Sunday, May 18, 2014

Cartoon Review(s): "The Royals" and "AJ's Infinite Summer" pilots

While aimlessly surfing the web in a state of pre-summer vegetation today, I discovered an interesting piece of news from Cartoon Network. You see, with every show such as Steven Universe, Spongebob, or Gravity Falls, each has a test phase in the form of a short to give to the networks as a pitch, or a pilot. Yesterday, Cartoon Network apparently released two new shorts created by some of the staff from Regular Show, and each of them seems seems interesting, at least from first glance. But are they on board the same triumphant track as the emerging greats Steven Universe and Clarence

The first short, Long Live The Royals, follows a peculiar medieval family of five. The kids you need to know are Peter, the awkward socially inept older brother; Rosalind, the hardcore tough-as-nails older sister, who inexplicably has half her head shaved like a scene girl (editor's note: Stop this shit, seriously. It's overplayed and you're not a special snowflake) ; and Alex, the mischievous youngest sibling, whose gender will remain a mystery in what I'm sure will be the season one arc. Then of course we have the parents, the King and Queen. There are other characters along the way like their constantly bored butler, the sorcerer who helps the kids out with whatever trouble they’re looking to get into, and Peter’s love-interest, Catherine, who unfortunately has the stereotypical “dull but pretty” character archetype.

With a something that seems like a mesh of Downtown Abbey, Regular Show, and a Sex Pistols Album, it's certainly a strange but wonderful mesh. Overall, I really did enjoy The Royals. The characters worked well together and the comedy was somewhat genuine, though admittedly weak or cringy at a few points. And while most of the character archetypes seem over used, they’re not overbearing and don’t really leave a bad taste in your mouth. Plus the art isn't too bad either, putting most of the interest in the environment. Unfortunately it leaves the characters somewhat simple and lacking, but not to the point of being as bland as that girl you know who plays Clarinet. It seems like the kind of show I would watch if it were picked up as a series, and I'm glad the internet, in between porn and cat videos, allows us to see these pilots ahead of time. 

My only major problem would be the setting as it seems a bit confusing. Though it’s overtly medieval, it has a lot of recurring modern themes that make it a bit confusing to understand as a fluid setting. Sure there's little things like the dialogue, but it needs to be modernized. The major problems are much more prevalent. For instance, they reference things like cell phone numbers, and in one scene Peter even manages to hit a satellite dish with a bow and arrow. Little things like that that just make it seem out of whack.

The other short, AJ’s Infinite Summer, follows three friends getting out of school for summer break and having "adventures". On board for the ride is the title character, AJ, and then the couple to add the intense sexual tension, Morgan and Danny. 

At times, AJ seems as though he’s somewhat misguided and naive, and occasionally a bit ignorant to his friends but is overall concerned about having fun during the summer in over complicated and zany ways. Morgan and Danny, who seem to work only as a unit, preventing viewers from really exploring either of their individual personalities, keep AJ grounded and remind him on a constant basis that summer doesn't have to be complicated to be fun. Other than AJ’s odd-ball/comic relief dad, there really aren't any other extra characters. And as bland and uninvolved as Morgan and Danny seem to be, you might as well consider them extra characters as well.

My first and main problem with AJ’s Infinite Summer seems to be a contrast to what I had a problem with in Long Live The Royals. It doesn't have anything to do with the setting or concept of the show. The setting is a familiar but brilliant one, the infinite sandbox of summer vacation. Only instead of a situation with kids like Ed Edd n Eddy, it's with high schoolers in an urban environment. No, my problem is with the characters and how they don’t comfortably mesh with each other or their environment around them. Honestly, there’s a lot of places you could go with a “let’s find interesting things to do this summer” series, but for a series like that to take off, there needs to be a certain something that grabs you and makes you stay and want to see more from it. Unfortunately, AJ’s Infinite Summer just doesn't do that for me.

Danny's look is one of a man who simply wants to get laid. AJ you cock block.
Another problem with the short is how often it uses extreme randomness to progress the story through situational comedy, a remnant of it's Regular Show origins. Personally, it seems to be a lazy style of writing that dumbs comedy down a couple notches. I’m one for situational comedy via turn of events, but not to the extent that it’s forced down your throat. Not only that, but at times you can hear the forced or boring writing in the voices of the voice actors themselves. They know it doesn't work well, and due to that the jokes fall flat. Well, save for that fourth wall joke at the beginning where Morgan ponders AJ's blatant exposition. They get a pass on that one.

Much like the writing, the art doesn't stray much further from JG Quintel’s direction either. In fact, I’m almost certain some of the same backgrounds might have been used in the city setting. Come to think of it, AJ’s Infinite Summer doesn't artistically offer anything strikingly new in comparison to a lot of the more recent shows Cartoon Network has pushed out recently, e.g. Regular Show, or Clarence. Though art style isn't necessarily detrimental to a show (unless it’s animated diarrhea like The Problem Solvers), it never hurts to see something new instead of round heads, bendy noodle arms, slender bodies, and beady eyes. There’s nothing wrong with simplicity, but sometimes you simply get so sick of seeing the same basic artistic style to the point where it’s so simple that it’s bland, i.e. the Adventure Time Effect.

"So it's really big". Ha. Ha ha. Nice one AJ. 
Overall, AJ's Infinite Summer seems really hit or miss. I want to like it, I honestly do, but there's too many faults. Fortunately this IS just the pilot, so the staff definitely have time to work on the problems. It's certainly not on a level of horrible as Uncle Grandpa, but maintenance is heavily required. Even with it's faults, I'd still love to see what they could do with the concept. For now though, I have to go on the source material I have.

Still the best summer vacation show
As a whole, the two shorts are interesting as is and if being converted to shows, I would definitely give both a watch. My personal favorite is currently Long Live The Royals and I think AJ’s Infinite Summer could go a lot of interesting directions with several changes, but it's definitely much weaker. My word, however, is not enough. Don't only rely on what some random geek from a computer is typing, check them out for yourselves! Only you know what you really like.

~SuperSketch; edited by MLPcritic

1 comment:

  1. I have to disagree. AJ was hilarious, at least to me. True, the designs are REALLY simple it was fun none the less.

    7 out of 10, you guys are drek