Tag Archives: TV Review

DVD Review: “CatDog Season One, Part One”

CatDog Season One

Shout! Factory

Kids don’t like weirdness in other kids; they hate it and will fiercely beat it out of each other. They do, however, love and prefer their entertainment to be weird and zany, but palatably cartoony, as possible. This is why kids love cartoons, and why Nickelodeon has done so well with its in-house Nick Toons line in the ‘90s — bizarre cartoons in which creators were left free to create shows as oddball and even dark as they wanted, so long as they were still technically appropriate for children. The first three Nick Toons, debuting in 1991, were Doug (with its multi-colored people and mouth-noise soundtrack), Rugrats (seen from the extremely hazy and unreliable viewpoint of babies), and Ren and Stimpy (not appropriate for children whatsoever). More followed throughout the ’90s, such as Angry Beavers and The Wild Thornberrys, allowing Nickelodeon to fine-tune the weirdness while still making them marketable to kids.

CatDog represents a triumph of the weird meets the fun. It’s about conjoined twin brothers, a two-headed, apparently non-defecating animal, in which half was a cat and half was a dog. And they hated each other, but were forced to get along. So that’s a frequent semi-message. But really, the show was an excuse for classic voice actors to shine and for writers to make subtle jokes about how weird this situation really is, and how it could have possibly have come to be.

Out now on DVD from Shout! Factory, noble guardians and rescuers of overlooked pop culture, is the first half of the first season of CatDog, from 1998. It seems like a test of the market, to oil the nostalgia machine for this Nickelodeon product the way Teen Nick’s “The ‘90s Are All That” has revived interest with the adults who watched Nickelodeon shows when they were kids. The CatDog love seems to be there — as I write this, I’m watching Billy Bob Thornton on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, who casually mentioned that prior to his work on Puss in Boots, his major voice acting work was in CatDog, which got a huge round of cheers from the studio audience.

CatDog is a little bit lost in the canon of ‘90s cartoons, but it’s a great collection of fun cartoon tropes, closer to old Looney Tunes or Tex Avery stuff more than it is to cynical ‘90s cartoons, what with its direct opposites working together, exaggerated reaction shots, and easily fooled villains. Simply put, it’s about Cat, who is prim and proper, because he’s a cat, and his body-mate brother Dog, who is excitable and id-driven, as he’s a dog. They’re like an old-timey comedy team that hates each other slightly more than they love each other, and that pays off when the two-headed creature fights each other, or itself, as it were. CatDog’s voice pedigree is especially impressive, with names notable to animation nerds: Jim Cummings (the voice of Winnie the Pooh) plays Cat, Tom Kenny (the voice of Spongebob) plays Dog, and other voice actors include Carlos Alazraqui, Billy West, and Maria Bamford.

Another good thing about having kids: if you don’t like the pop culture of the current era, you can expose them to stuff that you liked. Show them CatDog if you’re sick of them watching the same Spongebob episodes for the umpeenth time. It’s just as wacky, knows what kids like, and gives it to them on their own level, if not a little above their level.

DVD Review: “Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Yo Ho, Mateys Away!”

The flagship animated franchise for Disney Junior, Jake and the Never Land Pirates has earned impressive ratings for the network since its February debut, and it’s easy to see why: It’s colorfully animated, with reliable Disney storylines revolving around adventure, teamwork, and friendship, and it draws on a venerable studio franchise without totally cashing in on its most popular characters.

It also boasts a pretty incredible voice cast, with talented voicework vets like Jeff Bennett (who plays Mr. Smee) rubbing shoulders alongside live-action stars like Madison Pettis, Ariel Winter, Colin Ford, and — yes, you’re reading this right — David Arquette as a talking parrot. (The list of recurring cast members is even more eclectic and/or impressive: Tori Spelling, Lisa Loeb, Adam West, and Sharon Osbourne have popped up in the cartoon cove.)

As cartoons go, Jake is fairly unremarkable, although its blend of bold color lines and swashbuckling adventure certainly puts it a cut above the sort of franchise cash-in it could have been. Jake (voiced by Ford), Izzy (voiced by Winter), Cubby (Jonathan Morgan Heit), and their pet bird Scully (Arquette) spend their days foiling Captain Hook and Smee’s ineffective plots, earning gold doubloons for teamwork along the way, with musical interludes as they go. The storyline beats will be familiar to anyone who’s ever seen a cable cartoon, but it’s all smartly done and extremely enjoyable for the target demographic.

This DVD set culls seven episodes from the first season’s 20-episode run, which seems unnecessarily chintzy, but to make up for its lack of comprehensiveness, Yo Ho, Mateys Away! bundles in a seven-song soundtrack CD and an “official pirate eye patch.” The patch is about as cheap-looking as you’d expect, although I suppose Disney deserves credit for making them out of fuzz-lined pleather instead of plastic.

All in all, you get about three hours of Jake and the gang for your $14.99, plus some music and the patch — not a bad investment for your next long car ride, and worth a spot in your family DVD library if you live with fans of the show.