By Ed Sum
Rekindling certain flavors of 80’s cartoon-dom requires certain key characters to enter the video library. At the tail end of this decade came Beetlejuice, the animated series. This ghost with the most’s violent tendencies were toned down and for some unknown reason, both him and Lydia Deets are best-pals. Fans of Tim Burton’s movie will have to wonder what happened in between since the two were unlikely allies; even at the end of the film, these two parted ways and Beetlejuice was “awaiting reassignment.” Despite the differences between the film and cartoon, the series lasted for a good four seasons—a rarity for any cartoon.
It’s tough to resist a character who reeks of mischief. This miscreant of the supernatural world gets into more trouble than he realizes, and to see him worm his way out of situations is one of the charms this series has. With Shout! Factory’s bare bones video release, viewers do not have to scout the internet or television stations to find where this ghost is hiding. If he pops out at the wrong time, then maybe someone will lose their funny bone. Much of the spirit in Michael Keaton’s performance of the seminal character can be found in this cartoon. Stephen Ouimette does a great job in voicing this character and emulating Keaton’s style. Even the editorial staff of Patsy Cameron and Tedd Anasti certainly know their product to ensure consistency.
Interestingly, Lydia is not necessarily the same remorseful character that viewers may recall from the live action film. She did undergo a metamorphosis at the end of the film, making her a bit more cheerful. In terms of nostalgia, she is best remembered as the Goth who can’t stand bright and cheery. Even in the ‘toon, she can not stand how her mother redecorated her room in the premiere episode, “Critter Sitters.”
And just where are Charles and Delia, Lydia’s parents? They are more like side-characters whose persistence in the series would fade as the series progressed.
Despite a few differences from the live-action product to animated product, the transition of a film to ‘toon is one of the better translations done to date. Not many animated products can work well as a 22-minute laugh-along product. The only exception in the past five years may well be with the Penguins of Madagascar. Slapstick comedies is what helped get people going to the cinema back in the early days of Hollywood (as it was still evolving) and Mack Sennett was a true pioneer of this genre. Quite often, that is the vibe this series gives. It’s an homage to the comedies of yesteryear, and the later episodes in season four only reinforces this idea.
The craziness can be enjoyed one episode at a time or as a weekend marathon. The digital transfer is decent, but not all the episodes fare too well. A few suffer from chromatic bleeding and others are from a poor source, where viewers are wondering if there is a double image. The artifacting problem is noticeable with upscaling video players. Curiously, there is no internal coding to tell optical disc players how to properly display this show in its proper aspect ratio of 4:3 than 16:9. When watching this series, viewers will have to adjust their video player or the television’s settings.
This release is nothing special when compared to previous Shout! Factory releases, which came with bonus material. At least the packaging is quite decent. The release comes in keepsake Amaray cases which makes removal of the product easy than hard. Even the menu design is simple, so children can search for the episode they want to watch after consulting the back of the case for a title or online for a summary. Each disc holds eight episodes and the series has a total of 94 episodes to enjoy.
If there is an upgrade to a package, hopefully Shout! Factory will consider a booklet or a commemorative item. Maybe this release is set up to gauge interest for this product and test the waters if the studios should go ahead with a proper sequel. Seth Grahame-Smith confirmed that all the parties are interested as long as the script is good instead of being developed as a cash grab. But as for how long it’ll take for a second movie to be made, it will be like waiting for Ghostbusters 3 to be green lit. If sales are successful, maybe Shout! Factory will locate the show creators to provide some commentary on a few key episodes like “Ghost to Ghost,” where Lydia and Beetlejuice’s relationship gets explored. To have extra material for a 25th anniversary release is required. After all, 2014 is not too far away.
Readers can buy the complete series by visiting Amazon.com here.