Character Sundays: Mandy

Mandy from Grim and Adventures of Billy & Mandy

Okay Grim, when the rainbow appears, you take me to the end of it, and I’ll shake down the leprechaun for its gold.

I first discovered the Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy way back in 2005 and it very quickly rose to become one of my very favourite cartoons. Yes, the humour is slapstick and sometimes violent, the stories are completely wacky, and even the very premise is rather absurd. I mean, just how could two kids end up “owning” the grim reaper after winning a game of limbo?

The above reasons are not the full story however, as the characters themselves are one of the strongest and most likeable aspects of the show. You have: an idiot (Billy), a beleaguered anti-hero (Grim) and an acerbic, domineering little girl (Mandy), our focus for today.

Mandy’s character is comparative to a black hole in nothing good can ever come out of it. She is selfish, controlling, conniving, intelligent and above all, pessimistic about life in general. These she impresses upon everyone she meets; no-one is safe from her ire.

Surprisingly enough, Mandy does have some positive aspects. She remains friends with Billy despite his idiocy, and while she never displays a lot of emotion towards him, she does see to it that he is kept safe from himself and others. She also displays an odd mixture of tolerance and acceptance of Grim, who in spite of his powers is rendered subservient to her and her will and makes his dissatisfaction known.

Mandy remains somewhat of a loner throughout the series having only superficial relationships with other characters besides Billy and Grim. It is implied that she is equally feared and loathed by others, a situation that causes her some consternation. Although she often tries to bury it as the problematic “nice” side of her character, she still somewhat resents the situation.

What makes Mandy so endearing is that she, in a way represents, the sane voice of the universe of the show. In such a crazy world where a kid can have an Egyptian mummy for a mother (Irwin), there is a need for someone to fly the flag for sanity. Mandy happens to be the one in this case, even if she is notably missing a nose.

It is this apparent contradiction between sanity and uncontrollable rage that makes Mandy such a great character for a cartoon. She engages so much with the other characters and adds a lot of depth to what otherwise could have been just another slapstick cartoon.

How Not to Get Your Favourite Show Un-Cancelled

 Via: Fred Seibert on Flickr

While there are a few cartoons could be said to have re-ingnited my passion for animation, one had a bit more of a profound effect than others. And while My Life as a Teenage Robot may have lacked the smarmy humour of SpongeBob Squarepants, it is nonetheless a great show. I mean, who doesn’t like seeing a robot girl kick ass within a universe where Art Deco is the prominent architectural style?

The series lasted just about three seasons on Nickelodeon before the network decided that it would not be ordering additional episodes. Officially the reason given was the low ratings however I would argue quite strenuously that having the show’s timeslot bounced all over the schedule couldn’t have helped matters either.

As is (almost) inevitable when a show gets canned, the fans (not I) reacted in the manner that is most common for TV shows; they created a petition:

To:  Nickelodeon

Petition to Save “My Life as a Teeanage Robot” from Cancellation. Note: My American-English is not good because I’m Italian…

“My Life as a Teenage Robot” is one of the most underrated Tvshows on Nickeloden. This TvShow is about a robot, Xj9 (a.k.a. Jenny), who wants to be a normal Teenage girl, hang out with friends etc. Brad Carbunkle is Jenny’s best friend. He’s your average high-school student; Brad’s younger brother, Tuck Carbunkle is often scared by robots, but he likes Jenny as a friend. Jenny’s “mother”, Nora Wakeman, is one of the best characters in the show: plus, she’s voiced by Candi Milo, she’s great.
Since Jenny was built to protect the Planet Earth, there’s an evil-alien empire, the Cluster, who wants to take over our world. The Cluster Queen, Vexus, is Jenny’s arch enemy.

“My Life as a Teenage Robot” won a few Annie-Awards too.

OK. I’m just saying this, WE MUST SAVE “MY LIFE AS A TEENAGE ROBOT”. It may be not the best show on the planet, but it has a lot of fans who are really upset for the cancellation. We want a 4th Season. Alternatively, since the 3rd Season will be (maybe) the “Final Season”, I think we all need a “Series Finale” (Jenny & Brad ending up together, for example…).

If you are a fan of the show, sign this petition. If you don’t like Jenny and you don’t care about her, please sign this petition equally, because we need your help too. Alternatively, you can try to help the show with other petitions or sending E-mails to Nickelodeon.

Note: There are other awesome Nick-Toons who are going to be cancelled: “Danny Phantom” and “The Fairly OddParents”. Nick will just never learn.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Now in fairness to the guy (or girl) English isn’t their first language so let’s cut them some slack for that. However, this petition still makes all the rudimentary errors that most fans make when crafting petitions so we’ll judge it on those.

Firstly, it completely and totally neglects to speak directly to the network. It reads as more of a plea than an attempt to persuade the network to change its mind. Anyone can call a show “underrated” but in the network’s mind, if it has hopes and dreams for viewership numbers and the show doesn’t make them, the show is considered “underperforming” and might be costing the company money as a result.

Secondly, giving a description of the show’s characters is superfluous at best. The network knows which show you are talking about and the only time such descriptions would ever be called for is when the letter discusses a show on another network.

Only in the third paragraph do we see the first hints that the show is worth saving in that it won a few Annie awards. A prestigious accolade in their own right, but the letter fails to tie those awards to anything meaningful. such as say, having an Annie-award winning show in your portfolio will draw more astute/affluent animation fans to your network thus increasing revenues on it and other shows alike.

Then there’s this line:

OK. I’m just saying this….

Well of course you are, that’s the whole purpose of the letter! It also alludes to the belief that the network doesn’t know what the letter is about, when in fact, if it were an actual letter, would probably be in the bin by now.

It may be not the best show on the planet, but it has a lot of fans who are really upset for the cancellation.

While this statement may be true, it does nothing to further the cause. Upset fans of a cancelled show mean nothing to a network unless they can prove conclusively that their upsetness will affect the networks other properties. For example, if, when the show was cancelled, the fans also stopped watching other Nickelodeon shows and buying related merchandise, then the network would have a concrete reason to bring the show back. Saying your merely ‘upset’ will have no bearing on the network’s quarterly results and thus will be deemed irrelevant to the discussion.

However then we get to this line:

We want a 4th Season.

A flat-out demand! Well heck, I want a million dollars but it sadly isn’t going to happen any time soon. This line also comes off as being brash and unsympathetic to the networks position; something that you should be trying to achieve as much as possible.

The second to last paragraph pleads for anyone and everyone to sign the petition whether they like the show or not. Now this is problematic for a number of reasons, but chief among them is that it seriously blurs the lines between who really wants the show back and who’s just singing it for shits and giggles. Secondly, such practices make it extremely difficult to trust the numbers. For a show with as devoted a fanbase as MLaaTR, it’s likely that they aren’t too far off the truth. However, the fact remains that if there is any uncertainty in the data, more often than not they are presumed to be faulty and will be excluded from any formal analysis.

The last paragraph is more of a side note that states that other shows on Nickolodeon are being cancelled as well but it is the last line that’s the killer:

Nick will just never learn.

That one line single-handedly destroys the entire argument for the letter because it states that the network is doomed to repeating its ‘mistakes’. Why is this a problem? Well the whole purpose of a petition letter for a soon-to-be-cancelled show is to enlighten and persuade the network to change it’s ways in the hope that it will be more careful about cancelling shows in the future.

Bluntly stating that it “will just never learn” implies that the network is too stupid, dumb or ignorant to listen to advice. Which begs the question of why then, should it listen to this petition? If you already think I’m dumb, do you really think I’m going to value your opinion and judgement on matters? Of course not, you called me dumb!

Overall this is a pretty typical fan response to a hard business decision that plays on emotions rather than corporate common sense. A truly efficient letter would see the signatories sympathise with the networks need for viewers in order to keep ad revenue up and would emphasise the many ancillary benefits that the show brings to the network in terms of viewers for additional programs, merchandise sales, etc. Such a letter would do much to encourage the network to retain the show based on its actual merits, not the perceived ones.

This letter, for what it’s worth, isn’t all that bad, I mean, it did garner a few thousand signatures, many with individual responses to the show and how much it was loved. However, when it comes to influencing some executive in some far corner of Viacom’s vast headquarters in New York, it has zero potential and that’s why it’s not going to bring My Life as a Teenage Robot back from the dead.

Slate’s Cartoon Color Wheel Displays The Entire Spectrum of Characters

Via: Slate

The fine people over at Slate used the premiere of the Smurfs movie as an excuse to do some goofing about and this is what they came up with: The Cartoon Color Wheel.

It’s interactive so you can hover over each character to see who they are and yes, it really does display a truly varied set of characters from Zorak from Space Ghost to Bonkers D. Bobcat.

The only thing is, I think they cheated slightly by using some Pokemon for a few of the more unusual colours.

The F**k Yeah John Lasseter Tumblr

Is well worth a look if you like your funny bone tickled and don’t mind some sardonic humour at the expense of one of the best directors around at the moment.

And just remember:

“Never be afraid to laugh at yourself. After all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century.”

– Dame Edna Everage

When More Than The Colour Changed in Cartoons

Eddie Fitzgerald (whose blog I’m sure you all read on a daily basis) wrote an excellent post the other day on something I had never thought of before. As it turns out, yes, when cartoons changed to colour, there was a subtle shift in the animation style that ensured these new ‘toons were different to those that went before.

It would appear that this is partly a technological thing and can be seen time and time again. When cartoons transitioned to TV, they changed from the innate, quickfire gags of the the Looney Tunes to the more observational humour of the Flintstones.

The same again for films when they moved from traditional to CGI. Suddenly, the animated musical was out the window and a new adult-friendly format came into play.

So the question is: where do we go from here? What will the next technological improvement bring? We’ll just have to wait and see 🙂

The Secret to Great Comedy

The difference between what the audience expects, and what it actually gets

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soEeeGXC-XY

Once the audience is set up, the animators are free to go nuts with Tom and Spike and they way they do it creates a great comedic moment that transcends the boundaries of time.

Remembering that Cartoons Can Come From Anywhere

Via: Wikipedia

Producer Tristan Homer was kind enough to send over an e-mail to inform me that Almost Naked Animals, the latest show by Noah Z. Jones began broadcasting this week on Cartoon Network (the website is down right now, so here’s a link to their YouTube page instead).

Some of the comments below highlighted the fact that the show is produced in Canada and the tone seemed to imply that such a fact makes it somehow sub-standard. Such beliefs are hollow to the extreme.

Cartoons can come from anywhere, in fact, just last week, Nickelodeon announced they had picked up the entire Winx Club series which is produced in Italy! The same goes for Totally Spies which was produced by Marathon in France.

Growing up in Ireland, it admittedly came as a bit of a shock to learn that cartoons were produced in Dublin (courtesy of the old Sullivan-Bluth studio). Until then, I thought that all cartoons were made in Hollywood (must have been watching too many Looney Tunes and/or Tom & Jerry).

With today’s modern technology, good animation can (and does) come from just about anywhere. Just because a show come from Canada is no basis for judging its quality.

The Fleischer Superman Shorts, Now Available on Netflix

Via: the Superman Wiki

The other day, while browsing the “Recently Added” section of Netflix, I was pleasantly (although not entirely) surprised to see that the entire series of Superman cartoons by the Fleischer Brothers had been added and were available to instant streaming.

Suffice to say they were added to the instant queue immediately.

Via: Classic Film Freak

 

Fart Humour Done Correctly

‘Son of Stimpy’ is one of the standout classics of the series. Not only is it completely absurd, it also caused a ruckus at the time for its plot. In it, Stimpy farts and believe that the offending gas has been transformed into a character, a ‘son’ if you will, whom he calls “Stinky”. Stimpy spends much of the episode searching for Stinky and convincing Ren that he exists.

At the time (and apparently still to this day) controversy surrounds the episode. Naturally, much of it centers on the potty humour of the episode and the central theme of farting.

Which is sad in a way because as supposedly rock bottom as Son of Stimpy is, the whole farting aspect is just one small part of the overall episode. The rest is about Stimpy searching for his long lost ‘son’  and the struggles he faces in his quest. This is where the real humour of the episode lies and supports the over-arching absurdity that people will often search for something that cannot be found.

Is it appropriate for kids? I can’t see why not. I mean, flatulence is a natural and essential bodily function. We make fun at crying and burping, why not farting too? In hindsight, Son of Stimpy is almost quaint in a way. The controversy around it serves to remind us of a different time, a time before fart gags and before they permeated animated features to the extent that they have.

While it may not be the greatest or most clever cartoon ever broadcast, Son of Stimpy nonetheless represents the high-water mark for toilet humour on TV that has never been equaled before or since.

Just How Low Was the Cartoon Nadir of the 1970s and 80s?

Via: ComicMix

Just ask Joe Barbera:

I can’t even have a character throw a pie in someone’s face anymore.

Or how about Bill Scott (of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame):

Hyperbole is so out, which seems strange to me because animation in itself is a hyperbole medium.

That’s pretty low. In fact, it was so low, that the only way TV cartoons could go was up, which they did, thanks to the Nicktoons.The funny thing is, people look back on these shows with such nostalgia, you wonder whether they’ve got some rose-tinted glasses on!