DNA Podcast 019 – Ghosts of Saturday Mornings Past

Crusader Rabbit

In this episode, Don and Rob discuss North American TV animation, tracing it from its roots in the 1950s to the rise of Saturday morning television and its eventual evolution in the age of Netflix. Along the way, they spend time with Huckleberry Hound, The Flintstones, Josie the Pussycats, the Micronauts, and Goober and the Ghost Chasers. All this, and why Fred and Barney sold cigarettes on air is waiting for you in this, the 19th episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.

Young Justice Ends

I just watched the series finale for Young Justice today, and I have to say it ended like it began- with a resounding thud!

I found the very first episode of this series clunky and a little dull, and this finale was pretty much the same- it was supposed to be cool and epic, but instead it came across as rushed and kinda forced. The cool finale was really Episode 2×19- The Summit, and this episode was just 20 minutes of housecleaning that felt like a really forced attempt to bring together all the plotlines this awkward and uneven season had been scattering about.

Season One started so-so, but got better fast and ended strong, Season Two started oddly, got better, and worse, and then really cool for a few episodes before finally it came to its natural but awkward conclusion.

I keep using the word “awkward” because I don’t think there’s a better word to describe this season of the show. Too many new characters, and not enough time to focus on the old characters or the new, so the whole thing just turned into a mess at times. In fact, the only time the show really worked was when it reverted back to the Season One cast and focussed on what they were doing. Most of the new cast, with the exceptions of Blue Beetle (who they were pushing really really hard during the second half) and Impulse were pretty much cyphers, and then on top of that they added another team of young heroes to an already overstuffed season- just because.

I don’t know if they were driven by the toy makers to pack the show with action figures, or just couldn’t wait to expand the team and decided they wanted to get as many cool characters in there as possible. Either way, they messed up what had been a solidly good alternate take on the DC Universe with great continuity and some really good character development in the first season. These characters really felt alive and unique, and the whole story felt more organic than forced. (With a few exceptions, like this week’s finale.)

When it first started, I worried that the show would fail the logic test because each week the characters would be in situations where the “real” heroes should be dropping in to help them but didn’t because the plot called for it. With a single exception (the one with the Injustice League from Season One), the writers did a great job of avoiding that trap, and these never felt like “sidekicks” but actual young heroes in training. The senior heroes did show up, but didn’t overshadow the team except when it made sense for them to, and they felt like mentors instead of guardians.

Actually, the show Young Justice most reminded me of was Naruto, and I’m positive that Naruto was indeed a huge influence on the production end of the show. Robin even does Naruto’s signature clone-jutsu move during one of the episodes near the end of Season One (with a little help from Zatana). The whole feeling of the show, with the young heroes going out on missions assigned them by the senior heroes, who were still there and active in the background, really made me think of Naruto, and if they’re going to borrow, then I think they picked the perfect show to borrow from.

The problem is that while they borrowed Naruto’s style and some of its story structure, they forgot one important element- a central character. No matter how scattered or epic Naruto became, it was always still about Naruto growing and developing as a Ninja, and even if that show wandered off to follow side-characters doing things it was still anchored around him. Even in Season One, Young Justice had a problem with focus, and I always found the team a little bit dull because of it. It kind’ve worked when they concentrated on the personal problems each of them had, but they never really got deeply enough into any of them for my tastes and those problems were all resolved in the Season One finale.

Then, when they hit Season Two, that whole problem exploded like a grenade. Suddenly we were overwhelmed by characters and events, and a show which could be a little unfocused became a mess of people we didn’t know or care about. The action was good, the storylines usually interesting, and the animation high quality, but the show’s heart was missing. What depth it had before now gone under a tide of events not really related to any one character.

Just like the show’s finale.

Yesterday, I thought it was a shame this show got cancelled due to low ratings (among key demographics) and poor toy sales. Today, I’m okay with it ending. It was a fun show that I enjoyed while it was around and might re watch someday (well, Season One), but its time is done.

Thanks to the writers and producers of the show, it was fun while it lasted!

Rob

The Jetsons take place before The Flintstones?

So I was part of a conversation where some friends were discussing this video:

And one of my friends who uses the name Mysterious Pants brought up the following mind-blowing theory:

“Actually, I like the idea that the Flinstones is, in actuality, the future of the Jetsons after all the computer A.I. and robots leave Earth. Humanity degenerates and, without industrial machinery, relies on the ancestors of genetically altered, talking animals to do all their labor in a mockery of what mechanical things used to for them and live their lives in a pseudo-“modern society” for reasons that have been lost to time. Again, without machines present, the Earth environmentally bounces back (when the floating cities finally drop down to the surface, the Earth has, as it turns out, recovered but has become an overgrown, primordial jungle thanks to the greenhouse effect of all the smog in the upper atmosphere).”

Dude!

Rob

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Season 2 Thoughts

Thanks to Australia airing Season 2 of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes at a rate of 4/week instead of 1/week like North American TV, I’ve just finished watching the second (and sadly last) season of Avengers a bit early. (Like 3 months, earth.)

I really enjoyed this series overall, and taken as a whole considered it a solidly good little show. I’ve been a longtime casual Avengers fan, so it was neat to finally see the characters animated and some of the Avengers storylines brought to life. I was especially impressed how they weaved forty years of superheroing into a single coherent form, and actually managed to improve upon it.

There are characters like Kang and Baron Zemo who I neither really liked or understood as villains, but this show really made me finally appreciate them and actually come to like them. (At least, in this version.) I also liked what they did with Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, the Black Panther, and loved how they handled The Vision overall. (I say overall, because it depends on who’s writing the episode on how effective he is.) The show did a great job with the characters, and stayed true to the comic versions of them nicely.

This is not to say the show didn’t have issues, as the animation quality could vary widely, and so could the writing. There were more than a few episodes where things happened because the plot called for it, and a number of stories were rushed, especially during second season.

I would say that First Season of the show was the better of the two, as it was well paced and planned. It did have a bit of a sharp learning curve at the start, since it plunged us right into a story about a whole prison worth of supervillains escaping and didn’t give us much of an explanation of who these villains were. Of course, they went back and introduced most of them later (which they also did with the heroes) and in the end it all worked out pretty nicely. The season all led up to a big showdown in Asgard that took several episodes and was a great epic ending to the show.

Season Two, on the other hand, was a real rollercoaster. It started out well enough, but then as it went on it become more and more uneven. The steady pacing of the first season seemed gone, replaced by a frantic rush to introduce new characters and hit us with as much adventure as possible. The episode introducing Beta Ray Bill is a perfect example, where they took 6 issues worth of comic story, and told it all in 22 minutes at lightning speed. It wasn’t bad, just…rushed.

I blame much of Season 2’s uneveness on outside interference. Between Season One and Season Two a new head of Marvel Animation came in named Jeph Leob, who publically stated right from the start his opinions about how these animated series should be done. At the heart of his opinions was the idea that it was wrong to do multi-part episodes (something season one relied on heavily) and that all episodes of the shows should be self contained. (Holy 80’s Flashback, Batman!)

This is really evident in the second half of Season Two (the portion Leob had control over, because the first part was largely done before he came in) which is packed with stories that should have been 2-3 episodes long being crammed into single episodes. The feel of the show really changes at that point, and while there’s still some good episodes I feel it lost some of the grandeur that it built up in first season.

That isn’t to say it’s a total loss. I especially loved the episode Emperor Stark, which is The Vision’s first episode as a member of the Avengers, and which worked well in the condensed form. Also the last three episodes of the show (written by showrunner Chris Yost) were fairly well done, with the finale truly being a finale worthy of the series.

I know some people are angry that there won’t be a season three of the show, and I admit that I’m also a bit disappointed. That said, we got 52 episodes of pretty good Avengers stories and I’m pretty cool with that.

Who knows, the new Avengers Assemble show replacing it in the fall might be alright, especially since it has a lot of the same production people working on it. But somehow, I still think I won’t enjoy it as much as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Legend of Korra: Season One Ending Thoughts (Spoiler Lite)

I just watched the finale for the first season of Legend of Korra, and I have to say I truly have mixed feelings about it.

As I mentioned in my previous review, Korra is a heck of an impressive show. It’s been a great series in so many ways, and I think this is what makes the finale such a let-down for me. Over the course of the season the creators have taken such care in developing the characters and nuturing the story along. The pacing of the show, and the themes they’ve been weaving have been a beautiful display of animation artistry.

Then it’s like they suddenly noticed they just had 2 episodes left and panicked.

“Oh crap! We’re out of time! We have to end this!”

And suddenly all that artistry went out the window in the name of just getting the darn thing finished and the major plotlines resolved.

Now, there is a possible reason for this. When Korra was originally planned, it was supposed to just be a single season, or at least that was the official announcement. I have a slightly different theory based on what I just watched.

I think the producers wrote this show to be the first of several seasons, and the pacing and presentation clearly represent that. But, somewhere during late production on the show, Nickelodeon (the company paying for it) suddenly decided that it was only going to be a single season show. (This was very likely around the time that the Avatar live-action movie bombed horribly in the box office.) I think they decided that the whole Avatar franchise was done, and basically decided to cut their losses.

So they told the producers to wrap it up, and suddenly there was a mad rush to get everything done story-wise before the last episode. This would explain a great deal of the way the show is paced and presented, and that there seems to be a lot of unfollowed threads in the show as presented. (For example, what happened to Mokko and Bolin’s coach? The guy they clearly intended to be a major character and likely alternate mentor to Korra? He just vanished after an episode or so.)

So the producers scrambled, crammed the whole thing into a single season, and then presented it to the suits at Nickelodeon. It was only then that the suits actually realized that they had a huge potential hit on their hands, and their reaction was –

“Make more!”

“But, you just forced us to finish it!”

“I don’t care! Make more! Here’s money!”

So, they’re making more. Although lord knows why, because they tied things up at the end of the first season so well and tightly there really isn’t a whole lot of room left. Maybe they’ll do a time jump, I don’t know.

All I know is, that last episode was a mess, and I’m sorely disappointed in the sheer amount of wasted potential. For example, the Equalists actually did have a point, and they clearly also had a large social following among non-benders who were tired of bender rule. (However beneficient they are.) They could have at least given us a look into what life was like for non-benders, or even better, worked toward an end where Korra helped bring benders and non-benders into a more equal relationship. (She is supposed to bring balance to the world, after all. Wouldn’t that apply to non-benders too?) Amon’s real goals were selfish, but his stated goals were noble in their own way.

At the end of this story, Korra and Amon may as well never have come to Republic City, and if they hadn’t both come the world would have been almost exactly the same as it is. Think about it. Nothing has really changed in this setting, not a single thing. They both came, did their thing, and left. But had no effect on the setting at all, except for their few friends. Ang literally reshaped his world, what has Korra done?

Maybe they’ll fix that when they get to second season. Who knows?

Rob

What happens when you mix young teen sexuality with the Chthulu mythos?

The answer is DYE “Fantasy” a video by JEREMIE PERIN, a french animator. Gorgeously animated, and totally horrific.

Really, I mean it: NSFW horror- don’t watch if movies like The Thing give you nightmares.

Jonny Quest Opening Titles on Vimeo

Jonny Quest Opening Titles on Vimeo on Vimeo

One fan’s love letter to the old cartoon adventure Johnny Quest-