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Lost At Sea
Running Time: 110 minutes
Starring the voices of: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence
Retail Price: $19.95
Features: Audio Commentary with SpongeBob Creator Stephen Hillenburg and Tom Kenny, "The Sponge Who Could Fly" Storyboard, SpongeBob's 7 Life Strategies, Previews
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Stereo, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections
Released: January 28th, 2003
I've gone on before on this very website about animation transending barriers. When people used to think of animation, they merely thought of it as a form of entertianment for children. However, in recent years, people have finally realized that animation is not just for kids and put that to use in various adult animated television series, adult animated movies and more. However, there has always been a select group of animated work that appeals to all audiences. During the 1990s, the empire that is Disney did this with their theatrical feature films be it hand drawn or computer animated (while more CGI films are popping up and raking in the dough from other studios and more adult audiences). More recently, however, television has been debuting and featuring cartoons aimed at both children and adults. Shows such as "Samurai Jack" and a lot of the cartoons made for Cartoon Network have been attracting a wider audience. More recently, however, Nickelodeon's own "SpongeBob SquarePants" has been breaking revolutionary barriers as far as demographics and popularity goes.
"SpongeBob Squarepants" was originally aimed for kids, but for some reason, older audiences have tuned in and can't resist its charm (myself included). The show, which debuted during the summer of 1999 on cable's Nick, has been giving its own "Rugrats" a run for its money and is arguably becoming more popular than their decade-old-plus Nicktoon. "SpongeBob" has only seemed to really gain its popularity in the past year or so. Just like "Rugrats," the show had a stable audience at first, but then blew up into something much more as time went on (a "SpongeBob" flick is due in theaters sometime in 2004). More than a third of its audience is made up of adults, even. But what makes "SpongeBob" so popular? What is so appealing about this very cartoon show? Let me try and find out why...
In case you are not familiar with the premise, "SpongeBob SquarePants" follows the adventures of a walking and talking sponge named SpongeBob SquarePants in the ocean area of Bikini Bottom. SpongeBob works as a cook at the Krusty Krab, has a pet snail named Gary and is always cheerful. Like most whimisical cartoon heroes, SpongeBob has good intentions but his intentions backfire. Of course, the backfires cause the comedy. Be it SpongeBob helping the lonely Plankton whereas Plankton is using him to get the secret Krabby Patty recipie or SpongeBob not realizing that jokes can grow old... fast. SpongeBob's compaions are his dimwitted friend Patrick Star who lives right near him, Texan squirrel Sandy and the easily annoyed Squidward, as well as his boss Mr. Krabs. So, adventures usually revolve around them, though Sandy and Mr. Krabs are more supporting characters and don't pop up as often as Squidward or Patrick.
I guess what appeals to me about "SpongeBob SquarePants" is that it's quite a unique show. I can't think of another show in history that was animated and its main star was a living sponge. The characters are well created and fun to watch, while the setting and idea of this weird, imaginary world on the ocean floor is pretty striking and easy to get into. But I think what kids and adults enjoy is the broad, weird and wacky humor the show features. It's more slapstick and crazy, and never tends to go over the top. Or maybe it's the same appeal that I have about the show being something different, and that it doesn't fail in what it creates and extends. It's just highly imaginative, original and entertaining.
For some reason, kids do identify with SpongeBob. However, SpongeBob is an adult. He lives alone, he works at a job and doesn't go to school or anything. Yet in many ways, he is a kid. He has those good intentions, he is playful and likes fun. He has this kid demeanor that I think younger audiences enjoy. He just acts like one big kid, and that's part of the fun I suppose.
It seems Paramount is going with exclusives to incite SpongeBob fan to buy these DVDs. The double-length episode "The Sponge Who Could Fly" won't be airing on Nickelodeon from March 2003 to June 2003, so the only way to see it is if you get this puppy. I really wish to not say much about this episode since it's VERY amusing... the live action segments are ridiculous for this "lost episode" (and by "lost" I mean that in more ways in one - but all positive) making this worth watching (stupidity and nonsense can be rather hilarious!). This DVD also includes some more classic "SpongeBob" episodes and recent favorites: "Plankton," "Boating School," "Suds," "Mermaidman and Barancleboy II," "The Chaperone," "Bubble Buddy," "Your Shoe's Untied," "PreHibernation Week."
It's getting harder and harder to review these "SpongeBob SquarePants" DVDs because they all look so good... and this new release is no exception. As expected, each episode is in 1.33:1 full screen - that being the way they aired originally on television. The cartoons look crisp and downright vibrant. The colors exhibit very nice depth and the colors are well saturated making everything look quite pleasant. Detail is also rather nice. There is some noise here and there, but nothing major. The live-action segments on the "The Sponge Who Could Fly" look just as good too... and yes, those portions also have some nice. Well done.
English Dolby Stereo tracks are featured on the episodes and they are very nice, as always. Fidelity is pretty high while dynamics are limited, they are mighty impressive on this DVD with strong stereo effects. Dialogue, sound effects and the music all come together quite nicely to get you sucked in to watching these episodes. Everything sounds very good and nicely layered, bringing nice flavor to the tracks. No problems here, as usual. Also included are English closed captions for the hearing impaired.
Even though it might not appeal to the kiddies, the main thing that sets this "SpongeBob" DVD apart from the rest (and is the highlight of the supplements) is the Audio Commentary with SpongeBob Creator Stephen Hillenburg and Tom Kenny. That's right, the man behind SpongeBob and the man who plays him are on this track. Kenny offers his SpongeBob voice here which is amusing, but Hillenburg offers quite a lot of information on the show in general and on the making of this very episode. It's a very informative commentary, as the two share some thoughts back and forth, have some laughs and point out some pretty amusing hidden things the viewer probably won't notice. Despite some moments of silence, this is a really strong track that wonderfully balances laughs, insightful thoughts and interesting production details. It's pretty family friendly (Kenny offers some funny comments), so maybe some of the kiddies will want to listen to this. I hope the duo does more commentaries for future "SpongeBob" DVD releases. A very solid track that shows how commentaries for TV shows should be done.
To go along with this is "The Sponge Who Could Fly" Storyboard. It acts as a story reel with rough voice overs for the episode. It's interesting to see what was changed from the original planning out stages to the final product. There is some really amusing stuff that was cut, making this worth watching. Enjoy! This lasts an even twenty-two minutes.
SpongeBob's 7 Life Strategies is a faux-infomercial of sorts lasting nearly two-and-a-half minutes. It's pretty funny as it uses clips from a variety of episodes. There is also Previews for "The Wilde Thornberrys Movie" and "The Adventures Of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius", plus a game called "Tak and the Power Of The JuJus" due out in fall 2003.
Paramount offers up another excellent "SpongeBob SquarePants" release that's affordable, has a good selection of episodes and some nice extras (got to love a good audio commentary). The episode transfer and Dolby stereo tracks are quite nice, so if you own the other "SpongeBob" DVDs or know someone who loves the show, then then is good to pick up for either yourself or that special someone else (hopefully your friends are not deranged pirates who spend their days showering and looking for lost episodes of cartoons).