In 10 Words or Less
Buy the cartoon shorts you saw for free online!
Likes: Seth MacFarlane, American Dad!, Family Guy
Dislikes: A DVD with little content
Hates: Weak extras
Think about the average episode of Family Guy. As much as anything else, you'll remember the asides, when a character mentions a situation or pop-culture reference, and the show cuts to that awkwardly segued moment before cutting back. Though they are wedged in with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, they tend to be pretty funny. Now, imagine if Seth MacFarlane only made those asides. Well, imagine no more, as we have Seth McFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy.
Originally produced for online distribution through YouTube via a promotion with Burger King, the Cavalcade is made up of 50 short cartoon clips (very short, as the whole thing is about 53 minutes long) run back to back to back, with nothing connecting them. The bits are all over the field when it comes to subject matter, but watching them, they would probably be perfect interstitials for a sketch show like SNL, but stand fine on their own. Some feel a bit like animated The Far Side cartoons, others are like situational stand-up bits ("I think it might go something like this...") So if you ever wondered what it's like when a Scotsman yells at his TV or what a cat business meeting is like, here's your chance to find out.
As one might expect from watching MacFarlane's network shows (or more precisely, the DVD versions of those shows), when he's unleashed, he doesn't hold back, so you get a lot of cursing, a lot of sex and a lot of scatological humor, with the usual heaping helping of cartoon and pop-culture references. As a result,the Cavalcade is filled with bits like "Sex with...," which shows what sex is like with a variety of people and things, including Mr. Sulu , Dick Cheney, a tube of toothpaste and a Transformer, or "Four Years of Entourage in 10 seconds," which lets you see what Francine and Lois are hiding (sort of.) If any bit in this collection exemplifies MacFarlane without the reins on, it has to be "Name that Animal Penis," which is shockingly nasty, yet incredibly funny, and not funny because it's shocking, but because of how well it was written.
The best bits here are so quick you barely get to laugh before they end, like the simple, yet effective "Barry Gibb Rides a Roller Coaster" (just reading the title should let you picture it), the 10-part "Things You Never Hear," "Jeff Goldblum Wafers" and the horrific, yet adorable, yet ridiculous "What Happens if You Feed a Dog Chocolate While He Wears a Tin Foil Hat in the Microwave." While MacFarlane is smartly playing to his strengths, like the filthy musical number in "Dirty Vaudeville" or the bizarre meshing of cartoons, pop-culture and imitations in "Backstage with Bob Dylan," sometimes, you get the feeling that the cartoon is actually overkill, as you may just need the title, as is the case with "Dracula Meets Magic Johnson" or "Why Bob Marley Shouldn't Have Acted as His Own Attorney."
There are some bits that simply don't work as well as the others, like the pointless Scotsman sketches, which is just a guy yelling at a TV in an accent; an extended joke about what would happen if Wiley Coyote caught the Roadrunner; and a clip of Fred Flintstone taking a dump. Unsurprisingly, most of the bits that don't work are the longer segments, which should be recognizable to Family Guy fans, as they linger on the screen far beyond the point of being funny, becoming funny again, and then going unfunny again. Thankfully, the failures aren't frequent, and are largely outnumbered by the more enjoyable bits, but when they appear, like the one about being stuck in a life raft with Matthew McConaughey, they are serious comedy speed bumps.
Here's a list of the segments on this disc, which is entirely uncensored (as far as I can tell) (other than a seemingly pointless black censor bar on the breasts on the menu screen):
- The Frog Prince
- The Scotsman
- Patient Zero
- Cat Staff Meeting
- Mountain Climber
- The Bartender Says...
- Name That Animal Penis
- Die, Sweet Roadrunner, Die
- Sex with Part 1
- A Fat Guy Working Out
- The Gay Knight
- A Douchebag Unicorn PSA
- Fred Flintstone Takes a Shit
- A Dog on the $25,000 Pyramid
- Super Mario Rescues the Princess
- Stuck in a Life Raft with Matthew McConaughey
- Two Persian Guys Try to Get Ladies Into Their Sports Car
- He Who Lives in a Glass House...
- Sex with Part 2
- Tarantino Performs a Circumcision
- Fred and Barney Try to Get Into a Night Club
- The Wizard of Oz, Adjusted for Reality
- Monkeys Talk About Religion
- Marital Troubles
- Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road
- Sex with Part 3
- Backstage with Bob Dylan
- Barry Gibb Rides a Roller Coaster
- Mad Cow Disease
- The Scotsman Part 2
- Dirty Vaudville
- Beavers: Assholes of the Forest
- A Trip to the Psychiatrist
- Fat Jesus
- Dracula Meets Magic Johnson
- The Sneeze Throw-up
- The Settlers' First Attempt to Buy Manhattan
- Why Bob Marley Shouldn't Have Acted as His Own Attorney
- Jesus and Vishnu on Christmas Eve
- Ted Nugent is Visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past
- Four Years of Entourage in 10 Seconds
- Tara Reid is Not Looking So Good Lately
- Things You Never Hear
- Small Talk with Aunt Helen
- Two Ducks Watch Meet the Parents
- Jeff Goldblum Wafers
- Marie Antoinette's Notepad
- Sheep Shearing
- What Happens if You Feed a Dog Chocolate While He Wears a Tin Foil Hat in the Microwave
We received a screener of this title, so no idea as to what the packaging is like, but the disc features a static, full-frame menu with options to watch all the cartoons, select clips, adjust languages and check out the extras. There are no audio options, though subtitles are available in English, Spanish and French, along with closed captioning.
The screener disc is digitally watermarked, which negatively affects the visual quality of the full-frame transfer. If we receive a final retail copy, we'll update this review.
The disc sports a Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack (the menu says 5.1, but no LFE registers), a step up from the online presentation, but the clips don't really lend themselves to any kind of impressive audio, made up mostly of dialogue, and the occasional bit of music. What is there is delivered well, without any issues with distortion.
This may be the first ever MacFarlane project released on DVD that has no audio commentaries, from him or anyone else. The only video extra is a short report from the "red carpet premiere" (people sitting around watching TVs and drinking.) Running a little over four minutes, it has interviews with people involved in the show, like McFarlane and Seth Green, as well as fans, including Heroes' James Kyson Lee and hottie actress Rachel Sterling, but it's mostly a fluff piece.
The other extra is a stills gallery, broken up into three sections: rough models, cleaned-up models and colored models. Each section has well over 100 entries, (the cleaned-up and colored sections push 200) though there are some repeats and omissions. But if you want a nice clean image of MacFarlane's version of Optimus Prime, Barry Gibb or Fat Jesus (or want a good look at cartoon sex organs), you'll find it here.
The Bottom Line
These short cartoons are a great format for McFarlane's brand of comedy, allowing him to get in there, get his laugh and get out, so he can't succumb to his tendency for overlong cringe-inducing gags. But with less than an hour of content and a real lack of extras, it's more of a rental than anything else, no matter how funny some of the gags are.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.