Tag Archives: flapjack

Scratchbomb Christmas Comedy Classics!

Around this time o’ year way back in 2009 and 2010, I did a series of posts under the banners of Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs, with at least one example of each for every day in December leading up to Christmas Day. I chickened out trying to do that again this year because I feared running low on material, but I think there are still some gems buried in the earlier posts that could do with some new exposure, if I do say so myself.

In that spirit, please enjoy any and all of these Holiday Horrors/Triumphs of years past, whether you’ve just been hipped to Scratchbomb or you want to reread these classics of yesteryear because they’re so awesome. Hubris!

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Adventure Time: Another Peak of Kid-Show-Dom

adventuretime.pngI believe we are in the midst of a Kids’ Show Golden Age. Granted, I often bitch about children’s fare on this site, but that’s the product of having to watch the same damn shows over and over, the accursed Groundhog’s Day scenario that afflicts all parents at some point. Regardless, when I was a little shaver, there was virtually nothing but garbage on TV kids. Nowadays, there are some bonafide masterpieces aimed exclusively at children.

I’ve written in the past of my love for Flapjack, Phineas and Ferb, and Yo Gabba Gabba (easily the best toddler-oriented TV show ever, non-Sesame Street edition). All of these shows have a certain amount of anarchic weirdness that can tickle the funny bones of both kids and adults. I wrote about them because I fear adults without little kids in their lives may miss out on treasures like these that would be right up their alleys. And I am doing so again, because I have recently discovered a show that can easily stand among these giants: Adventure Time.

Adventure Time, which debuted on Cartoon Network about a year ago, stars Finn, a young lad who longs to be a hero, and his best friend, Jake, a magical dog (voiced by John DiMaggio, better known as Bender on Futurama). Together, they roam the enchanted land of Ooo fighting all manner of evil.

Most of the plots revolve around Finn and his strict, self-applied codes of honor and chivalry, coupled with Jake’s love of doing nothing at all. Such as an episode in which Finn vows to rescue a little girl’s stolen flowers from the infamous City of Thieves, even though he is warned repeatedly by an annoying old crone that no one can enter the city and not become a thief. While Finn valiantly tries to rescue the flowers as they are literally being stolen anew every two seconds, Jake dives right into the city’s thieving ways, swiping a sweet pair of boots, just because.

Tellingly, Adventure Time was created by a former Flapjack animator, Pendleton Ward. It shares with Flapjack a crazed energy, warped universe, and unique style. Finn and Jake’s limbs wobble and extend at will, almost like ancient Disney cartoons. The landscapes through which they travel are just as mutable, liable to change at a moment’s notice. As Robert Lloyd put it in the Los Angeles Times, Adventure Time resembles “the sort of cartoons they made when cartoons themselves were young and delighted in bringing all things to rubbery life.”

In the context of the show, virtually anything can happen. New characters and wondrous lands are introduced in almost every episode, as befits a show that revolves around magic and adventuring, though there are recurring characters. Like the Ice King, an angry monarch with a penchant for kidnapping princesses. Or Lady Rainicorn, Jake’s girlfriend, a unicorn with a rainbow tail who speaks through a voice box interpreter (which usually only broadcasts in Korean). Or Marceline the Vampire Queen, who loves to play bass and hungers not so much for blood as the color red.

I should also mention that it is laugh-out-loud funny. Take, for example, an episode where Finn spares some sugar for a poor beggar who turns out to be a Magic Man. The Magic Man horrifies Finn and Jake by turning a bird inside out, then does Finn a “mystical magical favor” by transforming him into a giant foot. “Today a magical life lesson comes to you!” he insists, though the lesson itself is far from clear. Finn demands to be returned back to normal, but the Magic Man refuses–“Not until you appreciate what a jerk I am!”–and disappears in a burst of fireworks that spell out EAT IT.

I am also greatly amused by another episode in which Finn tries to help a whiny talking mountain who is upset because he is forced to watch a nearby town of “roughhousing marauders.” Finn tries to mute the bad guys’ roughhousing by tying animals to all of the bad guys, which only bothers the mountain more. (“That was terrible! Now the men are just punching animals!”) You won’t soon forget the sight of tough guys with mice and cats strapped to their fists punching each other.

I’m just scratching the surface here, and I also fear these descriptions make the show seem saner than it is. Adventure Time is straight-up bonkers in the best, most organic way possible. It can’t really be understood unless experienced, because it truly is an experience. It’s unlike almost anything else on TV, kid- or adult-oriented. It could definitely slot into the Adult Swim lineup, alongside Aqua Teen Hunger Force et al, and not seem out of place at all.

The show’s tone and philosophy is probably best understood by this bit of dialogue, which comes at the end of one episode where Finn and Jake had adventured their way into and out of trouble:

JAKE: Let’s never be stupid again.

FINN: No, let’s always be stupid–forever!

Holiday Triumphs: “Low Tidings”, the Flapjack Christmas Special

flapjack2.jpgAs previously stated, I love Cartoon Network’s The Misadventures of Flapjack. It is one of the craziest, visually innovative, and funniest kids cartoons in existence today. But my love recently transformed into MEGA LOVE, because The Baby and I watched the Flapjack Christmas special, “Low Tidings”. It may be the greatest Christmas special of the last 10 years. For real.

In the Flapjack universe (which I explain a bit in that link above), every winter they celebrate the miracle of Low Tide Day, when the waters beneath The Docks recede and children hang their boots over the side in the hopes of getting presents from Poseidon if they’ve been good. But the bad kids get “sacked”: thrown in a sack by a gang of angry, muscly mermen and tossed around violently (kinda like a maritime version of Krampus).

Bubbie the Whale (who does double duty as Flapjack’s mother figure and house) always leaves The Docks during Low Tide season because she needs water to live. Captain K’Nuckles (Flapjack’s adventuring mentor and negative role model) always leaves because he’s rotten and doesn’t want to get sacked. He still harbors childhood trauma from his own youthful sackings. But Flapjack wants to see what Low Tide Day is like (and sings many badly rhyming songs to this effect), so Bubbie leaves him and K’Nuckles behind.

Flapjack marvels in the wonder of the season, while K’Nuckles desperately tries to find a hidey-hole so he can avoid a merman beatdown. Unfortunately, much of The Docks’ hiding places are already occupied by other miscreants. In his effort to avoid a sacking, K’Nuckles engages in more bad behavior that makes a sacking even more likely than before.

I don’t want reveal too much about how the plot resolves itself. Suffice to say, Poseidon rethinks the whole “pummeling people with sacks” thing and decides to change many features of Low Tide Day, thus resulting in a more Christmas-y holiday .

“So it doesn’t matter if you’re good or bad anymore?” cries one desperate Dock resident.

“Nope, pretty much everyone gets a present now,” Poseidon nonchalantly explains, and spirits himself away.

I’ve never seen a special that so captured the wonder and mystery of the holidays while equally depicting the sadness and weirdness of them. Maybe A Charlie Brown Christmas, although in a very different way, of course. Flapjack even managed a subtle poke at religion, via Poseidon’s benign but totally arbitrary rules for his followers.

As much as the show seems to aim jokes and references at parents, kids
love it. At least my three-year-old does. I realize she may not be the
best barometer of what all kids will like, since she has a fondness for
The Simpsons, Predator, and destruction. But I say, if your kid doesn’t like Flapjack, just write him/her off. You know they’re never gonna be cool.

This special is nothing short of genius. I demand the entire world watch it and prepare a 500-word essay on why it’s the greatest thing ever.

Flippin’ for Flapjack

As a parent, I’m always on the lookout for something that may warp The Baby. Not so much to shield her from harm (apart from the obvious evils), but more to spot True Weirdness that may shape her in the future.

By True Weirdness, I don’t mean someone/something that tries real hard to be weird. Some Williamsburg hipster in a handlebar mustache and a Billy Jean pleather jacket does not have True Weirdness. I’m talking about a creative expression so undiluted and genuine that the practitioner has no idea (s)he is being weird. Like some guy who lives in the middle of nowhere and who’s never been to a gallery and has no artistic ambitions at all, yet feels compelled to make sculptures out of old mufflers and crankcases.

Sadly, most kiddie fare is devoid of True Weirdness, unless you consider the preternaturally wholesome world of Barney weird. (/thrusts hand up high) SpongeBob Square Pants can get completely insane at times (in a good way), and has plenty of jokes that go way over kids’ heads. SpongeBob makes me laugh on a consistent basis, and I like that it provides steady work to Mr. Show alum Tom Kenny. Still, it’s hard to call something as popular (and lucrative) as SpongeBob Truly Weird.

There’s Yo Gabba Gabba, which is complete audio/visual crack for parents who grew up with Nintendo. And I have to applaud any kids’ show that regularly features Rahzel, Biz Markie, and Mark Mothersbaugh. But it also tries very hard to be hip. It succeeds to be sure, but this self awareness keeps it from being Truly Weird.

I have only discovered one Truly Weird kids’ show, and it is as strange as anything I’ve ever seen on television: The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. It airs on Cartoon Network, and could totally be part of the Adult Swim lineup if it had more pottymouth. But unlike the Adult Swim shows, I don’t get the sense that it’s trying to be weird. Its simply dedicated to a bizarre mini-universe whose architect has no idea how weird his visions look to the rest of the world.

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