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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: Brian Wood
Release Date: 1994
Rating: ★★★
Review:

‘Mr Jessop’ tells the simple story of a man who goes to town to buy some perfume for his wife, who stays home, frantically cleaning.

This plot may not sound too interesting, but Brian Wood’s way of telling this story certainly is. In his vision even this every day action is depicted so uniquely that it becomes something completely different. In his world everybody is obsessed with looking, continuously watching each other and the products on the shelves.

The film has a very nervous atmosphere, greatly helped by the soundtrack, and at points reaches an atmosphere of pure paranoia. The animation itself too is nervous, with expressionistic images, lots of deformations, tunnel-perspectives and animated backgrounds. Wood’s drawing style is crude and expressionistic, even if it retains a certain cartoony quality. And even though the ending feels like a punchline, it’s Wood’s unusual, frantic style that stays in your head after watching the short little film.

Watch ‘Mr Jessop’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Mr Jessop’ is available on the DVD ‘The Best of British Animation Awards 1’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: April 11, 1941
Stars: Gabby
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Swing Cleaning © Max FleischerThe title ‘Swing Cleaning’ promises a cartoon full of big band music.

None of that. Instead, we have a Gabby cartoon, in which our read-headed hero volunteers to take control of the palace’s spring cleaning. Gabby soon meddles with everyone and everything, and manages to destroy a great deal, twice. In the end the other palace dwellers give him their tokens of gratitude, and clobber him with their brooms.

Compared to ‘Two for the Zoo‘ ‘Swing Cleaning’ is a much better cartoon, with its focus on Gabby’s destructive meddling. However, the short loses some screen time to unrelated gags, and one doesn’t feel for either Gabby or the other palace dwellers. In the end. Swing Cleaning’ remains a mediocre cartoon, still much rooted in the sugary 1930s era, and feeling dated when compared to contemporary cartoons from other studios.

Watch ‘Swing Cleaning’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Swing Cleaning’ is available on the Thunderbean DVD/Blu-Ray ‘Fleischer Classics featuring Gulliver’s Travels’

Director: Walter Lantz or Bill Nolan
Release Date: May 27, 1935
Stars: Oswald
Rating: 
Review:

Springtime Serenade © Walter Lantz‘Springtime Serenade’ features Oswald and his unnamed girlfriend among some cute furry animals.

They all believe spring has come, even though the old groundhog warns them for six more weeks of cold weather. After some joyous spring cleaning (what the &$#?!!), the groundhog turns out to be right after all.

This Cartune Classic is as cloying as it is unfunny. Tex Avery, who was an animator at Lantz’s at the time, would deal with cute furry animals such as these ten years later in ‘The Screwy Truant’ (1945).

Watch ‘Springtime Serenade’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: December 11, 1948
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Mammy Two-Shoes
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Mouse Cleaning © MGMBy chasing Jerry into the house, Tom dirts the kitchen floor, which just has been painstakingly cleaned by Mammy.

She leaves shortly after, but not before warning him that if she’ll see one speck of dirt when she returns, she will throw him out. Jerry of course uses this threat to his advantage.

The plot of ‘Mouse Cleaning’ is very similar to that of ‘Puss Gets the Boot‘ (1940), Tom and Jerry’s very first cartoon, but the execution is much faster and funnier. Tom & Jerry had come a long way since, as is shown by a particularly Tex Averyan doubletake, in which Tom produces multiple eyes and a drops his jaw unto the floor in surprise.

Watch ‘Mouse Cleaning’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 38
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Professor Tom
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Polka Dot Puss

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