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Tales From The Deep
review by Zach B.
Running Time: 110 minutes
Starring the voices of: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence
Retail Price: $19.95
Features: "Underwater Sun" Music Video, Drawing The Goo Lagoon, "SpongeBob's House Party" Storyboard, Preview
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.
This latest "SpongeBob SquarePants" DVD should be a real treat for fans. Considering that you are reading this before March 2003, then you'll probably be delighted that you get two cartoons not aired yet on the Nickelodeon network: "Born Again Krabs" (Mr. Krabs tries to sell an old Krabby Patty, ends up eating it and gets food poisoning) and "I Had An Accident," where SpongeBob gets hurt on the sand slopes and is afraid to go outside. This also might be the best release yet, as it includes some beloved episodes - old and new - that are highly regarded by fans. Also included on this release are the double-length episode "House Party," "Hall Monitor," "Valentine's Day," "Just One Bite," "Mermaindman and Barnacleboy," "Tea at The Treedome" and "The Paper." So if you're a fan of the show, you'll definitely be pleased with what's included here. Enjoy!
All the episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 full screen aspect ratios, and they do look really good - just like the other DVDs. Detail is impeccable, while color saturation looks really nice. The colors pop out right at you, as they are very vibrant and quite strong. The show features a wide variety of colors for its locations, all of which are perfectly captured on the transfers. There is a little bit of noise (but not so it's distracting), but I didn't notice edge halos as in the past DVDs. These transfers have a sharpness that cannot be denied, and truly help bring out the luster of the show's animation.
The English Dolby tracks are pleasant - as always. This is what all TV shows should sound like on DVD. "Tales From The Deep" has incredibly strong dynamics in its episodes, and it really does light up the speakers on any sound system. It's getting hard to say new and different things about these "SpongeBob" DVDs because the sound is always so good. Fidelity is incredibly high here, and the show has this ambiance that is perfectly replicated here. All the sound elements sound quite crisp, while the sound effects add a lot of life and the music nicely wraps everything together. These excellent Dolby tracks go hand in hand with the winderful transfers. English closed captions are included.
Not much like the other DVD entries, but at least there's some different stuff here. There is the decent full screen "Underwater Sun" Music Video from Bird Brains (featuring Lux Interior) that lasts nearly two minutes. There is also the two minute piece Drawing The Goo Lagoon (hosted by show artist John Seymore) who explains the process of what he does, how he does it and how it gets incorporated with everyone else who works on the show. It's very nice, but definitely way too short.
Finally, the last real extra is "SpongeBob's House Party" Storyboard which is a story reel with rough audio for the episode. It lasts about 14 minutes. There is also a Preview for Nickelodeon videos and DVDs, plus a game called "Tak and the Power Of The JuJus" due out in fall 2003. You can also find some DVD credits, and on another note, the menus for this disc are very nice - the most animated yet out of all the "SpongeBob SquarePants" DVDs.
The DVD, like the others, is not loaded with extra features, but the episodes look and sound very nice. This is probably the best "SpongeBob SquarePants" DVD yet as far as the quality of the episodes. Even if you're a casual viewer of the show, given what's included here, this DVD is definitely worth checking out.