Monday, May 23, 2016

RR Dexter's Laboratory

Omelette du fromage.

Omelette du fromage, omelette du fromage. OMELETTE. DU. FRO-MAAAAGE.

Name: Dexter's Laboratory, also known as simply Dexter's Lab
Created by Genndy Tartakovsky
Original run 1995 to 2003
Genre Science-fiction comedy animated series

If you find yourself completely lost by that introduction above, then you probably missed out on Dexter's Laboratory, also abbreviated as Dexter's Lab!

The show was created by Genndy Tartakovsky, who went on creating several other cartoon classics such as Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars and Sym-Bionic Titan (and more recently directing the CGi animated film Hotel Transylvania and its sequel).

It was made for Cartoon Network and produced by legendary animation studios Hanna-Barbera Productions, in the same style of their classic series which would be the basis for most of CN's further original creations.

It was the first show to come out of "Cartoon Cartoons".

It was based on one of Genndy's student films he made while attending the California Institute of the Arts. He then wrote, directed, produced and animated the two short films that would become the basis for the entire series.

A first pilot aired on Cartoon Network in February 1995, a second one played later in March 1996 before the show being finally greenlit.

The show was launched off the anthology series What a Cartoon! like many others at the time, the last one being Ed, Edd n Eddy. The goal being this series was to showcase original Western animation and showcase some potential new shows, following an inspiration from Nickelodeon. A lot of shorts would be made into full actual shows following positive potential reactions. While Dexter was the first one and the most popular, several others would follows such as Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, I Am Weasel and The Powerpuff Girls!

The original idea behind the show came from a doodle Genndy Tartakovsky did, pairing a ballerina-type tall thin character with its direct opposite, a short stocky blocky pointdexter, hence where the name from Dexter would even come from!

The show is heavily stylized in pure Tartakovsky style, inspired by classic Merrie Melodies cartoons, using limited details on purpose for animation purpose, kind of similar to the classic Hanna-Barbera style CN would try to emulate over the decade.

There's two distinct Dexter's Laboratory series.

The show ran for 4 seasons for a total of 78 episodes. What is now consider the "original series" aired from August 1996 to December 1999. After that the series was revived for another 13-episode third season and even received a 4th one for a second run from November 2001 to November 2003. These later seasons saw Chris Savino taking over as creative director from Genndy Tartakovsky, with new revised designs for the characters and a new voice cast!

The series follows Dexter, a boy-genius who has a secret lab in his bedroom! Dexter builds all sorts of crazy almost mad scientist-style inventions which often fail despite his high intellect, often for his careless decisions.

Dexter lives at home with an overly friendly happy family, a dad and a mom who never notice anything, and his hyperactive sister Dee Dee

His annoying sibling ends up destroying most of his inventions. He tries to keep her out of his lab, but with little success...

Finally there's also this neighbor, Susan "Mandark" Astronomonov. In several ways, his mirror opposite. Mandark also has the same type of laboratory hidden in his bedroom, just like Dexter. Only he appears slightly more evil and always seems to be after power or destroying Dexter's work. The only weakness of this rival? His love for Dexter's sister Dee Dee! 

The main focus in the show is Dexter's inventions and the endless possibilities they offer!

Our main character Dexter himself is a lot of fun, perfectly voiced by Christine Cavanaugh in seasons 1–3 and later Candi Milo in seasons 3–4. He has this great funny accent that no one in his "all-American" family uses, simply explained away by the creators by saying "He's a scientist; he knows he needs some kind of accent". Dee Dee herself was voiced by Allison Moore in seasons 1, but she didn't really consider herself a voice actress so she got replaced by Kathryn Cressida in seasons 2 and 4. She somehow just returned for season 3 briefly.

Episodes on the show were typically composed of 3 short segments, each about 8 minutes long. Around these segments there were some funny animations. And usually the middle segment was reserved for other characters.

They attempted to spinoff some other shows from Dexter's Lab, but they remained contained to minor segments in Dexter. Both of these segments mostly played out in the first season of the show.

The first one and more popular was Dial M for Monkey, which focused on Dexter's pet monkey who somehow obtained superpowers but never revealed it to the world, pretending to just be an ordinary regular Monkey (voiced by noneother than Frank Welker!), working for a SHIELD-style organization and partnered with Agent Honeydew as well as other random superhero parodies.

The other one was a cult favorite but it never manage to work great with kids (probably because the concept was a tad bit too strange for little kids and it mostly relayed on dialogues). Maybe they should have waited for the superhero invasion on the big screen before coming out with this one. The Justice Friends followed 3 superhero roomates who share an apartment - Major Glory (Rob Paulsen), Valhallen (Tom Kenny) and the Infraggable Krunk (Frank Welker again). This one featured a ton of allusions, jokes, references and parodies of superheroes pop culture, mostly riffs on Marvel Comics characters. It had a sitcom format and even had a laugh track!

Pictured above, the first season here features the first 13 episodes of the show (for a total of 39 segments). Those are some of the finest episodes of Dexter, although some of the better ones would only come out from season 2!

The first 6 episodes all contained a Dial M for Monkey segments, while the rest of the season featured The Justice Friends.

Nevertheless, those are some of the most memorable episodes of the show. The first episode, the pilot, perfectly encapsulates the whole show. Testing an animal-transforming remote device Dexter and Dee Dee end up in a tug-of-war without the parents finding out...

Dee Dee is turned into a giant and Dexter must use his giant Robo-Dexo suit to fight her! They travel through time! Dexter builds a Mom-droid! He dusts off his Robo-Dexo suit for a revenge dodgeball game! He transplants Dee Dee's brains. Becomes old man Dexter to watch a late movie night. Gets a T-Rex for a pet. A crush on his babysitter Lisa has him play again with his age. And let's not forget the classic episode where Dexter tries to learn French for a test and ends up stuck repeating a single phrase - "Omelette du fromage"!

Dexter's Lab was a really fun series. Maybe one of Genndy Tartakovsky's earlier work, but it's now considered a timeless classic from Cartoon Network's golden age. 

The Dial M for Monkey were really funny, but some of the Justice Friends fell kinda flat.

The voice acting really brought the show together, both Dexter and Dee Dee's voices are now iconic. Dee Dee is kinda annoying with her ditzy nature but Dexter's accept is just perfect and oh, so random!

It's always a fun show for a rewatch, these episodes are highly rewatchable. It's a perfect example of a good 90s cartoon. Thanks to the stylized look it doesn't even feel outdated and still holds up to this day.

Finally, it had some great atmosphere and musical score, composed by Thomas Chase and Steve Rucker for the main series, and Gary Lionelli for the Dial M for Monkey and The Justice Friends segments.

Overall, Dexter's Laboratory is a defining childhood cartoon classic, it's still really fun to revisit every now and then after all these days. Highly Recommended for any cartoons fan!

It is without a doubt one of the most successful and popular CN original series right along The Powerpuff Girls. The show would go on winning several awards and nominations over the decade. Most notably, it helped launch the career of several modern cartoonist such as Craig McCracken, Seth MacFarlane, Butch Hartman and Rob Renzetti who all worked on the show as animators and writers.

Over the years there's been several video games, comics, toys and all sorts of collectibles based around the show.

Until not that long ago, the show was only available on a few episodes-specific tapes. Then Madman Entertainment released the show again for Australia, and finally Warner Home Video decided to start releasing the show on DVD worldwide. The first season was first released on home media through the line Cartoon Network Hall of Fame line Warner had been using to re-releasing a few popular cartoons from the 90s. This is not a perfect Season 1 set, as it has been edited omitting a Dial M for Monkey banned short replaced by some Season 2 episode as well as another segment cut short. 

The later seasons, Mandark would clearly become more evil and not just a rival to Dexter but an actual enemy. All of his machines would get a more industrial and angular look. The season 2 finale "Last But Not Beast" is a big epic crossover with the casts of The Justice Friends and Dial M for Monkey segments which would see Dexter get in a giant monster fight while his family is visiting Japan, in which his parents would finally found about about his secret lab... before erasing their memories! Speaking of censoring, no complete set of the entire show exists to this day reprinting the legendary censored segment titled "Rude Removal" (from season two actually), where Dexter tried to diminish Dee Dee's rudeness only to end up with a bunch of swearing clones. That one has only been played to a few animation festivals and it never aired on CN (even though the swear words are actually censored, just mocking the censors). It has been finally uploaded on on January 2013. 

Finally, there's also a TV movie produced in 1999, titled Dexter's Laboratory: Ego Trip which was intended as the series final when Tartakovsky moved to a new series, Samurai Jack. But that's when the show was revived for the later two seasons with a new production team - for the grand total of four seasons and 78 episodes.

I give it:
3 / 3 Felixes!

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