0 stars = 1-2 - Abysmal: Practically unwatchable sludge. or as close to it as makes no odds.
Animation, Drawing, writing, reading (animal novels, fantasy, sci-fi, animation history), videogames, and radio comedies. Not necessarily in that exact order.
Animation that I love:
Theatrical Shorts, Animaniacs, Astro Boy (all versions), Count Duckula, Lilo & Stitch, WALL•E...
Having 'recently' acquired satellite and the packages that come with it, including the Disney Channel and sister station XD, I've had plenty of time to get acquainted with the adventures of these two brothers (and the other stuff that's on air).
Phineas and Ferb are stepbrothers who are technical and mechanical geniuses who decide to create an outlandish contraption for the 104 days of - USA - summer vacation. The siblings are generally aided and abetted by their friends/neighbours Isabella, geek Baljeet and amiable bully Buford. At the same time their somewhat highly-strung sister Candace attempts - futilely - to get their mom to see the boys' latest scheme, but either gets wrapped up in their device, or is frustrated at every turn.
Meanwhile, Perry, the boys' pet platypus - a creature chosen by the creators because of the lack of knowledge stateside of the critter and its real life inaccessibility as a pet* - leads a double life as a secret agent for OWCA (Organisation Without a Cool Acronym), fighting the City's inept evil scientist Dr. Doofenshmirtz and his latest plan to conquer the Tri-State Area, mostly out of pettiness to get at his brother the mayor. The scientist is so ineffectual that no-one outside OWCA seems to acknowledge him, or think that he's a lab-scientist due to his attire; despite his frequent outbursts of conquest, or his building having "Doofenshmirtz Evil Inc." written in storey high letters.
If this sounds a bit formulaic, that's because the series is; although there's nothing wrong with formula as long as you can find enough variables. Phineas and Ferb certainly has enough of a mix-up game to lift it beyond its limited building blocks. It revels in lampshade hanging, breaking the forth wall and drawing attention to its own idiosyncrasies. In this kind of series the success of the game plan is in the mix-up, and it pulls it off more than not.
I can't help but think of the titular boys as nicer, juvenile - but not as "juvenile" - versions of Jay and Silent Bob, and that I rather watch them than the aforementioned nefarious duo. Phineas is an optimistic blabbermouth, whose constant positive jabbering makes him the go to character for exposition, but - surprisingly - never becomes insufferable. Ferb - who looks like a character straight out of Doug TenNapel's pen with his mismatched eyes - is the silent type, who is apparently hyper competent at engineering and anything else he puts his mind to. He gets about one line per episode, and it's usually the best line in the episode.
The father, played by Rocky Horror Show writer/actor Richard O'Brien, knows about the boy's activities (though it seems to depend on the episode). I've actually seen episodes where he takes part in a couple, and sees no real harm in his lads' excursions. Mom though is kept completely in the dark, with the cartoon coming up with some strongly contrived reasons as to how she avoids seeing the contraption of the day. The moments were she does see their goings on, are limited to what-if scenarios and where it'll cause no harm to the status-quo.
The real chunk of the comedy is with the endless battles between the inept Dr. Doofenshmirtz and his nemesis Perry; complete with implausible, threadbare back stories, and the futile nature of Candace's attempts to bust her brothers while keeping in a relationship with boyfriend Jeremy. There's also quite a bit of fun to be had in the show's frequent mix-up and subversions of it own rules.
Every episode has a musical number somewhere in its running time, which has run the gambit from awful to great and everything in-between, and seems to have covered every type of music under the sun by this point. Dr. Doofenshmirtz songs are the most cleverly written, but conversely the least well sung, although this to, is played for the laughs. The opening theme is catchy, but I have a soft spot for Perry's slick spy-themed theme that plays in - most of - the end credits.
However formulaic the series may be, its the kind that works more times than not, and while the series won't change your life in any meaningful way, it's certainly not lacking in the department of fun.
*Due to them being highly venomous.
Watching this watered-down, animated series kind of think of how bizarre the notion of making kid-friendly versions of adult orientated films (like where's the animated versions of Friday the 13th or Child's Play). Then again the Eighties seemed to be the time to do this sort of thing, and I'm at least glad that it didn't end with one of those dreaded "knowing is half the battle" moral endings eighties shows - even some of the good ones - where plagued with throughout.
The animated series of Robocop itself is little more than a bottom-feeder that really didn't have any need to be made. Watered down from the source to the point where the networks could show it to the kiddies, reducing the plots to intellectually match what some executive wrongly thought kids could understand and rendering itself meaningless in the process. Following the generic plots is terrible and lame dialogue that rends cut-rate insults of the "Rust Bucket" and "Tin Can" vein and humdrum anti-robot stories that make it come across as a third-rate Astro Boy knock-off, but only at its - Robocop's - best.
This breed of poorly animated, low-end, cheaply-made kind of series was already becoming an anachronism this late into the Eighties, Disney had entered the fold of animation with Chip and Dale, as well as the Gummi Bears, Warners where about to join in through their long, profitable - and entertaining - collaboration with Spielberg and Fox would unleash The Simpson's on an unsuspecting world by the end of next year.
The nicest thing to be said about the series is that it was cancelled after only twelve episodes, and that there was other stuff on that was even worse; so as least it is a minor footnote in Eighties era TV. Today, it only good for filler to waste screen-time and DVD bargain bins. Long may its husk wither in the sea of forgetfulness, I can't say that it'd have many mourners.
2/10 (Terrible) - based on viewing 8/12 episodes.
Hokey is a con-artist in the style of Phil Silver’s Bilko character, and pulls various cons with his younger assistant/tagalong Ding-a-Ling to coax and purloin food and/or shelter from various people, the majority being farmers, but sometimes fairytale characters like the three little pigs.
Hanna-Barbera was never a company for great animation (mostly due to the limits of TV budgets), and had a tendency to copy others and themselves in their cartoons, and Hokey Wolf had a simple concept, use Phil's Silver con-artist persona using talking animals. Hanna-Barbera would use the Phil Silvers plot again, to better affect, with their cat-centric primetime series Top Cat.
Hokey is Daws Butler, doing a fine job of impersonating Phil Silvers – well Phil’s most famous creation Sergeant Bilko – and the rest of the cast are on par with expectations, though I not sure whose voice Ding-a-Ling is based on.
It's decent, given the time period, or at least as much as anything else that the company behind it made. And, like much of Hanna Barbera’s early work, it won’t bear up to repeated viewings, or be much discernable from other HB 60’s stuff.
There’s not a long to expect from a cartoon of this period, television animation was, and had been, made on the cheap and so had to reply on strong poses, good storytelling and well voiced dialogue to get through. Many cartoons of the time focused on wordplay and character tics. It’s the Wolf gets it animation poses right for the most part, and this is a generally okay package to come out of late sixties television.
It’s the Wolf follows the day-to-day lives of three characters,: Lambsy, Bristle Hound and Wilbur Wolf in the sort of thing that Hanna-Barbera – and yes, Warners – had been doing for years. In fact the first thing that came to mind upon watching the show was that it had a bit too much in common with the earlier Yakky Doodle, only Lambsy isn’t quite as obnoxious as that loudmouth duck.
Wilbur is the best character of the show,* though to be fair he really doesn’t have much in the way of competition, he makes humorous jokes and jives, not laugh out funny ones, but they do break the monotony; he constantly breaks the fourth wall (although so does Lambsy how and then), and also has the benefit of an unusual design with his short, stocky legs and long body. Basically the wolf steals the show and is essentially the only reason to watch it.
The other two characters don’t fare as well; the dog doesn’t do a lot outside of make the occasion droll comment and, naturally, come running after Lambsy’s trademark titular yell. Otherwise he almost might as well not be there, in spite of the fact that his presence is necessary.
Lambsy has Daws Bulter’s Elroy’s voice, which is also somewhat similar to Auggie Doggy’s and likely other characters - I think I’ve watched too many HB cartoons of late. Lambsy has his moments, but most of the time I ended up wishing that the creator’s would just let Wilbur eat him.
The show has its fair share of corny dialogue and ten-a-penny jokes, and I’ll admit that it made me chuckle when Wilbur exclaimed “It’s the Dog! It’s the Dog!” when Bristle caught up with him on one episode I saw. Though I later heard the line later from Lambsy, ironically it was an earlier aired episode; it wasn’t as funny the second time.
And that is kind of the problem in some ways, there isn’t much to find beneath the surface of these late Sixties cartoons, it’s what you seen is what you get, and the problem is that while there is certainly enough on the surface to entertain, there’s not much else in here. Its entertaining enough to past the time for sure, but it is also highly derivative and not hugely memorable outside of its often heard namesake to earn much more than a mere passing look once in a while.
*In fact he was the only character from the whole enitity of The Cattanooga Cats to appear in a later cartoon.
Like many very popular and successful children’s books, Scarry’s busy world got a series made, and luckily it wasn’t made by DiC or someone else who could be said to lack ability. It was instead created by Cinar, who have had a decent track record in translating printed media to an animated one; the best company for this is probably Nelvana, but yeah, Cinar aren’t too shabby.
For those who haven’t picked up one of Richard Scarry’s books, the series mostly follows the day-to-day lives of two of Busy Town’s citizens, Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm, but segments also follow other characters. Many of these other characters aren’t from Busy Town at all, but hail from some other Country, and are also generally detectives of some sort. They pretty much run the same as each other in the end. Lowly acts as a kind of narrator in these segments, as well as a bridge, they main purpose would apparently show the customs of other Countries or something of that nature, but you’d likely not learn that much from them as these segments tend to be a chase cartoon format variety.
The animation is certainly decent and up to the standards of the early to mid-nineties. The art style follows the conventions of its source material to the letter, looking very much like one of Scarry’s drawings come to life. The voice acting is good and the opening theme is catchy, in spite of being overly cheerful, song segments cover the edutainment parts, a throwback from the eighties perhaps, but are actual fair to listen through.
This is a series intended solely for children and it definitely feels like it at times; there isn’t as much for adults to enjoy, outside of perhaps nostalgia. This represents a problem, because I’m of the opinion that the best animation should be equally able to entertain adults and children. Of course this is also the problem with adapting media from one format to another and Busy World is as close a proximity to the books as can be.
Busy World is enjoyable to a degree in small doses, but there no real hook to keep the interest for anything longer, in essence you could easily compare it to another of Cinar’s cartoon series Arthur, just for the previous generation, both are nice to watch on a raining day, but neither is very fulfilling.
Edit: Lost 1/2 star