R.I.P.: Stephen Hillenburg

Animated cartoons are supposed to revel in the absurd, which is a lot harder to do than wallow in the ridiculous, obnoxious or obscure. “SpongeBob SquarePants” captivated me right from when I saw it very early on. Starting with the looney-but-perfect notion that he was a kitchen sponge instead of one of those wacky globs that live in the real ocean. The core of characters was a perfectly realized team (best cohort: Sandy Cheeks — starting with her name, how’d they get away with that one?) (poorest concept: Mister Krabs’s money-grubbing, which got more than a little icky-poo over time) (best bonus: Plankton has one of the most corrosive asshole-voices ever).

Favorite episode — the one where SpongeBob and Patrick paint the inside of Mister Krabs house. Ending worthy of Surrealist immortality.

Favorite joke line that nobody coming across it for the first time in the future will understand: “You aren’t going to make me read old magazines, are you???”

PS: Second-favorite episode is the one about Sandy hibernating. Her mean-Texas dreamtalk made me scream with laughter when I first heard it. Still wondrous.

Oy! “Trolls de Troy”

Just when you think Oggy and the Cockroaches is the biggest French-cartoon import you’ll ever run across, the Brookline Booksmith Used Book Basement comes through again and yields up the first volume of Trolls de Troy, which I understand is enormously popular in France and some other non-English-speaking countries. I loved the crazy action and the vibrant artwork so much, I didn’t mind my merest spattering of French. Closer viewing at home revealed the comic featured fabulous monsters and, wow, horror-movie violence (just for starters, the Trolls kill and eat humans with impunity and regularity), not to mention a human “child” of a lead character who wants to become a Troll but who really seems to be there so we can have a Hot Babe around (who happens to be a cannibal).

I can’t follow the plot — the only English versions of Trolls de Troy is the animated cartoons, very simplified and toned waaay down — so I may only need an example of this series. But yowsah, if yer a serious comic-book person, you got to have a look at this one.

The Disney Menace

Aw. c’mon — menace is over the top innit? I donno — when we visited Anaheim recently I thought it had the weirdest company-town vibe imaginable. Felt like you had to wear a Mouseketeer hat to live there. Non-Disney places felt like escape havens. Now it turns out Disney is doing something really, really shitty — banning LA Times critics from advance screenings because the paper is reporting on the freaky conquest of the town by the company. The only pleasure I take from any of this is that the shivery feeling I had out there was based in reality.

 

UPDATE: the ban is lifted after backlash that any non-arrogant non-bonehead could have seen coming.

 

R.I.P.: Robert Guillaume

Sure he played a butler, but the best part was that we all knew this was a ruse. 

He was there to ladle on a particular brand of dry resentment about race and power and class convolutions. After I visited the place, he seemed very St. Louis to me. (I missed out on all his TV work after “Benson”.) And you have to say he elevated a mystic baboon from a potential nothing-shtick into an essential part of a major Disney franchise. (I argued that was not least because Rafiki seemed like the only character who was remotely from Africa.)