This is one of the most original and funny productions I’ve seen in a long, long time. Made for Nickelodeon’s RANDOM CARTOONS shorts program, this Annie nominated short film is slyly satirical as well as subversive. If this does go to series, I’m going to put myself out there and say it has the potential to be as monumental as REN & STIMPY. It’s that different and it’s that good.
The story begins with 12-year-old Penn asking his best friend Jake (who happens to be a dog who can download things from the Internet with his mind) heading off to find out why Princess Bubblegum’s rain-icorn is crying. Turns out the Ice King has kidnapped Princess Bubblegum and is holding her prisoner in his castle in the Ice Kingdom, where Penn and Jake will have to get past several monsters in order to save the day.
In the style of a preschool series, creator Pendleton Ward subtly pokes fun at the typical moralizing of entertainment for the very young, but does so without being condescending. Humor fills the 7-minute production from start to finish, using the simple structure of the rescue mission as a way to have fun with conventions of not only preschool shows, but videogames, anime and film too. CLIFFORD and Tom Hank’s BIG come to mind. Random seeming asides serve wonderfully as sly comments on how so many productions try to graft the same cannon of approved “messages” to any story. Penn’s brief trip to Mars is brilliant.
Ward, with fellow directors Larry Leichliter and Hugo Morales, bring wonderful timing to all the jokes as well as the action. Additionally, they are aided by a perfect voice cast, who obviously understand the tone and nail it. Frederator Prods. has found a real talent in Ward. In the wake of all the SHREK clones, this pop culture satire is refreshing in its ingenuity and intelligence. Plus it’s really funny too.