Sunday, September 30, 2012

Old School Lane's Nickelodeon Tribute: The Brothers Flub

The year is 1999. The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, American Beauty, and Stanley Kubrick's last film Eyes Wide Shut were released in theaters. Freaks and Geeks, The Sopranos, Providence, and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? debuted on TV. The 90's were coming to an end and there were big discussions about what was going to occur when the year 2000 would come. Would there be futuristic devices like flying cars and food pellets like The Jetsons? Would the internet crash causing a huge disaster? Would the world come to an end and the Second Coming of Christ happen? But if you were a kid, you wouldn't care about that. Around the last year of the 20th century, many changes began to occur, especially in animation. More on that later. On January 17, 1999, Nickelodeon had aired their new Nicktoon: a show called The Brothers Flub.

The show was about two alien brothers named Guapo and Fraz who work as couriers in a company called RetroGrade Interdimensional Courtiers led by a mean alien woman named Tarara Boomdeyay. The brothers would travel around the galaxy in their spacecraft called the Hoog to deliver packages to various planets. The planets would be a hippy planet filled with beatniks or a planet that had larger than life game pieces like a pinball machine.

They would also interact with their co-workers such as Valerina, who was a level-headed mature alien who gets her work done and Squish, an older alien. Each episode has Guapo and Fraz travel into a different planet and doing their work lazily. They get themselves in crazy hijinks that end up in a big adventure.

The show was created by Laslo Nosek and David Burke and the production company behind it was Sunbow Entertainment, the same company who produced G.I. Joe, Gem, Inhumanoids, Transformers, and My Little Pony. Before the show was released, there were some huge advertisements going into The Brothers Flub such as toys, flyers, and children's vitamins. From Sketchers to Carls' Jr. to KFC, there were high hopes for this show to be a hit because of the company's reputation of producing good cartoons. "The series will attract kids both male and female. The Brothers Flub will fit right into the Nickelodeon time-slot because the show is 'Nickelodeon-like', said Laura Sullivan, the senior director of Sony Wonder in a 1999 interview with Promo Magazine.

The show lasted for one season ending its run on January 8, 2000, less than a year after it aired. The show was panned by critics saying that it was "mean spirited", "clunky", and "an Aaahh! Real Monsters clone without the charm". Almost no one watched it. Kevin and I haven't even heard of this show when it first came out and we were Nickelodeon junkies. When rediscovering it, I found it to be nothing special. It was clunky, not funny, and already been done before. I had already seen duos get into gross, funny humor with Ren and Stimpy, Aaahh! Real Monsters, Rocko's Modern Life, and The Angry Beavers. The Brothers Flub was trying to catch up with the craze. That's fine and all except that there are three problems to this.

1. The craze of gross, disgusting humor that Nickelodeon was known for was already starting to wane at this point. Kids were already mature enough to not laugh at poop and fart jokes. If The Brothers Flub would have came out in the early 90's, maybe it would have been a bigger hit. But in the year 1999, kids and teens wanted to see something more catered to them: more adult, more creative, more wittier, and more funnier. Which brings me to #2.

2. There were other shows that were coming out at 1999 that was starting to hit the market. Ed, Edd, and Eddy, Family Guy, and Batman Beyond came out at the same month as The Brothers Flub. Not to mention a similar concept of The Brothers Flub came out two months later in March 1999 that was funnier, more creative, had memorable moments, and better characters. That show was Futurama.

3. Animation was taking a different turn around 1999. Thanks to Pixar, people were more interested in 3D thanks to the huge success of Toy Story, A Bug's Life, and Toy Story 2. Not to mention that Kids' WB changed their programs from shows produced like Animaniacs, Freakazoid, and Pinky and the Brain to anime. Shows like Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, and Pokemon kicked off the anime craze like wildfire. Not to mention movies such as Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke. 

For the production company Sunbow, it was their lowest point ever. Eventually, they shut their doors in 2003 due to bankrupcy.

Original Sunbow Productions logo used from 1980 until 1984

Overall, The Brothers Flub was a show that was 6 years behind the ball and has since been forgotten. It wasn't creative, new, or innovative compared to the other shows that were airing at the time. Look past that and you see a show that was clunky and a bit mean spirited. I don't recommend checking it out.

While that was a bit of a low point in Nickelodeon, it would make up for it with their biggest Nicktoon yet that would debut a few months later. Tune in next time as we discuss all about it.

Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Movie Review: The Rugrats Movie

As we discussed in the Rugrats review, Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo did not like the direction where the show was going. Paul Germain's ideas of having the babies acting like adults, the "controversial" episodes like "Tommy Goes Naked", and the inclusion of Angelica were not part of Klasky and Csupo's original ideas of how they wanted the present Rugrats to the public. So, the show went on a three year hiatus and most of the writers left, including Paul Germain. When the show came back in 1997, there seemed to be a huge glaring difference between what Rugrats would eventually be and the first three seasons. The animation was brighter, the situations they would get into were simpler, Angelica was less meaner, and the babies' intelligence were dumbed down a bit to appear as babies. Nonetheless, the kids watching it welcomed back Rugrats with open arms becoming not only one of the most  watched shows on Nickelodeon, but the longest lasting Nicktoon at the time.

In the episode "The Family Tree", Didi and Stu go off on a cruise to celebrate their anniversary and Didi ends up getting seasick. In the end of the episode, it was revealed that Didi was not seasick, but pregnant with their second child. With that said, Klasky and Csupo had decided to reveal the baby in their first feature film The Rugrats Movie.

Does this movie's addition of the new baby give us joy or does it stink worse than a dirty diaper? This is The Rugrats Movie.

The movie starts off with a parody of Raiders of the Ark in which Tommy is Okie Dokie Jones and Phil, Lil, and Chuckie are his companions. Chuckie narrates through the opening scene introducing the characters.

Then it turns out that the scene was just them using their imagination...big surprise...and we get to the main story of the movie. Didi is celebrating a baby shower in honor of their new baby girl and everyone around is having a good time. Meanwhile, Stu and Drew are in the basement arguing as usual. Drew is trying to convince Stu to get a job because of the new inclusion of the baby while Stu says that his new invention is going to make him a lot of money. That invention is the Reptar wagon.

Tommy is excited about having a new baby sister, but then Angelica comes and tells Tommy that when the new baby comes, he'll be forgotten by his parents because they'll be focusing their attention on the baby. Tommy doubts this saying that even with the inclusion of the new baby, his parents will still love him the same.

Next we cut to Susie singing a song about how babies are special. Angelica cuts in and ruins the song.

Angelica's screaming causes Didi to have sharp pains meaning that the baby is getting ready to be born. They all rush to the hospital immediately. While Didi goes to give birth, Tommy doesn't understand what's going on fearing that the baby got lost along the way. They decide to look around the hospital hoping to find a new baby. They enter the delivery room and see all the newborn babies. The babies consisting of the voices by Dawn Robinson, Lisa Loeb, B Real, Patti Smith, Lou Rawls, Laurie Anderson, Gordon Gano, Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson, Phife Dawg, Lenny Kravitz, Beck, Jakob Dylan, and Iggy Pop sing the song "This World is Something New to Me".

Then finally Didi gives birth to, not a baby girl, a baby boy that they named after Didi's cousin Dylan Prescott Pickles or Dil for short. Tommy sees his baby brother for the first time and it doesn't go very well.

One month later, Dil is constantly crying and preventing the babies from having fun. Things don't seem the same anymore with the inclusion of Dil around the house. Angelica is trying to watch her favorite show, but can't concentrate. She sees a commercial about a Russian monkey circus coming to town. She wants to go, but Grandpa Lou says no. Meanwhile, we cut to a train consisting of the ringleader of the Russian monkey circus and his assistant making a pit stop. While they drink their coffee, the monkeys escape their cages and control the train. It ends up crashing into the forest.

Back with the main plot, Didi is reading a bedtime story to Tommy about a wizard granting a wish for a little boy. But then Stu comes in with Dil crying and trying to get him back to sleep. They end up trying to rock Dil to sleep while singing a lullaby. They do successfully, Dil gets to sleep, and Tommy is completely ignored wishing that he had his parents to himself again.

The next day, Stu awaits for the packaging people to come take the Reptar wagon away for a contest and Tommy and Dil start fighting with each other. Stu takes Tommy away giving him a pocketwatch saying that now he's a big brother with responsibility. The babies see the Reptar wagon and have the idea of taking Dil back to the hospital. When Tommy returns back to his friends, he finds out what they're doing and thinks it's a bad idea. Angelica comes out to quiet the babies since she's watching her favorite program. Dil snatches away her doll Cynthia and Angelica tries to get it back from him. Then her show comes back on TV saying that she'll be back on the next commercial. The Reptar wagon starts to move due to Angelica kicking it and the babies have their biggest adventure they've ever had.

Angelica finds out that the babies have Cynthia so she takes Spike, the Pickles' dog, along to track the babies.

When the adults find out that the babies are missing, the news reporters and police come in to investigate on the situation. The babies drive everywhere around the neighborhood ending up in a mattress truck. The truck crashes and it ends up in the forest. The babies are officially lost, not knowing what to do, and want to get home.

Tommy becomes the leader of the group using his pocketwatch as a compass to find their way home. They climb a big hill seeing smoke from a distance indicating a nearby home. Tommy thinks that a wizard's there and convinces them to go there to make a wish to go home. While walking towards there, Tommy trips on a hole. But it turns out that it's not a hole, but a wolf's footprint. They keep their lookout on the wolf as they ride away on the Reptar wagon eventually landing on the river.

The adults eventually find out that the babies are lost somewhere in the forest. Stu, Grandpa Lou, and Chaz go back to the house to retrieve a flying pterradactyl named Dactar to use to search for the babies in the air while the rest of the adults go to the ranger station to ask for help. The babies land on another section of the forest and meet up with the monkeys from the Russian circus. They start having fun until Dil starts crying saying that he's hungry. When Tommy comes and feeds him banana baby food, the monkeys stop playing and steal the diaper bag. Tommy rushes for it while Phil, Lil, and Chuckie fend off the monkeys from taking Dil. Eventually, the monkeys took Dil with them.

When Tommy returns with the diaper bag, he finds out that Dil is gone taking by the monkeys. He asks his friends for help, but they refuse since they don't like Dil. Tommy, disappointed with his friends' decision, looks for Dil by himself. Tommy finds Dil with the monkeys and takes him away from them. When Tommy and Dil find shelter, Dil becomes selfish taking the bottle and the blanket all for himself. Tommy gets angry as he sees now that Dil is not a good baby and he doesn't want to be his big brother anymore. Then he searches for the banana baby food to pour it on Dil for the monkeys to take him away again. But knowing that it's wrong to do so, Tommy puts the baby food down and takes him back to the shelter.

Tommy and Dil begin to star loving each other and getting along with one another. This is actually my favorite scene in the movie. It's so dark, yet so sweet and captivating seeing the relationship between the two of them.

The next day, the monkeys come back and Phil, Lil, and Chuckie come to their rescue. Chuckie grabs the last bottle of banana baby food and chases the monkeys away, Tommy goes to save Chuckie, and Phil, Lil, and Dil go in the Reptar wagon to find the wizard. Angelica and Chuckie finally meet up with each other and the monkeys still continue to chase him. Angelica finds Cynthia with another monkey and she chases after him. Tommy meets up with Spike and together, they find Chuckie and rescue him. However the monkeys gang up on the babies until Dil comes in with the Reptar wagon saving them. Angelica sees the Reptar wagon and rides along with the babies.

They finally stop at a bridge where Angelica flies off the wagon due to a bump and they stop to rescue her. While doing so, the monkeys come by to pester them. All of a sudden, they run away. The babies start to cheer, but then find out that the wolf that has been brought up in the whole movie finally comes out. Spike fights against the wolf and they both end up falling out of the bridge. The babies fear that Spike has finally passed on.

Then Stu comes in finding the babies and crashing into the ranger's station with Dactar as a costume. The babies think that it's the wizard and Tommy makes a wish for Spike to return. Stu walks on the bridge, crashes below, and Spike appears just fine. Then the adults come in, hug their babies, and giving them lots of love and attention. The Russian ringmaster and his assistant come and greet their monkeys and in the end, everyone is happy. The movie concludes with the Raiders of the Lost Ark spoof with Chuckie narrating again saying that things have now changed for the better since the inclusion of baby Dil.

When the movie first came out, it was a huge hit both critically and financially. It was #1 at the box office, the ratings were good, and the movie made more than $140,000,000 overall. It was not only the biggest amount of money that Nickelodeon Movies made at the time, but it was their first critically acclaimed movie, and it was the first non-Disney animated movie to have hit the $100,000,000 mark.

However, to fans of the show, there were some mix reactions. Many people consider the inclusion of baby Dil as the "jumping the shark" moment for Rugrats. They hated Dil thinking he was annoying and an unnecessary character to include. The inclusion of Dil is the reason why some people hate this movie and think that it was the beginning of the lowing point for Rugrats.

As for my opinion, I think that the lowing point began when Paul Germain and the majority of the writers left Rugrats in 1994. The newer episodes around 1997 weren't as captivating or as interesting as the first three seasons of the show. Some of the most iconic moments for me came from those three seasons: the introduction of the characters, Reptar, the clever pop culture jokes, the intellectual moments with the babies, Reptar on Ice, and so much more. When the show came back in '97 without Germain and the writers, it didn't feel the same to me. The animation looked a bit off, the babies were a lot dumber, and the episodes don't feel as much inspired. This isn't something that I noticed when working on this tribute: I felt the same way when seeing it when I was a kid. At the time, I didn't know why it didn't feel the same: now I do.

When I first saw Rugrats in Paris in theaters when I was 12, I felt the same way as everyone else: I had loved it! But looking back on it now, it's a cluttered, confusing mess. There are so many story arcs going on at once: you have the babies, Angelica, the adults, the monkeys, the ringmaster and his assistant, the park rangers, and the news reporter Rex Pester. Also, it seems that there are way more pee, poop, and butt jokes on this movie than any of the Rugrats episode that they had shown at that point. Also, the soundtrack is a mixed bag. While there are some original songs like "A Gift from a Bob", "This World is Something New to Me", and the lullaby are nice and catchy, songs like "Take Me There", the altered versions of "Witch Doctor", "One Way or Another", "Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Yum" are just meh. The remaining songs are also forgettable.

Also, just like the majority of the people, I did not like the inclusion of baby Dil. I found him to be annoying and selfish. Sorry, Tara Strong, I love you and all, but I don't like Dil.

If you're not a fan of the show or if you have never seen it, it will confuse the hell out of you to know what's going on. This movie was catered to the fans and it does not do well to help newcomers explain the plot on what's going on.

However, there are some good things to it: the relationship between Tommy and Dil turn out nice at the end, the voice actors and animators all did a good job putting the movie together, and it's faithful to the show. But there are just too many flaws for me to recommend seeing Rugrats the Movie. If you like it, that's fine. But, it's not my favorite.

That's all for now. Tune in next time as we go into the year 1999 with The Brothers Flub.

Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Old School Lane's Nickelodeon Tribute: Animorphs

Around the late 90's, the world of literature is in a slight halt. The Goosebumps series, which were the most popular book series in the early to mid 90's, were waning down due to the newer books not up to par with the old ones. If you were a girl, then most likely you would be reading The Babysitters' Club book series.

If you were a boy, then most likely you would have read Animorphs.

The teen series written by K.A. Applegate involved with six kids, five humans and one alien, having the ability to turn to any animal they touch any animal they desire. They use their powers to fight off an evil alien invasion called the Yeerks. The Yeerks were parasitic aliens who can take control of any creature they want as long as they have a brain. The series would focus on one characters' narration discussing about their lives and their adventures. It would focus on serious problems such as war, leadership, horror, morality, freedom, and the struggles of growing up. At the time, it was so captivating for kids to read something so action packed and serious. It was great to have six kids with different books telling their narration. If you didn't like one character or story, you can read about someone else.

The book series was so popular that Nickelodeon decided to make a TV series based on it simply called Animorphs.

 When they announced it, many Animorphs fans were so excited for it. They thought to themselves "Wow! It'll be just like Goosebumps! They'll get the same characters and story structure from the book! I can't wait to see what Jake or Tobias or Ax looks like! I'm can't wait!" Does it still close to the book series? Well, let's see and find out. Here's Animorphs, the TV series.

The show starts off with the introduction of our main character and leader of the Animorphs, Jake (played by Shawn Ashmore) Marco (played by Boris Cabrera), Tobias (played by Christopher Ralph), Jake's cousin Rachel (played by Brooke Nevin), and Cassie (played by Nadia Nascimento). They know each other from school, but they get themselves acquainted more when they decided to walk home together. All of a sudden, Jake's Golden Retriever Homer runs away from the group and leads the group to an abandoned construction site. All of a sudden, a spaceship lands near the site and the kids went to see what's going on. An injured Andelite named Elfangor (played by Diego Matamoros) warns the kids about an alien species called the Yeerks who have the ability to control any creature they want as long as they have a brain have landed on Earth. They wish to control the humans which is called a Controller.

He lets them though that more Andelites are on their way, but it would take a year for them to get to Earth. By then, the world would already be ruled by the Yeerks. So he decided to give the kids the ability to turn into animals to fight off against the Yeerks by touching them. The animal DNA would be absorbed into their bodies and then they would turn into an animal instantly. He warns them to not stay in the animal form for more than two hours or else they would be that animal forever. All of a sudden, the Yeerk leader Visser Three (played by Eugene Lipinski) kills off Elfangor and find out about the kids. They escape in time without being controlled.

The next day, Jake's older brother Tom (played by Joshua Peace) invites him to a group meeting called The Sharing. It turns out that the group were Controllers led by their principal Mr. Chapman (played by Richard Sali). Tobias and Jake explore around the school and see that the school is crawling with Yeerks. They try to fight them off, but they get outnumbered by them and retreat. They call themselves the Animorphs and stop at nothing to fight the Yeerks until the Andelites arrive on Earth one year from that point.

Throughout the rest of the series, all the five characters go through many adventures fighting against the Yeerks. Along the way, a young Andelite named Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill (played by Paulo Costango) lands on Earth to assist the kids to fight against the Yeerks. It's discovered that he's Elfangor's younger brother.

The show lasted for two seasons ending its run on April 23, 2000. The actors went on to do other projects after Animorphs.

Shawn Ashmore has been in other movies and TV shows such as the X-Men trilogy as Bobby Drake/Iceman, Earth: Final Contact, The Famous Jett Jackson, Underclassman, The Outer Limits, Cadet Kelly, The Ruins, Frozen, Smallville, Earthsea, The Day, and The Following. He's married to Dana Wasdin, whom he met when doing Frozen.

Brooke Nevin has been in other movies and TV shows such as The Famous Jett Jackson, Twice in a Lifetime, I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, Skin, The 4400, Without a Trace, Charmed, The Comebacks, Worst Week, Call Me Fitz, Infestation, Archie's Final Project, and Breakout Kings.

Boris Cabrera quit acting in 2000 and became a personal fitness trainer.

Nadia Nascimento quit acting and is now the senior strategist for the Invoke Media software warehouse.

Christopher Ralph has been in other TV shows such as In a Heartbeat, Our Hero, Queer as Folk, 1-800 Missing, Murdoch Mysteries, and Republic of Doyle.

Paulo Costanzo has been in other movies and TV shows such as Road Trip, Josie and the Pussycats, 40 Days and 40 Nights, A Problem with Fear, Joey, and Royal Pains.

Eugene Lipinski has been in other movies and TV shows such as MythQuest, Screech Owls, Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye, Da Vinci's City Hall, The Fringe, and The Listener.

Joshua Peace has been in other movies and TV shows such as Paradise Falls, True Blue, Cube Zero, The Sentinel, You Might as Well Live, Grey Gardens, Survival of the Dead, Devil, and Red.

When the show first came out, it was not viewed by many people. The people who weren't familiar to the Animorphs book series were confused to what was going on in the show. Also, the time slot was really bad with it airing around Monday nights instead of Saturday nights when SNICK would be airing shows like All That, Kenan & Kel, etc. It was nothing special to them and it prevented the kids from reading the book series fearing that it would be similar to the TV series that they didn't care for very much. For the people who were beyond excited about the series, they instantly hated it! First and foremost, there were so many changes from the original source material that it irrated the fans who saw it. Some of the characters' personalities, animal transformations, plots, and storylines were completely different in the TV series from the original book series. It was a huge disappointment for the fans of the shows!

One year later in 1999, a new book was released to the public that came from an unknown author from the United Kingdom. It was called Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. It was a gigantic hit! It had captivated a whole generation of kids and had gotten kids to read again!

When the Harry Potter movie came out in 2001, it was also a gigantic hit with many of the fans satisfied seeing the movie transistioned very well on the screen. Around the same time, the Animorphs series was completed and since then, it has been forgotten. Mostly due to the TV series on Nickelodeon, it killed the Animorphs craze instead of made it more well-known. Then when Harry Potter came out, the Animorphs series was left in the dust and it became Scholastic's highest rated book series to date. If you never read the books, the show is confusing, inconsistent, the CGI is terrible, and a bit dull. The TV series had the potential to be fantastic  with its unique concept, memorable characters, interesting villains, and dark messages. But the major changes that they did had steered away both new comers and fans alike. There's a reason why the Animorphs TV series is hugely forgotten. I don't recommend checking out the TV series. You're better off reading the original Animorphs books.

That's all for now. Tune in next time as we conclude 1998 with a review of Nickelodeon Movies' third feature film and Klasky-Csupo's first, The Rugrats Movie.

Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.