Saturday, August 17, 2013

WOY Initial Thoughts: The Picnic

Watched: August 16h, 2013 | Written: August 16-17th, 2013
Image from disney.wikia.com
Wander Over Yonder
Episode I (102a): "The Picnic"
 
Sooo, I sounded rather negative in my video game review of Mickey's Dangerous Chase for the Game Boy, so let's try something a little more positive this time.
 
Earlier in the year it was revealed that Disney would be unleashing some new shows; some in live-action, some in 3D, and others in animation, including this new show called Wander Over Yonder; and to be honest it was a show that I was half intrigued about and half disinterested in, though given that in the last 2+ decades Disney's quality in terms of shows and movies has been rather lopsided, that may explain why I wasn't too keen towards it at first.  But don't get me wrong, at their best, Disney can be really, really, really good (i.e. Wreck-It Ralph, Gravity Falls, Phineas and Ferb, The Weekenders, Kim Possible, Bolt); at their worst they can be really, really, really bad (i.e. Fish Hooks, Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil, The Lone Ranger, So Random!, Mr. Young, The Buzz on Maggie).  But that's just my opinion on these various movies and shows, and if you disagree with some of my choices, that's fine; we're all entitled to our opinion, so we'll agree to disagree, different strokes for different folks, to each their own, yada yada yada.  Having watched the premier episode I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised.  It was better than I expected, it took a chance, and oddly enough I was invested in it.  I'm happy to report that Wander Over Yonder was definitely worth the wait.  =)
 
The first episode is called "The Picnic", and before I go over that I should point that when I first saw an image of it months ago on Wikipedia, due to the way it was designed it looked as if it was going to be a whimsical series of adventures of a deputy alongside his trusty steed (who can talk) battling against the forces of a really big adversary.  It looked mysterious yet inviting.  But once Disney started showing the first clips on Disney Channel, I was like, "Dude, that's not at all what I expected it to be like!"  That image deceived me!  XD  So since then I was curious to see if it was going to be a hit, or if it was going to be a bomb.  Sometimes it's easy to judge a show in its entirety by just watching its first episode (in my case, it was Ultimate Spider-Man and Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja) while most times you end up making up your mind on it after having watched a good portion of it.  So Wander Over Yonder was taking a risk in this regard, but since the clips Disney showed looked really decent (and the fact that Lauren Faust was involved as co-producer) somehow made it a must-see for me.
 
So August 16th has come and gone, and before Wander Over Yonder debuted, there was also the debut of the much anticipated Phineas and Ferb and Marvel's Avengers crossover Mission Marvel and a new 2013 Mickey Mouse short called "Bad Ear Day".  Those two were pretty good, but let's discuss "The Picnic" right now.  So there is this event that takes place once every millennia where all the planets align.  And while I was watching this I thought, "Didn't Hercules do that?"  But it doesn't end there, as once that's done they'll be summoning an entity which will only grant one wish.  Lord Hater (yes that's his name), a powerful being that's a cross between the Horned King and a skeletal and bulky villain, wants to make a wish involving taking over the galaxy
but there are two things that are impeding that objective: one is trying to battle an army of small hands with tiny legs (I kid you not) led by a shark/man amalgam called Emperor Awesome (who I swear shares the Joker's grin, the only thing missing is Mark Hamill) and the other one is putting up with all the consistent pestering (as far as Hater is concerned) by the eponymous alien Wander, who as the episode's title implies wants to have a picnic on this momentous occasion, but not without consistently greeting and trying to pal up on Lord Hater.  This is where I was caught off guard, and surprisingly it's not for the worst: Wander himself.
 
He is such a happy anthropomorphic alien being, always optimistic, often energetic, sometimes random, and just extremely likable as a character.  Add to the fact that all he wants to do is have fun and enjoy himself, and you've got perhaps a really great introduction to a really good character.  He's not pessimistic at all (though I'm sure we might see an episode or two where he's glum in the future, I'm not sure), and that's incredible; if I had to make a minor nitpick, it would be that he's a little on the oblivious side but thankfully he's not oblivious to the point of being grating and obnoxious (like Gunther from Kick Buttowski).  I like his design, I admire his innocence, I like his voice, and I like his mannerisms.  That's genius!  Another thing that surprised me was: it's a "fly in the ointment" style episode; Wander is to Lord Hater similarly to what Dee Dee is to Dexter in Dexter's Laboratory and what SpongeBob is to Squidward in SpongeBob Squarepants: a total nuisance.
 
These kinds of episodes tend to fall in the "love it or hate it" trope, depending on if you can handle this sort of theme or not.  And to tell the truth, I'm surprised that this is what they're starting off Wander Over Yonder with since these episodes usually come several episodes or seasons in, rarely the series premier.  And really, I was a little worried because of this, but due to how it was presented, it was for the most part an enjoyable watch.  =)  Any time that Lord Hater makes a speech or tries to do something very important, out comes Wander whether he shouts from a distance or if he even gets closer; and I like how Hater tries to ignore him until it's quite evident that he cannot take it anymore, which happens pretty quickly thereby resulting in some humorous-looking facial expressions.
 
Speaking of Lord Hater, he is a fun kind of villain who tries so hard to maintain his objective but falters in such a way that you can't help but root for him even though deep inside you know he's not going to succeed.  He's such a likable villain too, especially with his exaggerated facial expressions and reactions.  Lord Hater is great too, and so is his eyeball with arms and legs assistant Commander Peepers, who's got in my opinion the perfect voice for him.  I also love his expressions.  I could care less for Emperor Awesome, though, but I'm certain that he'll return in some future episodes (unless he becomes a regular).
 
Like pretty much all animated shows nowadays it is done entirely in flash, and wow does it look mindblowing!  These flash-made visuals are super gorgeous, probably some of the best I've seen in recent memory; I like the colors they've chosen and how they complement the scenery.  The shading and lighting is also quite effective, and the animations all the characters and villains display are fluidly well-done; I found them pleasantly jovial and fun to look at as opposed to disturbingly creepy in certain other shows (*cough* Fish Hooks *cough*).  The title sequence itself looks wonderful.  They're boldly outlined in black, which is usually not my thing, but I didn't find myself minding it so much here.  It also makes for some really bizarre moments, like an army of eyeballs combating against an army of hands... it's about as weird as it sounds, but in a humorous sort of way.
 
Speaking of humor, with the exception of at least two moments, the jokes really work.  A lot of them involve Wander and Lord Hater, and the ending (which I won't reveal) is really funny due to how it was handled, and the way both sides' armies unanimously react equally to what happened to said event is hysterical in my opinion.  =D  Oh, and his steed Silvia makes an appearance too, but only in the last ten seconds of the episode.  Oh yeah, that's a great way of introducing a character: by making them spend the vast majority of it in the loo.  It may be due to my negative stance towards bathroom humor that I react this way, but I'm curious as to what they do with her in future episodes (she does look like she could stand on her own).
 
I'd also like to discuss the credits sequence.  The credits are done in the vein of the credits for shows such as The Replacements, Phineas and Ferb, The Emperor's New School (people find the DTV sequel to The Emperor's New Groove called Kronk's New Groove to be pointless?  I honestly find this spin-off series to be even more pointless), Gravity Falls, the last season of American Dragon: Jake Long and the final season of Kim Possible.  You know, the one where there's a big window at the top of the screen as the credits roll where you see clips from the episode you saw, even some credits-exclusive clips, where sometimes there might be some commentary and bloopers in them?  Yeah, those credits!  Interestingly enough, Wander Over Yonder does not use clips from the show but it instead uses sketches for scenes.  At first it seems like it's a sketch version of a scene that was used, until it becomes apparent that it's far from that.  It's a credits-exclusive continuation which I believe was used for blooper purposes (either that or it was an outtake, which is possible but unlikely).
 
Wander Over Yonder was a breath of fresh air as far as series premiers are concerned.  Its quirk factor went through the roof, it was highly entertaining, looked really good, has got a really good galaxy theme going for it, and most of all, it's got a really good cast of characters.  So far Wander is the best thing about the show (with Lord Hater being a close second), and while he may come across as annoying to Lord Hater sometimes  in "The Picnic", you cannot really hate him for that due to his incredible amount of innocence and fun-loving nature, plus he only annoys unintentionally (he doesn't deliberately do so).  Another thing about the show is from what I've seen there's plenty of charm; no mean-spiritedness, no condescension, no pandering, no needlessly disturbing images (isn't that right, Fish Hooks?), and no pessimistic qualities littered throughout.  Wander Over Yonder provides the fun to the audience as it has fun too.  It's not only fun but engaging; especially when Wander makes a cute face as he shrugs this one time.  Now that's an optimistic quality show full of heart right there.  =)
 
Yeah, so far I like Wander Over Yonder and I'm really curious to see where they go next with it.  The only concern I have is which direction this show will be heading, because it's the sort of show with a promising start that can easily go downhill if done in the wrong hands (if there are signs leading to that, which isn't likely at this point, I'll keep you posted).  But considering some of the people on board--executive producer/creator Craig McCracken (of The Powerpuff Girls fame) and co-producer/story editor Lauren Faust (of Friendship is Magic fame), not to mention some seasoned voice actors in the casting roster--I believe that the show is in secure hands.  =)  Here's hoping it keeps heading the right direction in the future.  I know this all sounds very hopeful of me for just having watched one episode so far, but man I found myself liking it.  Ironic that at first I wasn't too interested before watching and then when I finally watched it I suddenly become more interested.
 
I don't know if this Disney show will attract as big an audience as Phineas and Ferb and Gravity Falls, but if it does, that's great; because there are plenty of references and jokes that I feel that children, teens, and adult viewers alike will appreciate.  If it doesn't, well at least it's still a fun treat to watch (and as a halfisode series too, with eleven-minute long episodes).  It's not quite flawless, but hey I'll cut it some slack 'cause it's only just started.  I think I'll share my thoughts on every new episode of Wander Over Yonder that comes out in the future.  I doubt I'll be able to do them all on time or the exact week it debuted, but I'll try my best.  Next month we'll be treated to two episodes back to back, so it's going to be a 2-for-1 special kind of blog.  I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see more Wander Over Yonder, I'm very optimistic about what it's doing, and I like it a lot.  Until next time, TV watchers, take care!  =D
P.S.: My God, I don't think I've ever sounded so positive about a 2010's show in all my life!  =O
Thank you for reading my WOY Initial Thoughts, please leave a comment and I hope you all have a great day!  Take care!  =D

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