Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spliced - Stuck Together

You know, I've been talking about some pretty old shows recently. Shows that are almost 20 years old, with one cartoon even being older than I am. Shows that, if I keep talking about the 80's and 90's, might alienate my nonexistent audience into thinking that I some sort of bias towards this period of animation. (I do, but that's not what's being discussed here.)

So you know what? I'm going to cover a show that's only two years old.

You'd think with the advent of the Internet, less shows would escape notice. You'd think with more people coming out of the "I like cartoons and I'm over 18!" closet on the Internet, no animated series would be left unturned. Unfortunately, a lot of shows do, leading several people to believe that there just aren't as many cartoons as there were in the 90's. (which is actually sort of true, but still) You'd be surprised, but there are actually quite a few modern shows that ended up just like Creepy Crawlers; they surface, have a couple episodes, and then sink back into the mud pool of obscurity in which they were birthed from.

One such show is Spliced, a Teletoon cartoon that was barely even in the United States. Considering that at one point in time Teletoon cartoons had infested Cartoon Network like a bad infestation of fleas (remember Stoked, 6Teen, and those Total Drama shows that all looked exactly the same? I mean those), I'm actually rather surprised that Cartoon Network did NOT pick up the Teletoon show that wasn't produced by the same company. But then again, these are the same people who greenlit Problem Solverz and yet refused to renew Megas XLR, Robotomy, and Sym-bionic Titan so I have reason to believe that whoever runs Cartoon Network decided that brains weren't hipster and random enough and had them surgically removed.

Otherwise I'm going to have to come to grips that some person, who thinks and breathes just like you and I, thought that CN Real was a mighty good idea and would totally enhance the network.

It wasn't and it didn't.
But before I get off-topic again (I can rant about Disney Channel in another entry just to make it fair), what is Spliced actually about? Basically a mad scientist splices together a bunch of animals and made a bunch of horrific mutants until he was carted off to jail. So now the mutated animals, without the mad scientist running their lives, built their own society and go on wacky hijinks in the scientists' abandoned equipment. If you ever played any of the Crash Bandicoot games or watched the show "The Wuzzles", this premise will seem kind of familiar.

What has science done!?
Also the intro is extremely catchy AND manages to sneak in the word "crap". Any cartoon intro that manages to do that and not get yelled at wins brownie points in my book.

I figure the best way to look at this show is the first episode, and since this show is like Heathcliff in that it's divided into 11 minute segments, I'll look at the second segment of the first episode. Why the second segment? Because it introduces more of the characters than the first one and because I personally liked it better than the first segment. My cartoon blog, my rules.

Anyways, I present you a cartoon where one of the main characters has a giant udder for feet, a cartoon that goes from charming buddy adventure to a survival horror. I give you...

Stuck Together

I know they just reused the cartoon's clip art, but I like that they did this.

September 19, 2009

Online Only (or still in reruns, depending on the territory)

The episode opens by first showing the audience the map of the three main islands the mad scientist had mutated animals to have near-human intelligence, one of which having a very large mountain. The camera zooms in on the first island: N. Sanity Island Keep Away Isle! 

Oh come on, I can't be the only one thinking of Crash Bandicoot.
You can almost hear the Naughty Dog music when you look at this map.

I might as well link the music I'm thinking of.
We find our two main characters approaching one of the mad scientist's abandoned labs. The mad scientist that built the mutated beasts of horror never actually appears in the series, but parts of the architecture show that he was once an egotistical madman that at one point tried to take over the world. I mean, the abandoned lab that the two main characters approach is shaped like his head. Even Dr. Cortex would find that in poor taste.

"Legends of the Hidden Temple! With your guide Kirk Fogg!"
And then, that's when we see our heroes. The small hyperactive orange rodent that's hard to determine what species it used to be just by looking at it is Crash Bandicoot Peri, whose name is short for exPERIment. His fat friend is named Patrick Entree, and if you can't guess why the scientist made him, then remember what animals go into delicious steak dinners or delicious breaded chicken (or "murder" if you're vegan). Yeah, that's right, a scientist spliced together a cow, chicken, shrimp, and pig and gave the animal sentience just so that he can slaughter Entree and devour him for dinner. That's dark, man.

What's even more disturbing is that Entree eats meat in this show when
he's related to every major food animal. Try not to think about it too much.
Since the scientist is gone from the island, the two mutated freaks of nature decide to mess around with all the abandoned evil science equipment. Hey, wouldn't you? This ranges from horrifically contorting their body mass in glass teleporters (causing irreversible damage to their interior organs in the process) to riding on a death ray like a mechanical bull while it spits out lasers. And to think, the scientist that built these strange gadgets probably went to evil medical school for several years and slaved away for months, possibly even years, in order to build these wondrous contraptions. Our heroes.

Their fun ends when the laser blows up, narrowly killing both of them. I'm...personally not sure how they made the death ray blow up just by hammering the buttons wildly. Safety regulations are not an issue with mad scientists, it seems.

You know Sonic's done this to Robotnik's machines at least once.
And this is when I realized that this show is actually pretty smoothly animated compared to most flash cartoons. It's still not as fluid as 2D, but there's some really great posing in this scene in particular. I don't want to downright gush or berate any cartoon's animation when I could be talking about things like the writing or the strange things in every animation, but considering a good portion of Flash animation is really limited and flat, seeing something like actual squash and stretch was a real treat.

Flash animation with actual distortion and anticipation? I thought
those only existed in fairy tales.
So anyways, before I got off-topic, Entree and Peri are really grateful and shocked that they're still alive. The scene that I ripped those screenshots from happens when Entree leans on a bookshelf, sending everything stored on it flying, and a notebook lands right in his eye. Even though a large pointy object landed in his friend's eye, most likely causing permanent sight damage, Peri doesn't care one bit. Instead he cruelly yanks the book out, narrowly avoiding tearing Entree's eyeball right out of his socket. Some friend he is.

Where would we be without gratuitous violence in children's cartoons?
But Entree's terrifying pain is quickly rewarded because it turns out the book is one of the scientist's journals and it's all about Peri! You'd think a doctor, one smart enough to splice all of these critters together, would keep all of his scientific notebooks on all of his beloved creations in the same area, away from all of the exploding death machines and laser-shooting instruments for world domination. Or even, dare I say it, have these notes stored electronically on a computer. Having your only copy of important notes be something physical and easily destroyed is just asking for trouble.

That evil scientist was an artist too. Who knew?
Anyways, since the book is about Peri, it should discuss the reason why the doctor created him in the first place. It's not stated in this segment, but one of the big things about Peri is that unlike the other mutants, he has no idea why he was created and has existential angst about it. Sort of like Mewtwo from Pokemon: The First Movie but without the godmode abilities.

But there's a small problem. Neither Peri and Entree know how to read, catering perfectly to the children of 2009. They're going to need help from another experiment that isn't a total idiot like they are.

Pictured: Not a total idiot like they are
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the villain of this animated series. He's part dolphin and part chimpanzee (a mutant combination that I'm really surprised never showed up before in mad scientist fiction), so he's naturally the most intelligent mutant on the whole island. And, since intelligent animals also have a natural affinity to being violent jerks (I dare you to look up chimp behavior. I dare you.), he's also very very evil. Considering the backstory for Keep Away Isle, he might be one of the few animals on this island that was actually created with world domination in mind instead of for the hell of it. 

His name? Mister Smarty Smarts. I'm not kidding. To be fair, Dr. Wily named all of his highly advanced killer robots of mass destruction really stupid names like Cut Man and Guts Man and no one ever called him out on that. Except me. Because Mega Man is really frustrating to play now.

Just so that the audience knows that Mister Smarty Smarts (it's a stupid name but man is it fun to type) is both evil, part dolphin, and part chimp, his first scene involves him talking about how his giant killer robot will wreck havoc across the entire island while he plays with an organ grinder and emits The Stock Dolphin Noise at random. Mister Smarty Smarts knows how to multitask.

What really happened to Robot Jones.
But then Peri and Entree show up. The dolphanzee (chimphin? dolphimp?) is distraught that his booby traps didn't work, all while talking in a glorious villain voice that I really wish was in more cartoons because it's pretty awesome (and also from one of the writers, oddly enough). Apparently Peri and Entree were able to just walk through the lasers and lava pits he set up to guard his lair, making it really hard to resist making yet another Crash Bandicoot joke.

The writer of this blog will never get 100% in Crash 1.
So that's when he decides to unleash his fiercest minion. OCTOCAT. What is Octocat? Exactly what it says on the tin, really. I'm guessing Octopussy would be considered either too vulgar or too close to the James Bond copyright for Nelvana's lawyers to handle.

And again, I have a question for the mad scientist responsible for these beasts. What use would grafting a cat's head to an octopus serve? It seems like a really cruel joke to deprive an octopus of its ability to swim underwater.

Sword Of Octopi, give me sight BEYOND sight.
Octo-Freak of Nature fiercely jumps towards them and it looks like our orange rodent and his tasty friend are about to be mauled beyond recognizablity. But then, suddenly, Octocat sort of...stops in midair, closes her eyes, drifts down towards the floor, and purrs instead of attacking them.

...huh. I've watched this scene over five times in an attempt to figure out what the hell is going on, and I still can't tell you what Octocat's doing here.

No, really, what happened during this scene? I'd like to know, cartoon writers.
Since Octocat did...whatever the hell she just did, we get a scene cut and all four of the hideously deformed monsters are now sitting at a table discussing the contents of the doctor's journal. It turns out Mister Smarty Smarts can't actually read the journal, despite all of his posturing and his egotism, but he's certainly not going to say that out loud. Not when he has an audience.

Mister Smarty Smarts also has a delightful taste in table decor. They often hint towards this in the show, but our evil little dolphin aberration also has a sensitive side. As evidenced by the fact that he looks like he's perpetually pissed off by his own existence.

Double dates are always hell.
Instead he makes up Peri's reason for existence on the spot, feeding the orange rodent a pack of lies. The chimphin says that Peri's purpose is to be best friends with Entree. Sounds innocent enough and both of them are really happy about it (so happy that they jump in the air and cause a swirly background to form behind them spontaneously) so what can possibly go wrong? You have no idea.

The cover art for High School Musical 4: Post Nuclear Fallout edition.
Once Peri and Entree are satisfied with Smarty Smarts' answer, he unceremoniously tosses them out of his lair via use of his giant killer robot. Course, as soon as the two idiots are gone, Octocat confronts the evil dolphin ape and calls into question his reading skills. It's through this scene that we learn that Octocat can't talk like the other mutants, but instead communicates like Gary the snail from Spongebob. A single meow can mean anything to "You were lying about knowing how to read" to "I want an expensive Nikon-brand camera with the best zoom available in the market" to merely "Meow". It really depends. Of course this means that whenever someone talks to Octocat, they have to repeat whatever she just said, only rephrasing it in the form of a response.

Through some well-placed "Meows", suddenly Mister Smarty Smarts breaks down and cries that he really doesn't know how to read and that he was living a terrible lie all this time. Octocat must really have a way with those "Meows", because Mister Smarty Smarts goes from this:

To this:

In a really short amount of time. Octocat's brutal.

But Mister Smarty Smarts' illiteracy isn't the focus on the plot. Peri and Entree are the stars of the show, and we find ourselves basking in the warm glow of both their friendship and their idiocy as they take their relationship up a notch. They even do some freestyle rap to show how awesome they are as friends, all while Peri steals ice cream and spontaneously generates clothing just to suit the random whims of his fat porksteak of a friend. I wish my friends were like Peri, because a sweater with my first initial on it would come in handy right about now.

Entree, now's a good time to change the locks on your house.
But their spontaneous rapping is pretty suspicious, and it attracts the attention of the mayor of the island; Two Legs Joe. Two Legs Joe is basically a two-legged rhinoceros with a purple bird of indeterminate species (named Lord Wingus Eternum, just in case this show isn't surreal enough for you) firmly spliced into his butt. He also has a nice hat, because he likes Team Fortress 2.

I will say this. I remember actually watching this show for the first time and it honest to god took me four episodes before I realized that Two Legs Joe was a mutant in that he was missing two of his species's legs. I seriously thought that the only reason he was considered "spliced" like everyone else is because there was a bird sticking out of his ass. Four episodes. When he's named Two Legs Joe. Clearly I fail at biology here.

At some point, they gave the character designer a bunch of expired pixie stix
and just let him run wild.
Two Legs Joe and Peri have a little argument until the two idiot friends walk away, leaving the mutated rhino to quietly say "I'm so lonely" to himself, exhibiting a social commentary on how lonely it is at the top, especially if you're a genetic accident who causes property damage in all of his scenes.

Suddenly, friendship montage with a scrapbook motif! Because we haven't seen one of those before in a cartoon, right?

A friend is a friend
'til the end of the end...
They play baseball, they dance at one of the scientist's dance clubs, and they get brutally abused by a giant gorilla/pony mutant. You know, normal friend stuff.

...okay, why does the scientist have a dance club? Judging by the intro, there was only one scientist on that entire island. That's kind of depressing, picturing some crazy doctor constructing a giant disco room even though he knows he's going to be the only one that will ever use it...

It's written somewhere that EVERY animated anything needs at least one dance scene.
Now, with all of this going so well, you have to wonder what the conflict's going to be. Well, if you're familiar with the structures of horror movie plots, first you lure the audience in with peaceful, normal settings and then take a sharp turn into the creepy and the disturbing after everyone watching it is suitably lulled into a relaxed state.

This is exactly what happens with Entree and Peri. Peri slowly realizes that Entree is the reason for his existence and suddenly goes all survival horror video game villain on Entree. The cartoon even uses things like psycho strings and Peri turning his head 360 degrees like that possessed girl in the Exorcist. Arguably it works, because the same smiles Peri was giving the Entree throughout the whole episode suddenly turn into the smile of a madman with the right atmosphere.

Peri's got a network bug stuck in his eye.
Entree's annoyance quickly turns into fear when Peri's friendliness turns into stalkerness. Entree has to run through a forest (how does he run with a cow udder for a foot? I'm wincing just thinking about it) to get away from the annoying orange rodent when the viewers get to see what Entree's house looks like.

A grill. His house is a grill mixed with many different cooking instruments and his bed is a grill. That doctor was obviously trying to condition Entree into accepting his inevitable fate of having his flesh seared to a delicious well-done state and to be served to the doctor and his close friends. That's pretty disturbing there, Mr. Scientist.

One teleporting Peri later, Entree tries to explain that he needs some alone time. He tosses Peri out, but then the music turns all horror movie-ish as he hears strange, unexplained noises come from his fridge. He...okay, I'll sum up what happens next since I suck at writing in the slasher thriller style. Fridge is empty, Peri's really attached to the door, and Entree goes to bed suffering from an anxiety attack.

"I'm every nightmare you've ever had. I'm your worst dream come true.
I'm everything you ever were afraid of. We all float down here, Entree!"
However, none of that can compare to what happens next. Entree is snug in his bed, about ready to urinate all over himself in pure fear, when it turns out his pillow is really Peri. That's right, Peri can shapeshift and he molded himself into a pillow-like shape so that he can stroke Entree's chicken comb and whisper softly into his ear. Brrrr....

The cartoon only shows Entree from the waist up because he's silently
crapping himself right about now.
And this is the time that Entree's brain snaps. How do I know this? The cartoon illustrates this by animating a twig snapping. I love it when cartoons are this helpful.

Now we're in the middle of the night, and Peri wakes up to find Entree missing from his bed and a trail of feathers leading outside. I guess that whole "disguising yourself as a pillow so that Entree can press his sleeping form against your flesh" was a bit much for him. Course, to Peri, Entree's just playing the game called "Follow the Feather". You know, because Peri's totally insane.

"A few more feathers and I can build an Entree shrine."
Meanwhile, we find Mister Smarty Smarts, Octocat, and Robot Clawpatra sitting around a campfire at 2:26 am while Mister Smarty Smarts reads a children's book about robots in order to learn how to read.

...and I have no idea what the hell I just typed.

"You're telling the story all wrong! The man had a hook for a hand!"
Once we get past that little moment of insanity, we find our insane rodentsquid following the feather trail into that scientist head lair they were in at the beginning of the episode. He heads inside pitch black darkness, unaware he's being trailed by Entree. Now the hunter has become the hunted because it turns out Entree's snapped and he's thirsty for blood.

Probably not a good sign that this cartoon has had two of its main characters go absolutely insane, but hey, if this is wrong, I don't want to be right.

I am incredibly disappointed that there are no Internet creepypastas associated with this cartoon.
So yeah, Entree decides that the best course of action is to shoot Peri with a glowing death ray. Good idea.

I've noticed that this cartoon is pretty awesome once it loses itself in its own insanity. If you ever wanted a reason why I watch Spliced, just look at Entree there. 

And this, my friends, is why I love the animation genre so much.
Okay, sit with me, ladies and gentlemen, because this is when this show starts to get reeeally weird. Yes, somehow this show manages to top the moment where Peri turns into a creepy, friend-stroking pillow.

How does this happen? Well, Peri wakes up to find himself permanently attached to Entree's back with his hands missing, essentially making him a grotesque orange talking growth sprouting out of a cowpigchickenshrimp's back. Whatever the writers were smoking, they should probably give it to a government lab for testing. Clearly that stuff's not safe for human consumption.

I'm not even sure what I'm watching anymore.
So anyways, Entree says that he spliced (title drop!) the two of them together so that they can hang out together all the time. Surprisingly, even though Peri's lost all of his limbs and his ability to move, he's totally fine with this. What happens next is another sort-of montage where the cartoon shows us what wacky hijinks a two-headed rodentcowsquidpigchickenshrimp mutant can get into.

...geez, that's like six species.

In Wacky Hijinks Scene 1, Entree quickly learns the use of a rodent attached to his body by molding Peri into the shape of a fabulous hairdo the moment he sees an attractive lizardhorse (at this point I don't even care what strange combinations I report). This obviously doesn't work, because if you have a hairdo, usually it doesn't sprout eyeballs and moan in sickening pain.

"Every moment I live...is AGONY!"
With that scene of pure horror ended, we find Peri and Entree doing something rather normal and laidback. They're sitting on a rock, sipping fruit punch out of a coconut. Long story short, this scene ends with Peri nearly getting eaten by a dingodile crocowolf.

How is Peri still alive.
This is when Peri realizes that hey, being permanently stuck to Entree kind of sucks, so he decides to head back to that lab to get them unspliced while Entree is asleep. How does Peri do this is he has no limbs? He uses his tongue to propel himself through the forest and towards the lab. Of course. At this point of the show, this seems almost normal and I don't even question how this was all possible all without Entree waking up.

How does Entree not feel any of this!?
So yes, Peri goes through a cacti desert, lava flows, and sheer mountain cliffs to get to the lab, but when he tries to use the same machine Entree uses, the laser spits out a disco ball and then explodes. Huh. I guess the doctor got his PH.D in Dance if so many of his machines have some sort of dance option.

All scientists have disco ball options on their lab rays of mass evil. ALL OF THEM.
The explosion finally wakes up Entree, who managed to sleep through being dragged several miles across uncharted territory. He then laughs at Peri's mental agony and then says that they're not really spliced together. Entree just stuck Peri to his head using some band-aids and drool. That...really doesn't explain anything, like how Peri's legs and arms disappeared. Just drool and band-aids means he would have some feeling in those limbs. Unless of course Entree's drool is full of some sort of paralysis venom, and considering this island and this cartoon, I wouldn't put it past him.

The drinking game for modern cartoons: Take a shot whenever there's a Gross Closeup (tm).
But wait, what about the laser? Nah, it turns out it was just Entree smacking Peri around with a fish in pitch black darkness and Peri just imagining the whole scenario in his head while he was being beaten senseless. That also doesn't explain much of anything, to be honest. Entree, can you stop making stuff up?

I wonder if the scientist predicted that his creations would go insane and turn on each other like this.
So that's when we get our moral since the cartoon isn't going to even try to make sense anymore. Peri says that even best friends need some time apart. With our moral stated so specifically, we need to tie up a loose end. Mainly, whatever happened to that scientific journal and what did it really say? Luckily, that's when Mister Smarty Smarts suddenly bursts through the wall in his giant robot and takes back everything he said earlier. But now he really can read! Will Peri finally learn why the scientist created him?

No, because Entree ripped the pages out of the journal and used it as toliet paper, defying all known laws of physics and breaking the speed of sound by how fast he mysteriously rips out those papers and goes to the bathroom off-screen.

Entree's also part Charmin Bear.
The episode ends with Peri horribly beating up Entree. And honestly, can you really blame him?

The Moral of this Cartoon
The best way to fight off a terrifying stalker is to temporarily fuse them to your body and by inflicting a grievous amount of pain on them until they're sick and tired of you.

Final Verdict
This is a very strange and insane cartoon, but I like it. I like it a lot.

It's hard for me to like Flash cartoons because a lot of networks view the flash format as an way to be lazy and not give the animation the love and care it really deserves. Spliced is one of the better flash cartoons I've seen and it's the closest I've seen a flash cartoon actually get almost to 2D Animation level. That's huge in my book. Dare I say it, but the animation's smoother and more flexible than the flash cartoon everyone says is "The Flash cartoon with beautiful animation"; My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Watch as my hits soar the moment I mention this name.

It's got a strange brand of humor that I bet isn't for everyone, but I personally got a kick out of the characters. Mister Smarty Smarts in particular is pretty hilarious, and this is one of the few cartoons where they do the Spongebob and Patrick dynamic in their main heroes but it doesn't get annoying. It helps that the island setting with its many abandoned labs and the infinite possibilities for mutated creatures instantly means that the material doesn't get old and is open for plenty of future situations.

So yes, this is a recent show I actually liked (despite the fact that I've been told by a couple people that I'm "stuck in the past" and hate everything that's came out after the year 2001) and I'm actually kind of sad that this show didn't get put on one of the bigger networks with its Teletoon cousins, therefore granting it the audience it needed to survive longer than two seasons.