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review by Zach B.
Running Time: 99 minutes
Starring the voices of: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence
Retail Price: $19.95
Features: "SpongeBob Dancin' Pants" Music Video, "Shanghaied" Episode with 3 Different Endings, Videogame Hints and Tips
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Stereo, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections
Released: November 5th, 2002
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.
As "Spongebob" continues to grow into some kind of phenom, it makes sense for Paramount to grow out its DVD line and presents more episodes for fans of the show (and don't worry, a fourth "SpongeBob" DVD is due out next January!). Here you get a nice variety of episodes that are really entertaining and quite funny if you ask me. The episodes are: "Gary Takes A Bath," "Hooky," "Life Of Crime," "Pickles," "No Free Rides," "Sailor Mouth," "No Weenies Allowed," "Jellyfish Jam" and "The Algae's Always Greener." Oh yeah, you also get one more episode - "Shangheid" with three different endings. Enjoy that!
Given the 1.33:1 full screen transfer (as its presented on television), the episodes look great. There is a good deal of noise and edge halos, but everything else is fine. Everything looks rather sharp, while color saturation is rather vibrant and quite bold. Detail is also nice. There's not much else to really say about the episode transfers. They're all really strong and surely no one will be disappointed, as everything's on par with the first two DVD releases.
The English Dolby Stereo tracks certianly hold their own, as they are quite dynamic and pack strong punches in what it's offered! I must admit I slightly jumped when listening to that anchor crash through SpongeBob's house in the "Shangheid" episode. These are quite booming tracks if you ask me. All the episodes have a variety of sound effects, and everything's nicely presented and showed off in the track, even if there are limitations. Fidelity is very nice as well as loud and for what it's worth, the dynamic range is good. Dialogue is clear and the background music also sounds rather nice. Like the past two times, "Sea Stories" offers some rather impressive stereo that does not disappoint. Also included are English closed captions via your television set.
There's really not too much here, like last time unfortuantely. I guess the main thing here is the episode "Shanghaied" Episode with 3 Different Endings. To be honest, I really don't consider this episode an extra bonus or anything. The box advertises ten cartoons, and the back of the box lists nine and the past DVDs each had ten. I guess the main thing is that you get the three extra endings. I don't know why there are three endings, but I'm guessing (or maybe I remember) that Nickelodeon had a contest where you could call up and vote on how you wanted the episode to end. That would make sense. So, there has to be more work for that to happen. So you get the Squidward ending, the SpongeBob ending and the Patrick ending. So watch the episode and see what happens at the end each time for some added value. I guess each ending works well in its own way. And as far as the episode? It's pretty amusing, as a giant anchor mysteriously falls into SpongeBob's house (and then into Squidward's). SpongeBob, Squidward and Patrick climb the rope on it to see what exactly is going on. Fun stuff.
Also included is the very weird "SpongeBob Dancin' Pants" Music Video that lasts a good minute and five seconds, and VideoGame Hints and Tips for the game based on the show "Revenge Of The Flying Dutchman." Clips from the game are included... but these "hints" seem to be mere instructional tips as if it were included in the game's manual. This lasts slightly over a minute as well.
Surely to be another successful DVD, "SpongeBob Squarepants: Sea Stories" will please casual fans and die-hard fans with the selection of episodes presented on the discs. The nice audio and strong episode transfers are on par with the past two DVDs, but given the show's popularity, Paramount should really look into putting some more extras on future "SpongeBob" DVDs. Nonetheless, the price is nice and if you really like the show, then this is worth buying.