In general, there's a sense that the modern cartoon makes a distinct effort to be for both kids and parents alike. Aside from shows with an educational mandate (like "Dora the Explorer,"), the tendency to slip in a little subversive humor for the grown-ups watching these shows seems to be on the rise. I guess that's what I was expecting of "The Adventures of Gumball," which shares Cartoon Network airtime with fantastic kid / adult crossovers like "Adventure Time" and "Regular Show." Instead, the Y7-rated "Amazing World of Gumball" is aimed more fully at youngsters, who will probably enjoy this candy-coated creation more than I did.
The show follows the adventures of Gumball (Logan Grove) and his brother Darwin (Kwesi Boakye), who get into various situations, most of which involve their imagination. They are watched over by their parents, Nicole (Teresa Gallagher) and Richard (Dan Russell), and frequently accompanied by their younger sister Anais (Kyla Rae Kowalewski). Style-wise, the show blends its 2D animated characters with photographic backgrounds, computer animation, and even what looks like puppetry and toys.
Visually, the show is a knockout. From the poppy opening credits, there's definitely a strong sense of imagination in the show's cast of characters, ranging from an angst, deep-voiced T-rex to a cheerleader peanut with moose antlers. Even when the show was not entertaining me with its stories or characters, it's a blast just to look at. I have no idea why there's a talking banana among the cast of characters here, but it's fun.
The show's stories are generally built around simple moral lessons, presumably aimed at kids. The first episode, for instance, "The DVD," has Gumball and Darwin trying to devise a plan to deal with a broken rental DVD and the "final notice" letters piling up over it. I'm not sure if creator Benjamin Bocquelet intends for "The Amazing World of Gumball" to be a learning experience, or if these kinds of storylines are just whatever the writers happen to find funny, but it's there for kids to pick up on it.
Personally, though, "funny" felt a little anemic here. The show's jokes are not particularly edgy or biting; it's probably fun for little kids, but won't do much for anyone else. Slapstick is a big aspect, but something about the simplicity of the characters themselves limits the fun -- the animation stays relatively simple, even when it's going exaggerated for a gag. Admittedly, the show gets a little funnier as this collection progresses -- the dance number at the end of "The Meddler," the set's final episode, put a smile on my face, so maybe that's all part of "Gumball" growing pains more than an intended tone.
Episodes: "The DVD," "The Third," "The End," "The Quest," "The Laziest," "The Gi," "The Refund," "The Picnic," "The Mustache," "The Wand," "The Curse," "The Meddler."
"The Amazing World of Gumball": The DVD arrives in artwork that feels generally in the style of the show's psychedelic opening credit sequence, what with an explosion of colorful characters flying over a starfield background. Inside the white eco-friendly DVD case (the kind that uses less plastic, not the kind with holes), and inside the case, there is an insert advertising the "Amazing World of Gumball" portal on the CN website, and other CN DVDs on the back.
The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, "Gumball" looks approximately as good as "Adventure Time" does on SD-DVD. The image is colorful and free of any artifacts, but there's a hint of compression-related haloing around the bold lines of the animation. Fine, but not as good as the show could look, both based on the source material (I'm sure this show also airs on CN in HD), and just the capabilities of SD-DVD in general.
Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, which effectively captures the low-fi flute tones of the show's score and the bright, poppy dialogue. A little surround activity punctuates the slapstick from time to time, but this is a pretty straightforward aural presentation. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.
Only one "extra": a character gallery with very brief three-sentence bios for each character, accompanied by a single illustration. It's so anemic I can't even give it half a star.
Trailers for "Adventure Time": My Two Favorite People, "Adventure Time": It Came From the Nightosphere, "Regular Show": Slack Pack, and "" play before the main menu.
"Gumball" wasn't really my thing. Whether that was misguided expectations or just a reflection of the show (or potentially its struggle to find its footing) is not clear, but I wouldn't be surprised if other people went in with the same basic impression. I also have to believe (although I won't harp on it) that fans of "Gumball" won't like the random episode releases any more than "Adventure Time" fans do. Rent it, and see if it's something you enjoy before picking the disc up.
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