Now that this Caballero has a small child, the world of entertainment for kids has taken on much greater significance. Gone are the years of gleefully ignoring Barney, Teletubbies, and Elmo while pursuing my grown-up Snobbish delights. As I enter the frightening, uncharted world of children’s programming, it’s a small solace to gravitate toward any familiar characters such as Gerald McBoing Boing.
Unlike most other present-day kiddie cartoon characters, Gerald McBoing Boing has an impressive pedigree. The character and his story were conceived by the great Dr. Seuss for an animated short that went on to win an Oscar in 1950. This led to a few additional shorts and a TV special, but then the character disappeared from animation for the next 50 years. Oddly, the original short and two of its successors showed up as bonus features on the Hellboy special edition DVD release in 2004, which first brought the character to my attention. The concept was resurrected last year for a new series airing on Cartoon Network as part of their Tickle U. block of weekday morning children’s programming, leading up to these new DVD compilation releases.
Gerald McBoing Boing is a normal young lad with one exception: whenever he tries to speak, only sound effects come out. This leads to all manner of comic misunderstanding while Gerald tries to communicate with others through an array of squeaks, honks, and clanks. While this made for an interesting idea for the initial short, it becomes tedious for adults over long exposure to the new series.
Each episode apparently contains a rhyming short that follows the Seussian blueprint of the original, a couple of annoying “sound checks” that presumably act as commercial bumpers during TV broadcasts, and another non-rhyming short. Gerald is joined on his adventures by his dog and two other normal children who assist him in making his intentions known, as well as his clueless parents who never seem to be able to figure out what he’s trying to convey.
The show has a great look, especially the backgrounds. While the original short had a minimalist, fluid art approach to both character design and backgrounds, the new series gives the characters a slick, static look that pays homage to the original character designs but places them firmly in this century. However, instead of using realistic, modern backgrounds, the series hews closely to the original minimalist and surreal approach (also favored by the best of the Looney Tunes library), drawing in just the basic necessities and taking pains to color outside the lines to keep the look fresh and intriguing.
The series is aimed at children ages two years and up, and based on the episodes on these DVDs that appears to be a fair approximation of the audience that can tolerate the repetition of its concept. Older children will not be interested, and adults may find themselves dozing off during extended viewing, but Gerald’s arsenal of amusing sounds and situations should appeal to the toddlers. Gerald always finds a way to succeed in the end, so the show acts as a worthy lesson on overcoming obstacles.
As an added bonus, each DVD includes a mini Golden Book adaptation of the original Dr. Seuss story, perfect for story time and a proper introduction to the origin of the character. Buy these DVDs with confidence for the youngsters in your life; just make sure you’re not in the vicinity for long when they watch them.
Written By Caballero Oscuro