Monday, September 20, 2010

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures Season 1

The above is the theme song for season one of the animated series. The first time I heard it, I found it amusing. It got stuck in my head. By the time I got to episode 10, I started fast forwarding through the opening credits because I just couldn't take it anymore. There seems to be some kind of rule with cartoons that you have to create an earworm of a song for the theme. I guess they figure its subliminal messaging for kids to make them come back and watch the show.

The first episode of this animated series is available as a bonus feature if you purchase Bill & Ted's Most Excellent Collection. I remember watching that episode and wanting to see more. As far as cartoon adaptations of 80s movies go, this one is actually pretty good. In my memory, I would put "The Real Ghostbusters" higher on the list than B&T but I also haven't watched that one since I was young. This one ranks higher than The Super Mario Bros Supershow, and gets more credit than the Back to the Future cartoon and Little Shop for actually sticking to the movie's plot for the most part.

The cartoon seems to exist almost in an alternate reality from the movies. Bill & Ted are still in high school. I always figured that the final report B&T give in Excellent Adventure was at the end of their senior year of high school. Maybe I'm wrong, but regardless in the cartoon Bill & Ted are still in school. Mr. Ryan is now the vice principal, and there's really no determination of when in the school year it is, or what level for that matter. I suppose they dreamed that this would go on for many seasons in that magic cartoon place where no real time passes. Their outfits are pretty close to the movie, Rufus still drops in from time to time to give them advice, and they frequently hang out at the Kozy Korner, which replaces the Circle K. It's kind of a strange name for a convenience store.. I've certainly never considered one to be very cozy.

The time travel rules are incredibly inconsistent. In some episodes, they have to hurry back in time in order to do something, in others it seems like they have all the time in the world. In two instances they are told they cannot directly effect their own pasts.. something that seems particularly ridiculous when you consider that both movies involve them using their time machine to set things up for them in order to succeed. In another episode the great ones tell Rufus not to let Bill & Ted know that their decision will effect the future, even though in the movie he tells them that not passing the report will change everything. On top of this, there's no rhyme or reason when it comes to dealing with historical figures. Sometimes they radically change the time line, such as when they prevent Caesar's assassination, and in others they are the ones that supposedly cause things to happen. Basically, jokes always win over logic here. There's also barely any educational value to their adventures. You could learn how Samuel Clemens chose the name Mark Twain, but the rest of his appearance isn't accurate or useful. Of course the movie wasn't 100% accurate either so I guess that's no surprise.

Ted's brother Deacon has been de-aged considerably, and he turns into the generic annoying wise cracking pipsqueak so common in these cartoons.

The biggest value that this season of the cartoon provides is that they were able to get Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, and George Carlin to reprise their roles. There aren't too many other cartoons I can think of that did the same. Even Mr. Ryan is played by the same actor. The rest of the cast is rounded out by many voice acting stand bys of that era. I heard the voice of Danny Goldman (who will forever be Brainy Smurf) in one episode. The other nice touch is that the writers seem to have actually watched the movie and knew it well. Bill says "Ted, you and I have witnessed many things, but nothing as ______ as what just happened" in two different episodes, with different adjectives to fit the situation. Whenever Bill & Ted do air guitar, we hear true guitar sound effects, something that will later appear in Bogus Journey (in Excellent Adventure, B&T mimic the guitar themselves).

Probably not surprisingly, this cartoon is really cheaply made. There are occasional coloring errors or editing inconsistencies. The absolute worse is that at least three times they had Bill's words coming out of Ted's mouth and vice versa. Sometimes they will talk without any mouth movements, and once Bill's mouth kept moving with no dialogue. It's really quite sloppy and kind of surprising given their attention to detail in other matters.

If taken in small doses, this is a cartoon you can probably enjoy and not cringe through nearly as much as some of the others of its time. However I don't recommend rushing through all 13 episodes as I did for the sake of doing this review. It can become quite torturous.

Next up: Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, along with its soundtrack.

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