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SOUNDBITTEN'S GUIDE TO ONLINE ANIMATION


Note: For those of you busy people who do not have time to read our short reviews, we provide a visual rating system designed to convey our assessments in the most economical fashion possible. The metric we use to determine a show's relative merits is the "Katzenberg." Unlike most ratings systems, ours operates on the principle that more is less: that is, four Katzenbergs mean the show is awful, three means it's fair, two means it's good, and one means it's excellent.



Title: "Anita Bomba"
Site: www.wildbrain.com
Media: Real and Windows Media



If there's one rule worth following in the entertainment business, it's this: Never write the lede for a bad review. The last thing you want to do is give the bastard who is about to trash your Web show an easy place to start. Case in point: "Anita Bomba." Anita isa a bomba -- a disastrous bomba. The alien-world adventures of a shapely, bomb-chucking thief and the doleful cop who pursues her, "Anita Bomba" suffers from nearly every malady that can afflict three minutes of animation: lackluster voicing, worn-thin visual and genre cliches and woefully Schwarzeneggerian dialogue. The characters are ugly, the action is off-screen and even the coloring -- a failed noir that looks more like sepia -- says dull, dull, dull. Can't say the title didn't warn you, though. Greg Knauss (10/30/00)



Title: "Joe K. Citizen"
Site: www.television.com
Media: Flash



Well, as horrible as, say, "Sex and the Inner City" is, at least it has a semi-inspired, if largely unexploited, concept at its core. "Joe K. Citizen," on the other hand, is a series about a guy named Joe K. Citizen. Joe lives in the suburbs, he has some children, and he likes to barbecue. In other words, he's a lot like Hank Hill. The twist here? Unlike "King of the Hill," "Joe K. Citizen" isn't funny. Which isn't much of a twist, as far as twists go. But who knows? Maybe future episodes have some surprises in store. For example, maybe Joe K. Citizen isn't a citizen at all. Maybe he's actually an illegal alien, from Canada. That would be something, wouldn't it? A Canadian who likes to barbecue? Well, it'd be something more than this, anyway. G. Beato (11/06/00)



Title: "Katbot"
Site: www.katbot.com
Media: Flash



Well, we like Half Japanesey, Ramonesy, Sleater-Kinneyish guitar noise as much as anyone. And we like talking alien cats too, so you think we'd like "Katbot," which features a talking alien cat who travels from outer space to Long Island to study teenage Earthlings and listen to indie rock. And to a certain extent we do like "Katbot." Like many real cats and many real indie rockers, Katbot hides her various anxieties under a varnish of superficial detachment, and so there's lot of promise for humor there. But in the first episode, at least, "Katbot" mostly comes off like a less realized version of Daria, who herself comes off like a less realized version of Janeane Garafalo. While it's nice to see an online series that goes for subtlety rather than shock value, "Katbot" could ultimately use more bite. G. Beato (10/30/00)



Title: "Kozik's Inferno"
Site: www.wildbrain.com
Media: Flash



Animators bitch endlessly about the pressures put on them from above and below, and the cruelly restricted channels separating them from their audiences. Well, the web has supplied formerly marginal animators with that channel at last, and for the most part they have done dick about it. Case in point: Frank Kozik's "Kozik's Inferno."

"Kozik's Inferno" is a cartoon retelling of Dante's Inferno, but with a Porky Pig clone as the narrator and the afterlife depicted as a modern bureaucracy. It's hard to say which gag is older and unfunnier -- Disney and Warner Bros. wore the first joke thin by mid-century, and R. Sikoryak put it to bed for good with his brilliant Raw features like "Blonde Eve" and his own "inferno" starring Bazooka Joe. As for Minos portrayed as a Judge Judy-style gavel banger, and Richard Nixon dutifully serving his new fiefdom as the gatekeeper to judgement, America's editorial cartoonists can rest easy knowing that no convention has been violated.

This is a story that would benefit from some decent visual storytelling, but in an effort to conserve bandwidth, I imagine, nobody moves more than they have to, and expressions have a way of not changing. As for the script, it's mostly just faux-classic comics paraphrases of Dante, delivered in a stuffy, faux-British voice, setting up sight gags that aren't much interesting. Formally, this might be the best that the web can provide, given the technical complexities of pushing visual motion through limited bandwidth. But the much more limited bandwidth of Kozik's imagination isn't getting fixed any time soon. Stuff like is why I get groggy when I hear the words "web animation." Give me streaming porno any day. Josh Ozersky (11/06/00)



Title: "Modern Living"
Site: www.hoogerbrugge.com
Media: Flash



Over 75 minimalist scenarios of existential, surreal angst from some guy in the Netherlands named Hoogerbrugge. In "Drunk," he wobbles around in his trademark black suit as a disorienting tape loop plays. Mouse over him and he hiccups. Click on him and he unloads great streaming jets of stylish orange vomit. Very European! G. Beato (11/06/00)



Title: "The Paula Principle"
Site: www.icebox.com
Media: Flash



So much for the Web as the great play-field leveler. "The Paula Principle," written by "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David, is so much better than the standard online fare that it almost makes you believe that those Hollywood guys know what they're doing. More a promising start than anything brilliant in itself, "Paula Principle" offers up a suddenly terrified presidential candidate - "I'm an idiot!" he wails - and enough grounded animation and voicing to let you forgive the lack of outright laughs. It's a rare show that leaves you wanting more - and if "The Paula Principle" ever returns from its current two-month hiatus, we'll be first in line. Greg Knauss (11/06/00)



Title: "The Prom Queens"
Site: www.z.com
Media: Flash



The press release announcing "The Prom Queens" describes the show as a cross between "Josie and the Pussycats" and "Sex and the City." Well, it's almost as funny as "Josie." And just about as musically adept as "Sex and the City." So, sure, we'll buy that description. Actually, we're being a little too mean, probably. The original songs featured in each episode of "The Prom Queens" are better than that annoying "Sex and the City" theme song, and definitely the best part of this series. On the other hand, while the show's three main characters have been color-coded to match their "Sex and the City" prototypes (there's a blonde-haired slut, a dark-haired prude, and an acerbic redhead), their uninspired banter crackles like, well, what would crackle even less than a sack of soggy goose down? Forget the "Sex and the City" ladies, these characters are barely a match for Jack, Chrissy, and Janet. With its unconvincing girl talk and constant references to pore strips, douches, "deoderant re-dos," and hairy toes, we thought perhaps "The Prom Queens" was the work of a couple of male, middle-aged Procter and Gamble brand managers, but a sitcom writer named Jillian Tohber is the show's actual creator. Allegedly. We're sticking with our Procter and Gamble theory for now... G. Beato (11/06/00)



Title: "Queer Duck"
Site: www.icebox.com
Media: Flash



Seeing as how it's the year of the homosexual on TV, what with that "Will and Grace" Emmy triumph, it comes as no surprise that Icebox.com - which makes no bones about its desire to sell its wares to TV - is tackling homosexuality with its new series "Queer Duck." For the most part, it's a fresh take - if, at the very least, because all of the main characters are talking gay animals. Featuring Queer Duck, Openly Gator, Bipolar Bear, and Oscar Wildecat, tart scripts by Simpsons writer Mike Reiss, and hilarious voicing by semi-celebrities (Jm. J. Bullock, Rupaul), "Queer Duck" provides a handful of laughs per episode. In addition, prolific web animator Xeth Feinberg ("Hard Drinkin' Lincoln", "Bulbo", "Astro Chimp") gives "Queer Duck" a charming, sweetly colored visual veneer that contrasts well with the show's no-holes-barred debauchery. But while "Queer Duck" hits more than it misses, the quality of the scripts has dropped since the first episode. Queer Duck, the character, is a one-trick pony - er - duck. He's just really, really stereotypically gay. Three episodes from now will we still want to listen to anal sex and drug jokes? Well, maybe. Does that mean we're gay? Jami Attenberg, 11/06/00



Title: "Sex and the Inner City"
Site: www.romp.com
Media: Flash



The theory must be that a grimace can be mistaken for a grin, because that's the only possible explanation for the over-the-top offensiveness -- and complete dearth of laughs -- in "Sex and the Inner City." If you manage to ignore everything in this feeble, one-note parody of "Sex and the City" that isn't racist or classist or stereotyped or just stomach-turningly gross, you're left with, well, not a whole lot. The graphics are nice when not intentionally ugly and the voices and sound effects are well-handled, but, Lord, are body-cavity searches funny? Bullet-destroyed skulls? Rat disembowelment? Squeeky-squeeky sex noises? The series has so far averaged what is identifiably a joke every five minutes or so, resulting in a grand total of one (1) vague smile and a heaping wheel-barrowful of throat-constricting disgust. There's rarely been a better argument against the First Amendment. Greg Knauss (10/30/00)



Title: "The Wonderful World of Oz vs. Oz"
Site: www.romp.com
Media: Flash



Coming up with the premise for "Oz vs. Oz" must have been exhausting, because nearly everything else in the premiere episode of this weirdly pointless show is mournfully lackluster. A bizarre combination of "The Wizard of..." and the HBO prison series, "Oz vs. Oz" places a 98-pound weakling -- quickly dubbed "Dorothy" -- in a cellblock populated by toughed-up versions of the Scarecrow, the Lollipop Guild and the Tin Woodsman. Though the herky-jerk animation is offset by the better-than-average voicing, the rest of the show is wildly meandering, never coming close to defining itself: Oz vs. Oz... and? Is it a comedy without jokes? Is it a drama without tension? Is it yet another excuse for Romp to show yet another blowjob? Yeah, probably that one. Greg Knauss (10/30/00)



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Disclaimer: G. Beato has written for the following online animated series: "Like, News", "God and Devil," "Lil Pimp", and "Creamburg." In addition, he has pitched show ideas to producers and entertainment portals whose work has been or may be reviewed in Soundbitten's Guide to Online Animation. Jami Attenberg has written for the online animated series "Katbot." She has also pitched show ideas to producers and entertainment portals whose work has been or may be reviewed in Soundbitten's Guide to Online Animation.






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