Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Look At Monsters vs. Aliens: The TV Series




One of my all-time favorite CGI animated comedies is Monsters vs. Aliens (2009), a loving tribute/sendup of the pulpy sci-fi flicks from the "Atomic Age" of the '50s and '60s. What I didn't know was that MvA went on to become a short-lived CGI cartoon on Nickelodeon that ran from March 2013 to February 2014.

I found out about this series completely by accident last month when I was scrolling through my digital cable TV menu and saw an ad for MvA that looked familiar but included characters that I didn't recognize from the movie. Boy, was I surprised--not just to find it, but to see that it's a worthy follow-up to the movie that should have lasted longer than a single season. Read on for my complete review.

Running at 26 episodes that still air as reruns on Nickelodeon, MvA picks up shortly after the events of the movie (and, presumably, after the two specials that followed--Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space and Night of the Living Carrots). The cast of characters is the same as the movie--Susan, Link, Dr. Cockroach and B.O.B.--and the actors who voice the TV versions of the MvA characters do a great job at taking over from movie cast, although I found myself missing Steven Colbert as President Hathaway. The only movie character that does not return is Insectosaurus (a.k.a. Butterflyosaurus). I've read that this character was too complex to animate on the TV series' budget, so it was left out without a single mention in the show.




Since this show has the words "versus aliens" in the title, it introduces a set of four new alien characters who interact--and clash--with the monsters in their secret military base named Area Fifty-Something. The new aliens are:
  • Coverton (as in "covert"), a large-brained creature who claims to be visiting Earth in peace but is secretly planning an invasion--and failing spectacularly every time.
  • Sqweep, an adorable pint-sized alien school student whose activities in Area Fifty-Something are part of an interstellar educational exchange program.
  • Sta'abi (which sounds like the word "stabby"), a Klingon-like warrior who is always ready for combat--and will engage in combat anyway if there is none to be found.
  • Vornicarn (an anagram of "carnivore"), Sta'abi's pet/hunting companion that has the appearance of a giant purple lizard but the personality of a high-strung dog.
The humor in MvA hews closely to the kind seen in Looney Tunes cartoons--plenty of sight gags, clever word play, and over-the-top physical comedy that only cartoon characters can do without being permanently injured or killed. Since its plots are derived from sci-fi B-movie tropes, MvA frequently relies on the absurd and strange as the source of comedy. Furthermore, because most of the half-hour episodes are divided into two segments, the jokes move at a nimble pace. MvA may not be as sophisticated or "edgy" as Futurama, but it's a family-friendly sci-fi comedy that should entertain the younger crowd while featuring enough sly jokes to amuse older sci-fi fans.




Sadly, Nickelodeon cancelled the show after one season due to low ratings. I can understand how the sci-fi-themed humor might not spark the interest of Nickelodeon target demographic, but it's a shame to see such a good-humor and well-done cartoon fall by the wayside simply because it was aimed at the wrong audience. If you love sci-fi humor with a heavy dose of manic physical humor, you'll love MvA. You can check out the official Nickelodeon MvA site here, and you can also watch episodes on YouTube.





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