Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Bee and Puppycat

It makes sense. Adventure Time was such a smash hit on the back of its pilot going viral on Youtube, and the fandom became very interested in further works from the creative minds behind the show, so they set up Cartoon Hangover as an online ‘TV show’ as a ‘home for cartoons that are too weird, wild, & crazy for TV!’ What you can read into that is that it’s aimed more directly at the older, internet-savvy crowd of cartoon fans usually also labelled stoners. And not without reason.

While this isn’t the first Cartoon Hangover work I’ve seen – that would be Pen Ward’s other series, Bravest Warrior – that one is ongoing whereas Bee and Puppycat, at least for now, is a single two-part episode of around 10 minutes. You see, the company behind Cartoon Hangover is Frederator Studios, a Nickelodeon partner that basically exists to try to replicate the success of What a Cartoon!, a cartoon pilot vehicle I detailed at length in my impressions of Whoopass Stew! – they have created a string of ‘incubators’ in which creators are given a shot at a hit cartoon. Their first was Oh Yeah! Cartoons, which spawned Fairly Oddparents and My Life as a Teenage Robot, as well as giving Seth McFarlane a start in the business, and later Random! Cartoons saw the inception of Adventure Time, of course back then featuring Penn rather than Finn.

The current slew, Too Cool! Cartoons, is getting the most attention of any, in this age of streaming and worldwide fandoms. And here is where Bee and Puppycat comes in: one of those shorts. Arguably I should watch all 39, but the fact is Bee and Puppycat caught my attention enough that I want to write about it on its own.

Natasha Allegri is a figure who played her cards right in the rise of the Internet’s Adventure Time fandom. As a storyboarder, she put about her designs for the gender-swapped ‘Fionna and Cake’, and the fandom were delighted – especially with the pretty boy versions of Marceline and Princess Bubblegum. Allegri’s designs soon got incorporated into the show itself, much to the delight of the fans, and Allegri herself had made herself known to the public. And thus, it made sense for her to be given a chance for her own cartoon to be put into the ‘incubator’. Step forward Bee and Puppycat.

There’s a lot of Adventure Time here, reflecting Allegri’s work as a character designer – all the characters except perhaps Bee wouldn’t look out of place in an episode. There’s also the same sort of off-centre humour, with people being awkward and saying whatever pops into their heads, doing things in roundabout ways and bizarre riffs on pop culture.

Bee is a bit of a hapless young woman living alone in her apartment but unable to hold down her job. Though her character is in part defined by her ditzy crush on her neighbour Deckard, she is actually one of the most strikingly complex and interesting female lead characters in a cartoon that I can think of. She’s very flawed, her irresponsibility causing problems for herself while at work and for others when she does things like release her umbrella right into someone’s crotch, but in the end she is also caring and likeable and certainly sympathetic. One day, she comes across Puppycat, who definitely looks more like a cat than a puppy despite, we’re led to believe, a dog’s tail. Puppycat helps her find temp work in his strange alternate dimension, though she narrowly avoids incineration by some sort of English-accented administrative ‘Assign Bot’ – voiced by Marina Sirtis, best-known as Deanna Troi. Bee and Puppycat babysit the miserable fish Wallace, who misses his mother and wants a story, but when Puppycat beautifully sings the true story of his life, the hideous monster disguised as Wallace is revealed, and Bee, despite not being able to get her mind around using her sword as a sword, has to come to the rescue. And whatever the outcome, it seems they’ll still be paid.

It’s hallucinogenic and bizarre. It also resonated in particular with me because Puppycat is voiced by the Vocaloid Oliver – that is, the production team apparently bought his program and made him make random noises, which comes out very cute. I’d spent hours looking for decent songs featuring Oliver (eventually only remakes of older Vocaloid songs featuring him partnered with Len appealing to me), and then Puppycat’s Song eclipses everything else Oliver-related in views and…well, has its own very odd beauty. And a brilliant sense of bathos in the telling.

There seems to be a great deal of online demand for more Bee and Puppycat and there are plenty of hints at a wider story, not least of which being Puppycat in the Nanoha / MoeTan etc mascot role. Well, personally I’d very much welcome it.

Additional, 16/10/13: Hmm! Bee and Puppycat, perhaps predictably, has gone to Kickstarter to get funded. The argument is that it can then be done without network interference and bring something new with the female-created but not-for-small-children angle that otherwise won’t get through in pure form. It’s probably more because this way will get them a lot more money for less concessions. But still, it’s clearly working – someone has already snapped up the perks for the $10,000 pledge. Looks like we’re gonna get a whole Bee and Puppycat series to watch, and not in the too-distant future.

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