Two years ago, a mysterious project was announced at Cartoon Network’s upfront presentation. “The Cartoonstitute” was an umbrella title given to a series of pilots overseen by animation legends Craig McCracken and Rob Renzetti, designed to provide the network with a new slate of animators and concepts. The mysterious project went for years without ever being acknowledged by the network, with the only information coming from various artists’ blogs, scoured from the depths of the internet, all conveniently chronicled here.
As the internet waited and waited for these shorts to surface or be acknowledged, people began to lose hope. Indeed, hope was finally lost when Craig McCracken officially stated that the program was over, and that the shorts would not see the light of day. The only upside was the series greenlights to “Regular Show” and (a heavily retooled) “Uncle Grandpa”. No one outside the network ever thought these infamous shorts would ever be seen again. That is, until an anonymous YouTube account began posting all thirteen shorts. Unfortunately, they were taken down by the network, save for a few mirrors posted either quick YouTubers or people behind the shorts.
Luckily, Cartoon Network recently decided to post the shorts on their website, save for a few that had content issues. So sit down, relax, and enjoy an online animated film festival from your computer screen. Click below the break for my reviews, and go to the comments to make your own.
Danger Planet by Derek Drymon
One of my favorite shorts, and it’s not what I was expecting. From the looks of the production art, I expected it to be a Venture Bros.-esque parody of cheesy 50’s sci-fi. What I wasn’t expecting was a hilarious and disturbing short about an arcade machine starring the always-hilarious Dana Snyder as the titular “Danger Planet”, a discontinued arcade machine on the run from it’s manufacturer and a hideous shape-shifting alien. The visuals are probably the best thing about this short, from the lavishly painted backgrounds to the sheer disturbing creativity that is the baby-eating alien. A definite must-watch.
Y.E.S. by Dave Smith
This one is pretty average. The concept of a team devoted to fulfilling lost dreams is a cool idea, but the characters are boring at best and irritating at worst. I’m torn on the animation: on one hand, I love the 60’s op-art style of the backgrounds, but the character designs bother me. I think it’s something about the outlines, which look like they were drawn by someone who just found out about the “slant brush” option on Paint for the first time, and used it one everything because it looks cool. With that said, I got some surprising laughs from the skewering of the emo subculture.
Meddlen Meadows by Chris Reccardi
This is another short that I think excels mostly at looking pretty and being interesting, but not much else. With the exception of the flatly-animated space traveler, the visuals are amazingly colorful UPA designs gone right. The premise was also very fascinating: what if an advanced alien was forced to cope with a primitive society? The music is also well done. My main fault with this short though is that it’s just not that funny. Very beautiful and fascinating, but not funny nonetheless.
The Borneos by Chris Staples
When I first saw this short, I vehemently hated it. I thought it was the worst short out of the bunch. A year later, have my opinions changed? No, not really. Aside from Jo’s decent “Foster’s Home”-inspired design, nothing really clicked with me about this short. Bland animation, uninspired UPA designs without any of the charm, obnoxious characters, gratuitous gross-out humor and not much else: “The Borneos” seems like mid-00’s Cartoon Network in a nutshell. Maybe it should have stayed there.
Regular Show by J.G. Quintel
Probably the most infamous short of the bunch, and one of the lucky few to be greenlighted into a series. Unlike most of the other shorts which feature loud, bombastic, colorful moods, “Regular Show” is the exact opposite: slow, laid-back, and relaxed. I’m happy to say that the short deserves all the hype it gets and more. The short has funny dialogue, nice designs, and fluid animation. Out of all the short to become a series, I’m glad they picked this one.
The Awesome Adventures of Manny and Khan by Joey Giardina and Josh Lieberman
Speaking of series, I’m pretty disappointed that this one wasn’t greenlit. This short was my favorite of them all. Unlike a lot of the other shorts, there is no big concept to be had. It’s just two hilarious and eccentric characters playing off each other for seven minutes. My favorite part of the short is the voices. Khan’s out-of-nowhere German accent made the short for me, along with Manny’s Stimpy-ish voice and the bizarre randomness of some of the gags. While “Manny and Khan” may not have had the most interesting concept or well-drawn artwork, what it did have was humor, something that a lot of the shorts seemed to put behind coming up with an interesting concept.
Uncle Grandpa by Pete Browngardt
This was the other short to get greenlighted, and I couldn’t have been more on the fence about it. On one hand, I didn’t care much for the titular Uncle Grandpa, but I loved the sheer creativity and visual anarchy of the short’s “child’s-crayon-drawing-on-PCP” art style. Steve Blum(!) also makes a great performance as the child-of-the-week, a spoiled nerd. Luckily, the short’s retooling as “Secret Mountain Fort Awesome” seems to be taking the best parts of the short and improving on the elements that didn’t work. Can’t for the finished series.
Spleenstab by Mike Bell
It’s not the best short, but it’s still pretty good. It had decent animation, nice character designs, and funny jokes. That just makes me more confused why it didn’t leave an impression on me. It’s just… there. It’s not awful like “The Borneos”, it’s not hilarious like “Manny and Khan”, it’s not interesting like “Meddlen Meadows”, and it’s not a visual treat like “Uncle Grandpa”. It’s just an above-average cartoon stuck in a sea of more remarkable cartoons that upstaged it.
Baloobaloob’s Fun Park by Aaron Springer
This short was one of my least favorite ones. The only really bright spot I can think about it is that the settings and bizarre worlds are incredibly creative and fun to look at. Apart from that, the short is just boring. It’s actually so boring it’s insulting, because there’s a whole truckload of visually interesting things that the short just seems to ignore in favor of boring dialogue. It seems to flaunt this imagery around just enough to seem interesting, but not enough to actually be interesting. This short is like a prison: a lot of interesting things being held back by a cell of absolute mediocrity.
Le Door by Matt Danner
This one is middling. Not bad, not good, just a lot of boring. The characters are flat and obnoxious, and the humor is bland and repetitive. Just like most of the shorts, it’s an interesting concept that never seems to reach its full potential. Other than that, what is there to say? It’s “Le Door”. Boring and disappointing.
Stockboys of the Apocalypse by Derek Drymon
The last short, and it’s okay. The characters are pretty funny, but I’m not much of a fan of the concept. A big deal is made about opening the Hoggly Woggly’s, and not much comes out of it, except for a really abrupt ending. Even though post-apocalyptic shows are always fun, I really don’t see how this short would function as a series. The idea would be okay if they ditched the department store setting, but otherwise I can see why Cartoon Network didn’t greenlight this. The designs aren’t that good, either.
The three shorts that didn’t get put up on Cartoon Network’s website were:
– 3 Dog Band: Viewable here, but you’re not missing much. Just three flat, unlikable characters doing vaguely unfunny stuff.
– Maruined: Genndy Tartakovsky’s short, and I found it really underwhelming. The two main characters are completely unlikable, and the only thing that saved it was the lavishly beautiful island setting.
– Joey to the World: You’ll probably never see this one again, for a good reason. This is definitely not for Cartoon Network. The constant references to genitalia, prostitutes, constant swearing, and the idea in general (unemployed manchild moves out of his mother’s house) places it squarely in Adult Swim territory. It’s really funny, but also really vulgar as well.
So, what are your thoughts? Post ’em in the comments!