Launched in an era of pop culturally aware, postmodern animated series developed to appeal as much to children as well as savvy older viewers who may also be in the room during the same time slot, the delightfully macabre and darkly comedic television creation Courage the Cowardly Dog marked a bold departure from traditional cartoon fare.
Instead of sending up standard live action family sitcoms a la The Simpsons or The Flintstones or relishing in the good old fashioned physical gags of cat-and-mouse chases from the days of Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry, Courage mastermind John R. Dilworth sought inspiration from classic horror films, science fiction features and cult drive-in movies.
Dilworth's series centers on a pink scaredy cat... er, dog ironically named Courage, who must routinely save his beloved elderly owner Muriel as well as her curmudgeon husband Eustace from various monsters, creatures, and psychopaths who flood into their town of Nowhere twice during each episode.
Dilworth's character made its world debut as Hanna-Barbera's only Academy Award nominated animated short in the studio's history when 1996's seven-minute The Chicken from Outer Space initially garnered acclaim. Eventually the Courage character was spun-off into its very own series in 1999, which Warner Brothers recently unveiled, serving up the first season of Cartoon Network's frightfully funny hit as part of the cable channel's Hall of Fame line of DVD releases.
Still as bizarrely demented as ever, this action packed hit is certainly for an acquired taste as some of the creepy crawly critters may turn one's stomach despite the fact that they're animated.
Nonetheless the cinematic scope of the visual presentation never fails to impress. The ordinary world of Courage and his owners is transformed two times during each episode into a mini-horror movie or science fiction extravaganza depending on the diabolical plots that never fail to play off of genre conventions and standard film cliches in a way that makes one eager to see what Courage will grudgingly face next.
Delicately, it underplays the peril of his owners with recurring gags that find them asleep or otherwise unaware of how much danger they're in when a fox needs Muriel to make granny stew or creatures have temporarily gotten the upper hand of Courage's masters. And from fights mid-air to using whatever tools happen to be at his disposal, the reluctant but good-natured dog who loves his human mother always wins out in the end.
Yet despite its knack for blending the sugary sweet with the sinisterly sour, it's highly recommended that as a parent or guardian you view a few episodes of Courage before you decide to introduce the unlikely hero to your children to see whether or not Nowhere is a town they'd be inclined to visit.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: TV on DVD