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Airing Date: June 1, 1996

Dee Dee’s Room

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

In this episode Dexter tries to retrieve a bread slicer from Dee Dee’s room.

Dexter treats his big sister’s realm as a foreign planet, and enters it in a space suit. The humor comes mostly from Dexter’s pompous, overblown voice over, making the events much more exiting than they really are.

There’s strikingly little animation in this episode, as many scenes are done in stills, and many movements done in only three or four drawings, with no inbetweening whatsoever. This visual style does add to the dreamlike atmosphere that permeates this episode. It thus is a great use of limited animation as an artistic choice, not necessarily an economical one.

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

Dial M for Monkey: Huntor

‘Dial M for Monkey’ never were a successful addition to the ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’, but the ‘Huntor’ episode is particularly disappointing.

In this episode Monkey has to battle a lion-like alien hunter with an Australian accent. This is a particularly talkative opponent, and Huntor’s rambling fills almost the entire soundtrack.

This alone accounts for a tiresome watch, but this episode also demonstrates that the ‘Dial M for Monkey’ doesn’t share the same eye for design as the surrounding ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’ sequences. The character designs are more generic, more like the dull 1970s Hanna-Barbera designs than Dexter’s 1950s UPA world, and the color schemes are uninventive and ugly. In fact, ‘Huntor’ emulates the cheap, ugly and forgettable cartoon style of 1970s Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoons too much for comfort. The 1970s were a low point for studio animation, and I don’t want to be reminded of that, thank you.

The Big Sister

See the post devoted to this episode

‘Dee Dee’s Room/Dial M for Monkey: Huntor/The Big Sister’ 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 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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