The past few weeks you’ve seen a video preview and (hopefully) read our interview with creator Pete Browngardt, but now it’s finally time for UNCLE GRANDPA to make his grand debut on Cartoon Network and we got an early look at the first two episodes. Is it as mind-blowingly awesome as we’d hoped it would be?
Uncle Grandpa is definitely mind-blowing. It embraces a constant barrage of weirdness with both arms wide open… and most likely disconnected from its torso. The series – and it’s title character – exhibit a hyperactive and impulsive energy that literally never stops. Just like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse it’s likely not the type of show that everyone will “get,” and, admittedly, the wacky antics can become overbearing. Given some fine-tuning (and perhaps some Ritalin), however, all the pieces are present for a cartoon full of irreverent fun.
Visually the hand-drawn, 2D animation reminds me of cartoonist Nick Edwards, which makes sense since he’s credited with Visual Development on the show. As Browngardt mentioned before, there are also clear influences of MAD Magazine, Ren & Stimpy and South Park, specifically the photo-realistic Giant Realistic Flying Tiger. It’s a mixed bag to be sure, but one that helps the show stand out.
Likewise, the series mixes things up with a variety show format that features one 8-minute story, one short and a few bumpers in between. It’s an approach that seems to let Uncle Grandpa share the spotlight with his equally eccentric supporting cast – like the self-obsessed Pizza Steve – while doubling the storytelling potential.
As the premiere episode, “Belly Brothers” quickly introduces us the main cast of the series – Uncle Grandpa, Belly Bag, Giant Realistic Flying Tiger, Mr. Gus and Pizza Steve – before shunting off to a misadventure in which Uncle Grandpa and an overweight kid bond over their big bellies. One magically air-brushed t-shirt later and the duo are pulled into “Night Wolf Land” where giant Night Wolves (and a Taco Monster) try to eat them. The only way for them to escape is for the kid to find the courage to use his “awesome” belly to fight back.
In the second episode, “Tiger Tails,” Giant Realistic Flying Tiger goes missing and Uncle Grandpa, Mr. Gus and Pizza Steve must look for her by following the “magical rainbow trail” she leaves behind. After a complete makeover they wind up in a Pet Cemetary where they believe GRFT has gone to die. Uncle Grandpa decides to use some “Frankenstein Juice” to bring her back to life, only he resurrects an undead army of angry animals instead.Things get even more bizarre when the zombie pets turn out to be black belts in “Italian Karate.”
OVERALL REVIEW: 3.5/5 – OKAY
With its sight gags and fast pacing Uncle Grandpa trades story development for pure silliness, reminiscent of a Tex Avery-style of cartoons. It’s less concerned with making sense than it is with having fun and stretching the comedic value of each episode to its limit and though the initial result seems off the mark, it’s not without potential. For those willing to dive headfirst into the wackiness, the show offers a colorful cast and it’s own, very unique, brand of humor.
Uncle Grandpa premieres tonight at 7pm CST on Cartoon Network. New episodes will air on Mondays, also at 7pm CST.