Thursday, February 2, 2012

Widget the World Watcher - Widget's Walkabout

Okay, we all have an opinion on environmentalist cartoons. They're preachy, they're rarely entertaining, they have villains that are one-dimensional and seem to only exist to make the Earth cry, they're hypocritical considering 2D animation is one of the most paper-consuming mediums of all time, and they feature annoying children that, all things considered, make us want to burn a rainforest rather than suffer through their annoying mugs for twenty minutes.

By this paragraph alone, you might think that I'm talking about Captain Planet. Sadly, no. If there's one thing I learned about bad ideas in cartoons, it's that they never appear in just one cartoon.

"My head is ridiculously huge!"
Here's a sad thought that not many people like to think about when talking about environmentalist cartoons. Captain Planet is not the only cartoon that's about saving the planet from ecological harm. There were multiple cartoons and specials about this. It's just that the flying blue man is most popular and the most well-remembered, while the others fell by the wayside. This bears repeating. Out of a genre of cartoons that exists, Captain Planet is the best one. There's a group of cartoons where Captain Planet beats them. Captain Planet.

...excuse me. I think I need to go lay down now.

Wait, I should probably talk about Widget the World Watcher here. There's not much to be expressed about a cartoon where the honest to god mediocre videogame adaptations are more well-remembered than the actual show itself. Other than pity. Lots and lots of pity. Seriously, the only other time I can think of a videogame outshining the actual cartoon when the videogame itself isn't very good is Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Gold. It's a sad fate to befall any show.

In fairness to this game, it at least looks funner than Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Gold.
Unfortunately, I think I might've seen a couple episodes of this show when it was actually on the air. I say "I think" instead of being too sure because, unlike Darkwing Duck or Animaniacs or even Street Sharks, the show never left a positive or even a negative impact on me. I mean, I hate practically everything about Captain Planet, but the fact that I hate that show proves that it did something to me and that I have a reaction to it. Widget just exists; and the only reason I can guess that I saw it is that the purple alien looks kind of familiar and, since it had shapeshifting, I was all over that as a kid.

Another notable thing about this show. Like all really dumb shows of the 90's that not many people remember, it's incredibly rare. Out of a 65 episode show, only a handful of episodes are available online, and they're all pulled from VHS videos that, on eBay, run to be about 40 dollars.

That being said, you like kangaroos? Dingos? Bad Australian accents? Then boy, do I have an episode for you!

Widget's Walkabout

Awww, that's kind of cute that they had a married couple write this together.
Airdate: 27 October 1990

Availability: On VHS, but good luck finding one!

If you grew up in the magical time known as the 90's, you are well aware of how a lot of animated shows from that era happened to have incredibly catchy intros regardless of the quality of the cartoon. Who knows how many cartoons have tricked me into watching them just because they happened to have decent music. DuckTales and Heathcliff are the most infamous examples (if only because I can still recite the entire DuckTales song by heart), but now I can add this show to the list. Compared to Captain Planet's intro, which is basically a narration of what the premise is set to instrumentals while Ma-Ti totally fails to help with a forest fire, Widget the World Watcher opts for the more traditional "have people sing entirely in exposition while set to a catchy rhythm" route that most cartoons stick to.

And, despite the preachiness of the lyrics ("Danger and evil are everywhere, Nature called we didn't care"), it's a really successful song. The singers and their backup sound like they're pouring their heart and soul into their work and make an fantastic song out of lyrics that say that humans crapped up the world so badly that shapeshifting aliens from another planet had to step in and clean up our mess. That takes talent.

...but maybe I just have a weakness for theme songs that contains a copious use of Whoa-oh's and CGI objects flying through space. Whoa-oh, Whoa-oh, Widget the World Waaaaaatcher!

This screenshot was brought to you by the color purple.
But then this is ruined when the music stops right when it's starting to get good and Widget, in an odd froggy-sounding voice that sounds like the alien either has a perpetual headcold or smokes at least two packs a day, has to tell us what's going to happen in the actual episode. Hey, thanks for giving away the plot of your own cartoon! Come on, get back to the 80's-style Whoa-ohs already!

This episode involves "Australia's endangered red kangaroos", in case you're curious. Well, I'm off to a good start here. The cartoon didn't even start yet and already it's made a huge factual error. Red kangaroos aren't endangered, morons! Out of all of the Australian wildlife they could dedicate an episode on (you could make an entire series on the amount of marsupials and indigenous Australian animals that are facing extinction), they had to choose the one that's in absolutely no danger. Smooth. At least when Captain Planet features wildlife, they do some research and make sure the animal is a vulnerable species we may lose due to mankind's activities.

...and see what you did, cartoon! Not even two minutes in and you made me give a compliment to Captain Planet.

And only one of those kangaroos is red! This whole episode is a lie!
Once the cartoon actually starts, we find ourselves at some really nice Hawaiian resort (oh, nice that the heroes of the cartoon can afford to live in a place this beautiful) where two kids are bragging about their awesome camping equipment to a highly advanced space traveler. No offense kids, but something tells me that Widget's not going to be too impressed with you camping outside your backyard if he's lightyears away from his home and has to have his immune system constantly battle your strange, foreign bacteria just from extended contact with you. Just sayin'.

"Pitiful Earth creatures! Your puny attempts at wilderness survival greatly amuse Widget!"
Luckily for them, Widget the World Watcher is not the kind of alien that would instantly scoff that the silly earthlings and their primitive technologies, choosing to instead use the other alien cliche where he's instantly amazed by any Earth invention regardless of how mundane it is. A sleeping bag is not just a sleeping bag, but the coziest damn thing Widget's ever encountered, because even though his race can shapeshift and build incredibly sophisticated machinery capable of traveling through the galaxy, a bundle of cloth shaped into a bag is amazing to him. Too much flattery will get you nowhere, Widget. 

"So, let me get this straight. Your species has to fashion soft cushions in order to protect their
soft, naked pink bodies from the elements? This information will be useful."
I also have to say this, because this kept distracting me during this opening scene where the children talk about how awesome camping is. Every single one of these characters sounds like a character in a much better cartoon. The older kid sounds exactly like Max from Goof Troop, the younger kid sounds exactly like Phil from Rugrats, and, now that I listen closely to the alien, he sounds like one of the nephews from DuckTales but with a slightly deeper voice. It's so bad that if I were to just listen to this cartoon's audio, my mind would instantly fill in the blanks and I'd have myself one of the most awesome cartoon crossovers ever conceived, one that wouldn't be filled with drugs like that one cartoon crossover that was filled with lies.

...and somehow Widget gets so stuck in the sleeping bag that he needs the two kids to help pull him out. How is that even possible? Sleeping bags are equipped with zippers and Widget can shapeshift!

"Is this how humans procreate?"
After that pointless bout of alien-themed slapstick, Widget's ship (which looks like a giant space Poké Ball)  gets a transmission for "The Old Wise Ones", who remind me of friendlier, more altruistic versions of The Almighty Tallest in Invader ZIM from the way they keep forgetting Widget's name and kind of belittle him while they're vomiting out exposition. I've only seen a couple episodes of this cartoon (because, like I said, very few of these episodes are available online and I'm not going to spend 40 dollars to buy a VHS off of eBay), but it's pretty reasonable to assume that this is how most of the plots start for this show. Widget goofs off with human children, Old Wise Ones say that some dickhole is crapping up the environment, and then it's up to Widget to kidnap his friends and go save the day. I know this show's game.

And if you look closely, the male Old Wise One's fingers are somehow outside of the hologram. Alien technology sure is amazing sometimes.

Old Wise Ones! Gotta catch 'em all!
In this episode, they have to go to the Land Down Under, where the hideous big-headed alien needs to oversee the relocation of red kangaroos because some asshole sheep and cattle farmers have used up their water supply and there's a bad drought going on. Widget makes a very painful "Oh, do they walk upside down in Australia?" joke while they're giving out the mission statement, but I was able to ignore that in favor of the fact that, compared to the really dreary plots you sometimes get in Captain Planet (like the people of Brazil mutating into rat creatures), this mission sounds downright simple. All Widget has to do is make sure some kangaroos on a resort acclimatize to their new surroundings. How hard can that be?

...although now that makes me wonder if there are other World Watchers on Earth and, since Widget sucks so much (come on, he needed help getting out of a sleeping bag) the Old Wise Ones just hand him these really easy assignments just so the embarrassing little recruit feels better about himself. I bet before he had to help the endangered red kangaroos, he had to help some endangered coyotes in Nevada and some endangered pigeons in New York City while the real World Watchers took care of the rainforest.

Good god, where did the Eurasian landmass go?
I do love that one of the kids has to say "Australia? We just studied that in school!" (news flash: no one cares) in an attempt to make himself look more informed in front of the intelligent alien lifeforms, and Widget, in order to top ignorance with even more ignorance, chimes in by saying that "it's the land of kangaroos, koalas, and crocodiles" before shapeshifting Steve Irwin clothing (bringing up horrible questions on whether he feels pain if you tear that clothing, since it grew out of his body and all that) and shouting one of the most painful lines in the history of Australian stereotyping.

"G'day, mate! Time to go practice with my boomerang!"

Uuuuugh. I slapped my forehead so hard from hearing that line that I gave myself permanent brain damage. As you might guess, if you actually live in the continent of Australia, this is going to be a very painful experience.

Australians, this is what Widget thinks you look and act like.
One purple W screen wipe later and, sure enough, the two completely uninteresting children protagonists with no defined character traits whatsoever are traveling with Widget on his ever-important quest to help "endangered" animals. Because apparently Widget is completely incapable of completing even the simple task of overseeing a kangaroo relocation without backup or something. I guess he's afraid the kangaroos will be armed with sleeping bags. 

To make matters worse, we hear that the two dumbass kids are perfectly okay with randomly going to Australia at the last minute (and that it's downright awesome that they get to do it), just as long as they're back before breakfast. Because they'll miss waffles. Oh sure, their parents might call the police to report that their children have been kidnapped, but god forbid they miss waffles.

Widget's luring them into a false sense of security. And then, the probings will commence.
Judging by the didgeridoos that suddenly flood the soundtrack and the sudden appearance of kangaroos, we're now in Australia. You know how in Captain Planet, the animals typically have animal-like intelligence, thus giving more weight and more realism to the conservation lessons the flying blue man in spandex tries to impart on the children? This cartoon doesn't do that. Instead, when we check in on our lovely endangered kangaroos while they're getting loaded up into caravans, they're having extended conversations about whether a joey is still big enough to ride in a pouch and making really human-like gestures with their bestial claws.

It's...rather jarring to say the least, and it only makes you wonder just how aware the kangaroos are about their current situation. Did they actually talk to the cattle and sheep farmers about their water shortage before arriving at this decision? How much voting power do you give to a marsupial anyways?

"But, Mom! I don't wanna clean my room!"
It also doesn't help that the joey has the single most annoying voice I've ever heard fall out of the mouth of a Macropodidae, and I've seen Kangaroo Jack. Unlike his mom, who sounds like she's an American voice actor trying to talk in a fake Australian accent but instead settling for a fake British accent by mistake, he just doesn't even try to sound Australian, choosing to instead adopt an annoying singsong-y kiddy voice that just sounds like the animal took one too many blows to the head in his childhood.

Sadly, according to the intro that unfortunately spoiled everything, this character is going to be a major player in this entire episode. I think I officially hate Australia now for being somewhat responsible for this freakish mutant's creation.

"Baby, you are looking fiiiiiiiiine."
And this is why, when the baby kangaroo ends up falling into a small hole and ends up getting left behind by the transport caravans (because I guess the kangaroos, which are supposedly endangered in this cartoon, aren't being supervised by any conservationists to make sure this doesn't happen), I didn't feel at all sorry for the little nuisance. Maybe in his absence, his mom can take his younger brother off of embryonic diapause and give birth to a joey with a voice that doesn't fill me with utter loathing.

You can probably guess what the real plot is now just from this turn of rather uninteresting events. Despite being branded as a ecological cartoon, this episode decides to take a page out of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers' book and have the plot be more about cute baby animal rescue. The whole "ranchers taking the kangaroos' water" is never going to be brought up again, we're not going to see any poachers or any polluters try to hurt the kangaroos, and all of the dangers presented in this cartoon are going to be completely natural as opposed to man-made. Way to miss the point as to why your cartoon was made, Widget the World Watcher.

"So Bob, did you check to make sure we got all the kangaroos on the reserve?"
"Eh. It's not like these animals are a protected species or anything."
After the oddly short caravan trip, the unnamed mother kangaroo and the unnamed father kangaroo (and oddly, despite calling this species endangered, this cartoon does know that female and male red kangaroos have different colorations) exit one of the caravans, hug, and go on about how beautiful the new kangaroo resort is. Somewhere along the way, they learn that the baby joey (named Jojo, because get it, it's a joey!) got left behind, but try as I might, but I can't stop focusing on how these animals hugged. It's just so bizarre, how much they anthropomorphize these creatures in what is supposedly a cartoon that's all about saving the environment.

...although this is the only family of kangaroos we ever see talking and performing advanced human tasks. Maybe they're hyper-intelligent lab experiments gone wrong, mutated in a way similar to the rats of NIMH, that ended up settling in an ordinary mob of kangaroos in order to hide themselves from the cruel, unforgiving government that would rather cut them up and examine their unnatural brain tissue than allow their family to live in peace.

And crap. Now I want a movie with that plot, especially if Pixar was involved.

And then they were shot by poachers.
Right when they're worrying that their baby got eaten by either dingos or crocodiles (because what's a stereotypical Australian-themed cartoon without either of those animals?), that's when Widget and his two annoying human hobgoblins show up out of the sky. As expected, none of the kangaroos are at all frightened by this, and neither are the humans in charge of the reserve. I guess in a world where kangaroos hug, aliens are a regular occurrence. 

And we get to see just how much Widget cares about doing a good job with the whole "saving the environment" thing when he crashes his spaceship into the ground and starts bragging with his friends about the awesome loop-de-loops and spirals he did in his vehicle, trick maneuvers that caused him to lose control in the first place. Hey, thanks for digging a huge furrow into a protected wildlife reserve, Widget! Suppose a kangaroo happened to be standing there?

And how the hell did those two kids survive the crash? From what we saw earlier, the spaceship clearly didn't have any safety restraints!

Aww! It appeared to be caught!
Since his advanced alien race feeds off of sadness, it doesn't take long for Widget to locate the distressed kangaroo family. Female kangaroo informs them that they lost their son, and she's so depressed that she pulls out a handkerchief out of her pouch and starts drying her tears with it. What.

Remember, this is a cartoon that is supposedly dealing with more adult issues like animals needing to be moved to other locations due to a dwindling water supply thanks to competition from meat and wool industries and protected wildlife reserves that are supposed to preserve vulnerable species and animals acclimatizing to it. Any other cartoon, I would've been like "Okay, kangaroo has a handkerchief. She must also have an ironing board and an apron in that thing.", but in a cartoon that's supposed to deal with issues that happen in real life, this just doesn't fly. Why would the kangaroo have material possessions if it lives in reserves and grazes like a lowly animal? This doesn't make any sense!

...and yes, I realize I'm asking for a cartoon that involves a shapeshifting purple alien that travels in a giant Poké Ball and sounds like a Disney duck to make sense. But come on, Captain Planet had more dignity. Captain Planet.

"I can't believe they cancelled Chuck!"
Widget offers to help the strange manbeasts, and, in an oddly pretentious way for something coming out of a naked purple troll, even goes on a little diatribe about how he's Widget the goddamn World Watcher and how there's no case too big and no case too small, and when you need help you just call Ch-ch-ch-Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers Widget!

Just wondering, Widget, but the mission your Old Wise Ones gave you was to make sure that ALL of the kangaroos are happy with their new resort. From the sounds of it, you're only going to help this one couple for this entire episode. How is this fair to the other red kangaroos? What if one of the kangaroos had problems dealing with his crippling Avoidant Personality Disorder and you totally blew him over in favor of this couple?

His wrinkled kneecaps creep me the hell out.
So the annoying half-pints are on the case (and I bet off-screen, the kangaroos are secretly wishing that they had gotten help from the Rescue Aid Society instead), and in about two seconds we learn just how unnecessary the children are and how little they add to the plot because the one voiced by Phil from Rugrats keeps filling the air with annoying babble about how much of a rugged explorer he is while the older child constantly complains about how annoying the younger sibling is while simultaneously being just as annoying. These two seem to only exist in order to make sure that this cartoon has as much unnecessary dialogue as physically possible (because god forbid a cartoon actually has moments of silence!) and man do I hate the people responsible for these two. 

What makes this different from any other cartoon that allows the bland child protagonists to shoot their mouths off in an attempt to appeal to the target audience is that, while this is happening, Widget just kind of stands off to the side, his expression deepening in severity as he wonders why the hell he brought these annoying little dickweeds along. He doesn't actually say anything, possibly in order to be polite and keep his child-friendly image, but you can practically taste his utter disgust. 

"I'm just waiting for my hideous alien larva to burst out of that kid's chest."
Widget notices that they're all lost (even though they never explain why they're lost when they were able to easily locate the kangaroo resort), so he decides to press his ring and...oh sweet jesus what the living hell am I looking at. I thought I had rid myself of scary braindemons when I was done with that episode of Tak and the Power of Juju! This isn't charming, this is creepy!

"Hello, kids! I'll be appearing in your nightmares tonight!"
Well, okay. Obviously this came out of the left field, so let me explain this for you. It turns out that Widget, in addition to being an extraterrestrial mutant that can change form, can also summon a hideous demon at his beck and call with the press of a button located on his wrist. This horrifying being filled of nightmares and unholiness is named Megamind Mega Brain, who is supposed to be the brains of the group (well, duh), and he's just as culturally insensitive as his master because the moment he pops into existence, he yells "G'day!" while wearing a comically oversized hat. Even grotesque mockeries of natural law like to make fun of the Australians.

And, to make things worse, after he doesn't help the group pinpoint their location (making his demonic summoning entirely pointless), he instead informs everyone that there are more poisonous snakes in Australia than anywhere else on Earth. I just love the look on Widget's face when he hears this too. I guess I can't completely hate this eldritch abomination too much if he's going to be such an asshole to his friends, especially considering he's voiced by one of the best voice actors of the 90's, Jim Cummings. Therefore, when Mega Brain talks, he sounds like a bizarre mix of like twenty different cartoon characters all at the same time.

"The test results are in, Widget. It's cancer."
Oddly, once Scary Nightmare disappears, Widget, Annoying Kid 1, and Annoying Kid 2 encounter what else but a group of deadly, poisonous, generic cartoon snakes. Ten bucks says that Mega Brain totally summoned those creatures out of thin air using his reality-bending psychic powers in order to get rid of his alien master and finally take over the universe.

By the way, even though all they have to do to avoid the snakes is run in the opposite direction, I just want to point out a couple things about this scene. First, Australia has very distinct poisonous snakes, and none of them gather in groups like this. Second, one of the first things you learn about venomous snakes is that most of the species are not at all vicious, choosing only to attack humans if provoked. And finally, how come these snakes can't talk? The kangaroos could talk, hug, and could even produce their own handkerchiefs!

Unless in Widget's universe, the only animals that can talk are the cute, herbivorous animals and not the icky reptiles and carnivores. Unfortunately, this theory only gets reinforced by what comes up later. Widget the World Watcher, everybody; while teaching your kids how to save the environment, he's also going to stick to harmful animal stereotypes.

These snakes automatically hate the heroes because they're evil, unholy creatures!
So they run from the venomous monsters, and since they're still lost in the Outback...forest...wherever the hell they are, the little doofuses have to resort to asking a koala for directions. I feel like I have to paste the phrase "I'm not kidding, this actually happened" to anything I say about this cartoon from now on. Yes, our next plot point is interrogating arboreal marsupials. 

They do get directions from the koala, since, unlike the snakes, it's cute and therefore capable of intelligent speech. But for some reason, this koala sounds incredibly stoned (man, what was in those eucalyptus leaves?) and the directions she gives them are extremely vague. In her words, in order to reach the baby kangaroo, they need to reach the Billabong near the Never-Never in the back of Beyond.

...well. That certainly narrows things down.

"Man, is anyone else in the mood for tacos?"
Those directions were totally crap, so Widget, after getting inspiration from a random Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (because this cartoon is trying to be educational in showing us random Australian wildlife, despite showing us generic venomous snakes earlier) landing right next to them, realizes that he's a goddamn shapeshifter and turns into one himself. This is the meat of the entire show, the reason why Widget exists and what sets him apart from other ecological superheroes. He can turn into any animal he pleases to help save the environment by spinning in place until he magically poofs into that animal. It's kind of a shame that they didn't go all out with the transformation sequences and had Widget screaming in agony as he grows wings and feathers, if only because it would've made this cartoon slightly more interesting and mentally scarring.

Someone with a keen eye can instantly notice that no matter what form Widget turns into, he always retains his purple colorations and he can never shapeshift his tail away. I guess this is so the viewer can pick Widget from a crowd in case he's on the same screen as other animals his species, but that's such an unfortunate character flaw that prevents Widget from ever going undercover and experiencing life the way the Earthlings do, which I imagine is why he has these powers in the first place. What if Widget wanted to be human for a while? Purple skin and strange, crooked tails tend to raise questions.

So this cartoon contains animals, shapeshifting, and alien invaders.
I wonder if Animorphs was based off of this...
So the appalling purple monster flies around, powered by its own hatred of all that is wholesome and good, until, sure enough, Widget spots the kangaroo baby. That's when he utters a downright egotistical line, one that makes me want to reach in through the screen and punch Widget right in his unidentifiable reproductive organs.

"Purple pulsars! It looks like Widget the World Watcher is gonna save the day!"

Man, usually when the character is this obnoxiously self-centered, the cartoon turns it into a character flaw instead of presenting it in a meant-to-be-charming manner. That's why I applauded when an eagle appeared out of nowhere and tried to eat Widget. Good job, nature! Smite the monstrous alien that takes the form of your beloved creations!

So the eagle can't talk either...?
How does Widget deal with this eagle?

Simple. In order to scare the creature off, he turns into a dragon.

...a rather ugly, off-putting sins against nature type of dragon that manages to still have his face, but hey, it's the thought that counts. It's a shame that he didn't turn into a ichor-spewing tentacled abomination with seventeen gaping mouths that each contain a separate dimension, a being so hideous and ugly that it drives the eagle mad and the poor mortal creature has a fatal stroke just trying to comprehend Widget's real form. But in the show's defense, that would've been really hard to animate.

And I'm certain none of the locals saw the mythical creature suddenly appear out of nowhere...
But he lost the kangaroo somehow, even though he just showed us that he can turn into a dragon and would therefore be able to cover way more ground. So he goes down back to his friends to report his failures and that's when we find that the cartoon has gone into strange, offensive territories. 

That's because the two bland, uninteresting kids have been cornered by Australian Aborigines, and the sight of these strange, awkwardly-dressed strangers just standing there and doing nothing is so frightening that the two kids are actually shaking and so afraid that they can't talk and need Widget to talk to them for them. All because two people with slightly darker skin appeared in front of them. Holy crap. There are no words for the amount of offensiveness that has been directly beamed into my eyes. 

Without spoiling anything, this episode is the reason why I'm glad that Ferngully didn't have any native tribes in their movie, choosing to instead go the "this is Australia even though no one has an accent" route. This cartoon handles the subject of native Australians with the delicacy of a sledgehammer.

I see the grandfather is rocking the bandanna, dried pineapple, and shorts combo that's custom to his tribe.
Want to know why Widget utterly fails at being a "world watcher"? The Aborigines terrify him so much (dude, what the hell, all they're doing is standing there! What's there to be afraid of when you can turn into a dragon?) that he has to consult his frightening disembodied head named Mega Brain to find a way to speak "Aborigine". Hate to nitpick, but that makes as much as sense as trying to speak "Native American". There are different languages that exist among the many different tribes in Australia.

But you have to picture this scene from the Aborigines' point of view. They find two Caucasian males stranded in the middle of nowhere, and all of a sudden, a honest to god purple dragon falls from the sky and transforms into hideous balding elf with lavender skin. And then, after he babbles in tongues to his loyal minions, he conjures several decapitated body parts that only remotely resemble something human and can perform frightening tasks like suddenly manifesting material objects like an oversized dictionary. I bet the reason our two Aborigines are both wearing brown pants is so that we don't see them crapping themselves in fear.

"You know, this seemed like a way better plan in my head."
Luckily, the tribesmen can in fact speak English, which means that the reason they didn't say anything to any of our main characters earlier is because these two are assholes and just wanted to mess with the stupid white people and their magical gremlins from outer space. You gotta love how they just take all of the events taking place in front of them in stride. The grandpa Aborigine doesn't even so much as flinch when Mega Brain starts singing a song about his name. (and yes, this actually happened) Either these two are astonishingly laid-back individuals or Australia is even more of a hellish landscape than I could ever imagine.

So they introduce themselves to the frightening hellbeasts, but since their personalities are so bland and their names are so indistinct (seriously, the younger one is named Jim. Jim.) that I'm probably going to call them Old Aborigine and Young Aborigine from now on. They only exist so that the animation studio can gain street cred for having different ethnicities in their productions, no matter how boring the end product happens to be.

"Whatever you do, don't make fun of my grandfather lack of nipples and chest hair. He's very sensitive about it."
And all of my respect for them (what little I had, anyways) goes completely out the window when the grandfather Aborigine, like any good cartoon tribesman stereotype who's more in tune with the Earth than the more commercial, polluting members of the cast, tells Widget that his tribe has legends of sky creatures that can fly like birds and can help both humans and animals. And Widget automatically assumes they're talking about him.


Excuse me. I think my eyes rolled so far back into my head that I'm going to need surgery to correct my eyesight. Normally when a cartoon is this fantastically racist, it at least gives you a warning so you're expecting it.

"Which legend about my people talks about the day when my planet sends our space armada
to your pitiful world and enslaves your weak, pathetic species?"
Sadly, it just continues to get worse, my friends. The younger Aborigine (by the way, why isn't he shirtless and shoeless like his embarrassing elder?) then says, in a voice that is completely lacking in sarcasm and irony, "We Aborigines are skilled trackers!"

No. No. Don't make me roll up a newspaper and hit you on the nose, cartoon! You don't make natives show up just so they're skilled trackers and have the white kids stand back in amazement! What the hell is wrong with you? 

Pictured: Racial insensitivity.
After a brief demonstration on his superior tracking abilities, which involves parting some bushes and scaring a kangaroo rat (which aren't native to Australia, by the way), the young Aborigine gets to go with them because, according to the old Aborigine, there is a legend involving flying sky creatures that can help end this drought. Oh that wacky indigenous Australian; he has a legend for everything and it's always related to flying sky creatures for some reason.

In other words, woooooow. There's insensitive and then there's this. When I started watching this cartoon, I was hoping that they didn't make Australians out to be displeasing Steve Irwin parodies, but after seeing this frighteningly xenophobic trainwreck, I would've vastly preferred that.

So, judging by what I learned so far, Australia is filled with poisonous snakes, stock Australian animals, and horrible stereotypes. What an educational experience!

"Grandpa never was the same after he suffered that stroke..."
But that's enough racism for now. It's now time to check on Jojo the kangaroo, who happens to be relaxing near a river next to an echidna. It's sad what this cartoon has driven me too. I started this episode absolutely hating this character and his squeaky, annoying voice that gives me PTSD-induced flashbacks to Bat-Mite, but now that he's on the screen, I can breathe a sigh of relief because he's not an Aborigine talking about legends of sky creatures or going on about how awesome their tracking is.

This scene is kind of weird, because while the kangaroo is posing like a human, doing human gestures (I want to know if kangaroos can even physically perform some of the tasks this cartoon depicts them as doing), and using human slang, the cartoon then implies that the animals can't speak each other's language because the echidna is totally silent during this entire scene. Unless he's so annoyed by such blatant display of cutesy-wutesy (this kangaroo's voice is the physical embodiment of a migraine) that he figures he's not going to waste his time. Kangaroos are assholes anyways.

"How goes guarding the Master Emerald?"
But life is hard when you're a monotonous little kangaroo that thinks being cute is a personality trait, for a freshwater crocodile appears, joining the ever-expanding list of carnivores that don't talk in this cartoon and only exist to be mean to the more loveable, nice animals. And, even though the crocodile only slowly drifts to the right and opens his mouth instead of, you know, lunging forward and crushing any bones with his powerful jaws, Jojo acts like he's in a ton of danger and quickly abandons the river. What if the crocodile just wanted to talk? He can't help looking scary with his razor-sharp teeth and his beady reptilian eyes!

I also just want to point out that if this cartoon was actually doing its job and being educational, that baby kangaroo, since he didn't notice the crocodile until he was well within striking range, would've been dragged underwater, killed by the crocodile's powerful and infamous "death roll" hunting technique, and later ripped to bite-sized chunks. Any children's cartoon that has enough balls to introduce a typical baby animal character and then have that character killed would instantly become a classic, I guarantee. Just look at Animals of Farthing Wood.

"Excuse me, but that's MY river you're sticking your grimy, disease-coated paws into."
After that narrow brush with death, the kangaroo, in a last-ditch attempt to tug at our heartstrings, bursts into tears (even though kangaroos are physically unable to cry) and says that he'll find his family in this godforsaken Outback even if it takes forever. No offense, Jojo, but judging by your survival tactics you helpfully demonstrated earlier with the crocodile, you're going to get eaten by predators or die of starvation way before "forever" happens. 

I love how absolutely cheesy Jojo's close-up is, by the way. It's not enough to hear the marsupial come to grips with the fact that, due to his stupidity, he's never going to see his fellow kangaroos ever again and he's never going to enjoy suckling his mom's elongated teat nestled in her pouch. We also have to see the majestic, heartbroken tears roll down his face. I think the next time someone posts something stupid on one of the message boards I frequent, I'm using this as a reaction image.

Don't worry, Sheila. I'm sure you'll appear in another Spyro the Dragon game in the future...
So we check back up on the troupe of annoying clowns, who are enjoying a light lunch while sitting on some random rocks (because they're in the Outback, I guess) and...oh dear lord, the white American children are asking the Aborigines to show them how to throw a boomerang.'s official. This cartoon is making me feel highly uncomfortable.

Also, I find it funny how so far, the only thing Kevin and Brian (I had to look up their names, that's how much I give a damn about these two) have contributed to this cartoon are annoyance and cultural ignorance. Why the hell do they even exist again? It feels like you could digitally remove these characters with Photoshop and still have the exact same product on your hands.

"If you ask me to wrestle a crocodile or fry a shrimp on the barbie, it's perfectly legal for me
to ram this boomerang down your throat."
So Kevin (who happens to be the older brother that sounds like Max from Goof Troop) practices with a boomerang and, since his entire body is filled with suck and fail, he narrowly avoids slicing Widget in half with it. Damn. So close and yet so far.

Incidentally, boomerangs were historically used by the indigenous people of Australia in order to hunt animals including kangaroos. Wouldn't be ironic if Kevin's throw ended up sailing so wildly off-course that it struck Jojo the baby kangaroo in the neck and killed him? And then the rest of the episode could involve Widget using his shapeshifting powers to make Jojo's death look like an accident by turning into different carnivores and mangling the corpse to disguise the real cause of death, all so that he doesn't get his World Watcher license revoked from the Old Wise Ones.

Speaking of the Old Wise Ones, whatever happened to that whole "make sure the kangaroos are adapting to their new home" mission that Widget was supposed to do?

Can boomerangs even slice this efficiently?
The Aborigine, possibly silently mocking the tourist in his head after seeing that pisspoor attempt, then hands the brat the boomerang as a gift, possibly hoping that it will shut his dumb ass up. That's when Brian spots Jojo in his binoculars and, when he hands them off to the Old Aborigine on account he can't identify the other animals following him, we hear that Jojo's getting chased by dingos. Which are, in the old guy's words, "as dangerous and as fierce as hungry wolves". Okay then. I guess we couldn't have an episode in Australia without alluding to the classic "Dingo ate my baby" joke., how did Jojo run into the pack of hungry, ravenous dingoes? Considering he's a baby, just one dingo is enough to kill him and eat him. Having a whole pack chase after him just makes this situation even worse, because it's implying that this drought Australia is suffering is so bad that the dingo packs are being driven to desperation.

I also like that the Old Aborigine just says that the baby kangaroo "is in terrible danger". How terribly vague. Come on, Brian and Kevin are old enough to handle the truth. You can say that the bloodthirsty hunters are inches away from eviscerating that baby kangaroo for sustenance.

"Oh, I'm sure the baby kangaroo can outrun the-oh, nevermind. One of the dingos just ripped out his throat."
With a really weird exclamation ("Galactic Ghost Grease"? The hell?) to show that he means business, Widget then shapeshifts into a kangaroo. I think I found the reason why this cartoon exists. One of the head animators wanted to draw the main character as a kangaroo, so they wrote a really bland, nonsensical, poorly researched episode around that idea to justify the transformation. It would explain why there's an utter lack of environmentalism in this episode (save for the brief reference to cattle and sheep ranchers at the very beginning) despite the fact that this is an environmentalist cartoon.

Also, Widget has a pouch. Which is something only female kangaroos have because that's how they care and nurse their young. Umm...

And oddly, this scene where he's a kangaroo and gestures to his devout followers is a lot more smoothly animated than any other piece of animation in this entire episode. Weirdest production bump ever.

I can't help but picture a shapeshifter's duel between him and Project GeeKeR.
What makes this even grosser is that one of the kids hops into the pouch, because I guess the alien that can change shape and can turn into things like dragons and intergalactic space octopi needs an extra set of hands on this daring mission against the dingo menace. Despite what the cartoons say (except for The Simpsons, because they actually used this as a gag), a kangaroo's pouch is very slimy and gross, and we certainly can't ride in one without severely hurting the poor kangaroo because the pouch is meant for creatures much smaller than a human child.

...but I'm willing to let this slide, since Widget is a horrifying alien monster, after all. I'm sure he has some sort of intergalactic superstrength at his side and, when he transformed, he made sure his pouch was free of disgusting bodily fluids and nipples.

I'm sure this is a fetish somewhere on the Internet.
So they save the kangaroo from the dingos by...hopping in front of the dingos, hoping that the dingos will attack them instead. Smart?

...oh, so that's why he made one of the kids jump in his pouch. Widget's obviously seen A Cry in the Dark.

"Quick, grab the bottle of barbecue sauce in my pouch and cover yourself with it. That'll distract them!"
And then, while Widget is holding the starving dingoes off by being a big, delicious target that's a big part of a dingo's natural diet, the little kid climbs out of Widget's pouch, approaches the frightened baby kangaroo, and shows how much he understands wildlife by petting a wild animal, one that's currently very frightened and can attack without warning. Come on, kid, if you're going to assist a character that's supposedly protecting our planet, you could at least bring some equipment along to help restrain the baby kangaroo so it doesn't bolt and get itself killed.

I will like to take the time to point out that this cartoon is careful never to show the kangaroos talk when they're not just by themselves or around Widget. I guess this implies that only Widget (and to a lesser extent, Mega Brain, since he had that book that listed "Aardvark" and "Abominable Snowman" as possible language choices) can talk to animals, but that sure doesn't explain the handkerchief and the hug from earlier. Do animals just exhibit human behavior like that when we're not aware? What has my cat been doing behind my back all this time?

And then he contacts rabies.
Meanwhile, Kevin is bored because the purple gremlin gave him the ever-important job of "keeping watch". He's sure sick of his equally boring brother hogging up all of the spotlight, but he's going to need a miracle in order to make him an important part of this episode.

Luckily, a rather racist, stereotypical miracle shows up just in time to make Kevin relevant to the plot. Remember how those two Aborigines were just totally insensitive parodies of the native peoples that inhabit the Australian landmass and how they were all about hokey legends, tracking things, and boomerangs? Wouldn't it be great if they showed up with emus out of nowhere and called them the race cars of Australia?

And that's exactly what they do. I hope someone got fired for this episode.

Man, the Star Wars Extended Universe sure is strange...
While Kevin is learning how to ride an emu (and while I hope Kevin fails during said emu ride and cracks his skull open), Widget is beating up the dingos with his spectacular kangaroo fighting abilities!

...hate to break it to Widget, but dingoes don't attack one at a time. If there's a pack of dingoes, Widget's pretty much screwed because they're going to work together and make sure that they don't leave until they have a kangaroo carcass to feast on. Or an alien corpse after he reverted back to his original form. I'm not sure what would happen if you killed Widget while he was shapeshifted.

And, again, Widget doesn't just talk to the dingoes and explain his problem, choosing to instead beat them up for daring to be carnivorous. Why can't his mystical Dr. Dolittle-esque abilities work on animals that eat meat?

Now would be a good time to point out that dingoes are more endangered than kangaroos. Good going, Widget.
But then, while Widget is violently assaulting a pack of wild animals that are actually a protected, vulnerable species in some parts of Australia, saltwater crocodiles show up!

...even though they're on dry land. And saltwater crocodiles don't typically walk around actively searching for prey, choosing to instead eat whatever enters their territory. And they don't hunt in pairs. God, this cartoon's stupid.

Educational gaffes aside, this cartoon is really pulling out all of the stops to make sure this climax is as action-packed as it can possibly be! Dingos, crocodiles, random emus, phoned-in almost makes you forget about the fact that this episode doesn't at all have a clear antagonist, it doesn't at all address any of the possible global issues mankind has in terms of disturbing the Australian animals' natural habitat, and it doesn't even a clear story beyond "protect baby kangaroo".

Brutus and Nero, what are you doing? You're supposed to be helping Madame Medusa recover the Devil's Eye!
Since there's too many carnivores to focus on one time, the Aborigines take care of the dingo problem by using their emus to chase away the dingos. I'm not going to comment too much on this scene, because I know if I talk about this cartoon's portrayal of native Australians for too long, I'm going to end up trying to fill the empty void that has now manifested in my heart with whiskey.

I guess it's an Aborigine tradition to ram an emu's beak into a dingo's ass.
Meanwhile, since Widget is just plain not doing a good job (again, Widget can shapeshift into a dragon; he could take care of both the dingoes and the crocodiles without too much of a problem), Kevin of all people has to ride his emu to where both Brian and Jojo are and help save his annoying little brother and the annoying kangaroo from the crocodiles.

Hmmm, I wonder if there was a scene from earlier that was hinting towards Kevin learning a skill that wasn't particularly interesting but could be used to pull a hastily-written resolution to this problem?

Do you come from a land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover
As a matter of fact, there is. He has to use the boomerang, the one that was placed in his backpack, to save the day somehow. Remember that?

...yeah, if you're like me and just totally didn't give a crap about this character (and I really doubt he's going to leave an impact with anybody in this episode, considering 80% of his dialogue are racist questions aimed at the Aborigines) and his utter lack of anything resembling a personality, this plot development is going to come completely out of nowhere and you're not going to be impressed by it at all.

And saving a kangaroo by throwing a boomerang at crocodiles after riding an emu and narrowly avoiding dingos sounds like something even Steve Irwin and Crocodile Dundee would find too stereotypical. I bet that boomerang can also summon Vegemite sandwiches and some Men at Work mixtapes.

"My trusty croissant will save the day!"
I do like how, while he's doubting himself as to whether he can successfully throw a hunk of wood at some hungry crocodiles, he has to imagine himself as Kevin of the Cosmos. Apparently, like Doug, Kevin likes to imagine himself as a superhero in order to get inspiration on how to perform a certain task, and he figures that Kevin of the Cosmos would be all badass about his cultural appropriation. That's all good, except when Doug did this, his brother wasn't about ready to get eaten by hungry crocodiles! What the hell, Kevin? 

"Pfft. Ray guns and lasers are so mainstream!"
So the boomerang, when thrown by the determined Kevin of the Cosmos, actually knocks over a boulder, which knocks into a tree that traps the crocodiles, saving the day., I didn't just randomly ram my face into my keyboard until something profoundly stupid and yet resembling the English language appeared on the screen. This seriously happened. Through a strange string of coincidences, a boomerang thrown by someone who's only used once knocked over a goddamn boulder which topples a goddamn tree. I know boomerangs are hunting weapons but I doubt they can move boulders. I'm sorry.

Ah well, at least the crocodiles were helpful enough to stand completely side by side or else the whole tree thing never would've worked. I also wonder what would've happened if the tree fell slightly more to the left and crushed those crocodiles to death. That sure would've looked good on Widget's resume.

"Oh, no! A tree! It's our one weakness!"
Love the high-five the two brothers share when they meet up, by the way. I'm sure if I managed to fend off two crocodiles using only a boomerang, I too would act like it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.

And is it me, or is it a little odd that this cartoon, which, again, is meant to talk about the environment, solved a problem by toppling a tree over? Imagine if one of the Planeteers did that in front of Captain Planet.

"We injured some crocodiles with a tree! We're the best environmentalists ever!"
Back at kangaroo paradise, the mother kangaroo hopes that the small purple creature found her Jojo while her husband consoles her. Even though, when it comes to kangaroos, males are only interested in the females when they're in heat, and they then fight with the other males in order to determine who gets mating privileges.

But ignoring the courtship rituals of kangaroos for a bit, what makes this scene really strange is that the male kangaroo says that Widget has that smart Mega Brain fellow helping him with the search, when not once did Mega Brain interact with any of the kangaroos. I guess a scene got cut during production and they just assumed that we had fallen asleep from boredom long before we'd notice little errors like this.

"I don't know about you, but I actually liked Kangaroo Jack."
Jojo of course comes back, and we get our standard "family is reunited" scene where the child is grateful to be home, the mother is tearfully shouting her child's name in happiness, and the air is filled with the sickly sweet scent of adorableness.

...well, this would be more adorable if it wasn't so obvious that Jojo was being voiced by an adult trying to sound like a child, anyway.

"U mad, bro?"
So we got our happy ending, but with over three minutes still on the clock, we'd better shoehorn another plot point in at the last minute so that this episode fills in the appropriate run time. Right after the kangaroos are reunited (and I start to wonder how many times I typed the words "kangaroo" in this blog post), Widget decides that he's also going to help with the drought, even though it's going to be "tougher than milking solar slime snakes" in his words.

...Widget, can you kindly tell me what a solar slime snake is and why the hell you have to milk it? That sounds way more entertaining than what I'm watching here.

Meanwhile, the Aborigines turned Caucasian thanks to a rogue coloring error.
And so, like Captain Planet (and I hate how much this cartoon is making me want to watch that show instead of this), Widget is going to use his otherworldy powers in order to solve the environmental problem even though this cartoon is supposed to be teaching us how to do it ourselves. What if there's a horrible drought that can possibly cause entire populations of vulnerable species to die of thirst but we don't have a shapeshifting alien and a flying spaceship at our disposal? Shouldn't we be learning about water conservation? Guess not then.

I believe they call this a "Deus Ex Machina".
They also had to squeeze in one last scene with Mega Brain, just so we remember that this character still exists. And all this scene does is prove how little Widget cares for his friend by rolling his eyes (in a strange, alien manner that no human could ever physically imitate) and mocking his existence. Poor, scary Mega Brain. He contributed even less to this episode than the two kids even though he's the only member in the cast that at least has something resembling character traits and flaws.

"Greetings, Earthlings. I come in DERP."
And then Widget honest to god uses his ship's thrusters to push rainclouds that were gathering over the ocean over to Australia.

Yes. Ship's thrusters. Pushing rainclouds. Somehow solving a drought. Thrusters.

Oh, I see now. I see what you're trying to do, cartoon. You're trying to frustrate me so much with sheer inanity that I'll just give up and turn this episode off. Well, sorry. I'm going to sit through this entire episode to the end if that's the last thing I do!

Fire solves everything!
While rain falls down from the skies and the grandfather Aborigine goes on about how the legends came true (even though I'm positive the reason those rainclouds were gathering over the sea is because a wind current was going to push them over the land anyways), the younger Aborigine then pulls a science book out of his strange pineapple-shaped satchel and says that one day, he's going to combine the beauty of legends with the reality of science with the rest of his generation.

...even though he gave absolutely no indication that he felt this way in the entire episode! What, so Jim (shoot, I actually remembered his name) actually wants to be a scientist when he grows up? Well, you should've had a scene to actually develop that character instead of choosing to fill the episode with kangaroos shooting the breeze with random Australian wildlife, cartoon. You're telling us that we should all work together to keep the world full of natural wonders, Aborigine? Yeah, that makes sense. That's why you needed space aliens to help solve your droughts, right?

I'm sorry. I should keep my pent-up rage at a minimum. I gave up expecting something intelligent from this cartoon a long time ago.

"I'm going to become a scientist because I was inspired by a shapeshifting purple fairy."
And, in case you were wondering if the two children are going to be missed by their parents, thanks to the magic of time zones, they're not even going to know that they're gone. Hooray! Lying to your loved ones is fun!

And where the hell did they get the food?

"Will your parents mind if I implanted some electrodes into your amygdala in order to better study your vital signs?"
So that was Widget the World Watcher. I have nothing more to say about this cartoon, other than wordless screams of agony and rage, but I do want to point out this terrifying image contained within the credits.

"Shgla'yos plahf mh'naus!"


...that's okay, Widget. I didn't plan on sleeping tonight anyways.

The Moral of this Cartoon
The life of a single baby kangaroo is more important than anything else in the world.

Final Verdict

Well, this certainly made me appreciate Captain Planet a lot more.

There's a lot to be said about this cartoon and this episode, and unfortunately, a lot of it is bad. The characters are bland as all hell, the animation never strives to be anything better than "passable", the research is downright terrible (kangaroos are not endangered!), it gets pretty offensive at times, and it's just not all that good. With Captain Planet, you get the sense that the world is in danger thanks to mankind and that we must do something soon or else we could lose finite resources, but with here, you don't get that. They really lose focus and instead spend most of the screentime on the kangaroos. Kangaroos that can't decide whether they're anthropomorphic or merely wild animals that can talk.

The only two things I liked, the music and potentially the concept of a shapeshifting superhero that travels around the world, are kind of buried underneath this thick pile of mediocrity. I mean, come on, they're in Australia, and all they did was point out some species (Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo, Dingo) while completely ignoring other species (poisonous snakes). Why not show us some of the precious landmarks Australia has to offer?

But instead, I got really annoying protagonists (seriously, Brian, Kevin, Jim, and Grandpa Aborigine have no personalities here, let's be honest with ourselves) mixed in with a really annoying kangaroo and some really annoying Aborigines and about halfway through the episode, I ended up wishing that the dingoes would eat the kangaroo's baby and we could focus on how the cattle ranchers are stealing all the water meant for Australia's wildlife or something. I'd rather it be preachy than stupid, and unfortunately, what I got was stupid.

But above all of that, it was boring. I can enjoy cartoons that aren't very well-made like Street Sharks and Loonatics Unleashed, but that's because they at least offer something. I like how dumb Street Sharks can be, and it's fun to laugh at Loonatics Unleashed. Here, there is no enjoyment. None. It's a wasteland completely devoid of entertainment and joy.

In conclusion, there's a very good reason why this show is pretty much all but forgotten. It's not a hidden gem by any means. Instead, it's more like a hidden turd and I'm definitely not going to watch this episode again. This was aimed for a younger crowd, sure, but it never strives to be intelligent for said crowd.

But hey, it at least answered a valuable question. Turns out there IS something worse than Captain Planet when it comes to environmentalist cartoons, and this is it.  Thank you for giving me reasons to like freaking Captain Planet, Widget. And man, do I hate you for it.