Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Happy Tree Friends - Season 1 Volume 1

The Happy Tree Friends are a bunch of cute, cuddly cartoon characters doomed to horrendous torture and death in every episode. Similar to Itchy & Scratchy from The Simpsons or Kenny from South Park, the characters serve no real purpose other than to die in extremely creative and hysterically funny ways. This new DVD collection gathers nine of their newest adventures as broadcast on the G4 television network.

The show started out as a Web phenomenon that spawned previous DVD collections of their early outings and numerous marketing tie-ins due to their candy-colored cuteness factor. Nothing really changed during their move to G4, except that each episode runs roughly seven minutes as opposed to the three-minute average of their original webisodes. Due to their late night scheduling on the little-seen G4 channel, the DVD release is the best way for the masses to catch these new episodes.

Each episode begins with the Friends peacefully going about their daily routines until something goes terribly awry, such as a runaway rollercoaster or a gigantic snowball barreling through town. Characters are generally of the gentle woodland creature variety, including a rabbit, beaver, squirrel, skunk, and moose, making their vicious torture all the more sadistic. The characters eventually lose their limbs, their faces, get impaled, exploded, and ripped to pieces, generally resulting in no survivors by the end of each cartoon.

The humor comes entirely from the devious and inventive ways the characters die, typically cascading from one simple accident to a massive horror of Biblical proportions. For example, when a baby gets stuck in a kitchen sink, there’s no question that the garbage disposal will come into gruesome use, but there’s also no way to predict that baby and father will eventually end up plummeting off a gigantic waterfall after a prolonged extraction attempt. None of the characters really talk, so the comedy is universal for all fans of its over-the-top brand of dismemberment. Buckets of blood are spilled in every episode, leading to the creative disclaimer that the show is “not recommended for small children or big babies”.

The show is best in small doses, but the nine episodes presented here still feel a bit brief for DVD collection. A few extras are provided, mostly showing life behind the scenes of the creators in their studio but not really offering much enlightenment into the creative process. While the DVD is worth it for rabid fans of the show who can’t wait to own the newest adventures, patient fans might want to hold out for the inevitable box set of the full season.



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