Category Archives: Cartoons

The Rooster Talisman: there since the Beginning

Happy Year of the Rooster!  To celebrate the occasion, let’s once again check out the Rooster Talisman in the Kids WB cartoon series, Jackie Chan Adventures.  The Rooster Talisman (which bestows Levitation powers to the user) is special as it was the first Talisman seen and premiered in the first episode of the series!  Looking back at this episode, I can’t help but be amused how different the show was compared to later seasons such as the rougher character designs and an overall awkward pace.  You can tell the creators were trying to figure out what kind of show Jackie Chan Adventures was going to be.

image from jackie chan adventures wiki

image from jackie chan adventures wiki

But enough about the show, let’s talk about the Rooster Talisman!  Unlike our previous two talismans, the Rooster was prominently used throughout the show, even in episodes where it was not the focal point (a big example being Jade’s battle with the Sky Demon).  It’s now hard to understand why either.  The Rooster Talisman is simply useful.  The power to levitate yourself (and other objects) would’ve solved a world of problems for our heroes had it not been for Jackie’s reluctance to use the Talismans.

This was also one of the best episodes in the series as well.  The Rooster and Rabbit Talismans were just icing on the cake.  Image from the Jackie Chan Adventures wiki

This was also one of the best episodes in the series as well. The Rooster and Rabbit Talismans were just icing on the cake. Image from the Jackie Chan Adventures wiki

The Rooster Talisman has been a constant presence in the series for reasons you may actually not realize.  Okay, so in season 3 when Jackie blew up the Talismans, the Rooster Talisman possessed its noble animal, Eggbert, a rooster that lived in Malaysia and later moved to Kansas.  Eggbert was subsequently paired up with the Pig Talisman’s noble animal, Mordecai.  These two were the best as Eggbert just flew Mordecai around while he caused havoc with his laser eyes.  Now, this episode was one of the few times Jackie Chan an co. lost to Daolon Wong as he absorbed both powers with his freaky mouth hands.  In subsequent episodes, up to the climax of season 3, Daolon Wong frequently used his newfound levitation and heat beam eye powers to his advantage.  I like this a lot actually as Daolon Wong becomes a bigger threat unlike season 1 where the Dark Hand barely used their talismans.  That wasn’t the last of Eggbert though as he and Moredecai were infrequent guests to the show in later episodes such as “The Amazing T-Troop” and “The Powers That Be.”

Luckily, when push comes to shove the Talismans will be used as a last resort.  These instances don’t happen too often though and that’s what makes those episodes great.  Some of the special ones include the awesome Talisman battle in Season 2’s “The J-Team,” the Talisman vs Demon battle in Season 2’s “The Demon World,” and the battle against the Oni Generals in Season 4’s “Ninja Twilight.”  The Rooster Talisman’s insane usefulness combined with the show underplaying them means that every time we see someone use it, we’re in for a good time.

Happy Year of the Rooster!

“World of Tomorrow” is My Pick for Best Animated Short Film of 2016

Like last years’ Oscar nominees for Best Animated Short, my selection for the 2016 winner is an easy decision as none of the shorts had the same depth and innovation as my clear favorite did. So before I get to why I liked “The World of Tomorrow” the best, let’s take a look at the other nominees first.

Probably the weakest nominee on our list is “Prologue.” Now, “Prologue” is noteworthy for its combination of colored pencils with a hyper realistic art style but the story was super lacking. In fact, did it even have a story? No, it really didn’t. It’s just about these four dudes fighting each other (in a game I called “The Half Naked Fight”) and a young girl gets traumatized from viewing this deadly battle. That’s it. Violence has weight if there’s a purpose behind it but without tension, it’s meaningless. Why are the dudes fighting? Which side should I be rooting for? And why should I care?

“Bear Story” suffers from its middling plot, style, and story that, in the end, make it another weak contender. I don’t really know what to say about this short since it’s so…meh…I think what really bothers me about the short is there are a lot of unanswered questions, some of which are ones I’m sure the creators don’t want you to think about. For instance, are the circus workers human? Where do they live? How do they know about this animal city? Why aren’t there other humans doing something about this human city? Do the animals live in fear of humans? Even the ending was confusing in the wrong way as it left me more frustrated than satisfied. And unfortunately, the rather stiff animation seems almost jarring when you compare it to other computer-animated shorts. Next.

“We Can’t Live Without Cosmos” should be retitled as “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos and Each Other.” The two cosmonauts’ friendship rivals their love of outer space and that makes this short super character driven. The minimal art style is reminiscent of Tintin, Doug, and other simplistic cartoons and this is amazing given the breadth of emotion delivered in this film. Because of the style, outer space looks so beautiful, perfectly complimenting the cosmonauts love for it. Really, the major fault I had for this film is the ending which, like “Bear Story,” left me confused when it really shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t focus on this part of the film but it bothered both Mary and I and I can’t let it go. Mary postulated that he committed suicide while I think he somehow found a way to reach outer space and join his friend. Perhaps we should enjoy the ending though as he was reunited with his friend in the end. Pretty good short though!

Now, “Sanjay’s Super Team” I can imagine winning the Oscar but not just because it’s a Pixar film! The other Pixar short I saw in 2015, “Lava,” was no where near as good as this short and I was super glad I didn’t have to watch it again when I saw all five shorts in the theater.  I like this short because it was incredibly fluid, visually stimulating and gorgeous. I like the parallels between the father and son’s influential figures and I liked the action scene as well. If it wasn’t for “World of Tomorrow,” I’d say that “Sanjay’s Super Team” would win the award no problem!

Then why does “World of Tomorrow” (directed, produced, animated, written, and edited by Don Hertzfeldt) deserve the Oscar? Well, I think it boils down to “World of Tomorrow’s” delivery of a very earnest, and somewhat sad, look at humanity through the guise of fun, surreal, and often times light humor. I can only imagine how difficult it is to achieve this but “World of Tomorrow” exceeded tremendously. What’s more, the child-like stick figure characters match well with the undefined and abstract-like backgrounds.   There were so many good scenes but the one that got to me was when Future Emily talked about clone degenerations and then her eyes blinked rapidly and sporadically. It made me uncomfortable and that was great. The ending scene where Future Emily absorbed Emily Prime’s memory of her mother was quite melancholic but I still had this sense of…optimism? I’m not quite sure how I feel.

I guess in the end, “World of Tomorrow” was the animated short I had been looking for for a long time. When I review the Oscar Animated Shorts, I’m looking for a short that has a stellar art direction mixed with an unconventional storyline or a story that made me think and change my perspective on a certain topic. The last time this happened to me was 2013’s Disney’s “Get a Horse” which, although not really mentally stoking, had a very surprising and refreshing take of the classic Mickey cartoons and that was great! I love being surprised! “World of Tomorrow,” was the opposite as, although it didn’t have a twist or a surprise “gotcha moment,” was still very sweet and emotionally stimulating. And unlike “Bear Story” or “We Can’t Live without Cosmos,” I didn’t find myself frustrated or confused by the storyline, it had a goal and it delivered it to perfection. I highly recommend for anyone to see it.

Btw, anyone notice how there was a severe lack of dialogue in four of the five shorts? Only “World of Tomorrow” had dialogue and it was brimming with it. I kind of find that interesting as the previous two nominated years had a healthy mix of the two. I’m not really surprised truth be told as when you have an animated short, a media where you are free to create anything you like without much limitation, you can easily tell a story using character actions and visual cues.

Battle for the Saturday Morning Cartoon Supreme Leader Channel

Saturday morning cartoons had been a staple for many people’s childhood.  Their prominence from the 60s up until last year is something that many people growing up in America remember.  And it’s easy to see why!  It’s Saturday morning, you are one of the few people up in your household, there’s no school going on and your favorite cartoons are on.  Just sit in front of the boob tube and boom, watch some awesome cartoons.

While doing research for this article (i.e., looking through Wikipedia), I read that Saturday morning cartoons began to decline in the 1990s and 2000s and finally ended in 2014.  Could have fooled me!  The cartoons I watched in the late 90s and early 2000s were great.  True, this wasn’t the era of the late 80s and early 90s where you had classics like He-Man, Tiny Toons, Transformers, and so forth, but we had our fair share of cartoons that we can be proud to say we watched.

And these great Saturday morning cartoons were not limited to just one channel.  They were spread out through the local channels and reaching those who did not have cable.  Now, cable channels are credited for the disappearance of Saturday morning cartoons but the ironic part is that I never really watched cartoons on either Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network.  Nickelodeon had cartoons on weekday nights while Cartoon Network went all in on Friday nights.  They were relatively tame on Saturday mornings.

As such, I turned to channels that I would otherwise not visit.  ABC, The WB, and Fox.  These three channels battled to be the Saturday Morning Cartoon Supreme Leader Channel.  They had a unique line up of cartoons that were enjoyable to watch.  Whether it be old reruns or new cartoons, they had the ammo to satisfy your cartoony desires.

But who was the best one??  Who was the Saturday Morning Cartoon Supreme Leader Channel????  Let’s take a look!

Now before I go on, I have to say that I’m only looking at cartoons that I watched during that period.  As such, this list is going to be very subjective.  You have been warned…

First up, let’s go ABC with their One Saturday Morning Block!  Ah yes, this block had the best opening (see below video).  That intro just made you get SO PUMPED UP.  I’M SUPER EXCITED.  I loved the hell out of that song and its animation.  One day, I got the bright idea to record the Saturday morning block and save it for a day when my parents wouldn’t intervene.  Sure enough, they invited some friends over one night for bridge and that’s when I whipped it out and played it.  Anyway, I would crank up the volume and listen to that song again and again and again (which probably irked my parents but whatever).  Hell, you still can’t help but jam to the music.  Even the snapshot above brings back nostalgia for me with its colorfully bouncy imagery.

So what do we have for our line up?  Well, the cartoons that I watched were Pepper Ann, Recess, and Disney’s Doug.  Other cartoons on the same channel that I watch if nothing else was on were Teacher’s Pet, Buzz Lightyear, and the Weekenders.  Okay, so want to hear something ironic?  I believe I read this on the Wikipedia page but many of the cartoons I just listed mainly take place in a school environment.  This is funny because the intro song (the one I just talked about) boasted how One Saturday Morning was “five hours of summer” and this is pretty funny considering we’re watching cartoons that take place in school…

Irony beside the point, Pepper Ann, Recess, and Disney’s Doug were considered pretty good in my book.  Even though these cartoons took place at school, the characters, humor, and animation made them unique enough that you didn’t really notice it.  Plus, they still had fun adventures (especially, ESPECIALLY Recess) even if they were at school.  They also kind of took on heavy issues, especially for Disney programs, ever noticed that??  Disney’s Doug had an episode of anorexia once and Pepper Ann had one on training bras.  I don’t recall Recess having a heavy episode though it did have those typical children moral tropes that you see.  Anyway, if you didn’t notice by now, Recess was my favorite so I’m calling that one as the best cartoon on ABC.

Next we have Fox which had Fox Kids.  Okay, so truth be told, Fox Kids was kind of weak in cartoons early on and didn’t really have anything good until we got to the tail end of the 90s.  Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was the only major thing it had going for a while…

…then came Fall 1999.

With it came two cartoons that I watched which were Monster Rancher but more importantly Digimon.  Digimon was what roped me into Fox Kids.  I didn’t discover Digimon, and by proxy Fox Kids, until Christmas 1999 when I was waiting for my family to unwrap presents.  As I waited patiently in the basement, I turned on the TV and discovered Digimon.  The episode that was on was the one where the kids were fighting Andromon.  That episode had me hooked and I watched every episode I could find from there on.

Power Rangers: Time Force later joined Fox Kids and it remains one of the few Power Rangers (much less live action) shows I watched.  I don’t know why I watched that one but I guess this show evolved from a “I guess I’ll watch it” to a “hey this isn’t too bad.”  Monster Rancher was nice but God help me if you ask me what it was about cause I don’t remember a damn thing (something with a boy and a wolf, a stone golem, and Mike from Monsters Inc??).  Rusty and Big Guy was also an interesting cartoon if I remember correctly, I should check it out again to see if it still holds up.  Beast Wars was also good but, surprisingly, I didn’t watch much of that show.  A lot of shows, in general, didn’t last very long, sometimes just a season, if that, mainly because they were just not that good or interesting.  Remember Angela Anaconda?  That was a weird show…

Fox Kids was pretty nice and you have to love those promo commercials.  Those commercials were so cheesily edited that you just have to adore it.  You also have to give a nod to those commercial break jokes/facts.  One fact started with “what food would never spoil?” after a few commercials the break would end and it answered “sugar never spoils unless you have water on it.”  And of course after I heard that I put water in my family’s sugar container to see what would happen…my parents weren’t probably thrilled with that…

Ending this trio channel battle we have The WB via Kids WB.  When you think of your typical Saturday morning cartoon lineup, Kids WB probably matches it the best.  You have superhero cartoons, Looney Toons-esque cartoons, celebrity cartoons, and anime.  These programs were also not subpar and had a nice level of quality to them (well…at least most of them did…).

Okay, so you have Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain going off of the Looney Toons-styled cartoons.  You also have the New Adventures of Batman and Superman which was later followed by X-Men: Evolution, Static Shock, Batman Beyond, and the Xeta Project.  Of course, you also had Pokemon and Yugioh (which the latter came on as my interest in Saturday morning cartoons began to wane).  Perhaps the oddball of the bunch was Jackie Chan Adventures whose basis sounds so…weird…that you would think it was destined to fail but it defied our expectations and was actually good!

The Batman and Superman cartoons were so awesome.  I was actually more of a Superman fan when I was a kid so I liked watching his show more than Batman’s.  I remember Kids WB had a contest where you had to write in a letter saying which superhero “kicked more booty” and I recalled that my brother and I said Superman while my sister said Batman (fyi, I now think it’s Batman).  The string of superhero cartoons that followed were good but I liked the Batman and Superman cartoons better.

Pokemon was a definite show to watch but since Pokemon was shown on morning and afternoon weekdays, the pull for it wasn’t as strong as it could have been.  However, they would premiere special episodes (e.g., Indigo League Championship) only on Saturdays and that was a very good reason to watch them.  Yugioh’s more mature (I guess that’s the right word for it) anime appealed to my preteen persona so I would stick around to watch that show before I finally stopped watching cartoons.

I already wrote an article on Jackie Chan Adventures but I should at least give it a mention.  This show should have, by all rights, failed and I’m glad it didn’t.  The premise of the show sounds almost like a direct parody of other celebrity cartoons similar to Mike Tyson Mysteries.  But the show was great as it established a mystical world setting, humorous characters, and Jackie Chan-styled fights.  After the Batman and Superman show ended, I would go to Kids WB mainly for this show.  That’s how appealing it was.

Alright, so, in the end, which channel can claim to be the Saturday Morning Cartoon Supreme Leader Channel???  After carefully reviewing the three channels I’m giving it to Kids WB!  Unlike FoxKids, which mainly had Digimon, and One Saturday Morning, which had a rather narrow focus of show settings, Kids WB had a diverse selection of shows that appealed to a wide range of audiences.  These shows were great and the channel offered a variety of characters, settings, and animation styles that really made it hard to best.  And, let’s be honest here, Kids WB arsenal was Batman, Superman, Animaniacs, and Pokémon.  That’s entertainment gold.

So, what do you guys think?  I know I didn’t hit all of the cartoons for each block but there’s just way too many to list!  Which channel did you watch the most of while growing up and what were your favorite Saturday Morning cartoons?  I would love to hear your opinions!

How “Fringe” can Hint to the Future of “Steven Universe”

Two shows. One is a live-action, cult hit, drama-oriented show starring three protagonists and their adventures into the slightly strange along with the occasional drug trip. The second is an ongoing, animated show starring a boy, his three alien mentors, and their adventures in the fantastical along with the occasional song. These two shows, Fringe and Steven Universe, are so different from each other that making parallels or comparisons between the two would be difficult if not nonsensical.

Yet both of them have a strong focus on parenting and in particular, Fringe deals with fatherhood while Steven Universe concentrations on motherhood. I want to dive in to how both of these shows deal with their respective parent and discuss if the now ended Fringe can tell us the future of the still ongoing Steven Universe.

Let’s start with Fringe. Fringe’s attitude and theme towards fatherhood is at first quite subtle. Our main source is Peter and his dad Walter who are two of the three main protagonists of the show. Season One focused greatly on Peter and Walter amending their very rocky relationship which culminated to Peter finding a newfound love and respect for Walter. As the series progressed, new fatherly relationships are expanded on such as Astrid Figglesworth’s uneasy relationship with her dad and Olivia being abused by her step-father when she was a child. The big kicker though comes in the reveal that Peter is from an alternate universe and Walter kidnapped him when he was a child when his Peter died. This catalyzed most of the series’ events including one of the show’s main antagonists, Walternate, or the Walter from the alternate universe, and his quest to get his son back. Super trippy and balls awesome, yes, but it does highlight the lengths both Walters had to go through in order to save their son. Fatherhood was ratcheted up a notch in the final season (and this was when my roommate and I noticed its prevalence) when Peter went to great lengths to avenge his daughter’s death and September was willing to sacrifice his life for his son Michael. It was also the season where Walter sacrificed his life for his son Peter in a very bittersweet ending. This article does a great job summarizing Peter and Water’s relationship and I highly suggest you read it if you are a Fringe fan.

Steven Universe’s themes of motherhood are starkly more apparent than Fringe’s initial dip into fatherhood. First off, Steven basically has three moms and a dad that we only see every four episodes or so. Steven’s own mom also gave up her existence to bare her child and to symbolize her love for Steven’s dad, Greg. Season 2 has also been giving us a lot of great mom episodes involving Connie’s mom, Sadie’s mom, and, of all people, Onion’s mom. Already, we have seen themes of nurturing (Onion’s mom), protection (Connie’s mom), and encouragement (Sadie’s mom) that make up a big part of motherhood. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get more mom episodes in the future from other supporting characters along with a more detailed look at Steven’s mom, Rose Quartz, and her love for Greg.

Okay, so is there a connection between these two, vastly different shows’ approach towards parenthood? Well, there is but both of them handle it differently.   Boiling down plot elements to their purest form, we see a strong sense of sacrifice from both mothers and fathers. As mentioned before, the fathers in Fringe go to great lengths to avenge, protect, or preserve their offspring from harm no matter what the costs. In Steven Universe, Rose Quartz sacrificed her life to bare Steven while the Crystal Gems defend and protect Steven even if they are harmed during the process.

Now granted, Steven Universe is still an ongoing and continuously evolving show so we have yet to witness the full potential of it. This idea of sacrifice may play out more or there may be other themes of motherhood that would be touched on instead (like the aforementioned nurturing, encouragement, and protection). Nonetheless, Fringe could give us a clue into the future of Steven Universe, a future where things aren’t as rosy as they currently are.

As situations will likely become dire, we should expect the characters on Steven Universe to make tough decisions that would ultimately change the current standing of the show. This show is not afraid to challenge familiar tropes and the status quo. Other Cartoon Network shows, mainly Adventure Time and somewhat Regular Show, have done the same thing to their setting and characters and it’s not surprising that Steven Universe is already doing it despite its still young lifespan. Likewise, Fringe is similar in to Steven Universe due to its plot setup, its embracement of the untypical trope situations, and how every season is unique due to dire changes that happened at the end of the previous season. What I’m saying is that Steven Universe is changing and will continue to surprise us in ways we won’t expect, the days of status quo continuity, as seen in Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Ed, Edd, and Eddy, are long and forgotten.

First off, if we were to be directly inspired by Fringe, there might be a global invasion of Homeworld Gems. If the Cluster, whatever that is, does not work out. Yellow Diamond may take it upon herself to call a massive invasion onto Earth, and establish a matriarchy on the planet. Steven’s home could be destroyed, his city would be forced into curfew, and Homeworld Soldiers would patrol the streets looking for him and the Crystal Gems. This happened in the final season of Fringe when the Observers took over the protagonists’ universe and basically established a fascist patriarchy. This comparison between the Observers and the Homeworld Gems is not farfetched as they are characterized by their mysterious nature, their power, and their preference towards one particular gender. Both forces were hinted at since near the beginning of their respective shows and we’re only given teases and glimpses into their world as their series continued. And now, it will only be a matter of time before the Homeworld Gems make their true, and world-shattering entrance.

As fan theories go, this one is kind of out there so if you were looking for something easier to swallow I present you with this. Fringe’s final season was intense with emotion, action, and payoff. Steven Universe will likely emulate this on both the positive and negative notes. If sacrifice does come into play in the show’s final moments, we will likely see some of our favorite characters pass away (and not just reborn) for the protection and preservation of Steven.

While Fatherhood, both in Fringe and in general, may be categorized by bravery, morality, and wisdom and Motherhood may be categorized by the aforementioned nurturing, protection, and encouragement, both are ultimately link in self-sacrifice. What lengths would any good Father or Mother go to in order to preserve their child? Fringe knows this and embraces this. Steven Universe will likely go the same path. Pearl loves Rose Quartz and her child Steven. Pearl has sacrificed herself so many times in order to protect Rose. Whose to say that she won’t do it again but this time, end her life permanently by doing so? What effect will this have on Steven’s psyche when that time comes?

Perhaps Steven will become hardened by his loss and take on the role of both a father and a mother figure to the rest of his family and friends. We saw a glimpse of this in the premiere of season 2 when he tried to shut Connie away from his troubles. He wants to protect those he love. If a true tragic loss were to occur, he may go more extreme than this and take on a role similar to Peter when his daughter died in the final Fringe season. If that were to occur, he’ll need Connie, similar to Peter’s significant other Olivia, to pull him back and embrace his true humanity, once again.

The Untapped Potential of the Sheep Talisman

Happy Year of the Sheep everyone!

To celebrate this New Year, let’s talk about what some may call the most useless talisman in the great cartoon series, Jackie Chan Adventures.

Finn, Jackie Chan Adventures, Talismans

“Astral Projection…Motion to the Motionless…Yin/Yang? How come I get all the loser powers?”

For those who forget, the Sheep Talisman has the powers of astral projection. Basically, the user’s spirit leaves the host body and is able to fly around unseen and infiltrate people’s dreams. The body is lifeless until the spirit returns to the body.

Now, when you compare this talisman to other, more flamboyant, talismans like Snake, Ox, Dragon, and Rabbit…it looks kind of lame. And truth be told you have the show to thank for that! The show doesn’t use the talisman to its full potential! The only time it is used is either when an episode focuses specifically on it or when all 12 talismans are featured (with one exception which I’ll get to in just a moment).

Even the other, supposedly useless talismans, were embraced more often than the Sheep Talisman. For instance, the Rat Talisman was used to revive the Lo Pei statue, Jackie when he was a puppet, and of course, Mighty Moose many times. The Tiger Talisman was even used several times on Jackie, once by Jade (correctly I might add), and even Captain Black when he was wearing an Oni Mask.

You see, one of the cool things about Jackie Chan Adventures was that it used the talismans even if they weren’t essential to the plot. They were kind of like a last resort or even a solution to a tricky problem the protagonists encountered. All talismans were vital or important in one form or another except for the Sheep Talisman.

Astral Projection, Sheep Talisman, Tohru, Hak foo, Jackie Chan Adventures

It can even be a problem from ignorant users which leads to hilarious results

But what could have they done with the Sheep Talisman? Well, several things come to mind.

One: Infiltration. You can go through walls, be invisible, fly, and be silent. No one can detect you unless they have some sort of magical or spiritual aid. Jackie and his crew could have used the talisman to learn about a crucial plan from the Dark Hand.

Two: Spiritual Possession. Shendu was able to possess Jade’s body while she was using the Sheep Talisman.   This opens up to some interesting plot concepts. Maybe there’s this lifeless object or spirit-less person that Jade or Jackie could take over and control temporary. Maybe you need that person’s fingerprint to access a super secret safe or bank? That would have been awesome.

Three: More Dream Watching. Remember that exception I was talking about earlier? Well, in the season 2 episode “Armor of the Gods,” Jade puts Uncle to sleep using a sleeping potion because he was being cranky. However, later, she needed the anti-demon potion from him to take down the Earth Demon but he was still sleeping hard, what to do? Ah ha! The Sheep Talisman! In the lone episode it was used (to the best of my knowledge), Jade uses the Sheep Talisman to infiltrate Uncle’s dream and learned how to make the potion from him.

Jackie and crew could have used the Sheep Talisman for certain missions involving dreams. Perhaps a Sandman-like villain was stealing people’s energy while they are sleeping. They could use the Sheep Talisman to hop from dream to dream and take down the Sandman villain in the surreal world of dreams. That would have been a funny episode.

It’s a shame that none of those three situations, save for that one episode, came up because that would have taken a talisman that everyone perceived to be useless and made it important. It could have been used as an infiltration tool and that would have made it awesome. Sometimes, you can’t solve your problems by using force; if you want to get ahead in life then you’ll have to be as sneaky as a sheep.

There will still be an article for next Monday but it won’t be the usual length as to accommodate for this special article.

2014 was Definitely Year of the Rigby

Cartoon Network’s Regular Show is full of hilarious characters that keep the show fresh and fun for every episode. These characters have well defined personalities that are, for the most part, grounded and are immutable from episode to episode. We expect Pops to act as the cheery old man, Muscle Man to prank and love Starla endlessly, and Skips to come up with a reliable solution.

Likewise, Mordecai and Rigby’s personalities were set in stone until 2014 rolled around. For this year, something special happened to them that changed both of them as how we perceive them as characters.

In the episode “New Year’s Kiss,” which premiered on December 31st, 2013, Mordecai’s accidental kiss to CJ culminated to the end-of-the-year disastrous episode “Merry Christmas Mordecai.” In that same episode, Rigby made a promise that 2014 was going to be the “Year of the Rigby.”

Mordecai, Regular Show

Pretty much sums up his entire year. Image from http://imgur.com/Q0gdrm2

To sum it up, yeah! He was right! Rigby was pretty ballin’ in 2014!

For a show such as…er…Regular Show…I was highly surprised, but happy, that Rigby of all characters grew while still retaining his personal identity.

For instance, during the uncomfortable Mordecai and CJ pre-dating episodes, Rigby was the voice of reason for Mordecai. He gave him solid advice to follow mainly that he needed to stop pulling a Mordecai and get over his awkward feelings with CJ! This was most prevalent in the episode “I Like You Hi.” Rigby’s role as a close friend wanting to help Mordecai out seemed natural as well as the information he gave him.

Rigby also matured during his respective year as he became more reliable. He began to take selfless actions to save the people around him at the cost of either his time or sometimes the threat of his life. His new selfless attitude made me realize how much of a dick Mordecai was when he didn’t trust Rigby to do work without him.

In fact, since the beginning of Regular Show, Rigby seemed to be the one that would do work only if Mordecai was doing it as well. He was the hardest to convince to stop being a slacker. Mordecai would many times tell him to do his job and stop being lazy.

Rigby’s slacker attitude finally came back to haunt him in “Lift with Your Back” when he realized nobody could trust him to do an honest day’s work. Understandably angry, his decision to quit the park and work at the moving company was reasonable. His determination to work hard and get that paycheck was both hilarious and tear-inducing (yes, you heard me! TEAR INDUCING). That paycheck he earned was a symbol to his tenacity.

This is still one of the best episodes that premiered this season. Image from http://www.bubbleblabber.com/review-regular-show-lift-with-your-back/

But what caused all of this? What caused Rigby to be selfless and reliable?

The theory that I hear being toss about is that because Mordecai hung out with CJ so much during the year it forced Rigby to find someone else to hang out as well. In this case, he found solitude in Eileen of all characters. Eileen! Rigby didn’t even like Eileen in the beginning of the Show! Sure, over time, his feelings for her have grown to toleration and then to amicable at best but there was never any sort of drive for him to get to know her more.

I think through Eileen’s constant support, such as “Tants” or “One Pull Up,” Rigby found someone who was willing to go the extra mile for him without looking any favors. He grew to like Eileen and as such, when Mordecai started dating CJ more often, he went to her to shoot the breeze. As such, through constant exposure of Eileen’s moral and responsible attitude, Rigby became more mature. She’s a good influence on him.

Good influence or not it would be mean to say that the only reason why Rigby changed was because of Eileen. It wouldn’t do him justice. As much as I like this theory I think it’s more than that. Remember, Rigby was giving Mordecai solid relationship advice that Mordecai would not follow up with. All this happened before he started hanging out with Eileen. He was already becoming a better person without anyone driving him to become one. I believe it was Rigby who wanted to become a better person because that’s what he wanted.

Year of the Rigby will be missed but I know it is not the end of Rigby’s growth. He has grown, admittedly slowly, throughout the course of the show and it really showed during 2014. I’m excited to see what’s in store for Rigby this year and how he’ll be able to flex his responsible muscles. And who knows, maybe this time Rigby will teach Eileen something. Now wouldn’t that be crazy.

My Feelings on Over the Garden Wall (Spoilers)

“Harrowing,” “disconcerting,” “incredible.”  These are just a few of the words that I have heard or read other people describe Cartoon Network’s first animated miniseries “Over the Garden Wall.”  The series, with just 10 episodes and only 11 minutes each, is about a teenager, Wirt, his younger brother, Greg, and a bluebird, Beatrice, and their journey through a large forest called The Unknown.  Each episode is mostly self-contained but they together connect to form a more complete narrative.

The miniseries had almost missed me due to its low key advertising.  Going into it, all I knew was that Elijah Wood was voicing one of the characters and that’s basically it.  Along with a few short clips for the trailer, it also came with the tagline that it was a five night mystery.  They played their cards right because I was not expecting any of the stuff they threw at me.

To be blunt, it’s a standard coming-of-age storyline that is similar to Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and Grimm Fairy Tales but with a modern twist.  The heroes of our story go on strange adventures where they meet equally as strange characters such as an old man (voiced by John Cleese) scared of his mansion’s ghost, villagers celebrating the harvest festival by wearing pumpkin outfits, a girl and her creepy creepy creepy aunt (voiced by Tim Curry), and more.  These strange ministories are so delightfully charming that you can’t help but watch the next episode to see what else they’ll fine.

Speaking of Alice and Wonderland, is anyone reminded of the Duchess??? Image from http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/tv_shows/over-the-garden-wall/video/lornas-chores-clip.html

The characters’ interactions with each other are the definite highlight of the show.  Wirt’s worrywart personality clashes with Greg’s wide-eyed, highly curious and overly optimistic nature.  Beatrice tries to constantly overrule Wirt and force him to do things her way and she also gets annoyed at Greg for doing things she is totally against.    Melanie Lynskey does an amazing job voicing her.

Wirt is probably the most interesting character of the three because he’s one of the best examples of an unreliable narrator I have ever seen.  I know he’s not the narrator of the story but when he describes his backstory and his interpretation of events you initially believe him because why not?  There’s little to assume that he would directly lie to the viewer.  But once you see the actual events then everything seems to click on what kind of character Wirt is.  What I like about Wirt and Beatrice is that once the series ends they have grown as characters but they have not outright lost their original identity.  They are still who they are but with a more mature outlook on life.

But let me get to my overall feelings for this show.

This post is almost exactly how I felt about the show.

This show reminded me of something yet I couldn’t figure it out.  It was so close yet so far.  A piece here, a piece there, so many things triggered this upwelling sense of Nostalgia.  It reminded me simultaneously of old Disney cartoons like the Old Mill (which debuted on November 5th) and especially of Ichabod Crane.  Even before the penultimate episode reveal it especially reminded me of Autumn.  And how appropriate given it premiered between November 3rd to November 7th.  Even the soundtrack itself has a factor of nostalgia to it that you can’t quite place.  The music is so charming that you can’t help but be moved by it.  Some of the sillier songs have this quirk to them that you can’t help but like.

The song that took me off guard was Over the Garden Wall which was sung during the frog boat episode.  This was episode 6 of the series and by then, I had already felt the marriage of uneasiness and nostalgia that was creeping on me.  But once this song came on, I was figuratively hit by a thousand bricks.  It dawned on me by then that this miniseries was something special that transcended other cartoon shows.  I now almost regret writing my Cartoon Network Renaissance article as I could have included this show with it.

I have to talk about the last episode.  I’ll have to spoil it but I encourage you to watch it yourself on iTunes before you read any more of my article.  Anyways, by the time the last episode had premiered I was ready for it.  What started off as a seemingly innocuous series had slowly broke down my critical exterior into showing me the wonder of the mysterious and haunting.  And now, finally, Wirt has grown as a person.  He has grown to accept Greg as his actual brother and care for him like he should.  He has confronted the Beast and come out better in the end.

The real show stealer though was the Woodsman voiced by Christopher Lloyd.   He was one of the few reoccurring characters in the series.  The show played me like a fiddle as I went to and fro of whether I should trust him or not.  However, his battle with the Beast was definitely a critical moment in the series.  The creators had pulled the rug from us.  It was neither Beatrice, nor Greg, nor even Wirt who defeated the Beast but the Woodsman himself.  When he snuffed the Beast’s life, it rang a bittersweet moment.

But the final ending, of Wirt and Greg’s rescue, of Wirt’s now newly founded confidence, and so forth had sealed the deal for me.  It was so moving that I could not help but cry as I saw each of the ending scenes reveal themselves to the enraptured viewer.  I still get a little emotional just thinking about it.

I hope Over the Garden Wall returns next year, and the year after that, and so forth.  This has to be an Autumn tradition.  Where a lot of our favorite seasonal cartoon specials would come by, do their merry dance of Autumn delight and disappear, waiting to reappear again the following year.

“Nostalgic,” “moving,” “Autumn.”  Those are the words that I think describes Over the Garden Wall perfectly.