Beetlejuice: The Animated Series was a co-production animated series extravaganza (from both American and Canadian producers) which aired on television for four years (between being on ABC and Fox), and it ended its broadcast run with an impressive 94 episodes. The show was a collaboration from executive producers David Geffen and Tim Burton (who created the show based upon his successful 1988 Warner Bros. motion-picture starring Michael Keaton as the character everyone would call "Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!").
Unlike many animated programs based on feature films, the television program was clearly an attempt to branch out further from the film it was based on and to establish a cartoon world of similar if not altogether identical elements. The animated program follows the adventures of Beetlejuice and his best friend Lydia. In the feature film, Beetlejuice had a antagonistic role which varied from the character of the show, who is more likeable and goofball-like than a simply and altogether menacing type of fantastical character -- combine that dramatic plot difference and add in some changes to the fantasy world of the 'netherworld' and you have something akin to an "inspired by" but not directly similar series; it only borrows some of Burton's directorial elements for its own foray into storytelling.
The main character of the show is Beetlejuice, who is a netherworld ghost. The netherworld is similar to being an "afterlife" conceptually and he seems to stand out from the crowd in a way: with an array of special powers and abilities that other ghosts don't contain, Beetlejuice isn't a ordinary ghost, thus the origin of the favorite catchphrase "The Ghost with the Most!", which was actually spoken during the film and animated series. The character of Beetlejuice is quite peculiar. He often engages in creating various schemes to get rich (and quick) or to con fellow netherworld ghosts into helping him out financially or otherwise. He isn't always kind to those around him, including his friends and family. Yet there are moments when he demonstrates an immense heart that is ultimately pure. This makes his an interesting troublemaker character on the series; a character who you might want to shake your head sometimes but also occasionally root for as a likeably offbeat character in this uniquely animated universe.
Lydia is the second main character of the show. She is an intelligent and offbeat pre-teen girl, interested in goth-fashion, and who is somehow drawn to the strange ghost Beetlejuice as her friend. She doesn't feel like she fits into whatever the living world really represents to her; in other words, she feels as if she is an outcast. So she befriends a ghost who is an outcast in the netherworld; a ghost who is also an offbeat and kindred spirit without a clear idea regarding a way to "fit in" with the rest (in his case, with the ghosts, monsters, zombies, and other strange netherworld oddities). So these two characters are representations of different and perhaps the more socially awkward individuals out there.
This was something creator Tim Burton probably imagined as being a focal element of the series as he brought the animated program to life following his creatively different film. Something the series always seemed to suggest is that it's okay to be yourself and to be unique, creative, and an imaginative person. This seems like a good message for someone like Tim Burton to want to be able to share with kids and other audiences, because his unique brand of storytelling has always set him apart as a different kind of storyteller, but one who is always following his vision and heart as a filmmaker.
The animation on Beetlejuice isn't the most high-tech around, but it's within the offbeat stylistic flourishes that the show found it's style. There is something to be said about how creative and unique the art style of this program was at the time and how distinctive it remains today. The artwork was unusual but also what you might hope to expect for a program based on a film a creative visionary like Tim Burton came up with in the first place. The art of Beetlejuice was something that helped to make the show the unique creation that it was and it still stands as a creatively jubilant foray into an offbeat form of creative artistry.
The series represents the upmost quality that was attained from programs based on live-action feature films. These days, it's become a rarity to find animated series of high quality that are based on a film. I remember growing up with a variety of well made television programs of interest which were based on films, such as Men in Black and Jumanji's animated forays. It doesn't get much better (or more successful) than Beetlejuice: The Animated Series though.
With a quality production sensibility brought to the table by both Geffen and Burton, and a interchangeable storytelling format bringing both half-hour and quarter-length stories; with quality writing and direction from the team of artists involved in the show's creation, this is certainly a memorable and well-made animated series that delighted audiences with it's odd quirkiness and because of its joyful storytelling enthusiasm. It might not perfectly hold up to whatever you thought of the series growing-up, but it's still going to make for a nice nostalgia trip with Burton's sensibilities at the front and center of this animated program. This is truly a unique animated program and its one worth revisiting for longtime-dedicated fans of the series.
The series doesn't actually look all that impressive with regards to the actual presentation quality presented with this DVD release collecting the entire series. The good news is that the series has been preserved in the original 1.33:1 (full frame) aspect ratio. Unfortunately, beyond that small token of quality to appreciate, the PQ on this set is a strange mixed-bag with a varied degree of quality.
The episodes themselves do not have a set sort of standard for presentation quality, and it seems as though multiple sources must have been used because of how inconsistent the picture quality presentation appears throughout. Most every episode features weak contrast, poor color depth, minor specks of film print damage, and other minor imperfections which prevent the transfers from ever appearing as jubilant as the series animation would suggest. Episodes are not all in equal measure with regards to these imperfections and some episodes do have slightly better picture than other episodes throughout the sets, but the picture quality is generally standard television fare without anything done to improve upon the dated source material utilized to produce this complete series set.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio isn't anything to really "knock your socks off" either and don't expect for the audio to ever truly impress: this is another example of a television series being presented with a fairly standard stereo presentation that sounds dated with a degree of week bass, poor audio-depth, and without much distinction between the stereo sounds. This presentation has easy enough to understand dialogue and the music score sounds OK (if not particularly well-represented), and that's about it. Some audio hiss can be heard too: not too much was done in the way of trying to preserve the audio with a higher quality presentation.
There are no supplemental materials included on the Beetlejuice: Complete Series DVD release.
Beetlejuice: The Complete Series will appeal to longtime fans of the cartoon who can be happy in simply owning a complete set of the series in a box-set with all of the episodes from its four season run on television. Anyone looking for improved PQ/AQ will be slightly disappointed in the presentation, but the episodes themselves (and getting to have all of them in one set) will be the main selling point. As a child, I thought that the animated incarnation of Beetlejuice was an inventive and zany delight. Depending on your level of fandom for this series and the degree in which you want a nostalgia trip, this set could be worth picking up.