Sunday, May 30, 2010

Jaroo Presents... Cartoons on the Web

Over at, the entire library of DIC is posted, highlights of which include Captain N, Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, and most importantly of all, Mummies Alive! Tragically, they only post a few episodes at a time of Mummies Alive!

Which is a shame, because if there was any show that I can watch for giant eight hour blocks on a lazy weekend, it would be that one: astonishingly well written (by comic book guys like Len Wein no less), well-researched, the series is all the more compelling because something is always at stake and going on in fight scenes apart from just the actual contest itself.

They have a few other series posted, but here are some highlights that I can snark about:

Action Man

Armed with a mysterious past and an accent that changes from episode to episode, Action Man was made in the nineties, yet it already feels like it was made on another planet. His catchphrase is "let's get X-Treme!" His airplane is called "Jet X-Treme." Somehow, though, the X-Tremeness is somewhat undercut by the fact that the series is done in the DIC house style and so looks incredibly like "Liberty's Kids" and the animated "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?"

The catch phrase "Let's get X-Treme!" is the all-time winner of the worst catchphrase award ever,

It's not the show's fault, of course, but Action Man is yet another series that really loses out from the pointless censorship of firearms on kids' TV. This means that Action Man and his commando buddies use "lasers." Ugh.

In addition, Action Man follows the usual formulaic plots of gutsy adventure cartoons. For instance, a satellite crashes in a mysterious and unexplored region and both Action Man and his archenemy race to find it first. Astonishingly, GI Joe did this episode, as did Chuck Norris: Karate Commandos.

What is it about the nineties that makes things made during that era age terribly? "Trainspotting," for example, feels more dated than movies twice its age.

Siegfried & Roy: Masters of the Impossible

In this series, Siegfried and Roy are magician adventurers in a magical kingdom and Manticore the white tiger is their magical sidekick. It was as weird as you'd expect. The first thing that went through my head when I heard about this series was...what, they couldn't get the licensing to the Harlem Globetrotters?

This one remains a favorite, not just because Siegfried and Roy are my childhood heroes, but also because of the incredibly perplexing decision to give them girlfriends. Now, I can understand why in a kid's series with a magical white tiger sidekick they'd avoid discussing homosexuality, particularly that of Siegfried and Roy, who keep it in their private lives and therefore it's none of anybody else's business. But making them not only straight, but also (in the case of Siegfried) a pussy-hound, was a bizarre act of overcompensation.

Evolution: the Animated Series

The opening says it all. I can't believe this series exists.

If you were to name movies that have potential for animated series, which would top it? For me, it would definitely be "The Last Starfighter," which had above-average sequel potential, or maybe something involving the continued adventures of the Goonies.

"Evolution" would be at the bottom of the list! Mostly because...conflict in fiction has to be between people to be interesting. People, with well-defined and comprehensible motives. Fights with non-comprehending animals and natural forces are not interesting, for the same reason that conflicts with inanimate objects (e.g. lockpicking) are uninteresting: they have no real goals to oppose or objectives to have, they're just there. They can't really challenge your emotions. When you lose the mystery of the weird alien cells in the movie Evolution, what have you really got except a bug hunt show? How is that fodder for a series, anyway?

I resisted the urge to make fun of the movie Evolution...but it has to be mentioned: the movie totally tanked. Maybe it wasn't the movie's own fault, or necessarily indicate the movie wasn't any good...but to make an animated series based on it is a downright baffling decision. Not only that, but an adventure cartoon where the heroes have power-suits, wield metal quarterstaffs and guns that look like super-soakers? It's like the cartoon was based on a first-draft script for the film that was extensively rewritten.

One thing I have to say in its defense: the only iconic image from the movie was the three-eyed "have a nice day" smiley face, and they found a way to incorporate that into a "slimer" character. Not bad. It baffles me all the more that the new Battlestar Galactica felt the need to change the appearance of the Cylons...the one part of the show that didn't look ridiculous and seventies, that remains intimidating and menacing. I mean, it's the one image from the original series anybody remembers.

Ripley's Believe it or Not!

Again, I ask: whaaaaa?

It's like they'll license anything into an adventure cartoon.

Hey DIC, I have an idea for Dear Abby: the Animated Series. Dear Abby's spunky, moxie-filled mystery-solving teenage grand-daughter, also named Abby, is called to respond to letters to problems that people have. She goes in and solves their problems, but usually they involve encounters with the Occult and possibly the Mafia.

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