Animated Discussions
By Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

Creature Comforts

BBC America has picked up the rights to Aardman Animation’s Creature Comforts series based on Nick Park’s Oscar winning short which featured “man on the street” interviews with the words put into the mouths of a variety of clay animated animals. This delightful series of nine half hour episodes has been held hostage by Comedy Central for the past couple of years. For some reason, Comedy Central snapped up this show, which was one of the highest rated programs aired in Britain, and buried it in hard to find time slots like 2:00 a.m. Monday morning and 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning. While we were confused by this, it seems clear now that Comedy Central only bought the show to keep it out of the hands of Cartoon Network. Now that Comedy Central’s contract has expired, BBC America has stepped up and put the show on its schedule in a still unfriendly 11:00 p.m. time slot on Friday evenings. This show is very funny and well worth going out of your way to watch.

You’d think with Nick Park having such a high profile coming off the success of his Wallace and Gromit movie that the folks at BBC America could find a more appealing time slot. But, we’ll have to take what we can get. Fans of clay animation, Wallace and Gromit and clever comedy should make a note to watch Creature Comforts at 11:00 p.m. starting this Friday (12/2/05) on BBC America (Channel 100 on Charter Digital).

Coconut Bob Fruitpants

Sometimes an imitation is so blatant, so raw, so naked, that you just have to step back and salute the person who had the cajones to try and pull it off. Coconut Fred’s Fruit Salad Island is such a blatant, obvious ripoff of Spongebob Squarepants that we have to wonder two things: First, did they REALLY think no one would notice? Second, what took them so long? Coconut Fred seems to be the result of a frantic meeting at the studio where someone realized that Spongebob Squarepants was the hottest cartoon on television and they’d better do a quick knockoff to try and cash in on its success. The problem is, it appears the writers only saw about five minutes of one Spongebob episode. They completely missed the point of what makes a good cartoon and the result is a soulless, joyless, mean spirited, hyperactive triumph of marketing over creativity.

As best we can determine from watching several episodes, Coconut Fred is an omnipotent being with the power to create things out of thin air who delights in torturing everyone else on the show. Oh yes…and he’s a coconut. For some reason, all the characters on the show are fruits. We don’t know if you remember the old Funny Face fruit drinks. They were the commercial mascots (Goofy Grape, Rootin’-Tootin’Raspberry, etc.) for a competitor to Kool-Aid in the 1960s. The reason Coconut Fred brings to mind Funny Face drink mix, aside from the obvious fruit based cartoon characters, is that Coconut Fred’s Fruit Salad Island reminds us of the Reverend Jim Jones. Watch a few episodes of this show and you’ll be begging for some of his Kool-Aid.

Coconut Fred is just something to be avoided. You can avoid it every Saturday Morning at 9:30 on Kids’ WB. Still, like a guy trying to sneak a 50 inch television out under his coat, you have to admire them for trying.

Death to Barbie

Coconut Fred, though notable in it’s awfulness, is not the only new cartoon to hit the airwaves lately. Saturday morning cartoons debuted a couple of months ago on the broadcast networks. While they’re not as important in the annals of animation as they used to be, due to the emergence of several 24 hour all animation networks, there have been some notable new entries. Foremost among these is the Bratz cartoon. This computer animated series depicts the adventures of the grotesquely distorted fashion dolls who have finally toppled Barbie from her pink pedestal. The shock is that this show, which has every right in the world to be completely horrible, is in fact cleverly written and quite enjoyable. Rather than make the mistakes that Barbie has and sticking with fairy tale material, the Bratz cartoon gives each character a distinct personality and has them established as teenagers running a fashion magazine. This leads to some surprisingly contemporary storylines. Bratz is like a slightly sanitized Absolutely Fabulous for the tweener set. We have a feeling that this show could very easily become a Saturday morning guilty pleasure for lots of adults.

Next Monday, Animated Discussions kicks off Popcult’s Holiday Gift Guide, with our suggestions for the animation fan on your holiday gift list.