So I figure, why not do something different and cover a recent Flash cartoon that's not in my age group but somehow manages to have a pretty sizable adult fanbase, a show that's considered just as fun to watch as a kid and as an adult. And before any bronies can get all excited and think I'm talking about THAT show, here is a show that people really overlook too much, WordGirl.
|Oh no, the TV's trying to educate me! Quick, change the channel!|
WordGirl basically answers the question of whether it's possible to have a superhero show aimed at little kids considering the inevitable violence and crime associated with that genre. Long story short, it is. Because come on, there was a generation of little kids that watched Batman: The Animated Series and they turned out okay. It's still educational, but it's also fun to watch. WordGirl doesn't just teach the children new words; she also thwarts world domination plans and fights various themed villains.
I consider WordGirl to be Dora the Explorer's alternate universe self on steroids. They share the same ethnicity and have a monkey companion, but while Dora thinks that saying "go" in Spanish is an achievement worthy of a traveling mariachi band consisting of frogs and snails, WordGirl will teach you the meaning of the word "immaculate" while tying a streetlight around a half-mouse mutant with an exposed brain. Also, Huggyface? I'm pretty sure if he fought Boots, Dora would have to rename her talking monkey companion "Bucket of Unidentifiable Monkey Organs".
Since I'm getting into the holiday spirit, the first episode I cover of this wondrous slice of educational television tells a haunting tale of a boy who uses his massive intelligence and his abilities to build giant robots for evil. A boy who has a thirst for destruction just as much as he has a thirst for caramel. I'm talking about Tobey, and this is his story.
Tobey's Tricks and Treats
Airdate: October 23rd, 2009
|Oh cool, the cartoon is making a reference to the best part of Kazaam.|
Airdate: October 23rd, 2009
Availability: On DVD
Before I actually talk about the episode itself, I just want to note the title screen. Whenever they show the title card in this show, which typically consists of the villain in some random pose on account the villain making an appearance can make or break an episode for someone (hey, come on, I can't be the only Darkwing Duck fan that avoids all Jambalaya Jake episodes, right?), a narrator helpfully informs the children what words they need to look for in today's episode. See, this is edutainment and by god we're going to learn something today.
And the words for this episode are "eerie" and "supernatural", which, to me, feels kind of redundant for a Halloween episode. I guess if they chose a set of words like "decapitate" and "inter", we'd be able to guess the plot before the show even starts.
To this show's credit, the screen dissolve they choose for this episode is very fitting, if a little creepy. How do we teleport into the show itself? By showing Tobey being devoured by a swarm of bats. Hey, thanks for the nightmares, PBS. Or should I say "thanks again", since you were the people who brought us Boobah.
|Replace those bats with Zubats and you have an accurate representation of Mt. Moon.|
...also, how come the district just allows a chimp to be enrolled in their school? Isn't anyone worried about the health risks? I'm pretty sure that if you gave a chimp a failing grade, it would respond by flinging feces everywhere and biting you until you contacted five different diseases.
|Nice of one Flash cartoon to endorse another Flash cartoon. Note the pony.|
Also, she brought her pet cat to school. Okay. I guess the teachers here are really lenient about maintaining an allergy free environment. I bet they also regularly fumigate the rooms with peanut butter gas in order to kill off any stragglers.
...and geez, that kid to the far right. I love it when cartoons with schoolchildren just throw in a malformed, freakishly large child in just to shake our perception of reality. I understand we're mutating due to all of the chemicals in our food but I don't think we're doing it that drastically.
|I love that Becky and Violet have great costumes and then the girl to the right just |
slapped on some fake ears and a nose at the last minute.
|...how would that ray gun holster even work?|
Luckily, one of the children decided to dress up as Shredder from the original TMNT cartoon and he's going to do just that. Come on, tell me I'm wrong. He's so Shredder.
|"It's those blasted turtles!"|
He also has a crush on WordGirl despite the fact that she constantly thwarts his schemes, which instantly makes his relationship with the main character pretty creepy if you dwell too long on it. He dislikes being beaten by WordGirl, but he'd love to take her out for an ice cream or sing her serenades while the sun sets. Luckily, the other villains give him hell for this (villain team-ups in this show usually devolve into name-calling) so I don't have to go too deeply into his psychological strangeness.
|He's the only gradeschooler with five different restraining orders.|
It's basically the standard "villain basks in the light of his own hubris before he gets taken down a notch" scene, but what makes it funny is that somewhere along the way, Becky makes fun of his samurai costume by pointing out the lack of chronological authenticity to the outfit. Personally, I'm just happy they're calling him a samurai. You have no idea how many cartoons will call that costume a ninja outfit thanks to Shredder.
Also, Becky? All of you are still in grade school. Like Tobey is seriously going to whip up some straw sandals and an actual kimono on a ten year old's allowance.
|"Come on, you're clearly mixing up Heian Period garb with Endo period fashion. Do your research!"|
And, for those curious, eerie means spooky or scary, something that gives you goosebumps.
...don't give me that look. You clicked on a blog post titled "WORDGirl". You're going to be learning the vocabulary with me!
|"Now, there are those who say that on Halloween night, a black cat still guards the |
old Sanderson house, warning off any who might make the witches come back to life!"
Personally, even though it was obvious that Violet was going to win, I was rooting for the kid who's dressed as The Hulk while somehow remaining legally distinct from The Hulk. Yeah, dodge those Marvel copyrights, animators! Fight the man!
|Gargantukid on the right will never stop being hilarious.|
In fact, he's so mad he's going to go ahead and ruin Halloween for everybody now. And yes, he actually says that. He even belts out some pretty decent villain laughter before the cartoon decides to make the often-used "everyone stares at the villain laughing manically as if he's gone insane" joke.
...but really, considering that all Violet won for winning the costume contest is a ribbon, I really doubt he should be wasting his time and energy getting back on the whole town for this transgression.
|Oh geez, I want a ribbon with that happy pumpkin face.|
...how does Tobey get all the material to build robots that big? I bet somewhere, there's a very sad junkyard owner who's wondering where all of his scrap metal is going and somehow didn't make the connection between the disappearing stock and the strange kid who keeps showing up with a wheelbarrow.
|I wonder if there's an episode where one of the robots accidentally takes one step |
too many and demolishes half of Tobey's house...
I love that Tobey's robots actually dressed up in costumes of their own, if only because I'm picturing some poor employee at a costume shop slaving away for hours upon hours at an industrial sized sewing machine just to sew a bumblebee costume that can fit a three-story tall robot.
|"BOOP BEEP. SMELL MY FEET. GIVE ME SOMETHING GOOD TO EAT. BOOP."|
It is during this montage that we get to see one of the other colorful villains from the show, Chuck the Evil Sandwich-Making Guy (he's a sandwich themed villain, just in case this show ever makes a crossover with Blondie), handing out high fructose corn syrup shaped into candy-like pieces. I like that the villains, when they're not terrorizing the city, will do mundane tasks such as this. It shows that when they're not stealing or holding the city hostage, they're just normal people suffering from strange themed deformities. I say "deformities" because Chuck's head is in the shape of a sandwich.
And before anyone asks me, no, I don't know how Chuck got this way. The cartoon just assumes you'll buy the fact that he's somehow half-food and moves on.
|Yo dawg, I herd you like sandwiches...|
...also, this is probably the time where I seriously wished I could enter a cartoon and do what these cartoon characters are doing, because good god. Hundreds of dollars handed to you at the same time you're getting free candy! I think I've discovered heaven.
|The first kid that visited her house was lucky enough to get copy of Action Comics #1.|
Oh, and this scene and only this scene, we see Becky's adopted family, but their part is so minor that I can't really talk about her fake dad, fake brother, and fake mom in too much detail, other than they're nice people and the parents are surprisingly good parents despite the fact they can't notice that their daughter is a superhero for some reason. I'm just noting that they were in this episode for posterity.
And eww, the chimp just ate out of the candy bucket. I don't care if he used his pirate sword to get the candy corn out. Who knows where that thing's been.
|Oh sure, Violet's happy now, but just wait until Frank Miller does a gritty reboot on her backstory.|
...you know, Tobey could get a lot more bang for his buck if he ordered his robots to raid the local Targets and Wal-Marts and steal all of the candy from their sections instead of getting the germ-infested candies that were handled by other people, but I guess that wouldn't be keeping to the Halloween spirit.
|"DELICIOUS CANDIES. I MUST EAT THEM."|
...and he crosses it when he later hugs the pumpkin and sighs wistfully. I'm just glad he doesn't know where WordGirl lives and this isn't on a channel that would allow full-blown insanity present in Batman: The Animated Series or else he's going to graduate from boy genius to boy stalker.
|But hey, he's a pretty good artist, so I can't fault him for it.|
Not satisfied with a mountain of candy that's nearly buries the freaking house, Tobey orders his robots to go back to town and steal even more candy because he will not rest until he has every last piece of candy in this doomed burg. Geez, kid. Just quit while WordGirl still isn't on to your scheme.You already have enough candy to kill the world's supply of diabetics. Just eat your stolen candy and be satisfied with what you have.
|Somehow I have trouble believing that a town would have enough candy to submerge a house...|
...also holy cow, that is a disturbing Halloween costume there, kid. I know he only exists for the robot to make a "taking candy from a baby" pun, but come on. There's a reason there's public nudity laws in place and he's breaking it.
|That is one durable diaper, supporting that guy's weight like that...|
...unfortunately, when I say WordGirl, I mean the girl that's dressed up as WordGirl for Halloween, not the actual WordGirl. This of course irritates our hero to no end, because no one ever cheers her on when she's just doing normal things. Fame is an addicting elixir she's unable to taste due to her choice of secrecy.
Also, I just can't believe that there is only one person dressed like WordGirl in a town where WordGirl regularly saves the day. I'm pretty sure that if half my town is dressed up like Batman for Halloween, the ratio of Batman to other costumes is even higher in areas where Batman actually exists.
|"Now I know how Tony Stark feels."|
...only she does it in the form of a definition of the word "supernatural", since it's been a while since we last had a word defined. Now, you'd think this would be a bad thing, the fact that there are large portions of the show where the characters are not trying to cram information down our throats, but then if you're asking that, remember why people hate educational television in the first place and be thankful for the long periods of nothing but robot-induced destruction. Dora the Explorer never has segments where robots steal things!
|"My hair is bright pink. Your argument is invalid."|
So anyways, they sneak their way to Tobey's house and Violet runs off to thwart the evil bad guy herself, but not before telling Becky to hold her cat and to call her parents if she doesn't make it back in ten minutes.
...wait, did Violet just tell her friend that if she doesn't return in ten minutes, that means she died? That's awfully badass of that character.
|Only the strongest will survive |
Lead me to heaven when we die
I am the shadow on the wall
I'll be the one to save us all
Course, since she had to hold onto Fluffy, Violet's faithful kitty sidekick, she inadvertently reveals her secret identity to her friend's cat. It's a good thing this is the rare children's show where the animals don't speak or else things are going to get very awkward for Becky in the next couple of weeks.
|WordGirl leaves no witnesses. She can just tell Violet that Fluffy "ran away".|
Man, Tobey is going to be so sick the following morning. You don't just grab an armful of candy and start stuffing yourself with it. It's all about the pacing. With the right planning, you can make your Halloween stash last all the way to January.
|And then he pukes all over WordGirl.|
...also wait. WordGirl doesn't even disguise her face or anything when she's a civilian, meaning her disguise is even worse than Clark Kent's. How is her identity even an issue? This is Hannah Montana all over again.
|But then again, I'm questioning the logic of a cartoon that has a half-sandwich mutant |
and a chimp dressed up as a pirate.
|Oh my god, she burst through that robot's body. That's not child-friendly.|
And when WordGirl returns into her Becky persona, we get the expected "Oh hey, normal friend I always hang out with, you just missed the superhero that looks a lot like you beating up the bad guy and saving the day" scene. I'm just going to skip right past it because, to be frank, Becky's such a terrible actor that I'm surprised no one's figured out her identity sooner.
...I know, I know, rule of funny, but come on, there were villains in Gotham City that knew Batman's identity.
|What did you expect, Tobey? You dressed up as a TMNT character renowned for losing in every episode he's in!|
It also takes a turn for the weird when Tobey tries to catch treats that fall from the sky and bizarrely only get healthy food. Because God is punishing him for suffering from one of the Seven Deadly Sins or something.
...or maybe he's just a bad catch. Hah hah, Tobey. You may be the smartest kid alive, and you may be able to make robots with free will, but if you can't win a costume contest or trick-or-treating, no one will respect you because you're a snob.
|I love how everyone's focusing on the raining candy instead of, |
oh I don't know, the giant pile of candy as tall as a house behind them!
She's also stealing Violet's cat since, now that the cat knows her secret, she's going to whisk the animal away to someplace she can properly dispose of the body. Superheroes!
|Come little children, I'll take thee away|
Into a land of enchantment...
The Moral of this Cartoon
Nothing is more irritating than being a superhero on Halloween and watching people dress up as you and pretending to be you.
For an educational show, this is pretty good.
I like that while it teaches kids new words and doesn't talk down to them, there's an element of fun to the cartoon. I like that Becky has some flaws to her, like the fact that she actually expresses anger and frustration. This seems like a weird thing to point out, but again, Dora the freaking Explorer. Dora the Explorer has since become the standard that a lot of educational cartoons try to reach and as such, we get a lot of characters that have the same "stare at the camera, never express anything other than blissful glee" personality to them.
Which is why it's kind of a breath of fresh air to have a cartoon that's got a big vocabulary, but at the same time, has characters that will actually steal and get frustrated and do these things.
As for the animation itself, it kind of fluctuates. The areas it suffers the most are when you get really close to the characters and it's really obvious that only the mouth is moving on a still frame, but when there are multiple characters, it really shines. The Flash animation is pretty good and arguably the simplistic style kind of works after a while. There's good timing, the jokes don't drag on for too long, and it's surprisingly well-written for something aimed at an age level way below mine.
Plus I'll be honest. I like that WordGirl is a female superhero but they allow her to like princesses and ponies. That's always a plus when they don't do the whole "badass girls should never like girly stuff because its beneath them!" thing because seriously? Seriously?
My opinion on this episode? It's pretty solid. There's nothing about it I really hate and it has its moments. I think part of the reason is because I personally enjoy Tobey and the fact that he's such a prissy little snot who feels he has to win at everything because he possesses the technological know-how. My favorite scenes are definitely the ones with Tobey in it, hands down.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to drown away my sorrows in pixie stix because I just said good things about an educational cartoon designed to teach children new words.