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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Comedy > Happy Tree Friends Season One, Volume Three (BCI)

Happy Tree Friends Season One, Volume Three (BCI)


Picture: C Sound: C- Extras: D Episodes: D



Some time in the last ten to fifteen years, blood and guts became funny, especially in animation. Seeing a character being mutilated, cut to pieces, impaled, squashed and splattered is supposed to be hilarious. A cute little animal playing on a gym set falls and has an accident resulting in it exploding on the ground in a massive wave of blood. This is funny? The producers of The Happy Tree Friends think so. We've gone from Bugs Bunny hitting Elmer Fudd on the head with giant mallet and flatting his skull to everyone of these Happy Tree characters having their bodies splattered over every thing in sight.


The difference between these two acts of cartoon violence is that in the next scene Elmer is back to his old self and being set up again by Bugs for the next round of retaliation. We the audience always knew that these classic characters would be OK because by the end of the cartoon they were usually back to normal. Not so in The Happy Tree Friends. In some of these cartoons, the mutilated characters bodies lie around in this state for the rest of the short.


Over the years there have been plenty of cartoon characters that have used exaggerated violence to stop their antagonists from bothering them for any number of reasons. Tom and Jerry, Woody Woodpecker, Daffy Duck and others have all indulged in this type of story telling. The difference between these classic characters and The Happy Tree Friends is that there is a reason for retaliation and most importantly, a story with a plot. The Happy Tree Friends is violence for the sake of violence. What little plot there is in these cartoons is all set up for the way these animals are going to be destroyed. The simple act of trying to hammer a nail and missing it and hitting your thumb is gross out humor with these animals. When the hammer strikes the thumb, its hand and half of his arm is blown away and blood gushes out like Niagara Falls. If a character accidentally walks into a door way while looking behind him, its body is split in two and hits the ground as its innards shoot up like a geyser.


These are just a couple of examples of ridiculous violence that is to provoke laughter in these unfunny, disgusting cartoons. In one 'toon we watch a squirrel drown graphically, watching it turn colors as it tries to free itself from some barbed wire, then see it's eyes pop out and it's lungs explode. If that wasn't disgusting enough, the dead animal is then used as a scarecrow.


The only real stand out character of The Happy Friends is Mole. An odd little rodent that wears a turtle-neck sweater up to his nose. The character is sightless and carries a cane. His only characteristic is to be an unending source of tasteless blind jokes.


The Happy Tree Friends try to be like Itchy and Scratchy from The Simpsons, the difference being that while very violent, Itchy & Scratchy is a parody of the classic aforementioned cartoons. And they are funny in this context. Ultra-violence is world of The Happy Tree Friends and it is just not funny. I'm not one for censorship, but I am glad to see that the box clearly states that this is not for children rated "CV" for "cartoon Violence".


The character design for these animals is a cross between something that you would see on Nick Jr. and the Japanese icon "Hello Kitty". It would be easy to confuse this with something you would purchase for kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, etc. The animation is done in "Flash Animation" (limited animation done with the computer), which seems to be the trend with newer cartoons. The designs can look nice, but it's all the "jerky" motion that is annoying. The music is "cheesy" and sounds "canned". It's supposed to sound like it something you would hear on any PBS children's show. The characters talk in a weird series of grunts, moans and groans. High-pitch squeaks, laughs and screams are how these animals communicate. It's all very annoying. One of the DVD's extras is called "Voices of Doom" were the voice-over actors explain how they come up with the "dialogue". This is even more annoying. And stupid. The theme song (continuing the annoying trend) is sung in "La-La's", and it sounds like a bunch of kids hopped up on sugar, speed and helium.


When you put the DVD into your player, after the F.B.I. warning, the disc immediately goes to the episode guide instead of the main menu. The DVD is slow to respond to the remote control commands. It takes about six to ten seconds for anything to happen on the screen. To be sure about this, I even tried the DVD on my computer and the same thing happened. More annoyances to an already annoying experience? You be the judge. The sound and picture are not so impressive to the point that I was even less impressed with the 1.33 X 1 image and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound here than the last critic who tackled the show on this site.


The DVD's extras include the aforementioned "Voices Of Doom", the cartoon's storyboards, and a feature called "Previously On The Happy Tree Friends....." which is nothing but blood and guts violence scenes from previous episodes.


The commentary track features Producer David Ichioka, Director Kenn Navarro and Writer Ken Pontac. All that these people can talk about is how "brilliant" the ideas are that they used when they came up with the ideas (i.e. gags) for these cartoons. If this is brilliance, I'm glad I'm stupid.


I'm not trying to sound like a prude when it comes to The Happy Tree Friends, but this stuff is just dumb. And I like dumb characters. Beavis & Butthead, Ren & Stimpy, Bullwinkle J. Moose, Goofy, Pinky the lab mouse from "Pinky and the Brain" are just some of the few "goofs" and "smart goofs" that I enjoy because they are funny. The Happy Tree Friends just simply are not.



- Marc Greisinger


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