Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cartoon Review - The Secret Saturdays

It was the year 2007. I was surfing the internet as I always do when I stumbled upon the official website for Cartoon Network's 2007 Upfront. Happily, I went to check out the 'Upcoming Shows' section, which showed five shows which would premiere. Well, Cartoon Network's try at live-action programming, Out of Jimmy's Head, failed and was cancelled back in June. Santo is currently somewhere in development hell. And Chowder and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack became hits. But on that day, one show stood out for me the most...The Secret Saturdays. Upon reading the plot and watching the Sizzle Reel, I went to Wikipedia and created the TSS Wikipedia page. I had the feeling that this show would be awesome beyond words and would be one of the greatest American action shows ever. And, upon watching it TWICE last night and once today, I have to say I was pretty close to right.

Creator(s): Jay Stephens

Rating: A

Premiere: October 3rd, 2008

Yesterday was my birthday, and of course, The Secret Saturdays and Star Wars: The Clone Wars (review on that on Tuesday) were the shows I wanted, no, needed to watch. So after grabbing some birthday cake, and sitting through the last three minutes of Johnny Test, I watched the greatness that was TSS (The Secret Saturdays). Oh, and one of these days, I have to do something on the "You Are Here" block, since that was one great intro. I'm going to like that King Nood...anyway, let me start this thing...

The Secret Saturdays is about the adventures of the Saturday family and their exotic cryptid pets. Traveling the world, it's up to them to keep the existence of cryptids (creatures undiscovered by science) secret, to protect both mankind and the cryptids themselves. And along the way, they have to tangle with twisted villains like V.V. Argost (host of the show Weird World; which was at the center of Cartoon Network's viral campaign for the show) and Van Rook (a rival cryptozoologist whose just in the cryptid biz just for the money). And the basic plot for the first 26 episodes (2 seasons) is that:
Now that V.V. Argost has gained the gotten Kur Stone, the Saturdays have to find him and try and stop him from using it to find the ancient Sumerian cryptid Kur, and take over the world.
Now, it may sound a bit cliche (with the whole 'good-guys-must-stop-bad-guy-from-taking-over the-world' plot), but I really like it. An animated series about cryptids a truly a new idea, and the execution is pretty great. Globe-trotting and stopping the bad has a real Johnny Quest-vibe, which is a GOOD thing. How can you not love it!? Also, in case you're wondering, there are going to be quite a few stand-alone episodes in these 26 episodes, so you can jump on in at any time (though you might have to watch "The Kur Stone" is get some things).

At times, the show can get a bit dull. The writing can be cheesy and awkward at times, and the timing is sometimes a bit off when it comes to dialogue. But I think that the timing problem will get fixed over time. I won't really comment on the sometimes stiff animation, due to the fact that since this is the pilot, it's the first animation that was done for the show. So I'm sure that it will get better over time too. But I must say that the art is fantastic. In fact, Jay Stephens actually based the art design on Hanna-Barbera's 60s animated action series (aka The Herculoids, Johnny Quest, etc.) and Alex Toth's art style. This really helps give the show a nice old-school Saturday morning feel that adds to the show's greatness.

Now the characters a pretty good too. I like Zak's energy and personality. I can understand his need to prove himself to his parents, but sometimes he just doesn't do it the right way. Seeing as nearly killed himself half-way during the pilot episode and was the cause of the airship crashing in the Amazon Rainforest, I see why his mom is worried for his safety. Doc and Drew are also pretty good characters. An interracial relationship isn't new in animation, but it certainly is pretty rare. And I also like how it isn't the "stupid dad-smart mom" thing that has started to become common in animation these days. They are both strong, competent characters that are pretty interesting. And they balance each other out: Doc is the calm, slightly-skeptic scientist while Drew is the impulsive, believing-before-seeing mystic. And V.V. Argost...he just has to be one of the best villains in recent animation history. He's harsh, creepy, secretive, and shows no mercy. He's just one of those villains who just seem to be evil for no reason, and it really works here. And the cryptids are pretty funny at times, while also being able to be threatening at others. It's great.

All in all, The Secret Saturdays is now one of my favorite shows. Two scientists, their son, and a few of goofy pets appear to be the winning combination for Cartoon Network. And with Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Ben 10: Alien Force, it will dominate Friday nights. The Secret Saturdays get an ever-loving A from me. Great work, Jay! Oh, and Brandon Sawyer and Scott Jeralds too.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Even More Animation News

Cartoon Network Airing Action Movies In Toonami's Place

For possibly the rest of the year, in place of the now defunct Toonami block, Cartoon Network will now be airing an animated action movie each week, with new Naruto episodes airing bi-weekly. The film roster includes Batman: Gotham Knight (October 4th; 9pm), Justice League: The New Frontier (October 18th; 9pm), and Dr. Strange (November 1st; 9pm). Here is the schedule:
It is rumored that Naruto the Movie 3: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom* will air on Saturday, November 8th at 9pm.

*Network Premiere

On Sunday, October 12th at 7pm, a new Halloween special from Billy and Mandy creator Maxwell Atoms will appear. Entitled Underfist, the hour-long special is spin-off from his previous series The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, and features the characters Irwin, Jeff the Spider, Hoss Delgado, Fred Fredburger, and General Skarr. When an evil witch makes an evil army of "Trick-or-Treater Eaters" with plans to take over Endsville, it's up to Underfist to take her down. The special is to air after a 5-hour GAoBaM marathon.

On Friday, November 14th, the newest Batman animated series (The Brave and the Bold) is to premiere on Cartoon Network. The series, unlike the currently popular Nolan films starring a dark Batman universe, this show returns to a more light-hearted Batman. That doesn't mean Batman is going soft however. It's just going to be the overall tone of the show. In this show, instead of seeing Bat's regular rouge gallery, they're going old-school and showing off some of the Gotham Knight's lesser-known adversaries (such as Clock King). Most episodes will have Batman outside of Gotham City and teaming-up with several other heroes (such as Plastic Man). Oh, yeah, and Diedrich Baker is voicing Batman this time around.

Yeah, only three news items this time. Hey, I was going to add a fourth, but I decided it would be better to say that one in November.

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