Doing its part to raise a new generation of goth chicks, the Discovery Kids cartoon "Growing Up Creepie" combines Hot Topic sensibilities with kids' general interest in all things gross, icky, and, well, creepy. It's a nice mix, whipped up with a catchy visual flair and plenty of attitude.
The series, which debuted on the Discovery Channel's kid-centric spin-off network in September 2006, follows the adventures of Creepie Creechur (voiced by Athena Karkanis), a pixie-ish middle school girl who was raised by insects. Never ones to judge, Creepie's adopted bug parents (a mantis and a mosquito) take in all types, and their extended family includes pillbugs, gnats, beetles, and more.
From that description, the show would seem to detail Creepie's beliefs that it's the humans, not the insects, who are nutty, and while there is a certain "Addams Family" vibe to this goth view of normality, the show's producers are quick to add an extra layer of open-mindedness to the proceedings. Among Creepie's best friends is the peppy, popular Chris-Alice (what a name!); in another show of this sort, her status as class president and activity hound would make her the target of laughs (or land her the role of snobby villain), but here, the two get along great. They don't understand each other most of the time, but that never stops them from being pals.
(We do get preppy villainy in the form of Melanie and Carla, two dim-witted popular girls, and watching Creepie deal with them provides us at times with a nifty "Daria"-ness. But in this series, it's not their preppy status that makes them villains, it's their behavior.)
Storylines often concern a lighthearted approach to the horror genre (kid-friendly horror, that is), which brings us to yet another TV comparison: "Creepie" feels most like an upgrade of the "Beetlejuice" cartoon, with a pinch of "The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy" thrown in for good measure. "Creepie" is a solid companion to both those shows, with its obvious love for spooky stories and weird monsters. It's no rip-off, though. This is deliciously original stuff.
Each episode ends with an educational tidbit related to the story. We learn about spider webs, or frogs' tongues, or what makes Mexican jumping beans jump, and Creepie's enthusiasm for the gross and twisted aspects of biology is sure to match up well with the fascination young viewers will have for that sort of thing.
Each episode of "Growing Up Creepie" offers up two 11-minute mini-episodes back-to-back. For the series' debut on DVD, "Growing Up Creepie Volume 1: Creepie Creatures," Genius Entertainment and Discovery Kids have picked seven random mini-episodes (one of them is nonsensically labeled as a "bonus episode") from the course of the show's two seasons. It's a grab-bag approach to the material, and although kids won't likely mind, some grown-ups will lament the absence of a complete season set, or at least a batch of complete episodes as they originally aired.
The (mini-)episodes included in this disc are: "Frogenstein," "Night of Fright," "The Case of the Mysterious Moth," "Creepie Friday," "Nightmare on Locust Street," "Are You Afraid of Moths?," and "Creepie's Living Doll."
Video & Audio
One of the show's best assets is its strikingly colorful animation, and the transfer here does not disappoint. Presented in its original 1.33:1 broadcast ratio, the colors pop amid the crisp bold lines. The Dolby stereo soundtrack occasionally leaves the music and effects a little louder than they should be in relation to the dialogue, although this isn't too much of a problem. No subtitles are provided, although the disc is closed-captioned.
The key bonus feature here is a complete episode of "Corwin Unleashed" that focuses entirely on "creepy creatures." It's a fun show (especially if you enjoy getting all squirmy) that fits perfectly with the mood of "Creepie."
A trivia game asks you questions about insects; an authoring error on my review copy left me unable to play.
The disc rounds out with a preview for other Discovery Kids programs.
Since I can't imagine a full season of "Growing Up Creepie" arriving on DVD anytime soon (if at all), I'll go ahead and say this collection is Recommended on the strength of the episodes alone, especially if you're looking for something fun to show the little ones on Halloween.