Director: Phil Mulloy
Release Date: 1996
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Based on the reminiscences of violinist and composer Alex Balanescu ‘The Wind of Changes’ is one of Phil Mulloy’s longest and most poetical films.

Balanescu’s portrait of communist Romania is a dark one, but his impressions of New York and London are hardly any better. Balanescu’s remarks are wry and depressing, and Mulloy illustrates these with associative and sombre pictures in his typical crude cut-out animation style.

The film jumps forward and back into time and has a stream-of-consciousness-like feel. Some of the images are very powerful, like a snowman being shot. But it’s Balanescu’s score that despite Mulloy’s powerful imagery, is the most beautiful aspect of the film. Unfortunately, Balanescu’s music almost drowns out the voice-over, making the narrative hard to follow.

Watch the first part of ‘The Wind of Changes’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Wind of Changes’ is available on the DVD ‘Phil Mulloy Extreme Animation’

Director: Jan Švankmajer
Release Date: August 1996
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Although the move from animation to live action clearly was a gradual one (after all, ‘Alice‘ contained quite a bit of live action, while ‘Faust‘ was a live action film augmented with puppetry and animation), ‘Spiklenci slasti’ (Conspirators of Pleasure) can be regarded Jan Švankmajer’s first non-animated film, even if it stills contains a few bits of stop-motion and pixilation.

The change of technique doesn’t mean a change of style, however. The film is 100% Švankmajer throughout, with its complete lack of dialogue, its sound design (which is very reminiscent of that of animated films, indeed, with its emphatic sounds – we even hear the nonexistent sound of blinking of eyes), its idiosyncratic use of music (each individual has his/her own accompanying piece of music), its extreme close-ups, its sets of old buildings in a state of decay, and of course, a high dose of surrealism.

‘Spiklenci slasti (Conspirators of Pleasure)’ is an erotic film without sex. The titles are shown on a background of 18th century pornography, but the movie itself contains very little nudity, which is male only.

Main protagonist of the film is an unnamed bearded bachelor (played by Petr Meissel and identified as Mr. Pivoňka by Švankmajer). The film starts with him buying a sex magazine, but soon the magazine makes way for far more disturbing and puzzling acts of pleasure, involving a cupboard and a chicken. Mr. Pivoňka’s antics are interlaced with that of a postwoman, a mustached man, his lonely and abandoned wife, who’s a newsreader (Anna Wetlinská, who really was a newsreader), and the shop owner from the first scene, who’s secretly in love with Anna Wetlinská, and who builds an elaborate contraption around the television set she appears on.

The first 45 minutes are one big build-up to the pleasure acts themselves, and this is the most satisfying part of the film, because Švankmajer keeps the viewer puzzled where all the efforts of these people go to. Unfortunately, the acts of pleasure themselves are less compelling, as they’re not necessarily perverse as well as weird, and maybe this section is a bit overlong.

The shopkeeper’s machine is the absolute highlight, but the postwoman’s actions are absolutely grotesque, and that of Mr. Pivoňka and his neighbor, Mrs. Loubalová, sadomachistic, very violent and even morbid. Their acts involve the most animation, as their acts involve animated stuff dolls coming to life. But by now one could argue that the animation is more of a special effect than an element of style, although the pixilation still is used as a mean of surrealist story telling.

As the film comes to a finale, the boundary between reality and fantasy gets crossed. Anna Wetlinská seemingly takes over the shopkeeper’s machine, and comes to a climax herself. In the end the people’s fetishes get mixed, while Mr. Pivoňka’s mysterious ritual appears to have severe real life consequences indeed…

Nevertheless, one would like to know more about the postwoman and her incomprehensible rituals, as she seems to be some kind of facilitator of the desires of others. Also Anna Wetlinská’s bad marriage deserved a little bit more attention.

‘Conspirators of Pleasure’ is a very original and entertaining movie, but the film remains on the shallow side and lacks the layered surrealism of ‘Alice’ or ‘Faust’.

Watch the trailer for ‘Conspirators of Pleasure’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Conspirators of Pleasure’ is available on Blu-Ray and DVD

Director: Michèle Cournoyer
Release Date: 1996
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

‘Le chapeau’ is a nonlinear, stream-of-consciousness-like film of flowing pen drawings morphing into each other on a white empty canvas, using the hat as a recurring motive.

The film is very associative, but it clearly says something about the male gaze and how it reduces women to mere objects of desire. The images show e.g. a female dancer dancing nude for a male audience, and images of sex. Most disturbing are the images in which the adult woman suddenly changes into a little girl and back, suggesting child abuse.

Cournoyer’s animation is flowing, her pen drawings are rough and sketchy, and her use of metamorphosis is mesmerizing. The result is a powerful, if rather uncomfortable short.

Watch ‘Le chapeau’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘How Wings Are Attached to the Backs of Angels’ is available on the DVD ‘Desire & Sexuality – Animating the Unconscious Vol.2’

Director: Craig Welch
Release Date: 1996
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

In ‘How Wings Are Attached to the Backs of Angels’ Craig Welch combines traditional animation, cut-out animation and pixilation to tell a puzzling but ominous tale about a man obsessed with contraptions and redesigning humans into angels. In one of his contraptions he attaches wing bones to a skeleton, but then a real woman (the pixilated actress Louise Leroux) appears…

Most disturbing is the scene in which the man caresses the woman’s shoulder blades, imaging their inner workings. The discomfort is enhanced by the use of a real woman. Welch’s cinematic style seems to be influenced by that of Raoul Servais and Terry Gilliam, and shares a high level of surrealism with these celebrated film makers. The animator certainly knows how to show and don’t tell; his film retains a morbid atmosphere throughout, all by suggestion and by clever cutting.

Watch ‘How Wings Are Attached to the Backs of Angels’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘How Wings Are Attached to the Backs of Angels’ is available on the DVD ‘Desire & Sexuality – Animating the Unconscious Vol.2’

Director: Igor Kovalyov
Release Date: 1996
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Made during his stay at the Klasky Csupo studio ‘Bird in the Window’ is Igor Kovalyov’s first film made in the US.

Despite his contemporary commercial work on e.g. Rugrats and Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man, Kovalyov’s independent style has lost nothing of its enigma. ‘Bird in the Window’ is a film in several very short scenes with mutual relationships that are hard to decipher.

A man returns home to his house in the countryside, but his wife clearly hides something for him. Why can’t he see the child that’s running around? What’s with the two Chinese characters playing chess? And what’s the role of the gardener? ‘Bird in the Window’ certainly suggests a lot without clarifying a thing. Even the opening scene in which a bird violently chases a winged bug is as disturbing as it is puzzling. ‘Bird in the Window’ may be less obviously surreal than his celebrated ‘Hen His Wife’ (1989), Kovalyov’s way of story telling still is one of suggestion, not explanation.

Note how Kovalyov uses seemingly trivial images to tell his tale: the man throwing an apple at the gardener, the man eating all the grapes, the woman lying in a bath, a cockroach creeping – all these short scenes contribute to the ominous feeling, full of suppressed eroticism.

The tense atmosphere is greatly enhanced by the great sound design, which offers us many noises not seen on the screen: cows mooing, a plane flying by, a clock chiming, the woman running down the stairs and slamming doors, a dog barking etc.

Watch ‘Bird in the Window’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Bird in the Window’ is available on the DVD ‘Desire & Sexuality – Animating the Unconscious Vol.2’

Directors: Donovan Cook & Bob Hatchcock
Airing Date: July 6, 1996
Stars: Duckman
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The final episode of season three sees the return of Duckman’s arch nemesis King Chicken, not seen since ‘Color of Naught‘, episode four from the same season.

This time King Chicken is not behind some evil scheme, but simply turns out to be the father of Tammy, Ajax’s new girlfriend, whom Duckman, Aunt Bernice and Ajax are visiting one night. During the episode we never see Tammy, but the visit turns out to be surprisingly interesting.

For this finale episode the creative team once again returned to comedy based on the personas and their mutual relationships, and the result is rewarding. The awkward visit proves to be much more interesting than mindless absurdism of the previous two episodes. The team even manages to make the ending a particularly poignant one, ending the series on a surprisingly emotional tone, at a time I thought they were forgotten how to do that.

Watch ‘Cock Tales for Four’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 42
To the previous Duckman episode: The Amazing Colossal Duckman
To the next Duckman episode: Dammit, Hollywood

‘Cock Tales for Four’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Director: John Eng
Airing Date: June 29, 1996
Stars: Duckman
Rating: ★
Review:

In ‘The Amazing Colossal Duckman’ Duckman grows taller each time he has a temper…

It’s hard to say anything positive about this episode, which feels not only uninspired, but even desperate in trying to squeeze some sort of story out of the Duckman character. How one now longs to the deeper and more complex character depictions of season one and two! I’m baffled that after episodes as this series got even another season…

But luckily, the next and last episode turns out to be a much more interesting affair.

Watch ‘The Amazing Colossal Duckman’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 41
To the previous Duckman episode: The Longest Weekend
To the next Duckman episode: Cock Tales for Four

‘The Amazing Colossal Duckman’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Director: Henry Selick
Release Date: April 12, 1996
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Based on the children’s book by Roald Dahl from 1961 ‘James and the Giant Peach’ is, in fact, a hybrid, starting and ending as a live action movie, with the middle forty minutes (ca. half the movie) being done entirely in stop-motion.

The opening scenes set ‘James and the Giant Peach’ as one of the great fantasy films of the nineties. The sets and atmosphere are magical and dreamlike, with no attempt at reality. James’s horrific aunts, too, are grotesque and deeply rooted in caricature. They are excellently played by British actresses Miriam Margolyes and Joanna Lumley, who are allowed to play their personas as broadly as possible. Young James, in contrast, remains perfectly normal, and Paul Terry’s performance is on the brink of boring.

Despite the great opening scenes, the real fun starts when James descends into the giant peach. During this scene he transforms into his puppet self, and inside he meets a sextet of giant ‘insects’ (in fact, three of them are insects, the others being a myriapod, an arachnid and an annelid), with whom he decides to fly to New York, cleverly using sea gulls to propel the peach into the air.

Except for the all too bland glowworm, the arthropods are delightful characters: there is a very American sounding boastful and bragging centipede (Richard Dreyfuss), a motherly ladybug (Jane Leeves), an aristocratic and knowledgeable grasshopper (Simon Callow), an anxious and gloomy earth worm (David Thewlis), and a femme fatale-like but friendly French female spider (Susan Sarandon). The design of these is less eccentric than that of the protagonists in ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, but still have some freaky touches, most notably Miss. Spider’s eyes, which each consist of two yellow eyeballs. Moreover, they all have the correct number of legs, with Miss Spider’s eight legs all ending in elegant boots. The animation, too, retains some creepy-crawly quality, and Miss Spider remains a little scary, despite her friendliness.

The voice cast is excellent, and most of the humor originates from the interplay between these characters, but there is plenty of action anyway, with the bugs having to battle a mechanical shark, defend themselves against a ghost ship, and fight starvation.

Unfortunately, after 59 minutes we return to live action, when James and his friends land in New York. True, this New York remains a fantasy-product, with very stagy and crooked sets, but lasting a staggering 30 minutes this finale turns out to be overlong and weak. It does not really help that the film makers decide to make the aunts survive the crushing of their car and to follow James into New York, an idea not in the book. Believability is certainly breached in these scenes, because of the fake character of the sets, some wooden action of the crowds, and the strange interplay between the grotesque aunts and the more down-played Americans. Moreover, the insects are mostly absent from these scenes, which only show that young actor Paul Terry cannot carry these scenes on his own, which seem to drag without inspiration.

Another letdown of this film are the four songs by Randy Newman. All four are weak and forgettable. Even worse, they are clearly superfluous, and they threaten to stall the action instead of helping the story forward. Luckily, there are only four of them, making ‘James and the Giant Peach’ much more tolerable as a film than ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ was, but nevertheless I regard this film yet another victim of the unwritten rule that every animation film should be a musical, which was prevalent in the 1980s and 1990s.

The overlong finale and unwelcome songs prevent ‘James and the Giant Peach’ to become an all-time classic, and certainly it was not well received back then, becoming a box office bomb. With this the short Disney adventure into stop motion ended. This is pity because the stop motion animation is excellent and delightful to watch throughout.

There is also a fair deal of computer animation, surprisingly executed by Sony Pictures Image works, who did an excellent job on the rhinoceros, some dancing clouds, and the mechanical shark. The latter, especially, is a great piece of computer animation, as it blends surprisingly well with the stop-motion and never loses its fantastical character.

Disney thus may have stopped making stop motion films, but both Tim Burton and Henry Selick continued to follow this path, with Tim Burton making ‘Corpse Bride’ in 2005 and ‘Frankenweenie’ (again for Disney) in 2012, while Henry Selick joined Will Vinton’s LAIKA studio in 2005 to make the widely acclaimed ‘Coraline’ (2009).

Watch the trailer for ‘James and the Giant Peach’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘James and the Giant Peach’ is available on Blu-Ray and DVD

Director: Raymie Muzquiz
Airing Date: June 22, 1996
Stars: Duckman
Rating: ★
Review:

The decay of the third Duckman season continues with ‘The Longest Weekend’ in which Duckman’s street goes at war with the neighboring Dutch Elm Street.

The episode is as talkative as it is pointless, and even the numerous war film references fall flat. At this point the only attractions left are Klasky-Csupo’s idiosyncratic character designs and background art, which both remain interesting throughout.

Watch ‘The Longest Weekend’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 40
To the previous Duckman episode: Exile in Guyville
To the next Duckman episode: The Amazing Colossal Duckman

‘The Longest Weekend’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Airing Date: June 1, 1996

Dee Dee’s Room

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

In this episode Dexter tries to retrieve a bread slicer from Dee Dee’s room.

Dexter treats his big sister’s realm as a foreign planet, and enters it in a space suit. The humor comes mostly from Dexter’s pompous, overblown voice over, making the events much more exiting than they really are.

There’s strikingly little animation in this episode, as many scenes are done in stills, and many movements done in only three or four drawings, with no inbetweening whatsoever. This visual style does add to the dreamlike atmosphere that permeates this episode. It thus is a great use of limited animation as an artistic choice, not necessarily an economical one.

Directors: Paul Rudish & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dial M for Monkey
Rating: ★
Review:

Dial M for Monkey: Huntor

‘Dial M for Monkey’ never were a successful addition to the ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’, but the ‘Huntor’ episode is particularly disappointing.

In this episode Monkey has to battle a lion-like alien hunter with an Australian accent. This is a particularly talkative opponent, and Huntor’s rambling fills almost the entire soundtrack.

This alone accounts for a tiresome watch, but this episode also demonstrates that the ‘Dial M for Monkey’ doesn’t share the same eye for design as the surrounding ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’ sequences. The character designs are more generic, more like the dull 1970s Hanna-Barbera designs than Dexter’s 1950s UPA world, and the color schemes are uninventive and ugly. In fact, ‘Huntor’ emulates the cheap, ugly and forgettable cartoon style of 1970s Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoons too much for comfort. The 1970s were a low point for studio animation, and I don’t want to be reminded of that, thank you.

The Big Sister

See the post devoted to this episode

‘Dee Dee’s Room/Dial M for Monkey: Huntor/The Big Sister’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Director: Jeff McGrath
Airing Date: May 25, 1996
Stars: Duckman
Rating: ★★½
Review:

‘Exile in Guyville’ is another example of how the Duckman series started to run dry as the third season progressed.

This episode, which incidentally shares its title with a 1993 Liz Phair album, is framed as a story told as one of the Duckman fables Told by a mother to her son in the far future. The ‘fable’ itself is a rather forced and surprisingly stale fable on male-female relationships, drawing on almost every cliché one can possible find on men and women. When the nation divides literally, Fluffy and Uranus turn up as unlikely guards of the dividing wall.

The framing bedtime story has its charm, but the best part may be just before this divide when general mayhem is illustrated by e.g. some random live action footage. Nevertheless, these cannot rescue an episode that was already outdated when it first aired in 1996.

Watch ‘Exile in Guyville’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 39
To the previous Duckman episode: The Road to Dendron
To the next Duckman episode: The Longest Weekend

‘Exile in Guyville’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Airing Date: May 25, 1996

Jurassic Pooch

Directors: Craig McCracken & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter
Rating: ★★
Review:

‘Jurassic Pooch’ clearly takes its inspiration from ‘Jurassic Park’: Dexter tries to revive a dinosaur from ancient DNA trapped inside amber.

Unfortunately and rather unscientifically, he’s missing the genes for the heart and the brain, which he takes from his dog. The result is a Tyrannosaur with dog characteristics.

Compared to the other characters, the dinosaur isn’t designed very well, and looks surprisingly like standard Hanna-Barbera fare. The humor, too, mostly falls flat, as the episode milks ‘giant dog’ gags to the max. The best gag may be the one in which Dexter’s cool jet plane turns into a bicycle.

Dial M for Monkey: Orgon Grindor

Directors: Paul Rudish & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dial M for Monkey
Rating: ★
Review:

The Dial M for Monkey were the least interesting parts of the Dexter’s Laboratory show, and ‘Dial M for Monkey: Orgon Grindor’ is no exception.

In this boring episode monkey gets hypnotized by some intergalactic gypsy called Orgon Grindor. This pale-green villain looks like a blast from the past: he’s dressed like an organ grinder cliché from the 1930s, he speaks mock-Italian, and partly sings his dialogue, e.g. on the opera aria melodies of Giuseppe Verdi’s ‘La donna e mobile’ and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s ‘Ridi, Pagliacci’.

Much more interesting is the deepening of the relationship between Monkey and Agent Honeydew, who, for once, saves the day instead of Monkey. The two are depicted as being lovers in a rather risqué inter-species relationship.

Dimwit Dexter

See the post devoted to this episode

‘Jurassic Pooch/Dial M for Monkey: Orgon Grindor/Dimwit Dexter’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Director: Steve Box
Release Date: November 9, 1997
Rating: ★★
Review:

‘Steve Box had joined Aardman in 1992 and was one of the animators on ‘The Wrong Trousers‘ (1993) and ‘A Close Shave‘ (1996).

‘Stage Fright’, his own short, is a short melodrama about a shy ‘dog juggler’ who is bullied by a mean silent cinema actor. The film uses designs reminiscent of the Wallace and Gromit films, excellent stop motion animation, and some atmospheric lighting, but it immediately becomes clear that Steve Box is no Nick Park.

Box’s way of non-linear story telling is confusing and heavy-handed. Because they’re not introduced properly we don’t care about the characters one bit. Worse, throughout the film the relationship between the three characters remains sketchy and trite. Add way too much dialogue, and the result is as disappointing as it is boring. The only interesting part is Box’s emulation of silent cinema using his clay characters.

Watch ‘Stage Fright’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Stage Fright’ is available on the DVD ‘Aardman Classics’

Director: Sam Fell
Release Date: 1996
Rating: ★
Review:

While Aardman produced masterpieces of stop motion like ‘The Wrong Trousers‘ (1993) and ‘A Close Shave‘ (1996), the studio also funded much smaller works by independent artists at their studio.

‘Pop’ is one of those. In this short a young man opens a can of soda, which makes his head explode. His goldfish (which has the same face as the young man) replaces him.

‘Pop’ makes no sense whatsoever, and is as ugly as it is unfunny. It feels like an amateurish student project and it probably wouldn’t have been on DVD if it were not an Aardman production. Unfortunately, it may have been the worst, but certainly not the only mediocre product by Aardman of the time , for subsequent films from the nineties like ‘Stage Fright, ‘Owzat‘, ‘Al Dente‘ and ‘Minotaur & Little Nerkin‘ are all very weak. The only exception is the hilarious ‘Humdrum’ from 1998.

Watch ‘Pop’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Pop’ is available on the DVD ‘Aardman Classics’

Director: Peter Lord
Release Date: April 10, 1996
Rating: ★★
Review:

Aardman founder Peter Lord penned and directed this medieval story for children about two royal twin brothers who get separated. One remains royal, the other becomes an ordinary peasant. But when their country is threatened by an enemy, the tables are turned, or not?

This film features silent comedy, with very little dialogue (only ‘me?’ and ‘hello?’ are uttered). More interesting is the returning use of a split screen. The animation and sets are both of a high quality, but Lord’s story is as rambling as it is boring, and completely fails to fulfil its promise. The film ends rather sudden and inconclusive, leaving us with Andy Price’s attractive quasi-medieval music. In fact, I’m surprised the film even got an Academy Award nomination.

Watch ‘Wat’s Pig’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Wat’s Pig’ is available on the DVD ‘Aardman Classics’

Director: Peter Peake
Release Date: January 7, 1995
Rating: ★★½
Review:

‘Pib and Pog’ starts off as a typical cartoon for preschoolers. It stars two clay characters wearing shoes with flowers on them in a white set with only two props.

The two only make unintelligible sounds, but interact with the voice over (Ionna Wake), who retains an upbeat preschool attitude until the very end of the cartoon. But her remarks get more and more at odds with the visuals. For when Pib craves a shell that Pog apparently has found on the beach, a startlingly violent struggle between the two characters evolves, including the use of a gun, chloric acid and a cannon.

Meanwhile the voice over keeps on blabbering in a childish manner, neglecting the violence on the screen for what it is. ‘Pib & Pog’ thus is disturbing, and it seems to say something about cartoon violence in general, but funny it is not, and the short is further hampered by its very trite ending. Nevertheless, in 2006 the film would sprout five sequels. Earlier, in 1998 director Peter Peake would make a much better and certainly hilarious little film called ‘Humdrum’, which is much more recommended.

Watch ‘Pib and Pog’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Pib and Pog’ is available on the DVD ‘Aardman Classics’

Airing Date: May 18, 1996

Double Trouble

Directors: Rob Renzetti & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter, Dee Dee, Mee Mee, Lee Lee
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

In ‘Double Trouble’ Dee Dee gets a visit of her ballet friends Mee Mee and Lee Lee. After their ballet practice the trio goes to Dexter’s lab, much to Dee Dee’s brother’s annoyance.

In order to stop the three girls from causing havoc at his lab, Dexter clones himself with his ‘clone-o-matic’ machine, but unfortunately, the three ballet friends discover this machine, as well. Soon the lab is crowded with Dexters, Dee Dees, Mee Mees and Lee Lees in wonderful shots of complete mayhem. There’s also a nice parody of ‘Patton’ (1969), but highlight must be the running gag of a rabbit popping up from Dexter’s coat at inconvenient moments.

(Dial M for Monkey: Barbequor) Dexter’s Lab: A Story

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Airing Date: January 28, 1998
Stars: Dexter, Dee Dee
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Apparently the Dial M for Monkey episode was a controversial one. So it was replaced in later reruns by ‘Dexter’s Lab: A Story’, episode 37a from Season Two.

It has thus not been released on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’, either, being replaced on the DVD by ‘Dexter’s Lab: A Story’, as well. It’s a pity we have to miss ‘Dial M for Monkey: Barbequor’, but it’s certainly a delight to watch ‘Dexter’s Lab: A Story’, for it’s one of the most hilarious Dexter episodes of all.

The episode starts with a dog following Dexter home. When the dog chases Dee Dee out of his lab, Dexter decides he can stay. Unfortunately, he has problems communicating with the over-friendly mutt, so Dexter decides to invent a pill that makes the animal talk…

The dog’s speech forms the undisputed highlight of this cartoon, but the expressions on the dog are priceless, as well.

Changes

See the post devoted to this episode

‘Double Trouble/Dial M for Monkey: Barbequor/Changes’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’, with aforementioned changes.

Director: Peter Shin
Airing Date: May 11, 1996
Stars: Duckman
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The opening credits of ‘The Road to Dendron’ make immediately clear that this episode at least partly is a parody of the ‘Road to…’ film series starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour from 1940 to1962.

This episode only stars Duckman, Cornfed and Ajax, who are on a bus trip to Dendron, Sudan. And indeed, they even burst into song in a tune that is surprisingly catchy. Once arrived the episode unashamedly delights in bringing up a cliché version of Arabia, as depicted in 1001 Arabian nights, and as seen on the animated screen since ‘Mickey in Arabia‘ (1932). Thus there are a snake charmer, a sultan, a veiled princess, as well as numerous baskets that seem to have come straight from ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’. Moreover, some of the designs are clearly inspired by the Disney feature ‘Aladdin’.

The adventure plot makes very little sense, and the film makers know it, never trying to hide this fact. Highlights of this unpretentious episode are the ‘musical’ finale and the ridiculous acts that Duckman and Cornfed perform in order to try to prevent the Sultan and the Princess from drinking some poisoned wine.

Watch ‘The Road to Dendron’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 38
To the previous Duckman episode: They Craved Duckman’s Brain!
To the next Duckman episode: Exile in Guyville

‘The Road to Dendron’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Airing Date: May 11, 1996

Dexter’s Rival

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter, Dee Dee, Mandark
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

‘Dexter’s Rival’ introduces Dexter’s arch nemesis, Mandark (who apparently is called Astronominoff in real life).

In this episode Mandark outwits Dexter in every single task at school, being genuinely smarter than Dexter is. Even Mandark’s lab is much bigger than Dexter’s (and even contains a death star lurking outside). This of course, greatly upsets Dexter, but then he discovers that Mandark has one weak spot…

Mandark immediately is a priceless character – his arrogance, his typical way of talking and his trademark offbeat laughter make him a perfect foe. The way he perceives Dee Dee is a particular highlight of this episode, turning Dexter’s big sister in a piece of pure romantic beauty.

Dial M for Monkey: Simion

Directors: Paul Rudish & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dial M for Monkey
Rating: ★★★
Review:

In ‘Dial M for Monkey: Simion’ monkey does not only have superpowers, he also lives in a futuristic science fiction world, even though this episode has the same introduction as the previous two Monkey episodes.

In this episode we see a little more of agent Honeydew, but most of the time is devoted to a very long speech by the villain, Simion. This tale of revenge simply bursts with familiar superhero tropes, but that doesn’t necessarily make it very funny. Like the other ‘Dial M for Monkey’ episodes ‘Simion’ remains mediocre at best, and the episode pales when compared to the bridging Dexter’s Laboratory episodes, ‘Dexter’s Rival’ and ‘Old Man Dexter’.

Old Man Dexter

See the post devoted to this episode

‘Dexter’s Rival/Dial M for Monkey: Simion/Old Man Dexter’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Director: Donovan Cook
Airing Date: May 4, 1996
Stars: Duckman
Rating: ★★½
Review:

‘They Craved Duckman’s Brain!’ is one of the less inspired episodes that started to fill the third season more and more. This episode has a rather aimless and rambling story, which tries to say something about the medical industry, with little success.

The story features a mad surgeon called Dr. Craig Erlich and a frustratingly pointless villain. As this is one of the most talkative Duckman episodes, most of the humor comes from the dialogue. Like when Ajax asks Dr. Erlich after the latter’s introduction whether he’s related to Dr. Dre. The best gag in that respect is when the whole family starts an argument about Star Trek while being captured by the surgeon.

Note the painting in the director’s office, which looks like Gauguin’s ‘Spirit of the Dead Watching’, but with a white woman instead of a Polynesian one.

Watch ‘They Craved Duckman’s Brain!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 37
To the previous Duckman episode: Aged Heat
To the next Duckman episode: The Road to Dendron

‘They Craved Duckman’s Brain!’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

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