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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’

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’

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