There's a general rule about popular-characters-as-babies cartoons, and it's this: you get to see the popular characters as babies. Not as adults. Babies. Seems simple, yes? Ah, but did anybody explain this to the creators of "Baby Felix & Friends," a series in which Baby Felix is constantly walking through a time-portal mirror and then running into his older self. Huh?
"Baby Felix" is, I am told, a series created by Don Oriolo, son of Joe Oriolo, the man who brought "Felix the Cat" to TV in the 1950s. "Baby Felix" debuted in Japan in 2000 (all accounts indicate it was made with that nation's audience in mind); it came Stateside with the "& Friends" added to the title. A hypnotically disastrous blend of classic American cartooning and Japanese anime, "Baby Felix" straddles the fence between uninspired kiddie fluff to painfully wretched TV disaster. (The English dub makes it an even more bizarre experience, with the oddly placed ahs, ohs, and various other pauses and grunts that voice-over folks have to put in to fill in ill-fitting mouth movements. It's anime dubbing as done by squeaky cartoon talent. Weird.)
The show's theme song should do a good job of explaining just where the cartoon stands. Here's a sample lyric:
Felix as a baby, Baby Felix!
There's also a song about how "it's fun having fun," and I'm really hoping all the parts that actually make sense got lost in the translation somehow.
Each "Baby Felix" short runs around four or five minutes, and the TV episodes collect a handful of these shorts that connect in a running theme; there's a show on Baby Felix playing baseball, another about the Professor trying to break into Baby Felix's magic bag of tricks. Putting the shorts together in this manner makes sense in terms of filling up a half hour, but watching them this way reveals all too clearly how redundant the series is. Not only in terms of storytelling, but in animation - many shots are repeated as a cost-saving device. The repetition will wear you down and may very well sap your soul.
Accompanying the shorts in each episode are a series of dim-witted kiddie songs, most of which tell of how much fun it is to have fun. You know, the kind of songs written by people who think all children are imbeciles. The songs play over clips from the shorts, which only adds yet another layer of mind-numbing redundancy. (And if the theme song and the "fun" song sound bad, wait until you hear the gem about "Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Let's go see the world!" Sheesh.)
Something else that strikes me as wrong with this series: his name is actually Baby Felix. Sure, it's a decent way of separating Baby Felix from Old, Classic Felix, but constantly hearing the character be called Baby Felix is a bit… off. Someone in script department took things a bit too literally, and the result is a mess. (And yes, there's also a baby Kitty, who is called Baby Kitty.)
First National Pictures is planning on bringing several collections of "Baby Felix" to DVD. "Baby Felix & Friends: His Magic Bag of Tricks" is their first offering. Knowing very little about the series, I'm only guessing that this is a random/theme-based assortment of episodes and not a chronological set. Included on this disc are:
"Baseball-O-Rama" Baby Felix travels to the future and learns the best way to help his older self win as baseball is to cheat! What a great lesson for the kids.
"Magic Bag Mania" Another journey into the future, with Old Felix giving Baby Felix his very own magic bag of tricks. He learns not to use the magic bag for mischief, unless the plot calls for it.
"The Professor Is Bad News" The Professor keeps trying to steal the magic bag and figure out what's inside. If you think this idea might run thin after a few minutes, you'd be right.
"The Great Outdoors" Baby Felix and Friends go camping and get lost. Unfortunately, they find their way back.
"Mirror, Mirror" Baby Felix's bedroom mirror has magic powers. Oddly enough, we already knew this from previous episodes, as Baby Felix uses it to time travel. But here, he forgets all about it so he can learn all about it. Whatever.
The episodes can be selected individually or by using a "play all" feature. There are no chapter stops within the individual episodes.
There's nothing impressive about the mediocre-at-best animation, and while the transfer is serviceable, it does nothing to help improve the weak look of the series. Presented in the show's original 1.33:1 broadcast format.
The Dolby Stereo 2.0 reveals the lousy dubbing in all its shabby glory. The original Japanese soundtrack is not included. Neither are any subtitles.
None on the disc itself. The DVD package states that a set of Baby Felix stickers are included, but they were not provided for this review.
As much as this show stinks, I do admire First National for fitting a full 110 minutes of programming onto one volume; most studios go the cheap route on their kiddie releases, with under an hour (sometimes under a half hour!) on one disc.
That said - yowza, this is one terrible television experience. In researching the show for this review, I've discovered that serious Felix the Cat fans are none too happy with this show at all, and I can see why. "Baby Felix" is an unwatchable mess. My daughter gave the series some mild interest, but it was more of the "oh, the TV is on" and not the "oh, I like this show" variety. Me, I couldn't bear to watch more than ten minutes at a time. It's the kind of inept, dumbed-down kiddie fare that seems made only to fill the gaps in the early morning schedules of desperate UHF stations and basic cable networks. Even if you're wanting to check it out for mere curiosity, don't. Instead: Skip It.