Toonmaster

Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated | Chapter 1 | Beware the Beast from Below

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Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated | Chapter 1 | Beware the Beast from Below

Just like with Batman, every few years we’re guaranteed a Scooby-Doo! reboot from Warner Brothers Animation because the property is just so damn lucrative. The most recent one, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, cherry picks the best of the Scooby franchise as we know it and rolls it all into one spectacular program.

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Episode 1 begins with the gang getting locked up for their continued interference with police business in order to solve mysteries. Their parents each give them a stern talking-to and attempt to coax them away from their friends and out of their mystery-solving habit. Typical rebellious teens, Velma, Fred, Shaggy and Daphne won’t have any of that. Scooby, either!

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While on their way to school in The Mystery Machine, the gang comes across a new mystery, as a manhole cover pops up from the street and a gooey monster, the Slime Mutant, attacks them. It vanishes, but at Fred’s behest the gang goes into the sewer. There, they find a path to the Crystal Cove Caves above which Fruitmeir’s and other businesses sit.

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The gang finds a petrified construction worker plastered to the ceiling of the cave.They take the body to their teacher, Professor Raffalo, who conducts a look into the gooey matter encasing the body, and ends up getting plastered himself.

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Afterward, Fred sulks, but his friends give him an ego boost. They take the investigation to Fruitmeir’s, where they engage in a chase with the Slime Mutant. Being that it’s the first episode, the gang’s game is a bit off. Fred’s trap falls on the group instead of the monster, and they accuse the wrong individual of criminal mischief. But, it’s a start.

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For me, a litmus test of whether a certain Scooby series is any good, is how well-drawn Daphne is. It just so happens that in this show, all of the characters are extremely polished and modern versions of their 1969 selves. The mise-en-scène is impeccable: everything is well-storyboarded and animated, and you can see that, unlike back when Scooby started solving mysteries, no corners have been cut. This is how fluid the original Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? looked to me when I didn’t know any better as a kid. I’m so glad Scooby grew up with me.

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When I first tuned into this program, I was delighted. This is the Scooby-Doo! we’ve been waiting for ever since 1998’s Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. Nothing against What’s New Scooby-Doo?, but to me it was just a rendition of the 1969 series for the aughts. With Mystery Incorporated, the writing and subject matter is aged up a bit in keeping with Cartoon Network’s desire to exhibit more mature cartoons, and more action sequences are infused with the light comedy. What The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest aimed to do for the Jonny Quest property in the 90s, Mystery Incorporated does for Scooby-Doo! in spades. It definitely deserved more respect from upstairs than it got during its run.


Braceface | 1 | Brace Yourself

Braceface | 1 | Brace Yourself
PART 9 OF THE GIRL POWER REVIEW SERIES

Around the turn of the millennium, teenage girls were really insecure about their lives. Or, at least, you would think they were, based on the sheer amount of programming geared toward depicting the trials and tribulations of teen girls. What started in the 80s (or earlier; shoot, I wasn’t alive back then) snowballed and eventually became its own genre, represented in 2001 by shows including Sabrina: The Animated Series, As Told By Ginger, and, of course, Braceface.

Braceface was executive produced by Alicia Silverstone, best known for her role in the 90s chick flick Clueless. She also provides the voice for the main character, Sharon Spitz, an average girl whose whole life goes awry when she gets a pair of mischievous braces. I watched this three-way Canadian-American-Chinese co-production during its original run on Fox Family, and thought it’d be interesting to have another look now that I’m running down memory lane.

Sharon has two best friends, Connor MacKensie and Maria Wong, who stick together no matter what. Maria’s very mature and pragmatic, and Connor’s extremely allergic to everything. Sharon also has a huge crush on Alden Jones, who might feel the same way. He asks Sharon to the dance coming up on Saturday, which makes Sharon ecstatic and her nemesis Nina Harper furious.

When Sharon gets home, she rushes to her room to jump for joy on her bed. Soon as she’s done, her mother walks right in to burst her bubble by informing her she’s getting braces, today. Sharon’s none too thrilled, and when she starts picking up communications over her braces she tries her best, to no avail, to have them removed.

Nina finds out about Sharon’s braces, and begins a master plot to steal Alden away from Sharon by dubbing her “Braceface” and spreading nasty rumors about her. It doesn’t help that the braces shatter the camera when Sharon sits for her yearbook photo. Alden originally doesn’t want to go to the dance with Nina, but he does after Sharon acts funny around him and leaves him with no other choice. Sharon ends up going to the dance with her best friends, who proceed to tear the dance floor a new one.

For what it’s worth, Braceface is decent after-school animated fare. I’m not looking to compare it to anything, since I don’t rank shows, but I was entertained overall and the characters weren’t made of cardboard. (There was another Fox Family show, Angela Anaconda, in which the characters were literally made out of paper, so that’s not a knock against shows that happen to be.) Aside from Maria, the characters weren’t awfully three-dimensional. That picks up as time goes on.

I laughed once or twice, and the plot carried me through to the end of the episode. Didn’t love it, but didn’t hate it. If it means anything, back in the day I watched Braceface for at least a season, and bought the DVDs when they came out. I was fearless… a boy buying anything packaged in pretty pink is a true sign of courage. Do it enough times and you stop caring what the cashier thinks.

But, I digress. The character designs are kinda odd. Sometimes they’re beautiful, but sometimes they’re freaky-looking. Sounds an awful lot like my whole teenage experience, braces included.


Daria | 509 | Life in the Past Lane

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Daria | 509 | Life in the Past Lane
PART 8 OF THE GIRL POWER REVIEW SERIES

Daria is a great series, for everyone. Truth be told, when I watched it during its initial run on MTV, I enjoyed it as a cartoon, but many of the jokes and social commentaries went right over my head because I was so young. This time around, I see the show more clearly.

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One of the more interesting things about Daria is character development. Though some characters such as Tiffany more or less remain constant throughout the series, I picked up on changes in other characters. As the series progresses, Jake gets dumber, Daria becomes more annoying, Helen becomes more sensitive (well, she tries sometimes) and Trent starts to show signs of aptitude.

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In this episode, Stacy Rowe gets her 15 (or should I say 22) minutes. Now, Stacy’s a member of the Fashion Club, which not a group of individuals known for its intellect. In fact, you could say they’re known for being vapid and self-serving teens who don’t care about anything other than their appearance. But, from the beginning of the series, you can tell that Stacy’s different from the others. She’s more emotional and insecure, and less bitchy to boot. The only thing she lacks is a mind of her own.

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The A-plot of the episode involves Jane, getting involved with a guy named Nathan. Nathan’s really into retro culture, to an extreme. Jane just sees something interesting and different, but Daria dislikes Nathan from the get-go. A tension develops between Daria and Jane as a result, but the two still manage to remain friends.

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Charles performs magic tricks outside of the mall in order to make money and pick up chicks. He approaches the Fashion Club, and does a trick for them where he rips a $10 and magically restores it. When Stacy shows interest in Charles’ tricks, Sandi chides her, saying “Oh, Stacy. You are so naive… Let’s make some real money disappear.”

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Nathan and Daria meet, and things go topsy-turvy just as soon as the two begin to speak to each other. Nathan is highly dismissive of modern teen culture, and in return Daria is dismissive of Nathan’s adulation of a time where segregation and conformity were the order of the day (on this argument I agree with Daria). Jane continues to play along with Nathan until his pretentiousness and over-the-top obsession with the past become more of a chore for her than a pastime.

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Meanwhile, Charles has put on a magic show in the Lawndale High auditorium under the stage name of Ruttheimer the Prestidigitator. His beautiful assistant, Stacy, restrains him and locks him in a trunk, then starts to panic when she forgets what to do next. Sandi mocks Stacy for messing up, but Stacy has the last laugh: she turns off the waterworks and retorts, “Oh, Sandi. You are so naive.” Stacy’s ineptitude was a part of the act: Chuck reappears from the rear of the auditorium.

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Bar none, this is my favorite Daria episode. The B-plot involving Stacy is what keeps me coming back, because it seemed a whole lot more engaging and necessary than the A-plot about Jane. Generally, any episode in which Sandi gets her shit handed to her is a good one. But, I’m just such a fan of the way that Stacy came out of her shell. Usually, it’s Jane who’s dynamic and open to new experiences, so it was nice to see another character, especially a marginalized one, get a similar treatment.

To the A-plot’s credit, I like the way Daria and Jane remained friends throughout the whole episode. Earlier on in the series, chances are they would have stopped talking to each other. They’ve matured so much since then!


Nostalgia never truly goes away. It just hits your in waves.
Tumblr kindly reminded me that this blog turns 1 today. I find that interesting in a way, since I’ve been using the Toonmaster name on and off for a decade. I launched this Tumblr last year because I felt a need to return to the original Toonmaster mission: to uncover and understand animation from all places and time periods. In hindsight, I could have done a far better job. But, I’m not dead, so the show must go on! As said in the classic Fleischer Superman short “The Bulleteers,” 

We won’t be intimidated by criminal threats!

Thank you to those who have read, liked and followed over the past year. I hope you’ll stick around for a second and potentially more heaping helping of what I’m cooking! Now, pardon me as I pluck the weeds from the garden. It’s time to cultivate some new toon reviews. View Larger

Nostalgia never truly goes away. It just hits your in waves.

Tumblr kindly reminded me that this blog turns 1 today. I find that interesting in a way, since I’ve been using the Toonmaster name on and off for a decade. I launched this Tumblr last year because I felt a need to return to the original Toonmaster mission: to uncover and understand animation from all places and time periods. In hindsight, I could have done a far better job. But, I’m not dead, so the show must go on! As said in the classic Fleischer Superman short “The Bulleteers,” 

We won’t be intimidated by criminal threats!

Thank you to those who have read, liked and followed over the past year. I hope you’ll stick around for a second and potentially more heaping helping of what I’m cooking! Now, pardon me as I pluck the weeds from the garden. It’s time to cultivate some new toon reviews.


IGPX | 01 | Time to Shine

IGPX | 01 | Time to Shine

In 2003, Cartoon Network’s Toonami presented the IGPX miniseries, which led to the creation and debut of the IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix series two years later. Buzz about the show on Toonami’s Tumblr led me to want to check it out, especially since I missed IGPX during its original broadcast.

Episode 1 starts in the thick of it. Team Satomi is on its third lap in the seminal IG-2 race that will determine if its members get to move onto the IG-1. Takeshi Jin, the team’s forward, is hot-dogging it (by the way, he orders and eats a hot dog later on in the episode, heh heh), and in doing so pisses off his teammate, defender Liz Ricarro.

Team Satomi wins by the skin of its teeth, and advances. But, the team dynamic isn’t at its best. Liz excoriates Jin for performing poorly and undermining the team effort. Also, benched forward River puts in his two cents about Takashi’s sloppiness. But, team owner Michiru Satomi steps in to put a stop to the arguing, and urges everyone to put their best foot forward as they advance into the IG-1.

Of the teams introduced as participants in the IG-1, the leaders of Team Velshtein and Team Sledge Mama take a particular interest in Jin. Yamma, the Sledge Mama forward, tries to scare Jin before the beginning of the match, and itches with delight at the thought of beating him in the first scheduled IG-1 race.

Meanwhile, at the dojo, things get hot and heavy between Liz and Jin. Not really, I just wanted to toss that batch of images together. The animation in this sequence reminded me slightly of that show Skyland that was on Nicktoons for all of two seconds in 2005. And, speaking of Nicktoons, Liz reminds me of Korra, right down to her skin tone, eye color and spunky and tomboyish attitude. Jin, on the other hand, is so passive and nonchalant that it can drive you crazy, like it does to Liz.

IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix seems fun. Like other racing animé (here’s looking at you, Ōban Star-Racers), it starts off a tad slow. East-West co-productions seem to have that particular trait about them. But, the ending theme, “Believe Yourself” by Exige, is the best pick-me-up I could have asked for. It’s been a while since I fell in love with an animé ending theme on first listen.

"Time to Shine" ended on a cliffhanger, so I can’t wait to get into episode two and the rest of the series. Ready? Set. Go!


Motorcity | 01 | Battle for Motorcity

Motorcity | 01 | Battle for Motorcity

Disney has stepped its game up in the action animation game over the past decade. After its acquisition of Fox Kids and related properties, it experimented with Digimon and other legacy properties from Fox. That led to Jetix, a global foray into kids’ action programming that brought forth gems like Alpha Teens on Machines and W.I.T.C.H.

A few years ago Disney changed its approach by dismantling Jetix (and Toon Disney in the U.S.A., R.I.P.), and creating Disney XD in its wake. What we got in return were shows like Motorcity, which just about (but not quite) make up for the missteps Disney had in the prior ten years pertaining to action animation.

You can tell with Disney XD that Disney has been taking notes from Cartoon Network. For Motorcity they called on board Megas XLR writer Chris Prynoski, who, with the cooperation of his team at Titmouse Animation, have put together a visually stunning and wildly entertaining program.

In “Battle for Motorcity,” we meet Mike Chilton, who can be best described as equal parts Coop from Megas XLR and Arnold from Hey Arnold!. Along with his team, The Burners, he hopes to save Detroit by staving off an invasion and takeover by Abraham Kane and the forces of Detroit Deluxe. 

Mike has a history with Kane, though. He jilted Kane right before the beginning of an attack on Detroit, and Kane has been resentful ever since. Kane baits Mike by telling all the residents of Detroit that Mike will one day desert them, too, which gets his former foot soldier’s blood boiling.

When Mike and The Burners find out about an appearance Kane will be making later that day, they plan an offensive and head up to Detroit Deluxe. Julie, their ears on the inside, tells them to turn back, but it’s too late. They’ve been set up, and now they’ve got to make it right before Kane gets the chance to decimate an unprotected Detroit.

The most shocking part about this episode was learning that Julie is Kane’s daughter. Up to now, I’d assumed that Mike was the only Burner with a direct association to Kane. Trust me, it gets better as you watch more episodes.

Before Mike gets back to Detroit to save the day, Kane leaves him one more opportunity to face him in person. Remembering what Jacob had said to him earlier, he retreats, putting his duty over his ego. The team manages to kick it into high gear and save the day, with some of Mike’s ingenuity.

Word of advice? If you liked Hot Wheels as a kid, if you like cars, if you liked Megas XLR,  and if you like cartoons still… this is your show. Even if you don’t like one or more of those things, just give Motorcity a try.