Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cow and Chicken

Cow and Chicken; animated comedy series, USA, 1997; D: David Feiss, Robert Alvarez, S: Charlie Adler, Dee Bradley Baker, Candy Milo

An array of misadventures revolving around Cow and Chicken, children of Mom and Dad (whose faces are never shown since they only have legs), who often encounter the Red Guy, an incompetent nemesis: the school goes for a field trip to prison (!); Cow and Chicken decide to become sailors; Cow writes a screenplay for a play about "The Ugliest Weenie" or decides to assist a "king and queen of cheese"; Chicken finds a credit card and fakes a comet in the sky in order to scare the city...

An eccentric and extremely comical satire, "Cow and Chicken" by director and screenwriter David Feiss received critical acclaim after his short cartoon, "No Smoking", was picked by Cartoon Network and expanded into a TV show which even surpassed the pilot. TV shows mostly start to loose their freshness after running for a long while, yet that was avoided here since "Cow and Chicken" span only 52 episodes, just enough to end on a high note. The main attraction in this roundabout of insane jokes became undoubtedly the Red Guy (the devil in the pilot), but since the story is deprived of any deeper philosophical connotations, "Cow and Chicken" still remained a children's animation: this is one of the rare examples of a comedy that blends both the outrageously grotesque and childishly naive humor and gets away with it since it somehow almost always outweighs towards the latter, towards the harmless tone, whereas a huge portion of kudos should go to Charles Adler who provided a bravura triple dub by voicing Cow, Chicken and the Red Guy - I watched the show dubbed in a different language once, and it wasn't even 50 % as funny as the original, which really says a lot about his comic delivery.

Whether it's the dialogues (in a store, a clerk says: "Hallo, can you be *helped*?"), the creative sight gags making fun of the fact that Mom and Dad's faces are never shown (they push it to such an extent that in one episode Dad's legs are seen in the lower part of the screen while an inch-thin horizontal pole "hides" his nonexistent upper part), the demented character designs (often showing men with red lips) or simply insane-surreal situations (in one episode, the Red Guy is hired to teach Cow and Chicken how to play the piano: Chicken just pounds the keyboard with its beak while Cow pounds it with its utter, creating awful music. Since the Red Guy observes that they both have only three fingers, he concludes that the problem is resolved by simply removing a third of "needless" keyboards from the piano. Some time later, in order to show his "capacity" and their musical progress, he organizes a real concert which is attended by a huge crowd. But when the curtains go up, Cow and Chicken just simply continue pounding the partial keyboard on the piano, creating again awful music!), this is a howlingly funny show and a fantastic fun, if the "I Am Weasel" segment is excluded.



Mario500 said...

Why did you call the show "children's animation"? It may be as realistic as fictional shows with live humans or animated shows with more realistic designs and situations, but it still appeals to me as an adult.

Marin Mandir said...

If it were adult animation only, I am sure it would not have been aired on Cartoon Network in the afternoon (only one episode was ever banned for its controversial tone, all others were allowed). It actually works both ways, it contains humor for grown ups and kids, but surprisingly, it can also pass both ways - that's something that "Fritz the Cat" was not able to pull off. I saw it as a kid on CN and to me it was largely harmless fun, similar to "Round the Bend". Both shows appeal to me when I was a kid and even now when I am a grown up.