Movies / Animé and Toons

Uncle Grandpa – Good Mornin’


By Hervé St-Louis
April 7, 2015 - 07:45

Uncle grandpa is the result of one of those animation tryouts that studios and networks attempt once in a while to infuse new blood in television animation. Created by animator Peter Browngardt, Uncle Grandpa is an affable problem solver who helps children across the world with his crew of weirdoes which include a talking pizza slice, a fire-breathing dinosaur and girlish tigress. The DVD includes twelve episodes from the Uncle grandpa series that plays on Cartoon Network, in the United States.

Uncle Grandpa was one of the animated shorts in the Cartoonstitute sponsored by Cartoon Network to brainstorm new animation pilots. This creative process is similar to the one that encouraged Nickelodeon to air Canadian John Krifalusi’s Ren & Stimpy, Peter Hannan's CatDog, and John Murray’s Rocko’s Modern Life in the 1990s. Networks feel compelled from time to time to let animators animate without interference, psychologists and educational scholars dictating the contents and the scope of animated television to protect children from having fun.

Uncle Grandpa follows the grand tradition of cartoons that have no educational value aimed at children and adults alike for the sake of it. In fact, Uncle Grandpa spoofs the magical helper trope that comes into a person’s life to solve an immediate crisis. But unlike Touched by an Angel or Highway to Heavens, Uncle Grandpa usually messes up the person’s life before everything magically resolves itself and a lesson is learned. The subversive consequence of the episode is that viewers have learned nothing good and been exposed to pure stupidity for about eleven minutes. If the viewer seeks to make sense of the previously watched episode, she will face a wall of confusion.

Uncle Grandpa is inspired by wacky and random cartoons from a previous era where characters lived in a world governed by cartoon physics and logic. Everything is pointless and convenient only for the moment where it is needed. Otherwise, any storytelling element, prop or character is dismissed. Here, we see influences of Felix the Cat, Ren & Stimpy and other slapstick forms of cartoons but with an angular design by Krifalusi. Many episodes, however, borrow from The Regular Show’s ethos and gags. It seems easier for the animators to reach out for that kind of madness rather than sustain original stupidity for eleven minutes. For example, the gag of having a piece of pepperoni removed from Pizza Gus to torture him is used more than once in various episodes.  Krifalusi never allowed his team to reuse gags, even if they were very good. Such reuse produces episodes that appear to be wacky and nuts but are framed with a circular logic and memes from another series.

Hence, Uncle Grandpa in these episodes is still finding itself as a series. It wants to be crazy but does not reach for full dementia. It leaves the viewer sitting between two chairs. One set of viewers will feel exasperated by the nonsensical cartoon drama. The other set will sense the potential of the pure genius never really achieved by an animated series that still feels compelled to explain itself to viewers and keep some form of internal logic. A good example of cartoon logic and physics in Uncle Grandpa is the inside of the winnebago's inside which expands and is not constrained by the physical limits of the vehicle.

The animation has touches of what I call the new Cartoon Network golden age. It is simple character design that avoid the Disney line drawing of the past and the angular and stylized Hanna-Barbera of the 1970s. Uncle Grandpa, although redesigned by Krifalusi, does not look much different from other Cartoon Network series such as Adventure Time, Gumball, Steven Universe, Regular Show or Clarence Mystery Piñata.

The voice acting in Uncle Grandpa is good. Don’t expect any extras in the disc included. I laughed a lot while watching this series. My friends didn't. Uncle Grandpa is definitely an acquired taste.

Rating: 7.5 /10

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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