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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’

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: Ruth Lingford
Release Date: 1997
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Death and the Mother © Ruth LingfordWhen death takes away her child, a mother gives up everything to get her back.

‘Death and the Mother’ is Ruth Lingford’s re-telling of a classic fairy-tale by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s an animation masterpiece: its strong and gritty animation, the beautiful string quartet music by Nigel Broadbent, the subtle sound effects –  all add up to a very strong, dark and emotional film. Lingford makes clever use of the computer to create a very graphic film that looks like an animated woodcut. In an age in which computer animation almost equals 3D animation, this is a refreshing technique, with a stark impact and an imagery unparalleled in the animation field.

Moreover, Lingford captures Andersen’s tale of grief, love and sacrifice very well, without trying to update it. Just by staying true to the essence of the original story she has made a timeless classic. Her wordless film is as universal as it can get, and capable of communicating to audiences worldwide. It’s a welcome antidote to the Disney fairy tale retellings, which get more and more watered down, and which lose a lot of the originals’ charm with it.

Watch ‘Death and the mother’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Death and the Mother’ is available on the DVD inside the book ‘Animation Now!’

Director: Mark Brierley
Release Date: 1997
Rating: ★
Review:

Owzat © AardmanIn a graveyard a skeleton plays cricket with some unwilling ghosts.

‘Owzat’ is Aardman’s first endeavor into computer animation and it pales when compared to Pixar films from the same period. The designs look hopelessly primitive, the animation is stiff and the colors are rather ugly. As the film is quite incomprehensible, slow and unfunny, one wonders why it was made in the first place. It looks like a study, and it probably wouldn’t have been released if it had not been an Aardman production.

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

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

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