You take the moon and you take the sun/You take everything that seems like fun/You stir it all up and when you’re done/You share a big piece with everyone…
Sigh. It’s been almost three years, hasn’t it? With the way it started out, you’d think the adventures of a little cat/bear/rabbit thing trying to become a chef would have lasted longer. But here we are, just days after the final episode of this delightful comedy series has aired. In what I hope with become a running thing with the Scratch Pad, please join me, RacattackForce, in remembering this city of adventure known as Marzipan, and all its strange inhabitants.
When it was announced at Cartoon Network‘s 2007 Upfront that C.H. Greenblatt was creating his own animated series, there was mixed reaction. While some people were excited about the show, looking at Greenblatt’s work on Spongebob Squarepants and The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy as a sign of Chowder‘s quality, while others were skeptical. And rightfully so, since many fans of the network were left sour with Camp Lazlo, Squirrel Boy, and other shows that premiered in the 2005-2007 period of the channel. While some were drawn in by the Dr. Seuss-inspired artwork, others were pushed away. Nonetheless, there were several who were anxiously awaiting the premiere of the series. Myself included, having joined the first fansite, Chowder Zone. Sadly, that site went under in the Winter of 2007-2008.
Chowder had a one-hour premiere on Friday, November 2nd, 2007 at 7pm. The four segments that aired that night were amazing, and a real breath of fresh air. The atmosphere, the colors, the energy: it was unlike anything else airing at the time. The character’s clothes were filled in with patterns that they simply walked over, a technique that’s rarely done. The writing was relaxed, with jokes always being smartly executed and surprising at times. The characters were charming and relatable, never once getting on your nerves. And I wasn’t the only person who loved it, as the premiere was Cartoon Network #1 Telecast of the Year.
DARE TO SUCK!!!
Maxwell Atoms created the animated series Billy and Mandy, and I believe that in a blog post, he once stated something along the lines of “If your first season is your best, then you’re doing something wrong.” The first season of any show should be testing the waters, seeing where you can go with these characters, and refining the style. That’s not to say that Chowder got out on the wrong foot: just that it didn’t go the way that early episodes promised. The show maintained an amazing level of quality throughout its first season, with only a few hiccups here and there. When the second season came around, it appeared that the kitchen crew will stay at this level of quality or even increase to something even better. But after the episode “Kid Shnitzel,” everything seemed to go downhill. The dreadful disease known as Seasonal Rot set in, with our titular character having gone from naive to a totally idiot and Panini went from a girl with a crush to flat-out stalker. Shnitzel became the butt of every joke. Gazpacho went from amusing side character to an annoyance being pushed into every episode. All cleverness and charm was lost, with fourth-wall jokes being incredibly overused and the characters shouting more often than they actually spoke.
THE FINAL ACT
When C.H. Greenblatt stated that nine more half-hours were ordered, it was noted that there was some confusion with the crew. At that point, the first season had finished airing and the premiere of Season Two was just a month away. In any case, they were happy about the order, since it meant they could keep rolling along with production. But why such a small order? It slowly dawned on them that the show was ending, and with one of those half-hours, they should make a finale. And after a long hiatus, that finale finally aired on Saturday. How was it? Well, let’s look at “Mung on the Rocks,” an early Season One episode that aired right before the special. “Mung on the Rocks” was funny, sure. But underneath that humor was the plot of Mung Daal and Truffles having a fallout due to a forgotten 450th anniversary. We saw Mung’s pain & anguish; we felt sorry for the poor man. When the couple finally makes-up at the end due to one of Chowder’s mistakes, I felt some relief. The episode had an emotional underglaze that could be seen through the comedy. Did “Chowder Grows Up,” Marzipan’s last hurrah, have the same feeling? No. While it was more entertaining than other episodes in the third season and had a satisfying conclusion, it came up short. We never got time to really like Scraps (Chowder’s apprentice), nor did Chowder’s finally becoming an adult have any good build-up. The musical number was a clever take on the Toys “Я” Us commercials of the 80s, but came off as obnoxious despite its creative use as a segue to the future. And the first half just seemed incredibly rushed.
In closing, despite its flaws in the last two seasons, I can’t help but miss Chowder. When it premiered, it made me laugh and gave me hope that Cartoon Network might be coming out of its rut. It had a good team of storyboarders and writers behind it, and could have easily lasted longer than it did if it maintained the quality of its first season. Alas, it did not. R.I.P. Chowder (November 2007 – August 2010), you served it all up and now you’re done…