Allright, now. When I first started this, I wanted to do a polite article reviewing the first episode of the Animorphs TV show and what I was thinking when it first came out. And, of course, it turned into a full-blown rant by the end. Enjoy!
It was Friday, September 4, 1998, 8:00 PM. In a big grick ranch house in Poughkeepsie, NY, two girls were sitting on the floor in the living room stuffing their faces full of popcorn Mrs.Giulis-Last-Name had made and gulping down soda and candy they had bought from Barton Orchards a little while before.
These two kids were me and my best friend, Meagan, and we were eagerly awaiting the first episode of the new television series, Animorphs, based on our very favorite books. We knew absolutely nothing about it. Who the actors were, what the morphing would look like. We were heading toward the show with completely open minds.
The commercials were rolling. The tention was building. DAMMIT, MAN, WE DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR NEW WATERGUN!!! SHOW US THE FRICKIN' ANIMORPHS SHOW!!! Finally, we were greeted by an *extremely* annoying charactor named "O", and the show began.
Our hearts raced. The screen cleared, then a tall, sturdily built college student with a pug-ish face, blue eyes, and curly blonde hair walked across the screen.
Now, I was most certain that this wasn't any of the Animorphs themselves. What was rushing through my head just then was who could it possibly be??? All of the Animorphs sub-charactors were considered. My mind was boggled. WHO could this guy BE?!
Then the guy said four simple, one-syllable words that destroyed my respect for the Animorphs TV show forever.
"My name is Jake."
Eyes and mouths wide open, Meagan and I stared at the screen as if in a trance. Meagan had her hand up, about to serve herself to some more popcorn, frozen. A single drop of root beer dribbled out of my open, gaping mouth.
Meagan looked at me. I looked at Meagan. And then we simontaniously said the word that we were all thinking at that moment. From here to Alaska, the one simple word on every Animorphs fan's mind as they caught their first glimpse of "Jake":
What was THIS? It was barely two seconds into the show and already we were dissapointed!
Oh boy. As I look back now, almost a year later, on that moment, I pity myself. I was devastated that Jake wasn't exactly as I pictured him. How would I ever be able to handle what I was about to see next?
The scene changes to a supposedvideo game console, although it looked like some green computor-like monstrosity made by a company obsessed with camoflauge. Here we also see Marco, who is as uncharactoristic and as confusing as Jake. and, for some reason, the dog is allowed in the arcade with them.
Immediately, the screen changes to a mysterious boy at another computor console alone. We don't yet know that this boy is Tobias, so it seems ridiculous to linger on him for so long when they only have half an hour, even less if you count commercials. In this scene, barely anything happens. It took three minutes. Three minutes wasted on nothing but a strange man with five 'o clock shadow playing a computor game.
Moving on, Rachel and Cassie enter. With sappy, syrupy cheerfullness, Rachel says hi to Tobias who looks like he's just about ready to punch her in the face. Then she announces that she's captain of the gymnastics team. Guys, hate to break it to you, but there is no such thing as a "gymnastics team" unless Rachel suddenly belongs to a family of traveling acrobats. I truly think they made her 'captain of the gymnastics team' because they wanted her to be a cheerleader, but needed to stick to the books a tiny bit, so they changed 'cheerleading' to 'gymnastics'. I mean, every TV show has its popular blonde cheerleader. They wanted Rachel.
"Well," I had origionally thought. "at least she's not a brunette speaking Swahili."
Covering the acting in this scene, Chris is, in my opinion, taking intense emotional drama and milking it for all it's worth. Brooke sounds like she just downed about 50 Coffee Coolattas after spending a week with the Spice Girls, Shawn sounds bored, and Boris sounds and acts like he always does: horrible. Nadia says nothing and does nothing, similar to the rest of the episode.
Then, out of the blue, as if possessed by little blue demon weasels tickling him with pink jockstraps(?), Homer, the best actor on the whole damn show, decides to run off for no reason. This scene was a waste of money, time, and effort(?). It would be better and less confusing if they just decided to go home and take the shortcut through the abandoned construction site. It would also help Rachel's charactor a bit to add in the part where she screams at Jake when he suggests he should walk the girls home, and help Cassie's charactor to end the fight instead of Cassie saying notihng the entire episode but little whines, gasps, and a "Here, boy" directed toward Homer, Rachel acting like a Valley Girl, and the question of why Homer ran off in the first place. That was never answered and later identified as a plot hole. There seem to be many of those in this show.
Anyway, Homer just running off confused and angered many people. The Animorphs chase Homer out into the street (just a little tihng I noticed: they all run like geeks. All of them) and wow, what a coincidence, Tobias is there by the side of the road, watching as his friends chase Homer and babble out junky script filler lines such as:
Rachel:"Where is he going, anyway?" Like Jake or anyone would know!
Jake:"Come back, Homer!" Like Homer actually hears and understands him. Riiiiiiiiiiight. (Sarcastic thumbs-up) Keep up the good work, AniTV scriptwriters.
Now here's a good example of their wannabe cool, wannabe creepy music which just comes off as annoying. And the so-called 'abandoned construction site'? They don't tell you where they are or what's going on, and where a doomed mini-mall was supposed to stand, we see things you only see in factories and power plants and no garbage, pot holes, earth movers, rusted beams anywhere. I swear, I'd be completely and utterly lost if I hadn't read book #1 just hours ago. And trees? WHY trees????
I doubt anyone but me noticed this, but when Marco walks by a small alley, the heater attached to the side of the building nearest him is on and emitting 'steam' into the cold night air.
Now, the ship is pretty cool. It looks like something out of Star Trek, a good image and a nice little boost for this bad show. And the sparks were great. But, of course, there couldn't be something good without something bad to back it up, now could there? The actors weren't quite freaked out enough (the only thing uttered was "Too weird") and the ship seem to go way too fast.
Is it just me, or did they show the ship going down, then show a picture of the kids, then show the ship in the exact place they started it out with and re-doing the entire tihng, except bringing it down to scrape the building this time?
They turn around a corner and wind blows their hair back. Now, this may seem like an odd quesiton to ask, but why is there huge gusts of wind all of a sudden? Last time I checked, when something crashes it doesn't start a hurricane.
When the door of the ship started to open, I decided it looked waaaaaaay too much like the computors in Cyberia. Sheesh. These guys sure do like their camoflauge-style green, don't they now?
Too much light came out the entrance (are they trying to BLIND us or is this just the way Andalites live?!) and they spent way too much time concentrating on Elfangor leaving the ship. It's like, "We get it, we get it. Hooves walking down a ramp. Yay. Now let's go on with our frickin' lives."
Then the Animorphs hide, which is stupid, because any normal person would be paralyzed with fear. As they were hiding, their motions were too fast and too fluid; their bodies too relaxed. They should have been stiff and jerky. (heehee No pun intended, but I like that play on words. I'm gonna use that later, if ya don't mind...)
Ooh! Ooh! Now here comes the part where we are first introduced to the writer's failed attempts at modern kid slang! ("He's definately not from my 'hood" :::both Meagan and Giuli roll eyes:::) Pass the soda, Meagan, we're making Animorphs history now!!!
And, finally, we get a look at what is above the hooves. Elfangor's upper torso is only a faint shadow amist the smoke pouring out from his ship, for some reason (we lit it on fire, we got so mad) and it is still horrible beyond belief. The rubber stalk-eyes are just stiff mounds of clay glued to Elfangor's head that wobble *a lot*, it is needlessly furry, and its head resembles a helmet or a cockroache's exoskeleton.(I learned that big word from K.A. :::beams like a Pre-schooler:::) Also, every time he took a step, the metallic 'clank' sound effects were like a minute off every time. We'd see him take a step, and only a while later would be actually hear it.
Then, after taking about 10 steps, fine and stable, our pathetic 'Andalite' stumbles, something that looks more like him laying down to sleep. :::with disgust::: Wouldn't want to bruise he puppet, now would you, guys?
Now, to my happiness, the two girls there are the first to stand up and approach the alien.(girl power!) But the scene seems to have switched to them now cowering behind a table with only a plain white wall you could ifnd anywhere (particularly a TV studio) as their backround. Didn't ANYBODY notice that when they only minutes ago,that they had ducked behind a pile of several wooden crates and a few barrels with a darkened fence behind them, yet now they have a plain white screen and a table?!
Movin on, the boys follow the girls toward the 'injured' creature, Marco attempts a stupid Alien-English Dictionary joke which makes me roll my eyes with renewed disgust every time I hear it, and Elfangor speaks. They brush half-hazardly past the idea of thought-speech in four unclear, badly recited lines.
Now, I won't say Elfangor sounded like an tired, beaten old man 'cause Chee-Dolus already said it (and quite nicely, might I add) but it's true and I just kind of wanted to call attention to that.
Like all the actors on the show, the voice of Elfangor (or ElFANgor, as they put it) is terrible. About to comment on his pathetic attempts at grunting in pain, I realize: Why is he having trouble talking if he's USING HIS FRICKIN' THOUGHTS?!?!?! And WHY is he grunting and gulping in air at ALL? I suppose they can't show the horrible burn marks on his side, so they make the talent-challenged actor over there try to put it across in words. (Leans forward and starts talking to the makers of AniTV like they were two years old) That would be a baaaaaad idea, okay?
I swear, bad dialogue, bad directing, bad music, bad acting, bad special effects... is there ANYTHING even remotely GOOD about this show?! Oh yeah: The name.
Going back to the episode, Elfangor produces a fake-looking computorized image (even I could do better!) of a Yeerk crawling into a person's ear. (of COURSE the person's bald-every Controller is. DUH.) The Yeerk is small, has no trouble getting in, and has legs and an exoskeleton for some strange reason. (Oh no! It's the invasion of the killer earwigs!) It doesn't expand or liquefy itself, expanding into every little nook and cranny of your mind. Rather, it sinply goes into your brain and takes over somehow. And that is that.
They used the term 'parasite' like it was some used Animorphs catchphrase instead of an actual word. Every word used on this show, it seems, is stripped of its dignity.
The close-up they show of Elfangor's face is, for one, waaaaaaay too close-up, and about the quality of it? It's like they're sending out this high-freguency message:"We made this is less than fifteen minutes when we were seven as an art project on the side at Camp eagle Hill! And we made it way too close-up because if you saw the whole thing, you'd realize what a humungus piece of crap it is!" I swear, it is so ugly, no, OOGLY, with fake, glassy eyeballs shoved into the sockets.
Now, many people could go on and on and on about how a *white*, mind you, box just kinda materialized in Elfangor's hand, and I don't see why! Andalites are magical, dontcha know. Yep. They can do amazing things like decode video cards by rubbing them against their fur. Duh. I cannot believe you people have a problem with that. :::rolls eyes, then winks:::
OK, Elfangor explains the whole invasion and the morphing and everything in the trademark AniTV confusing, fast, and vague manner, and the kids act like it's nothing. Marco utters a few sarcastic comments and the only one of the whole bunch that even sounds remotely frightened is Rachel, who just sounds like a desperate, whiny little brat. She even manages to mess up her three word line, "You heard him." Chris looks like either his hair has been crimped or it hasn't been washed in weeks. Marco says "Man, this is insane!" so fast, you tihnk he's saying "Manissisinay!" until you stop and think about in for a short period within which you miss moments crucial to the plot(hole). Then Jake touches the BLUE box (just thought I should remind you) and it turns RED. I promised not to do any *serious* swearing in this rant, but What. The. Fuck.
The whole thing is done way too slowly. The Yeerks are coming, you buttmunches!!! Hell-oo??? Thake the God-damned cube and GO!!!
This whole thing which should have taken 5 minutes or less, takes 20 minutes.
And when the Blade Ship lands, it looks nothing even remotely like the books describe it. Why it makes an earthquake when it lands, I do not know, but it seems that natural disastors caused by alien ships landing are quite common on this show.
Visser 3 walking down the ramp was the same exact footage of Elfangor walking down the ramp shown again, if you'll notice. God. You you get more desperate?! Then we get a full, clear look at the upper torso of Visser 3--The Furby From Hell. It is literally scary. and not scary in a good way. Scary as in what-the-hell-were-the-Nickelodeon-executives-smoking-when-they-put-this-show-on-the-air scary. It makes you wonder: Were they actually seeing the same pilot episode we're seeing? Anyway, back to the Visser 3 description:
It was blue rubber sewn into light blue shag carpeting. Fake and disgusting.(four times and counting) After seeing the computorized alien ships, you'd expect them to do better. You know they can do better. But :::sigh::: they don't.
Many people say that the shoddy special-effects are because of either an extremely low budget or a badly used one. It was a badly used budget. And I can tell you exactly what they misspent their money on, too: Slow-motion shots, shot after shot of the same exact thing from different angles (everyone hates that, so cut it out) and smoke. Oooh, we're soooo impressed by your spoooooky smoke machine...
You hear the Visser speak. His words are rushed and without emotion and his voice sounds ridiculously compureized. "What an honor to be in the presense on a legend." (I'm sorry, but he sounded like a robot Dr.Evil when he said that line-he really did) WHAT THE HELL??? Did those writers even read the Andalite Chronicles?? Obviously not since Elfangor met, fought, and spoke with more than several times and was there when he infested his andalite body, Alloran, his prince and good friend, whereas in the show he seems surprised to see that Visser 3 had 'Yeerked':::grinds teeth::: an Andalite. What asswipe assumed they had never met?! I get the feeling that the writers only read a little bit of the first book and nothing more to do this episode, then continued to read random books as they went on to do other episodes.
Now, I was just concentrating on how idiotic Visser 3's little speech was when I realized something. The Animorphs had gone back to hiding behind the crates and barrels again. Hmmm, curious, don't you think? Boy, they really like to move around...
My comment that they could do better is proven when Visser 3 starts to morph a huge beast and only his hand shows. His morphed hand reminded me of Draco's hand from the movie Dragonheart(it's one of my favorites--you gotta see it!) starring sean Connery's cool deep voice. I think he'd make the perfect Visser3, don't you agree?
Anyway, the shadow of the beast against the wall of a building was pretty fake and obviously computorized, but you gotta give them credit for trying and, more or less, succeeding. They didn't achive Industrial Light and Magic style f/x qualities, but they did an admirable job.
The sound effects, though, as my friend Lesley put it, "sounded like a fat man sitting on bubble wrap after eating two pounds of nacho cheese sauce". It just sounded horrible and all through it, Nadia was doing that annoying thing she always does with her mouth where she smiles, but turns down the corners of her lips. I *hate* when she does that!
The worst part is, Elfangor just kind of sat there and let Visser 3 eat him, even yelling "Take me!". And, in her whiny, Valley-Girl voice, *Brooke*, mind you, was the one to scream: "NOOO!"! Jake did it in the books and it would have sounded much, much better coming out of Shawn Ashmore. A big masculine "NOOO!". Frankly, I don't think these writers have a 5th grade education or the IQ of a plate of mashed potatoes. Either that or they actually go out of their way to make the show suck.
And WHY, might I ask, are there railroads and a gas tank in the middle of an abandoned construction site?? Oh, the many mysteries of our friend, AniTV...
I was completely disgusted when Nadia's legs got tangled in wire--a completely useless scene that they could have done without with flying colors, and Rachel and Tobias--NOT Jake--come to rescue her. Yes, of ocurse she's whimpering. What I'd like to know is how the hell did she get her legs tangled an that wire in the first place? It seems to be wedged under a table or something so to get her legs caught in it, she'd have to sit down, face the wire, spread her legs out, and slide under, moving her legs around to deliberately get caught in the wire. :::sigh::: Yet another plothole.
And Jake. Jake whose pug-nosed Dougy Houser face is frozen on the Hork-Bajir, not Cassie. That Hork-Bajir, in the middle of my intense hatred for this show and complete and utter disgust for Jake, caused me to literally roll on the floor in helpless giggles. Jake and Marco are staring, horrified, at this styrofoam muppet, they play scary music... who in their right mind WOULD'NT laugh?!
And on the little matter of the Andalite bandits, the Controllers, who appear magically out of nowhere (another Andalite superpower) clearly see the Animorphs' faces, hear a human girl's voice, and the Hork-Bajir gets a clear, looong look at both Jake and Marco, who, by the way, are just kind of stand there, out in the open, with loads of Controllers looking for them, and yet they still manage to think that they're Andalite bandits. Ooooh, we feel smart.
Anyway,Jake and Marco run away, the Hork-Bajir WALKS after them, after about an hour, and you never even see the Hork. You just see his distorted vision (the same cheap camera trick they always use)watch Jake scamper around like he's dribbling a soccerball.
Meanwhile, Cassie is finally free of the ropes she *cough* got stuck in, and while she whines, she does nothing to free herself while Rachel *cough* and Tobias *cough* move their hands around a lot.
Movin on, they cross the railroad tracks *cough* and pass the shed *cough* (I'm sorry--I have a little cold.)for the third time while about 50 Controllers get a clear view of them, (thanks to their *cough* Dracon-beam/flashlights!) and they shout stupid filler lines at each other while Jake runs around in circles like an idiot and the Hork makes a sound exactly like the one used in morphing. (How come the animal's brains make so much noise on this show??!!)
Jake runs past more buildings and props we've already seen about five times and crawls into a pipe. Then we see the Hork's full body, with no blades, and which looks like a naked man minus genitalia and any muscles. As we take a commercial break, we take a moment to reflect upon what we just saw.
"What the fuck is THIS???" Meagan comments without hesitation.
"Just be grateful they're not speaking Swahili," I reply.
Meagan rolls her eyes. "They probably will be in future episodes."
We both grinned. But that sentance made me think: Future episodes? MORE of this crap?! Oh, Lordy, Lordy. I could only imagine what these beasts would do to Ax--and dreaded it. Ah. And now, back to the show...
Jake is still in the pipe when Homer casually trots by, noticed by no one. I guess he just materialized into another dimention for a while, then came right back when Jake needed him. And now the music is apperentally going through puberty, reaching a high point that only dogs can hear.
Ooh. Now begins the most dramatic scene in the whole episode: Someone scratches his leg!!!! :::gasp::: Dun dun duuuuuuuuun! This man is obviously a Controller. Only Controllers scratch their legs. DUH!!!
And now, with some more fake morphing music, two styrofoam Hork-Bajir legs walk by lifelessly, as if being dragged, which they probably were. The Hork stands in front of the pipe for a few minutes (some more wasted air time) and Jake watches it, breathing so loud, I'm not quite sure the people over in Berlin heard him. Better gasp louder, Jake! Awww, what's the matter? Did Brooke manage to seduce you? OK, I admit that was sick. I just can't live without some Brooke Nevin humor. Witch reminds me, you haven't seen her fangs anywhere, have you? she lost them last night over at Paulo's apartment... Okay, okay, I'll stop.
Where were we? Oh, yes. A Hork-Bajir is standing in front of the pipe and Jake is staring at it. How. Exciting. Gee, the blood's really rushing through my veins, now! Jake's hiding in a pipe, watching the passerby! What fun! Can't wait to see the other suspenseful episodes!
Then, Jake puts his hand on Homer's head, which surprised me, since Elfangor never actually told them they had to aquire the DNA first, or how to do it. With a surge of bad music, Jake draws his hand back, then puts his hand back on Homer's head, then draws it back again. He repeats this little ritual about 3 or 4 times until Homer whines and, yes, actually hits him in the face with his paw,(yay!) as if telling him: "Get on with it, you lousy geek! We don't have all day! Sheesh. Man, I've sniffed butts more attractive than you!!"
They do a *very* close close-up of his face, (very cheap) then freeze the picture, moving now and then to show Homer. The morphing sequence begins.
Hey, I'll bet you didn't know this little tid bit: Shawn's eyeballs can bend! Yep, you heard me. Like a sheet of paper. Besides that, the morphing sequence was kind of cool. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give it a 5, maybe even 6 at a stretch, considering how hard it is to make that kind of special effects on a severely misused budget. Heck, let's even give them a 7, considering how hard it must have been for them to not give in to temptation and cover the boy with shag carpeting.
So, Jake morphs and runs out of the pipe and, for some reason, Homer follows him. They run off into the woods, Jake carrying the *cough* Dracon beam *cough* (Is my cold acting up again?!) he stole from one of the Controllers in his mouth (which, for some reason, *cough* is never seen again... *cough* *plot hole* *cough*) and so it ends. I think.
Unfortunately for all of us, no. The episode is still not over. The scene changes to the outside of a building, then shows Nadia. You now see Nadia, Boris, and Brooke sitting together at a lunch table. (psh! Like Brooke's gonna eat anything. And, as we find out later, doesn't. I'm serious now. Notjust dissing Brooke) So they're sitting at a lunch table, and Chris walks in. Brooke waves at him and invites him over. He joins them. A-HAH! Just a few *cough* kids *cough* sitting at a lunch table. No action. Pure acting and to threat of the lines being rushed and struggled, now, huh?
Nope. These guys are natural bad-actors. They've got talent in the feild of no-talent. The lines are still rushed and wobbly, followed by long periods of silence in which they stare at each other angrily (notice how Brooke glares at Chris when he sits down, even though she invited him and is secretly calming her urge to make out with him)
In this scene, they provide the popular Animorphs cleche "They could be anywhere". Then they show a dramatic waste of time in which they slow down shots of a few girls fixing their makeup and a boy drinking a bottle of grape juice. I keep thinking how funny it would be if his lips let go to the rim of the bottle or just a split second and grape juice spilled out all over his pants! And all this in slow-motion! Would ruin the mood, wouldn't it? (like there was a mood to begin with)
Uh-oh!!! :::gasp::: *cough* Principal Chapman (dun dun duuuuuuun...) SCRATCHES HIS LEG! AAAAAH! THE WING TIPS OF DOOM!!!
Of course, he must be a Controllers scratch their legs. Normal people just deal with the itch. And if their ear itches, they don't scratch it because, of course, only Controllers scratch their ears. DUH! What were you thinking, idiot?! (slaps reader across face)
And so ends the horrible first episode. And, sorry to say, it wasn't the worst.
I'll bet you 50 bucks (which I don't have and wouldn't give you anyway ;-P) that this show doesn't last to see a third season. Sure, the basic idea is cool, but sooner or later AniTV fans will see: Why watch the show ofr the basic plot when you can get that and so much more reading the books? They will all finally realize that the show sucks and everything will go downhill.
There are rumors about a full-length Animorphs movie, made by a huge company with a seemingly endless budget, with fantastic scripts, wonderful actors, and unbelievebly cool special effects, which will no doubt rip the kids eyes away from the boob tube and save the day. I sure hope these rumors are true, and if you idiots make an actual movie out of this TV show, I know of at least 50 kids (there are more than 1000 people who hate your show out there) who would just love to strangle each and every one of you for it. Of course, they'd like to strangle each and every one of you anyway.
And so ends my rant. You'll be pleased to know that, hand-written, this is 15 pages long. All dedicated to one half-hour.
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