As many of you should know, Cartoon Network's Cartoonstitute was cancelled a few months back, with only 14 shorts completed out of the targeted 39 (check this out for the list of shorts and creators). This is just one of the 14 that were made, and at the time of writing, none of the others have been leaked so far. Also, the leaked Manny and Khan short doesn't even have the ending. . .
Name: The Awesome Chronicles of Manny and Khan
Running Time: 7-to-8 minutes
Network: Cartoon Network
Leaked: July 18th, 2009
Created by two inexperienced animators, Manny and Khan started out slightly different from the final product. It started out as "Bigfoot & Gnome," and was pitched on June 5th 2007 to Craig McCracken and Rob Renzetti. They both liked the idea, but wanted the characters to be more unique in appearence. Gnome, after a lot of revisions became Khan (a dwarf wearing a leprechaun costume). Bigfoot, after a lot more thought, ended up as Manny (a man-o-puss: half-man, half-platypus). With McCracken and Renzetti both accepting these versions of the characters, the short when into production. So now that we have the backstory, let's begin the review.
The plot of this short was simple and basic: two friends play with a ball. The short starts with Khan refusing to play with Manny, insisting that he has important work to do. To quiet his friend, Khan throws the ball down and helps Manny get down to the ground and retrieve the ball. However, he discovers that he has been tricked by the Man-o-Puss, since he can't get back up the tree without his friend's help. When Khan finally decides to play, seeing no other option, the real fun begins. With both of them pretending that the grass surrounding the ball is lava, they conjure numerous plans to retrieve the ball.
To be honest, the cartoon gave me a warm feeling while watching it. It reminded me of one of my favorite episodes of Spongbob Squarepants: "The Idiot Box." In that episode, the characters of Spongebob and Patrick spent the majority of the 11 minutes using their imagination to have fun. The same is done here: an ordinary idea such as fetching a ball is utterly boring on its own. However, when they imagine that the stuff surrounding it is actually lava, it suddenly becomes an adventure. The duo must come up with with some pretty creative ideas to get that red rubber ball back. I won't spoil the methods used to get the ball, but I will say that they were nice to watch.
It would be foolish to say that John Kricfalusi's animated series Ren and Stimpy didn't have an effect on the short. The show pretty much redefined animated series (at least for a child audience) when it hit the airwaves back in 1991. In fact, near the beginning, when Manny was asking Khan to play with him, the character sounded EXACTLY like Stimpy. And the way these characters interacted also seemed a bit like Ren and Stimpy. But the only reason why I won't call them R&S knock-offs is for the simple fact that we barely know the characters. In Josh Lieberman's own words:
I believe both Joey and myself know a lot more about these characters than is presented in the cartoon. It is hard to know everything about a person from a single seven minute conversation, heck, you probably won't know anything about that person realistically. He or she will be categorized within the larger compartments of your brain as a general archetype until further information is gathered.
The backgrounds for this short were nothing short of perfect for it. It really did feel like a dense forest, gave off a nice Little Golden Book feel, and the characters never seemed to be out of place in this world. The fact that the character's live inside a tree with a huge hole in it is pretty absurd, but no stranger than a pineapple underneath the sea. The voice-acting was also pretty great, and felt like they truly belonged to the characters. Thus, they truly came to life above my eyes.
So why did I give this series a "B," despite loving a lot of the material? Some jokes, like the "magic carpet" (darn, gave away one of their methods) fell flat, due to their predictability. The short is also home to a good amount of screaming, something that I don't think the animation world needs anymore of. The Awesome Chronicles of Manny and Khan: a good try by two animation rookies, and I always find myself watching it over and over again.
*You can see the short yourself at the Big Star Animation Studios website. Go to clips, and click on the picture of "Manny and Khan."