Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Ketchup Vampires 1 and 2 (1995-96)

The Ketchup Vampires

Not all movies begin life as just that. Sometimes film and TV enjoy a symbiotic relationship, and we see a series edited 'seamlessly' into a feature film. Maybe it's just two or three episodes in a row, flowing as naturally as it can. Sometimes whole shows are crunched together. Such is the case for The Ketchup Vampires...

At the Castle Ravenstein lives an odd collection of characters. There's teen girl Bella and her kooky scientist grandfather, and a family of vampires. But not just any, they are ketchup vampires, who have sworn off blood in favour of a vegetarian diet. But their relatives are still vengeful, not only for their betrayal, but their theft of Dracula's sacred book. Integral to the creation of new bloodsucking vampires, it's needed for the upcoming Matura festival, held every 30 years. Will it be a success this time, or will the wider vampire community have to accept ketchup as the future?...

The Ketchup Vampires is a cheesy low-budget cartoon from the mid-90s. On first glance it looks fairly normal, but when you watch it you realise just how bizarre it is! Narrated by the Mistress of the Dark herself, Elvira, it tells the story of the titular family and their friends, all living together in their castle/tomato sauce factory. It sounds simple going in, and on paper it is. But the opening minutes alone show what we're in for...

The Ketchup Vampires was originally a German series, running for 2 seasons and 26 episodes. And for and American release it was compressed it into a single movie! This results in a dense and disjointed film. There's narration stringing scenes together, and explaining things for us rather than showing naturally. Events are raced through with no time to settle, and the stories feel rushed. You can tell what short snippets would've been their own episodes! The dialogue also hasn't been altered enough to support this new structure.

To describe the pace with one scene, the vampire boys are sent out to look for the book (and get a moon-tan while they're at it). As Elvira narrates, "But the students were quickly discovered". And she means it too, because literally one second later we cut to Pino looking at the sky going "Those students are vampires!".

If they had've changed the dialogue and kept more character scenes, maybe this could have worked as 2 part film, or ideally, spread the two plots across a pair of films. Makes you wonder what the actual sequel will be about!

This all sounds like it makes for a very confusing film, and it is. But despite this, Ketchup Vampires is a lot of fun! Sometimes in a cheesy ironic way, other times it's a genuinely enjoyable watch. I would gladly watch a full series of this, and that'd probably answer any questions I have, and feel way better when not crammed into one package.

The vampire lore here is fairly simple, and might not entirely make sense (like how do vampires age or have kids?), but is fun. Every 30 years the bad vampires create a new generation of bloodsuckers with the Matura book. It's a little unclear how this is supposed to work, but ah well. With no means of getting blood(?) they are reduced to eating blood sausage. Meanwhile, our protagonists are able to survive on tomato sauce just fine! The book also has many other secrets and tricks of Dracula's, which come in handy for the heroes.

The cast of characters in Ketchup Vampires is numerous and underdeveloped. It's hard keeping track of everyone, and not only do many have poor introductions, many don't really get the time they need. Young lad Pino is ostensibly the lead, and nice enough. Teenage human Bella meanwhile is spunky and sweet. And also a badass with her very matter-of-fact line about being used in a trap The pair's romance is out-of-nowhere, as they go from friends to lovey-dovey in the second half. But this is is a nice development.

Pino's parents, Margaret and Maurice, are a nice couple (and so old after only 30 years!), although come across as forcible vegans! They're also generous to a fault, and will accept any random baby that strange vampire teenagers will give them. This new baby is then kidnapped as a bargaining chip, which is a roundabout plan! Their part in the climax amounts to 'We'd go with you but we have a factory to run'.

Vampire baby Chubby is a cute enough, albeit entirely unnecessary addition, and has a cute relationship with Bully, the villains' gentle giant manservant. Although the compressed plot robs them of some big scenes.

Then there's Siegfried, a random relation who doesn't really add much, Bella's daffy and inventive grandfather, and her uncle Leo, a melodramatic failed actor. Dr. Ravenstein's gadgets and potions help out a fair bit, eventually transforming himself into a bat to aid the heroes at the end (resulting in some accidental indecent exposure!).

After being freed from Huberta, Hugo the bat gets a cute/sappy romance with Rosie. They become the leads for a while, and the others disappear for almost 15 minutes! In no time they already have babies, and they're good bat kids! Not only well-spoken and intelligent for newborns, but have a strong sense of right and wrong.

The villains are equally plentiful. There's nefarious cousin Hilga, and her associate Ricardo, who scheme to get the book back. While in the second act the Grandmaster takes centre stage, after his discovery of Dracula's magic ring restores his youth and mind. It's funny seeing such a cute innocent character become so different once he's got his wits about him. There's also a group of vampire kids, but they do next to nothing.

Vampire girl Huberta gets much of the focus, particularly in the second half. She becomes instrumental in the Master's plan, and randomly falls in love with Pino. She's a bitch, and thoroughly rude, but in a way that's fun to watch. I did wonder if she would end up reforming, but it's fun seeing her be bad.

The voice acting here is mixed. Most of it is pretty decent, a lot is over-the-top, and while some performances range from average to cute, some might annoy. Particularly Huberta, whose nasal and whiny delivery could amuse, or drive you to insanity. They all fit their characters though, which is good for any dub. And of course there's Elvira narrating, and she's a fun presence! Perfect for the spooky season.

Ketchup Vampires has a great score! There are many fun tunes on display, from goofier tracks, to surprisingly dramatic electric guitar riffs. Then there are the songs. Liar Liar Pants on Fire, There's no such thing as a Ketchup Vampire is a goofy but fun intro song, and we're closed out with Here Come the Ketchup Vampries. We also get a couple of half songs throughout, which are ok, but not great, especially since they're sung over talking, so it's hard to focus on either.

The last thing to discuss is the animation. It's pretty good, for an older cartoon (hey, I said older, not old, don't kill me!), especially one of the cheaper variety. Yeah it's not the most elegant, and has a few hatchet-y moments, but it looks good, and has a nice art style, and the character models are all good, with plenty of diversity. Cartoony without being too exaggerated. There are also some funny/terrifying facial expressions. I guarantee Huberta will live in your nightmares.

Overall, The Ketchup Vampires is a mind-bending watch at times, but it's still charming in a way, and never boring! Its worth a watch for vampire enthusiasts, and judging by those who still hold it in fond regard 30 years later, it's a good choice to sit kids in front of. It could be a great intro for vampires to the youngins if you feel that more adult horror is off the table for a few years (though why would you!)...

The Ketchup Vampires 2

Young vampire boy Pino and his family have just left the circus, and are looking for a new home, where he can meet a nice girl and live the way a growing vampire should. They quickly find the small but homely town of Ravenstein, where the local castle and tomato factory is the perfect place to stay. They can work for their keep, and never run out of ketchup. But the only condition is that Pino must never reveal his existence to the professor's granddaughter Bella. Yet he falls head over heels! Can he win her over and make things work out? Well, if you saw the first film, then definitely!...

After having a mind-numbing but good time with the first film, I was simultaneously eagerly awaiting the sequel, and also curious what it'd be like. Before watching either film I had assumed they each covered a season. But after seeing the first, I wasn't sure.

The Ketchup Vampires 2 isn't actually a sequel, but a prequel. It shows how the titular characters came to be, how they met and ended up at Castle Ravenstein, etc. While not getting a proper follow-up might be disappointing, I was glad of this in a way, because god knows we didn't get enough intros in the first movie!

This is much less sewed and disjointed than its predecessor, feeling less like a condensed series and more like an actual movie. The story is a bit disappointing though. What even happens? An evil relative sends a cousin(?) over to break Pino's heart. That's it, and since she can't even get a toe in, this meagre thread isn't furthered at all. The last film had more plot than you could shake a stake at, with ancient vampire books, diabolical plans, Dracula's ancient ring, brainwashing and kidnapping to create the new vampire king, etc. Here we just see a lot of fluff and meandering.

The continuity is noticeably off this time round. We get a new vegetarian origin for our leads, and a stint in the circus, though I suppose neither are too hard to square with the last film. The bigger examples include Siegfried and Huberta. She comes to Ravenstein here and meets everyone, despite their first encounter being last movie. And with her is cousin Siegfried...Huh? But isn't he a relative of the ketchup vampires, and on their side? What's he suddenly doing in Transylvania with Huberta, who he first met last movie?

Ricardo is now Hilga's husband. The Matura book and its theft are forgotten, and despite Pino's parents fearing for their lives in the flashback, and only seeing her again in the first movie, here is the exact opposite. Margaret casually says they haven't seen the family in a while, and write a letter inviting them over, suggesting they introduce Pino to a nice vampire girl from home. After all, it's not like Hilga's gonna hold a grudge, right?

The pacing in Ketchup Vampires 2 is a lot better and less manic, but also a bit slower in places. There are odd omissions too. There are huge gaps without Bella, and her first meeting with Pino is offscreen (or just written confusingly). She's also told about the ketchup vampires by her granddad offscreen.

The film's central conflict is whether or not Pino can be with Bella, which is soon forgotten as soon as they hook up. But then a third act break-up causes drama. Pino's inconsiderate-as-hell mother keeps him practically chained inside when he has a date due with Bella, and when he finally shows up late, she breaks the relationship off angrily, saying "It's pretty clear you don't have any respect for me!". Jeez louise, girl, he was only late by a few minutes. You live in the same house! You could've just seen where he was!

Pino doesn't make things any better for himself by replying with "Well there's this girl you see". Ooofff, bad explanation! Couldn't he have just said 'Sorry, I had a sprained ankle'? Following this he has some sudden vampire angst. Why, dude, that's not what caused your problems! He even tries filing his fangs off with his dad's tool box, thankfully stopped in time.

These last 10 minutes are a slog with this awkwardness, and the night of the party seems to come a couple of times before it finally happens. There are some great costumes, and it sets a good scene for the climax, where Pino has a confrontation with Bella's new date. Both parties seem to forget what caused the drama, and Bella has already forgiven Pino the second he shows up. Leading to the hilarious exchange of "Sorry I was late for our date Bella, I hope we never fight again." "Me too. Can we get back together?".

And then the film ends on a slightly prolonged kiss, and no other characters get any ending. Neither the villains back in Transylvania, or the Grandpa, Pino's family, or Leo. Not all these characters necessarily need a big final moment, but it'd at least be nice to get a last look-in. We do get a goodbye from Elvira though, wishing us a Happy Halloween!

The characters are on par with the previous outing. Pino is a good lead. Smart and helpful, he's also honourable. He's sad about not seeing Bella, but doesn't break his promise (...right away). He does have some weird moments though, like spying on Bella n the middle of the night and saying "Oh how lucky I am to get to see her sleeping!".

Bella is a little more passive this time round, since she's not directly involved in the action, and mainly roams around searching for a costume fix, and falling for Pino. Their romance is simultaneously an adorable and sweet part of the film, and host to some of its dumbest moments!

Huberta isn't as mean this time round, more pathetic. I felt a little sorry for her in places. Siegfried is another story. He's a little shit, and we never see how he turns good and becomes part of the Ketchup family. The pair completely disappear by the end.

Pino's parents are their usual selves, but get some funny moments. Margaret is wondering why he's so glum. When he tells them it's because he's in love, they're happy. Then he tells them he's fallen for Bella. Ever the supportive mother, she gasps "But that's terrible!" while a hilariously dramatic electric guitar twang plays. The mother is a sudden idiot later on regarding Huberta, but thankfully Maurice sees through the charade and helps his son out.

Leo is an amusing side character again, and gets a funny line while failing to cook: "A scorching review! Away with you, black horror!". I felt bad for him during the rejection letter scene, though he bucks up soon after.

Hilga and Ricardo are ok, though soon forgotten. The supporting villains at the castle get their own subplot when the Master's birthday comes. They're all pretty unnecessary in a single film packed with characters, but they're harmless enough, and get a little more exploration here (like servant Roquefort, who's only a human pretending to be a vampire). Then there are the bats, who don't talk anymore. Hugo is different, acting sleepy or stoned.

We finally get a daylight scene here, with other kids (well, kid, singular), a preppy jerk who I could easily see being named Chet. He's Bella's 'friend', and gets to take her to the dance while Pino's out of the picture. It's here where he gets the 'charming' line:
"Bella, you're a real nice girl for somebody that lives in a castle with a crazy old man, but...I'm telling you, nobody's gonna kiss you while you're wearing those stupid vampire teeth!". Pino gets a hilarious put-down against him, which unfortunately can't say what he means because it's still a kids' show, but ah well!

The music is nice once again, with many of the same tunes recycled. The opening theme this time is Here Come the Ketchup Vampires. I wondered if Liar Liar would be at the end, but the same song plays over the end credits too, which was a bit disappointing. There are a couple of others too, like a weird birthday half-song, and the fun Be Yourself party song.

The animation is likewise good, just as it was before. Although the party scene has some odd lighting, making it look a little bad in poor VHS quality. The characters also make poses reminiscent of the Zelda CD-I games, although not quite that poorly animated!

And the cast is fine as before, though the acting is worse in places, with one hilarious offender being the stiff and overly enunciated "This is extra ordinary and totally un belie vable!".

One last thing to discuss is what Ketchup Vampires 2 even is. The original series lasted for 26 episodes, and if you asked me I'd say the book and ceremony story was the first 13, and the young master plan with Pino was the latter half. That leaves noticeably little material to make a new movie. And since this sequel is quite clearly a single 90 minute story (with such bad continuity to boot), that got me wondering. Just how connected is this to the series? If I had to guess, this is like an addendum, like the Americans needed extra content, and asked their German friends if they could please animate an extra movie for them. This would beg the question why they blitzed through 2 big stories in the first film, instead of divvying them up! Maybe this is just the B-reel of all the remaining side plots, but it flows together too well, so I'm not sure.

The Ketchup Vampires 2 just isn't as good as the first. It's got its positives, including things it does better than its predecessor, but overall it's got too many little problems. If you're a fan of the first movie you should still probably watch this but you might not get as much out of it.

The Ketchup Vampires series really is indicative of a cartoon and VHS market that just doesn't exist anymore, more's the pity. I miss this kind of cheesiness and charm. The complete and total lack of money (or talent, good sense, etc.) only endears them to us, and entertains even now...

Frog Dreaming (1986)

Cody is a rebellious youth living in a small Australian community. After he and friends visit the isolated lake station known as Devil's Knob, they have an encounter with what seems to be a monster, and find a body. Cody is determined to find out just what this creature is, and goes on a journey through indigenous folklore, before returning to capture or kill the beast...

Frog Dreaming is your typical kids adventure film from the 80s, but with a difference! It has elements of boyhood adventure, plus some light horror, coming to us courtesy of Australia for a change, than your typical American production. We even get some Aussie wisdom, like "Alcohol really buggers the ticker.", and "Is that as flash as a rat with a gold tooth?". You're welcome!

This is a good film overall, well-made and entertaining for the most part. The story holds interest, and progresses decently. I did feel it's a bit too slow paced for kids. It takes an hour for leads to just ask about things. They've only had one spooky scene, and haven't even encountered the monster yet (well, directly anyway). The movie ends up having a more cerebral tone than you'd expect. This threw me through a loop, but I didn't mind once I adjusted my expectations.

While Frog Dreaming is an Aussie production through and through, there is one glaring exception-The main lead, who's an American kid plopped here to pander to the Yanks. In this case though I didn't mind, since it actually fits in with the plot. The film, its setting, and characters are all unapolagetically Aussie, while Cody, as a non-Aboriginal and an American to boot is like a double outsider.

Frog Dreaming has a big focus on Aboriginal lore and customs, and it's handled in an impressive way. It highlights the importance of respect when asking about these things  and the importance of sacred or forbidden places. We also hear many Aboriginal terms here (even if it might get Kurdaitcha and Cleverman mixed up, although that might just be a tribal difference).

Cody seeks to learn about the mythical creature Donkegin and this region, so he asks around with the local Aborigines. He's told to find spiritual man Charlie Pride, who is waiting for him. Cody passes a strange test, then asks if Donkegin is real. And Pride answers "Why don't you go and look". Is that it? After he's come all this way, and done your spiritual test, that's all you have to say? Get stuffed!

This drives Cody to return to Devil's Knob, against the advice of his friends, and try and prove Donkegin's existence. It's pretty selfish of Cody to ignore his guardian Gaz's wishes, and his actions cause everyone to think he's dead. This does lead to some great scenes though, and provides some necessary 3rd act tension/drama.

This all leads to a twist, which I found annoying, but foreshadowed well. Little things like the windmill, and the lack of pond on the map, even Cody's inventing streak, all come together in a really good way. Although I had to feel sorry for poor Kurdaitcha man Charlie Pride, whose entire belief system has probably been proven wrong! Although the ending dream seems to suggest he is well aware of the white man's derelict trash forming itself into ancient monsters.

The film has a spiritual ending, which may be just a dream, but feels important anyway. Not sure it really proves anything though!

Cody is a bit of a rebel, but he still feels authentic. He's a good kid, not a goodie two shoes or an iconoclast. It's also interesting how is best friends are all girls. He's sweet too, buying fish for her! His antics can get a little risky at times, and he does spend a bizarre amount of time completely unsupervised. He also has a lot of adult friends, including a kindly inventor. He goes off on his own during his investigation, and the film almost becomes a one man play.

Sisters Wendy and Jane are a fun pair, and play a good role in the story. The older girl acts as a voice of reason, while the younger is more playful, like in a witchety grub scene that's both cute and gross.
Unfortunately the girls disappear for a while after the halfway point. While Wendy eventually returns, the younger sis is absent from the last act, only returning in final minutes. It's a shame to see a strong trio broken up like that for no real reason, and the movie woulda fared better with them together more.

Through these girls we get honest frank moments discussing sex. It's done in a believable way for their ages without going overboard, or sanitised like they're obedient robots who don't even think about it till they're 18. This leads to some pretty jawdropping lines too.

The other townspeople and parents  although some are annoyingly unreasonable, like the girls' father. He goes on about how Cody should be kept under control, and away from his kids, and how he's such a bad influence he's getting the cops talking to them. But he didn't do anything wrong-The police were called by them, not because of, ya dickhead. Gaz on the other hand is a perfect father figure, acting like a mate when he needs to, and giving advice, but also knowing when to be firm.

The cast here is strong. Henry Thomas is a fine young lead, and even does an ET crying face. Apparently it was his parents who helped him choose roles, as quality control. If so, good on the three of them for picking an Aussie production! Rachel Friend and Tamsin West are a spunky and fun pair. Tony Barry does a good job as Gaz with a wide range of emotion. Dempsey Knight cuts an enigmatic figure as Charlie Pride, doing very well. And Doctor Who's own Katy Manning has a small role, and is amusingly overdramatic in places. I was curious if she'd attempt an Aussie accent, but she sounded more cultivated.

The direction in Frog Dreaming is by prolific local Brian Trenchard-Smith, and it's good! There are many well-organised shots, as well as great lighting lighting. The location work is stellar too, with the Australian landscape providing some absolutely gorgeous imagery. My favourites were the sunset that resembles the Aboriginal flag, and the hazy blue mountains beyond the woods.

The sound in Frog Dreaming is courtesy of composer Brian May (not that one). The film successfully captures Australian silence, to serene and sometimes eerie effect. But sometimes it feels like May fell asleep at the wheel. We get some ok music in places too.

Frog Dreaming may not be for every kid, but it's a pretty interesting feature, for adults too, and showcases Aussie and Aboriginal culture in an interesting and digestible way!...

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

City of Mice (1985)

A community of mice is living peacefully when news comes that...a cat has been seen! Everyone scrambles for action, and when they are told a new city for mice has been established, safe for all visitors, they mount an expedition. But as they make their way through the land, the cat is following. It gets closer and closer, and may devour them all before they reach safety...

City of Mice may not be the first film that springs to mind when one thinks of Persian cinema, with the gripping and depressing social dramas that sweep the Oscars seasons. But it's fondly remembered among the youth of yesteryear, and remains a classic to this day.

Despite a thin plot, which basically consists of mice trekking from one place to another, the film is never boring, and moves along at a quick pace. We get comedy bits and musical numbers as the characters mess about. All the while, the villain is an everpresent danger, following the trail left behind.

With a whole town of mice to follow, the trekking party splits in two, leaving us with the kids, who are sent alone with a teacher to go along the longer path while the adults take the shortcut. I couldn't help but think what assholes the parents were for leaving the kids on the own like that! I know the shortcut is technically riskier, but you're still kinda letting your kids be cat bait!

I also wondered how smart of an idea it was to abandon a perfectly good town. I hoped the new city wasn't a trap, or already full up! It won't do the mice any good if there's a refugee crisis, and the sanctuary isn't big enough. A cautionary tale to leave well enough alone...

Despite the number of characters, them only having nicknames, and their being mouse puppets, it might seem hard to keep track of who's who, but the cast does whittle itself down to following only the kids. They have pretty basic personalities, so there'd no real need to memorise.

They are all typical schoolchildren. The funny prologue that will ring true for anyone who's ever tried managing a class of grade schoolers. Despite their naughtiness and jabs at each-other though, they're good kids who go the extra mile. The cast also includes a briefly appearing karate mouse from Japan!

While coming from Iran, the film isn't overly Islamic. A couple of hijabs are visible, but they're not draped over every female character, nor are there any messages about how the Ayatollah demands women stay in the kitchen. Persian characteristics comes through from little behaviours, like their constant use of Dear.

As well as being cute, City of Mice is also known as being scary! The creepiness is balanced well. If you're familiar with the terrifying 80s kids films like The Dark Crystal, Return to Oz, or NeverEnding Story, this isn't quite on that level. The cat provides the lion's share of scares, but the rest of the film is fairly light.

City of Mice is an effects heavy film, with a cast made up entirely of little puppets. They move well, and are never unconvincing. You know they're puppets, but they're not stiff or covered in obvious strings. Their shivering is adorable too! There's also a human performances, courtesy of the cat. Instead of trying to mimic a real feline, it's just a guy in a costume stomping about, which is amusingly different.

The climax has plenty of pyrotechnics on display, which somehow manage not to destroy any puppets or set any actors on fire. The location work is really good too, with a seamless mix of real natural areas, mock-ups, and sets.

Most important is the voice cast. In any film as cutesy as this, particularly with mice as the heroes, you may be expecting high pitched squeak, and sure enough that's the case. There are times here and there where it can get a little annoying, or at least illegible, but for the most part the performers manage to sound cute and mousy enough, for long periods of time, without ever causing the audience's ears to bleed.

The music here is nice enough, with a good score, and a variety of songs with some fun lyrics. They recur a bit, but not annoyingly so

City of Mice is a fun movie, and deservedly a children's classic in its home country. It even got a belated sequel in 2014! I'll have to check that out soon, and hopefully it lives up to the creativity of the first entry...

Monday, February 13, 2023

Wolf Joe (2021-Present)

I've always had a strong interest in Native American culture and history, as well as media. Regular American movies are dime a dozen, but it's not often you see films or programs that star a majority indigenous cast. Luckily things are finally starting to shift a little. One recent case is the Canadian animated series Wolf Joe...

Joe and his friends, Buddy and Nina, live in the peaceful town of Turtle Bay, where day to day life is always an adventure. Together they do what they can for each-other, and the town, learning new things along the way...

Wolf Joe is a very pleasant surprise! It's your typical series about kids getting into all sorts of adventures. But the setting is a native village, and the entire cast indigenous! The show comes to us from the Anishinaabe region, in, where else, Canada! (Far be it from me to impugn the American media industry, but I don't see them making a show like this!).

The stories to each episode are fairly simple, but well-written for the most part, with just the right amount of detail.

Being a cartoon, there are plenty of familiar cliches and tropes every week, such as the constantly recycled "Spirit POWERRRR!" montage, like a Power Ranger morphing sequence. The kids also get a new token for their spirit wheel every episode, despite it only having 7 slots. Without fail they learn a new lesson about the Eagle's  honesty, loyalty, conquering fears, etc.

The characters are decent. Joe, Nina, and Buddy are energetic and youthful. Likeable enough to enjoy watching, and rarely little shits. Despite the supernatural being a commonly accepted force in this world, I'm not sure if the heroes really have special powers, or if it's just childhood imagination. I'm leaning towards the latter. Their dog Smudge is also cute.

There's a pretty colourful cast of supporting characters that populate the town, and it's nice seeing the same faces pop up either in major roles, or just minor ones about the town. Makes it feel like a real place.

One touch I really like about Wolf Joe is its approach to the supernatural. There's an unintended side-effect of the modern world that tends to erase native mysticism, and attempts at showing it are seen as 'backwards' and 'not fit for the enlightened modern world', and some even act as if showing it itself is a stereotype. But here in the world of Turtle Bay, it's perfectly common, for example, for Mei-Mei's to fly about, causing trouble or chasing shiny things.

Wolf Joe teaches some good messages, sometimes in a pretty obvious way, other times it's not super overt. The episodes always end how you expect them to, with the characters learning a positive lesson, often applying it directly. Like conquering a fear of public speaking just in time to perform on a radio show.

It isn't all good though. This is highlighted in one episode that does exemplify a flaw of the series. The trio are a bit unrealistically altruistic for children, always happy to abandon playtime to do chores and help out the adults. This comes to a head in one particular episode, which expects an awful lot of kids. There's a big storm whipping up, and the trio are sent outside to warn townsfolk. How the hell is that the responsibility of some 8 year olds? Why don't some adults do it, instead of foisting it on some easy child labour? And if any dipshits still outside aren't aware there's a storm on, just call them on their mobiles!

There's also another episode where they're out cleaning litter from the beach, which has the unintended message of making every adult in Turtle Bay to be massive litterbugs! It seems like you could read between the lines and get a whole other show here, about lazy and negligent adults relying on kids to do all their dirty work!

The animation is good all round. Never cheap or lazy, characters are designed well and move naturally. I also think there are really nice transitions, that have a very fluid look and sound to them.

The voice cast all do good jobs, from the child leads, to the supporting cast. Some of the deliveries sound a bit cheesy, but nothing bad. They also use a nice amount of Ojibwe words. Enough to teach the audience a thing or two, and not enough to obscure the dialogue.

And lastly, the music here is pretty fun! There's a nice mix of tribal sounds with regular modern instruments, making for some nice comfy tunes. The kind you could imagine in something like Banjo Kazooie, or Jak and Daxter.

Overall, Wolf Joe is a fun series, and a good distraction for the kiddies, especially if you wanna teach them a bit of culture, without it feeling like work!...