Have you ever been really excited for something? The start of a TV show, perhaps. You wait for it for ages. You get all your friends round to watch, but then after all the anticipation it doesn’t live up to the hype. That used to happen to me all the time, before I dealt with the problem by lowering my expectations. Strap in for a ride on the hyperbole trolley, kids. We’ll revisit some of those times together, like Scrooge McDuck in A Christmas Carol.
And yes, hyperbole rhymes with trolley. You illiterate swine.
I was totally psyched when I heard they were making an Animorphs TV series, back at the turn of the millennium. Of course, not so many people had the internet back then, so we literally didn’t know about it until a week before it aired. Those were the days! You also had to start your car with a crank, and burn tallow candles to light your house.
I had been reading the books for nearly five years, so I was pretty stoked. We all got together to watch the first episode on CBBC. It started out great – it had an awesome theme tune! But after about ten seconds the reality became shockingly clear.
It had obviously been produced on a shoestring budget. It looked cheap, it sounded cheap. The effects were terrible, both in terms of the Nintendo-quality CGI and the practical effects, which were practically non-existent. Aximili the Andalite, a sort of centaur-like alien, conveniently almost never appeared in his normal body, instead finding excuses to stay in human morph. In the rare, fleeting instances that he did appear, he was only shown from the waist up. Legs are expensive!
The squadrons of Hork-Bajir, the terrifying reptilian shock troops of the invading alien army, were reduced to a single entity. The other alien races simply never appeared at all.
The other major problem was that when the kids morphed into animals, which was a rare event, the crew simply dragged a dog, cat or bird onto the set. Obviously, they behaved exactly like real animals and thus ruined the illusion. I maintain that it would’ve been far better to use puppets and animatronics, in order to convey a human intelligence. For example, Kermit the Frog has a lot more personality than an actual frog, despite being made of felt. If you slapped an actual frog onto a stage and just had Jim Henson dub over it, it would be ridiculous.
British readers may remember Harry’s Mad, a book about an intelligent parrot. When they made it for TV, they used a robotic puppet. It looked great. The thing had so much personality. In Animorphs, they had Tobias the hawk played by an actual hawk. It would twitch and look around and flap uncomfortably on its perch, and the cast would talk to it like it was human. But it just made it weird.
Read the books. Imagination doesn’t cost anything, kids. Clearly the producers had the same ethos when making the show.
One of these days, I’m going to let something slip on this blog. Something that’s gonna have me in a rubber room so fast I’ll get whiplash. I saw an episode of Due South once where the mountie gave tips on escaping from a straitjacket. I have committed that episode to memory, just in case.
Anyway, I absolutely love the Strawberry Shortcake intro. Both the music and the animation. It’s so unbelievably jolly and upbeat – It tickles parts of the brain that I’d forgotten I even had. No joke, if I’m feeling blue, I go onto YouTube, crank the volume up as high as it will go, and air-guitar some Strawb.
Ms. Shortcake is a little odd. She dresses like Where’s Wally’s little sister and wears a big strawberry-themed sun hat. She also has a thing for berry puns, a verbal tic that gets old pretty fast. She has a pink cat called Custard, and a dog with a heart-shaped patch over its eye called Pupcake.
The intro is an absolute barrel of laughs, she dances and bobs around, cavorting with her cat and puppy. For me, the best moment is when she RIDES A FLYING STRAWBERRY THROUGH A CHOCOLATE WATERFALL.
After that, there is no way the show could live up to the hype. And of course it doesn’t. I’m a sucker for cartoons, but there’s something a little off about Strawberry Shortcake’s shenanigans. They’re not so much twee as they are banal, and her friends could really use better names. Most are just desserts, but some sound like pretty rude descriptors. I wonder how Raspberry Tart got her name?
Strawberry Shortcake has a pony called Honey Pie. The pony talks, which I find really weird for some reason. She has flowers around her bum, or more accurately the base of her tail. Why? To hide her pony modesty? Or because she smells? I have submitted a report to the nearest pony bumologist, which happens to be me. It’s amazing the qualifications you can get over the internet these days!
I like Transformers in a special way. Uh, not like a weird fetish way, no. I mean in the way that you love something so much you can’t imagine ever having lived without it, or in the way that you have that favourite song that sounds like it was written just for you. I love a great many things, but my interest in Transformers predates them all.
So when Transformers: Armada aired on TV in early 2003, I had a fit. There hadn’t been an animated Transformers show on (terrestrial) TV for over a decade. It had a cool new style, interesting-looking characters, and a theme song that got me buzzing! I’d had a few of the toys for a while, and I loved them. They were chunky and laden with gimmicks, but in a fun way, not in a Fisher Price, this-is-for-babies way.
It’s a pity that the show itself, somewhat unusually for an animated show, contains NO BLOODY ANIMATION. I’m dead serious; nothing happens. No-one moves. Conversations go nowhere because the script wasn’t finished before they started drawing. Meaningless grunts and gasps fill whole minutes, because it’s better than dead air.
It drives me insane. Most Japanese animation is slow. It’s slow because it’s cheap, and seasons typically last for 50 episodes over there so stories and plots are dragged out for time. The recent mega-hit Attack on Titan almost made me bust a blood vessel after a character’s internal monologue (wherein he was asking himself a single question) was dragged out for two entire episodes. But Transformers Armada is something else.
It tears me up inside. I wanted to love it so much. It’s like going to Crealy Farm to cuddle the ducklings, only to have them poo all over you. And cuss out your mother.
No man can take that kind of heartbreak.
“Slapped an actual”