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SpongeGuard On Duty
Running Time: 89 minutes
Starring the voices of: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence
Retail Price: $16.99
Features: Storyboards, Previews.
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Stereo Surround, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections
Released: June 2nd, 2004
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.
The latest SpongeBob collection from Paramount, entitled "SpongeGuard On Duty" is out just in time for summer - even if the show is set in water, arguably the only summer-themed episode is the cartoon where the title of this DVD gets its title from. So you get that show, but in an unusual move there is only a total of eight cartoons instead of the usual ten. Is Paramount trying to converve shows since they may be running out? Who knows - but it is disappointing. The other cartoons on the disc are "Naughty Nautical Neighbors," "Walking Small," "Pressure," "Jellyfish Hunter," "Nasty Patty," "Doing Time" and "Clams."
Presented in 1.33:1 full screen, the cartoons (yet again) look excellent - but these may be the best batch of SpongeBob transfers yet. Usually they contain a pretty good deal of noise, and while there still is some, it's not in complete excess so it never becomes a very distracting issue - hopefully future DVD releases of the show will be like this (maybe it looks like this because there are less episodes and thereby less compression problems?). And per usual, detail looks very nice and colors are well saturated and vibrant - the image certainly has depth. It doesn't get much better than this, folks - especially when it comes to animated programming.
Also included are superb English Stereo Surround sound tracks for the cartoons. Of course they're a bit restrained in comparison to 5.1 tracks, but the surrounds shine a lot brighter than you may expect. There are sound effects that pack punches here - the episode "Doing Time" is filled with them (poor SpongeBon can't drive), as are selected portions of the cartoons: SpongeBob in the water, Plankton's bulldozer and more. The show's music sounds very good and helps build the atmosphere, and the dialogue is crisp and clear. Great stuff - and there is also English Closed Captioning through your television.
Not much, as is the norm. You get two Storyboards - AKA story reels (rough drawings with voice tracks put together): one for "SpongeGuard On Duty" and the other for "Clams." There are the usual previews too, and inside the box you get an "all access pass" to a new Nick-themed website entitled Nickspressions, plus some stickers too.
Paramount is still charging $16.99 for these DVDs which is a little steep if you ask me - and it doesn't help they're giving you less episodes for your buck. Even if the extras are slim, you still get great transfers and audio on the episodes. Once again, you're going to have to be a pretty die-hard fan of SpongeBob to buy this disc - that, and the fact that releasing the show by seasons isn't on Paramount's agenda (one down so far and quite a few to go).