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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’

Director: Raymie Muzquiz
Airing Date: April 20, 1996
Stars: Duckman
Rating: ★★
Review:

In ‘The One with Lisa Kudrow in a Small Role’ Duckman wants to be alone, so he sends his son Ajax out on the street. Ajax gets abducted by hillbilly aliens from the planet Betamax, and revered as a prophet by the backward planet. But everything goes wrong when Ajax plays them the tape his father gave him, and the planet takes the word of ‘Dod’ literally.

‘The One with Lisa Kudrow in a Small Role’ is violently anti-religion, connecting dogmatism with violence and destruction. The satire is rather blunt and in your face, and therefore actually fails to hit its mark. Meanwhile this is one of those many Duckman episodes tiringly playing with Duckman’s complete ignorance of his own offspring. The result is rather exhausting.

Most enjoyable are Ajax’s semi-profound remarks and the rather Dr. Seuss-like background art of planet Betamax.

Watch ‘The One with Lisa Kudrow in a Small Role’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 35
To the previous Duckman episode: The Once and Future Duck
To the next Duckman episode: Aged Heat

‘The One with Lisa Kudrow in a Small Role’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Director: ?
Release Date: November 11, 1933
Stars: Willie Whopper
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Stratos Fear © Ub IwerksNot satisfied with Flip the Frog, MGM demanded a new cartoon star from Ub Iwerks. So, the studio conceived Willie Whopper, a fat little boy telling tall tales.

Unfortunately, Willie Whopper wasn’t much of a success either, and the series was stopped after only twelve entries. Most famous among the Willie Whopper cartoons probably is ‘Stratos Fear’ in which our hero visits the dentist. When Willie gets too much laughing gas, he inflates and goes up into the air, soon leaving earth, the moon, passing Saturn and into space. When he passes an alien planet, he’s caught by some strange alien scientists.

The alien planet is by all means an odd world, and it anticipates the sheer zaniness of ‘Porky in Wackyland‘ (1938). At one point one of the evil scientists even dresses as a beautiful woman in a scene looking forward all the way to Tim Burton’s feature ‘Mars Attacks!’ (1996). Luckily in the end, it all appears to have been a dream.

‘Stratos Fear’ is an interesting cartoon, because of its early surrealism, but Willie Whopper is not much of a character, being just a bland boy, only reacting on his surroundings, without any internal motivation. The gags, too, are only mildly amusing, as things are just happening on the screen, in a pretty steady flow. Also, despite a certain horror atmosphere, and the erotic beauty, it’s one of those 1933 cartoons already moving towards the infantile world of the second half of the 1930s. The result is noteworthy cartoon, but hardly anything more than that.

Watch ‘Stratos Fear’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Stratos Fear’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: April 2?, 1983
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

L'infini de l'espace © ProcidisWith ‘L’infini de l’espace’ Albert Barillé rounds up his personal science fiction story, which is the series ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon A Time Space).

After the computer society had brought the constellation of Cassopeia to its knees, it has issued the same ultimatum to Omega. The episode opens with the council of Omega rejecting it, in name of the ‘dignity of man’. Nevertheless, after the gruesome defeat of Cassiopeia in ‘Combat de titans‘ the intergalactic bond knows it doesn’t stand a chance, and most of the episode has an atmosphere of inescapable doom, with an added dose of melodrama.

Maestro and Metro set off to try to find a way to penetrate Yama’s strong defense field, but soon Maestro takes a different path, a spiritual one, in which he apparently meets Psi’s mysterious visitors, who are the possessors of the mysterious vessel in episode 1. It’s these mysterious superbeings that finally pop up as a deus ex machina, destroying Yama’s whole fleet with help of an unstable star in a matter of seconds. After the strong apocalyptic build up of the last three episodes, this announced yet all too easy solution comes a bit as a letdown.

The episode ends with an encounter with the more advanced species, in a scene reminiscent of the great science fiction movies ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968) and ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977). The aliens tell our heroes that their help in this case was an exception, and that mankind should find its own way to the next, immaterial stage, through a path of kindness, tolerance and wisdom. The series ends with Psi remarking that they themselves had said something of the same kind to the primitive Cro-Magnon people in episode 5.

In a way the ethereal aliens are arguably as patronizing as the emotionless robots of Yama had been, but the aliens’ ways show a confidence in and compassion with mankind, which Barillé strongly juxtaposes to the cold reasoned violence of the computer superpower.

Thus ends ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’. The series probably has known few reruns, if any at all, and is not as well-known as its successor, ‘Il était une fois… la vie’ (Once Upon A Time… Life), let alone contemporary American series like ‘He-Man and the Masters of the Universe’ or ‘The Smurfs’. Unlike the creators of those latter two series, however, Albert Barillé dared to take children seriously, sharing with them his views on more mature subjects like politics, philosophy, spirituality and mankind itself. I was one of those kids, and I thank him for it.

Watch ‘L’infini de l’espace’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 26th and last episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 25th episode: Combat de titans (The Battle of the Titans)

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