For a couple of years now, Mondo Mini Shows have been creating and releasing grotesque little funny animal cartoons called Happy Tree Friends on their website. Once a cult following started developing around this little two minute vignettes of violence, they wised up and started releasing the episodes on DVD with some interesting extra features, so that friends of the cult series can enjoy the episodes any time they want and without the aid of a computer.
So what exactly are the Happy Tree Friends? Think cutsey kids cartoons gone horribly, horribly wrong. The closest and most obvious influence would be the Itchy And Scratchy segments from TV's The Simpsons but Happy Tree Friends makes the gleeful violence of that show look like a walk in the park. The kills in this show are more inventive, more disgusting, and a whole lot more violent. Sometimes they actually border on disturbing, but if you sense of humor is sick enough, there's not disputing that these malicious little bastards are damn funny. Just don't be showing them to your three year old.
Sure, sometimes it gets a little repetitive and the theme song will start to drive you crazy after the second or maybe the third time you've heard it, but the repetition and redundancy is part of the show's charm. We know that the characters are going to get killed off and we know it's going to be ugly, but the fun lies in how it happens and how the creators will come up with new and inventive ways to gross us out and make us laugh at the same time.
Now that the series has taken off (with merchandise available at your local Hot Topic in the mall…..blech!), the time would seem right for Mondo Mini Shows to launch the Happy Tree Friends – Third Strike, an all new compilation of cartoons featuring a few that haven't been seen before online and a pair that are exclusive to this DVD and are seen here for the first time ever.
The episode line up on this DVD is as follows (and yes, there is a 'play all' option):
Out of Sight, Out of Mime
The Way You Make Me Wheel
Better Off Bread
I Get a Trick out of You
Shard at Work
Water Way to Go
Out on a Limb
Keeping It Reel
A Hard Act to Swallow
Let It Slide
Dino-Sore Days (bonus episode featuring Buddhist Monkey)
Books of Fury (bonus episode featuring Cro-Marmot)
The fullframe 1.33.1 image retains the original aspect ratio of the cartoons as they were shown on the internet. Visual quality is pretty good – the colors are bright and vibrant, especially the reds used to often in the kill scenes. There is some edge enhancement and a bit of mild shimmering in a couple of spots but there's nothing in the way of print damage or mpeg compression to note.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is actually really good on this release. It's not really demo material for your home theater system but the surrounds are used quite often, especially when the sound effects come into play. Dialogue is minimal at best as the cartoons don't really talk much but everything that is there comes through nice and clear without any problems.
There are quite a few nice bonus features on the DVD, starting off with a pair of funny little Happy Tree Friends commercials. There's also a commentary over each episode from the creators where they discuss all manner of things from the reaction some of the cartoons have received to what went into thinking up the whacked out ideas executed in the show. There's also a commentary from the sound effects crew that covers what it takes to get the show up to speed in the sound effects department – seeing as the sound does play such an important part in the gags, this makes for an interesting listen.
Rounding out the supplements are a Follow The Yellow Rabbit feature (which I'm not going to explain as I don't want to spoil it), a few Happy Tree Friends comic strips and fan art submitted by viewers and members of the Happy Tree Friends message boards. There's also a Vision-O-Rama feature that lets you experience things through the eyes of your favorite Happy Tree Friend, which can prove to be a little dangerous!
Mondo Mini Shows has upped the gore and the laughs for the third, and so far the best, volume - Happy Tree Friends – Third Strike. Nice a/v and some fun extras make this one highly recommended for fans of gross out humor.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.