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Les Gees!

I watched The Iron Giant last night. I’m in one of those miserable curmudgeon-y moods where I’m totally uninspired and a colossal bore and curse arbitrarily to myself (because that’s what bummed people do!), and as such I’m really disappointed that I don’t even have much to say about it. But I really quite enjoyed it! The visual style was really slick and colourful and just gosh darn swell, and for a simple story, it carries itself pretty well. I might even have to admit it tugged on my heart strings a little. I can definitely see what all the fuss is about. Bonus points for John Mahoney voicing the army general, because I just love the dude’s voice.

So there’s this cartoon that I’ve caught more episodes of than I’d liked to; it’s not dreadful or anything (I have to appreciate the effort!), but something about it just plain irks me, y’know. It’s called The Gees.

It’s a French CGI cartoon about three extraterrestrials that warp to Earth while someone is trying to accomplish something, such as fishing, wooing some ladies, performing a magic act, gaining access to a temple full of treasure, and so on. The Gees float around, express child-like curiosity over various things and make a right nuisance of themselves, often putting the human through all manner of comic humiliation, but by the end of the episode the person will have achieved what they were after, with a little unintentional help from the Gees.

The concept is simple enough and can be mined for basic comedy antics, but it’s very hit or miss, I feel. The best episodes are when after the Gees are royal pests and make an arse of everything, the human achieves more than they would have on their own. For instance, “The Gees go eskimo fishing“, where they preoccupy themselves sawing up the ice to make various shapes – until they saw a gigantic circle and flip it over, landing a huge pile of fish in front of the fisherman – way more than he could ever have caught himself.

However, a lot of the episodes simply involve a lot of mucking about until some obligatory conclusion is stumbled upon. For instance, the episode with a girl playing Dance Dance Revolution. She gets wedged into a pinball machine and has fireballs thrown at her and all kind of malarkey, and by the end she… gets a winning score. Yeah, okay, but it was implied she would’ve got that anyway if she weren’t being harassed with Whack-A-Mole props. I can hardly say it’s a shaggy dog story when each episode is only 3 minutes long, but for all the dialogue-free capers, it’s never on par with even the Gene Deitch Tom & Jerry shorts.
(mind you, I’ve a feeling I’ve only ever seen two of the Gene Deitch shorts, and the only one I remember is “It’s Greek to Me-ow!”, which I recall as being really strange and minimalist and out-there. I might be doing an injustice to the man!)

The animation is decent enough, but the visual style is where it stumbles for me. The humans are largely “realistic” with a mild air of generic European cartoon, what with the pudgy fingers and pronounced noses; while the Gees feel like a bizarre mixture of South Park‘s facial design and ‘cartoony’ anime (like Gegege no Kitaro).
I think the problem lies with the contrast. You’ve got these logic-defying aliens who can make shit fly just by pointing at it, who interact with relatively realistic humans in relatively realistic settings. It can never quite achieve the feeling of “this is a madcap cartoon!” when a lot of the character designs just feel too limited.

I suppose my personal beef is that the designs just don’t feel expressive enough. Okay, sure, once they’re being swung around the room by a flying rabbit the humans might have some reasonable expressions of fright, but until then it feels very toned down. Plus, I can’t help but wish they’d give the design a bit more ‘zing’. If they’re going to look ‘Euro’, they should look full ‘Euro’! Bring on the giant noses and the wobbly body proportions! It’s sad that a still image from an Asterix comic actually carries more character and motion than an actual 3D animation.

If you’re in the UK you can catch The Gees on Sky Channel 616, POP, but I don’t watch the channel for The Gees. No, I watch it for Oscar’s Oasis.

Ultimately, that’s the most damning fault of The Gees – it’s okay at best, but nothing incredible or memorable. And it just so happens to precede and follow Oscar’s Oasis on POP, which does the dialogue-free slapstick capers genre like a bazillion times better. The character design and visual style is top notch, the animation is superb quality, the musical accompaniment is brilliant, and at the end of the day, it does what The Gees doesn’t – it makes me laugh out loud. I am loving it something fierce. I’ve been itching to lovegush about it since I discovered it last month, but words have yet to form sentences for me.
(I could also damn Iggy Arbuckle for the same forgettable filler fate, but at least you can learn from The Gees – all I’ve learnt from Iggy is that it’s ugly and preachy and its Flash animation doesn’t do the show many favours)
(Bitch, bitch, bitch!)

(also, yes, this is the channel where I was subjected to Doggie Doo.)


  1. MightyKombat wrote:

    I used to watch POP for Transformers. But then I realised it didn’t have ADventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Permalink
  2. Wes wrote:

    Wow — I’ve never heard of either of those shows. The Gees sounds relentlessly annoying, though! (That said, Oscar’s Oasis looks kinda annoying to me too judging from those screencaps…)

    Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink
  3. Ragey wrote:

    It does get a bit grating, but I see The Gees as more boring than annoying – it doesn’t entertain me and it doesn’t impress me (I still give bad shows some merit if they do something right – King Arthur’s Disasters, despite its so-choppy-it-makes-me-cringe animation, it’s got neat-lookin’ horses! Also, gotta give some props for Rik Mayall voicing the main character). I’d dare say I’d prefer another three minutes of ads than a Gees episode.

    As much as I love it, I could imagine Oscar’s Oasis being more obnoxious if it’s not your cup of tea – for starters, it’s loud, it’s energetic, and characters fall off cliffs about five times per episode. And it gets about six showings on POP a day with three episodes on each showing. If you’re going to get sick of something first, it’s probably going to be Oscar.
    (I still love it, though!)

    Monday, December 5, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Permalink
  4. greybob wrote:

    I don’t know about Oscar’s Oasis, but the visual design looks gorgeous, particularly for a TV CGI cartoon. Great use of color!

    Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink