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Airing Date: January 1, 1997

‘Inflata Dee Dee/The Justice Friends: Can’t Nap/Monstory’ was the last episode of the first season Dexter’s Laboratory, and thus, alas, the last of the Dexter’s Laboratory episodes to be released on DVD. Why the other seasons never saw a home media treatment is a mystery to me. It sure is an eternal shame that this great show is not available in its entirety.

Inflata Dee Dee

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

In ‘Inflata Dee Dee’ Dee puts Dexter’s “hydroplasmatic inflation suit” on, making her floating like a bubble in Dexter’s lab, much to the little boy’s annoyance.

What follows is an almost classic chase sequence in which Dexter tries several ways to bring Dee Dee down. One involves a particularly silly suit with springs and a plunger. We also learn that Dee Dee has a watch with indicates when it’s time to play with Dexter. Dexter’s Laboratory rarely was so looney tunes-like.

The Justice Friends: Can’t Nap

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: The Justice Friends
Rating: ★
Review:

In another tiresome episode of ‘Justice Friends’ Valhallen takes a justice friend called White Tiger home, which behaves like a cat. Unfortunately, Major Glory is allergic to cats, and with help of Krunk goes at lengths to get rid of the creature.

‘Cat Nap’ is anything but funny, leaving the opening scene, which involves a particularly silly supervillain called Mental Mouse as the most inspired part of the episode. Nevertheless, White Tiger is well-animated, perfectly blending human and cat-like moves.

Monstory

Directors: Rob Renzetti & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

When Dee Dee visits Dexter to tell him a particularly stupid story, Dexter grabs an ampule with a silencer to shut her up. Unfortunately, he grabs the wrong elixir…

‘Monstory’ is great fun and knows some nice references, not only to Godzilla and other monster movies, but also to ‘Horton Hears a Who’ and ‘King-Size Canary’ (1947). The transformation scenes are particularly good, especially the first one involving Dee Dee. Also great is the montage in which a caterpillar-like Dexter lies dormant in a cocoon, with Dee Dee waiting for him to emerge.

‘Inflata Dee Dee/The Justice Friends: Can’t Nap/Monstory’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Airing Date: 25-12-1996

Dexter’s Rival (a rerun of episode 4)

The Justice Friends: Bee Where

Directors: Paul Rudish & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: The Justice Friends
Rating: ★
Review:

In ‘Bee Where?’ a bee visits the home of the three justice friends, scaring Major Glory to death.

This must be one of the most tiresome of all Justice Friends episodes. It just drags and drags on, without getting funny. Even the antics with the open or closed windows fails to become funny, lacking proper timing.

Mandarker

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

‘Mandarker’ sees the return of Mandark, whose laboratory is still destroyed.

This time the two combat to win first prize at the science fair, a prize normally going to Dexter. It becomes clear Mandark goes to great lengths to achieve his goal, while Dexter has become arrogant enough to assume he will win anyway. Nevertheless, once Mandark enters the fair, events get a different turn.

It’s always nice to see the two rivals, but the best part of this episode is the finale in which the dialogue consists of the words Dexter and Mandark, only.

‘Dexter’s Rival/The Justice Friends: Bee Where/Mandarker’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Airing Date: December 18, 1996

Spacecase

Directors: Paul Rudish & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

This episode starts with Dexter activating an alien communicator.

Almost immediately he gets a visit of three aliens in a flying saucer. Unfortunately, they’re mostly interested in taking Dexter with them for further examination, but Dexter manages to send Dee Dee with them, instead. First he enjoys the bliss of her absence, but before soon remorse kicks in.

The scenes in which Dexter is taking in by guilt are a great echo of other guilt-cartoons like ‘Pudgy Picks a Fight‘ (1937) or ‘Donald’s Crime’ (1945). Also very entertaining is the heroic sequence in which Dexter ascends his space ship, which borrows elements from both Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars.

The Justice Friends: Ratman

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: The Justice Friends
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

In this episode Krunk and Valhallen clog the toilet, so they have to go down in the basement to fix things. But something is lurking there.

‘The Justice Friends: Ratman’ is pretty silly, and overtly tongue-in-cheek, but also all too talkative. I’m not sure about the addition of the laughing track, which does add to the corniness, but which is also pretty annoying itself. Best is Tartakovsky’s staging, with the Justice Friends frequently taking dramatic poses.

Dexter’s Debt

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

In ‘Dexter’s Debt’ Dexter gets confronted by a bill from NASA of 200 million dollars.

Dexter’s attempts to raise the money are feeble, indeed, and what’s worse, Dee Dee outdoes him every time. ‘Dexter’s Debt’ greatly plays on the relationship between brother and sister, while both Dexter’s mom and dad get more screenplay than usual. Highlight, however, is the entrance of the two NASA men.

‘Spacecase/The Justice Friends: Ratman/Dexter’s Debt’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Airing Date: December 11, 1996

Way of the Dee Dee

Directors: Paul Rudish & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter
Rating: ★★★
Review:

In ‘The Way of the Dee Dee’ Dee Dee shows Dexter that he has become out of touch with nature, so Dexter begs her to show him ‘the way of the Dee Dee’.

With Dee Dee as his guru Dexter steps leaves not only his lab, but dares to go outside. What follows are some antics in the backyard, but for the final challenge Dee Dee takes Dexter back to the lab for some self expression…

‘The Way of the Dee Dee’ plays with the themes of gurus and enlightenment. The scene in which Dexter steps into the light, accompanied by sitar music is the episode’s highlight in that respect.

The Justice Friends: Say Uncle Sam

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: The Justice Friends
Rating: ★★
Review:

Major Glory’s Uncle Sam will come to visit, so Major Glory teaches his friends how to behave, much to the latter’s distress.

Highlight of this otherwise dragging episode is the scene in which Major Glory calls his justice friends to assemble, accompanied by some particularly heroic music.

Tribe Called Girl

Directors: Rob Renzetti & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter
Rating: ★★
Review:

‘Tribe Called Girl’ is an episode like ‘Dee Dee’s Room‘ and ‘Dollhouse Drama‘, without adding much.

Once again, Dexter goes to Dee Dee’s room, this time to observe the behavior of girls. But then he’s discovered by Dee Dee and her friends Lee Lee and Mee Mee…

Dexter is presented as being completely unable to communicate with the girls, who, in one scene, treat him like a shy animal.

‘Way of the Dee Dee/The Justice Friends: Say Uncle Sam/Tribe Called Girl’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Airing Date: December 4, 1996

Dollhouse Drama

Director: Rob Renzetti
Stars: Dexter
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

‘Dee Dee’s absence in his lab makes Dexter worried, so he concludes his big sister must be up to something.

In order to find out Dee Dee’s supposedly evil scheme, he uses a shrink ray, shrinking himself, ignoring the possible side-effects of imagination running wild due to the shrinking. Dee Dee, who has been playing with dolls all along, makes great use of this side-effect.

‘Dollhouse Drama’ is one of the most inspired Dexter’s Laboratory episodes of all. The episode builds on earlier idea, presented in ‘Dee Dee’s Room‘: that of Dexter’s imagination running wild in Dee Dee’s room. The scenes in which Dexter stars in Dee Dee’s soap opera story are no less than fantastic, and form a faint echo of the drug-influenced Perky Pat plays in Philip K. Dick’s novel ‘The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch’ (1965). I wonder whether this is pure coincidence or not.

The Justice Friends: Krunk’s Date

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: The Justice Friends
Rating: ★★½
Review:

The bridging episodes within Dexter’s Laboratory three-part episodes were always the weakest, and ‘The Justice Friends: Krunk’s Date’ is no exception.

In this episode of the Justice Friends the Infraggable Krunk falls in love with a member of the enemy team, called She-Thing. This episode drags on, and milks the idea of the Krunk falling in love, while the two teams are clobbering each other way too long. Highlight of this tiresome and disappointing episode is the villain, ‘Comrade Red’, who’s some kind of ridiculous Soviet superhero.

The Big Cheese

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

‘The Big Cheese’ is a great episode in which Dexter tries to learn French while sleeping. Unfortunately, the record player gets stuck on a single word: ‘omelette du fromage’…

‘The Big Cheese’ is one of the all time classsic episodes of Dexter’s Laboratory, and one that viewers still remember 25 years after viewing. The whole idea of Dexter being able to utter ‘omelette du fromage’ only is hilarious in itself, but the execution is even better, taking unexpected turns. Especially, the montage sequence is an absolute delight, as is the catastrophic punchline of the episode. But to me the best part are Dee Dee’s first two expressions when she realizes Dexter can only say ‘omelette du fromage’.

Note that one of Dexter’s records is ‘Steven Hawks Sings’, which clearly refers to Stephen Hawking.

‘Dollhouse Drama/The Justice Friends: Krunk’s Date/The Big Cheese’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Airing Date: November 27, 1996

Babysitter Blues

Directors: Craig McCracken & Rob Renzetti
Stars: Dexter
Rating: ★★★
Review:

‘Babysitter Blues’ immediately makes clear that Dexter is in love with his babysitter. The scene in which he prepares the room for her arrival is priceless, with its strong posings on the little boy.

But when Lisa, the babysitter, arrives, it quickly turns out she has a boy friend, prompting Dexter to think out a devilish scheme.

Dexter is far from sympathetic in this cartoon, and the love theme with ca. ten years age difference between Dexter and Lisa is a little bit uncomfortable, but the episode still is great fun. Apart from the opening scene highlight of this episode is Dee Dee looking for something without knowing for what.

The Justice Friends: Valhallen’s Room

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Justice Friends
Rating: ★
Review:

‘The Justice Friends: Valhallen’s Room’ starts with Major Glory calling the others for breakfast. When Valhallen doesn’t show up, he and Krunk enter his room…

This episode contains some nice references to Norse mythology, but otherwise is very tiresome and not even remotely funny. Most enjoyable of this otherwise forgettable short are the dramatic poses of Major Glory and his American themed breakfast.

Dream Machine

Directors: Rob Renzetti & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter
Rating: ★★
Review:

This episode starts with Dexter having a nightmare. Apparently he has had many lately, so Dexter builds himself a dream machine, which requires Dee Dee as its operator.

The premise of this scheme is all too predictable, and after Dexter’s initial dream there’s little to enjoy. Even Dexter’s second dream doesn’t really deliver, and most frustratingly, the episode ends abruptly and inconclusively.

‘Babysitter Blues/The Justice Friends: Valhallen’s Room/Dream Machine’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Airing Date: November 20, 1996

The first season of Dexter’s Laboratory took a five month hiatus, only to reappear on the screen in November for another seven episodes. ‘Star Spangled Sidekicks etc.’ is the first of these, and the most obvious change is that Dial M for Monkey has been replaced by The Justice Friends, which are introduced in this episode.

Star Spangled Sidekicks

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter, Major Glory
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

‘Star Spangled Sidekicks’ opens with an episode of Major Glory beating the evil Doctor Diablos. When Major Glory wins the day we cut to Dexter and Dee Dee watching the show on television dressed in Major Glory fanwear.

When Major Glory announces he will recruit a new sidekick at the local mall, both sister and brother apply. Dexter, of course, has the most advanced suit, but it’s Dee Dee who wins the superhero’s heart.

‘Star Spangled Sidekicks’ treats Dee Dee and Dexter as real children and greatly blends fantasy and reality. Highlight is Dexter’s pompous speech in which he declares his aim to become Major Glory’s sidekick.

The Justice Friends: TV Super Pals

Directors: Craig McCracken & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Justice Friends
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

‘The Justice Friends’ were the successors to ‘Dial M for Monkey’ as the bridging episode of the ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’ series. The Justice Friends were first introduced in the Dial M for Monkey episode ‘Huntor‘ and consist of the Captain America-like Major Glory, the purple Incredible Hulk-like the Infraggable Krunk and the Thor-like Valhallen, who looks like a longhaired metalhead. The premise of these bridging sequences is that the three superheroes have to “face the challenges of every day life”.

Their first episode opens with Major Glory defeating a Joker-like “disgruntled postman’, while Valhallen confronts a Minotaur villain, and Krunk tries to rescue a kitten from a tree. But they all have to go home to watch their favorite program on tv by half past five. Unfortunately, they all want to watch a different program.

Highlight of the show is ‘Puppet Pals’, the incredibly lame show Krunk wants to watch. ‘Puppet Pals’ stars two muppets that tell corny jokes, which all end in the two clobbering each other.

Game Over

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

‘Game Over’ opens with Dexter and Dee Dee playing a computer game called ‘primal fighter’, which Dee Dee wins. But then Dexter gets an old computer game called ‘Master Computer’ from his dad…

‘Game Over’ is one of the most inspired of all Dexter’s Laboratory episodes. It’s chock full references to computer games and films, including Pac Man, Tron and Star Wars, while showing the development computer games had made in the past fifteen years. At the same time it plays nicely on the competitive brother-and-sister relationship between Dexter and Dee Dee. Rarely the genre of cyperpunk was such much fun.

‘Star Spangled Sidekicks/The Justice Friends: TV Super Pals/Game Over’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

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’

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.

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’

Airing Date: May 4, 1996

Dexter Dodgeball

Directors: Craig McCracken & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter, Dee Dee
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

In ‘Dexter Dodgeball’ Dexter gets a substitute coach at school, who doesn’t care for the boy’s excuse note to excuse him from gym class. Instead, Dexter is forced to ‘play’ dodgeball every day of the week, which means he’s bombarded by bullies every day of the week. But then next week Dexter takes revenge…

The substitute coach is a direct echo from similar personas in Ren & Stimpy, while the scenes of Dexter’s Revenge have clear mecha anime influences. Like many other episodes of Dexter’s Laboratory the episode ends rather abruptly and a bit cornily.

Dial M for Monkey: Rasslor

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

In ‘Dial M for Monkey: Rasslor’ an alien wrestler called Rasslor challenges all earth’s superheroes to combat him. If they lose, he will destroy the Earth.

Rasslor is voiced by real wrestler Randy Savage (1952-2011), but more interestingly, this episode introduces the Justice Friends, which eventually would replace Dial M for Monkey as bridging parts of Dexter’s Laboratory episodes. Thus we can already see the Captain American-like Major Glory, the Thor-like Valhallen and, yet unnamed, the Hulk-like Krunk, as well as numerous other superheroes. None of these manages to beat Rasslor, and the alien wrestler refuses to combat Monkey…

The result is one of the more enjoyable Dial M for Monkey episodes, even if the speed drops as soon Monkey enters the stage.

Dexter’s Assistant

Directors: John McIntyre & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter, Dee Dee
Rating: ★★★
Review:

In ‘Dexter’s Assistant’ Dexter conducts an experiment in which he needs somebody to press a button at the bottom, while he is on top of a giant machine. Because Dee Dee clearly isn’t able to do the job, he makes an assistant out of his sister by replacing her tiny brain for a giant one…

This is a fun episode, but it unfortunately has a rather predictable story line, and as often in this series, it ends rather inconclusively. The best scene may be that of Dexter with long hair, courtesy of Dee Dee’s hair lotion invention.

‘Dexter Dodgeball/Dial M for Monkey: Rasslor/Dexter’s Assistant’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Airing Date: April 27, 1996

On April 27, 1996 the series ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’ started in earnest, creating quite a stir, and influencing many television animation film makers with its original blend of 1950s design and animation, and cinematic anime influences. The series lasted four seasons, spread over eight years, but alas, alas, only the first season has been released on DVD.

In the first season every episode consisted of two Dexter’s Laboratory parts, bridged by an episode of either ‘Dial M for Monkey’ or ‘The Justice Friends’. Neither bridging series amounted to much more than filler material, and they were almost completely dropped in the second series.

Dee Deemensional

Director: John McIntyre
Stars: Dexter, Dee Dee
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

‘Dee Deemensional’ opens spectacularly with Dexter trying to battle a giant monster in his lab to no avail. To save the day he sends his sister back into time to warn him. But as may be expected his past self takes little heed to all Dee Dee has to say to him, and even a humiliating surrender won’t help him in the end. ‘Dee Deemensional’ is a delightful play with the concept of time travel, even though Dexter’s attempt to alter the future appears to be doomed.

Dial M for Monkey: Magmanamus

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

‘Dial M for Monkey: Magmanamus’ introduces an off-spin character from the Dexter’s Laboratory universe. It appears that Dexter’s unassuming test monkey secretly is a superhero. This episode is penned by Craig McCracken of later Powerpuff Girls-fame, and it already shows his passion for superheroes and monster movies. Monkey has to battle an annoyed lava monster called Magmanamus, who only tries to sleep, but who’s pretty annoyed by all human noises.

This episode is noteworthy for its very limited animation, with some shots being practically stills. Only Magmanamus himself is animated quite broadly, but his character unfortunately is all too talkative and rather tiresome.

Monkey never got the same status as the surrounding Dexter episodes, and was dropped halfway the first season, although the character remained in Dexter’s Laboratory, and got one episode in Season Two. Indeed, ‘Dial M for Monkey: Magmanamus’ hardly fulfils its premise, and is more entertaining as a spoof of cheap 1960s superhero shows than as entertainment in itself.

Maternal Combat

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

Dexter’s mother is ill, so Dexter builds a ‘momdroid’ to help to clean the house. All goes well, until Dee Dee grabs the remote. ‘Maternal combat’ is one of the less inspired Dexter’s Laboratory episodes: part of it is devoted to Dee Dee’s cooking, which is hardly related to the main story, and the episode fizzles out as if the studio was out of ideas. The best part is when Dexter’s Dad returns home, and greets his wife three times, unaware that two of them are, in fact, robots.

‘Deedeemensional/Dial M for Monkey: Magmanamus/Maternal Combat’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Airing Date: April 14, 1996 & May 26, 1996
Stars: Dexter, Dee Dee
Rating: ★★½
Review:

‘Dimwit Dexter’ is the last of four pilot episodes of ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’, airing less than two weeks before the full series started. The episode returned a little later as the third part of the fifth episode.

This episode starts with images of Dexter frantically practicing science. This causes a meltdown inside his head, which is depicted as a nuclear reactor, rendering the boy completely imbecile. Dee Dee takes advantage of the situation and dresses him up like a girl. But it’s the idiotic Dexter himself who does the most harm to himself when he runs out on the street in only his underpants, and doing all kinds of stupid tricks, like kissing the butt of a duck, making him the laughing stock of the whole neighborhood.

In showing actions of stupidity ‘Dimwit Dexter’ clearly owes a lot to ‘Ren and Stimpy’, and the scenes of Dexter humiliating himself without knowing are fun to watch, but the episode ends abruptly and without a proper conclusion, rendering it flat. Nevertheless, these abrupt and inconclusive endings would become a typical characteristic of the series.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Dimwit Dexter’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Dimwit Dexter’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Directors: Craig McCracken & Genndy Tartakovsky
Airing Date: March 24, 1996 & May 12, 1996
Stars: Dexter, Dee Dee
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

‘Old Man Dexter’ is the third of four pilot episodes of ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’. It would later return as the third part of the third episode.

‘Old Man Dexter’ plays with the idea that Dexter is still a little boy. In this episode Dexter is too young to stay awake for the 20:00 h ‘late early movie’. Dexter’s solution is to make himself older, but then Dee Dee messes with his experiment…

‘Old Man Dexter’ is a funny little gem. Especially the sequence in which Dexter descends the stairs is hilarious. The sound effects accompanying his shaky arms are priceless. Parts from this episode would return in the end titles of the official series.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Old Man Dexter’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Old Man Dexter’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Airing Date: March 10, 1996 & June 2, 1996
Stars: Dexter, Dee Dee
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Big Sister’ is the second of four pilot episodes of ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’ that appeared on Cartoon Network before the official series was launched. ‘The Big Sister’ then would reappear as the third part of the sixth episode.

This sequence starts with the zoom into Dexter’s lab that was later reused to start the end titles. In these we follow a smell that turns out to be from chocolate chip cookies made by Dexter for his laboratory rats. Of course, Dee Dee wants one, too, but the cookies contain secret formula X27, which turns Dee Dee into a giantess, rampaging the city. It’s up to Dexter to save the world!

This episode contains nice references to both King Kong and Japanese mecha films. The episode clearly borrows from the mecha anime visual style, something that would permeate the complete Dexter’s Laboratory series, blending surprisingly well with the 1950s cartoon modern style to create something new and fresh. Nevertheless, highlight of this episode is when Dexter’s fantasy runs away with him.

Watch ‘The Big Sister’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Big Sister’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Airing Date: February 26, 1995 & May 19, 1996
Stars: Dexter, Dee Dee
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

‘Changes’ is the very first Dexter’s Laboratory episode. The short first appeared on Cartoon Network’s ‘World Premiere Toons’ on February 26, 1995, although it would reappear as the third part of the fourth episode.

‘Changes’ already contains all elements that make Dexter’s Laboratory such a striking and refreshing addition to animated television: first a strong 1950s influence in design, particularly emulating the work of UPA and John Hubley’s early Storyboard studio work, with the bold line work and highly stylized characters, emphasizing primary forms, like triangles and ovals. Second, the equally stylized animation, with its often unnatural movement, strong emphasis on poses, and striking alterations between fast and slow actions. This, too, harks back to the cartoon modern era (a third element, a cinematic approach with elements of anime, would appear in the second installment, ‘The Big Sister‘). Fourth, the unnatural sound effects, often accompanying silent action, like eye movement or stretching arms. Fifth, the musical soundtrack, which follows the action closely, and remains interesting throughout.

The premise is that Dexter is a hyper-intelligent kid who somehow has an enormous secret lab somehow stowed away in his room, while his big and not so bright sister Dee Dee is a pest to him. ‘Changes’ contains some material that would return in the opening credits, as the episode opens with Dexter finishing his latest invention, which looks like a remote control with only one red button. Of course, Dee Dee grabs the remote and it turns out it changes the other into an animal. Both children turn into a wide range of animals, one more outlandish than the other, in a fast sequence of events. However, highlight may be Dee Dee’s expressions upon entering her brother’s forbidden room.

With ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’ both Hanna-Barbera and Cartoon Network joined the American animation renaissance. The network contributed greatly to the revival, with beautifully stylized and idiosyncratic series like ‘Cow and Chicken’ (1997-1999), ‘The Powerpuff Girls’ (by Craig McCracken, who also worked on Dexter’s Laboratory, 1998-2005) and ‘Samurai Jack’ (again by Tartakovsky, 2001-2004), and to a lesser extent ‘Ed, Edd & Eddy’ (1999-2009) and ‘Courage the Cowardly Dog’ (1999-2001).

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

‘Changes’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Director: Van Partible
Airing Date: March 26, 1995
Stars: Johnny Bravo
Rating: ★★
Review:

Johnny Bravo was one of the striking characters of the cartoon renaissance happening at Cartoon Network. Together with Dexter’s Laboratory, Cow and Chicken, The Powerpuff Girls, and Courage the Cowardly Dog he was the flagship of the creativity at the network in the second half of the nineties.

Yet, this isn’t immediately visible in the very first short starring the character, aptly titled ‘Johnny Bravo’. This very first Johnny Bravo episode first aired as part of Cartoon Network’s ‘World Premiere Toons’ (later renamed ‘What a Cartoon’), and was re-shown later as the first part of three shorts forming the first Johnny Bravo episode broadcasted on July 7, 1997.

The episode firmly establishes Johnny Bravo as a character obsessed by his own body and presumable attractiveness to women, who don’t care about him in a bit. The short starts at a zoo where Johnny Bravo hopelessly tries to impress passing girls. When a gorilla has escaped he offers the female zookeeper to retrieve the animal.

The gorilla is a badly designed, purple talking beast that is one of the least funny characters to hit the television screen, especially when Partible tries to make him Bugs Bunny-like funny when talking to Johnny Bravo. This is a painful attempt at humor, indeed. Much better are Johnny Bravo’s attempts to show off and to attract women.

The animation overall is limited and very jerky, with especially Bravo jumping from pose to pose, an animation style that was remarkably fresh at the time. The hands mostly are mere paws until the fingers have to be drawn. This style unfortunately gives the character an ugly and cheap look. The color design, too, is far from interesting and arguably non-existent. In all, this debut cartoon hasn’t aged very well. Yet, the character would last four seasons, being on television between 1997 and 2004.

‘Johnny Bravo’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Johnny Bravo Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: April 7, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★★

Fred Flinstone Before and After © Hanna-Barbera‘Fred Flintstone: Before and After’ starts with a television studio in search of a ‘before man’ for their commercial for ‘Fat Off Reducing Method’.

B.J., the president of the company picks Fred from the street. An outrageously proud Fred invites all his friends to watch him on television, only to realize afterwards he was the ‘fat guy’, not the muscular after guy…

In a very unlikely follow up scene the studio offers Fred $1000 if he can reduce his weight with 25 pounds. It remains completely mysterious what the studio would gain with this bet. In any case, Fred sets out to eat less, only to discover that it’s much, much harder than he thought. So, he seeks help from ‘Food Anonymous’….

‘Fred Flintstone: Before and After’ suffers from a rather weak and implausible story, and rather repetitive scenes of Fred not dieting at all. For a while it seems that the $1000 reward doesn’t play any role, at all. Nevertheless, Fred’s wild looks when begging for a burger are priceless and belong to the best pieces of character animation on the whole show.  However, the episode’s highlight is in the beginning, when Fred thinks he’s on camera, and goes berzerk.

‘Fred Flintstone: Before and After’ rounds up the first season of The Flintstones. Five seasons would follow, lasting until 1966. In the first season the series had shown to be an original mix of sitcom, slapstick comedy, sight gags and cartoon humor. Moreover, the series proved that cartoons could be prime time material, although that lesson would only get a real follow up when The Simpsons started airing in 1989.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Fred Flintstone: Before and After’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 26th and final episode of Flintstones Season One
To the previous Flintstones episode: Rooms for Rent

‘Fred Flintstone: Before and After’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: March 31, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★

Rooms for Rent © Hanna-Barbera‘Rooms for Rent’ starts with Fred calculating his and Wilma’s expenses.

Because the couple is overspending, Wilma decides to take in some boarders. Promptly she and Betty (who has the same financial problems) are visited by two music students. Unfortunately, the two jazz cats don’t have any money, so Wilma and Betty let the two youngsters stay for two weeks in exchange of help with their own act they want to perform at the Loyal Order of Dinosaurs. Despite Fred and Barney wanting some boarders, too, these prove two very long weeks for the husbands, as the two students practice their modern jazz at home, and eat the lion’s share of their meals.

‘Rooms for Rent’ is a rather weak entry within the Flintstones series, offering inconsistent designs, mediocre animation and few laughs. The episode also is one of those Flintstones entries showing the inequality of man and woman in the early 1960s: when contemplating how to earn some money, Betty and Wilma never contemplate working themselves, as “the boys won’t let us go out and get a job” (Betty) and “A woman’s place is in the home” (as Wilma quotes Fred). This episode is typical for its many shots of people addressing the camera. Also featured is a prehistoric subway, the working of which is never explained…

Watch the subway scene from ‘Rooms for Rent’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 25
To the previous Flintstones episode: In the Dough
To the next Flintstones episode: Fred Flintstone: Before and After

‘Rooms for Rent’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: March 24, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★½

The Good Scout © Hanna-BarberaIn this episode Fred takes on a job as scout leader of the Sabre-Toothed Tiger Patrol, consisting of three little boys.

Fred and Barney go camping with the three kids. This main part of the episode consists of four rather unrelated and mediocre blackout gags: Fred encountering a sabre-toothed bear, Barney and Fred clearing the camping area by removing boulders in a few rather Roadrunner-like gags, and the scouting team playing baseball. The trip abruptly ends, when their tent floats down a stream and straight to the obligatory waterfall at night.

In the opening scenes Fred has acquired a new walking cycle. The night scenes feature some beautiful and very stylish background art work. Also beautiful is the shot of the scouting team marching in silhouette. However, highlight of the episode is the late double-take on Wilma when Fred tells her he has joined the boy scouts.

Watch an excerpt from ‘The Good Scout’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 24
To the previous Flintstones episode:  The Long, Long Weekend
To the next Flintstones episode: Rooms for Rent

‘The Good Scout’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

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