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Cartoon Classics: Jimmy Neutron

The Adventures Of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius was a children’s cartoon series which ran on Nickelodeon from 2002 to 2006. During it’s time, it gained a respectable amount of following from its viewers and despite being off the air for more than 10 years, people who watched it back in the day remember it very fondly. The show was even nominated as “Favorite Cartoon” during the Kid’s Choice Awards in 2006.

The show itself was actually spun from a well-loved movie, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, which was released in 2001. Yet for the purpose of this review, I will only be looking at the first episode of the series, since what I’m reviewing is the cartoon itself.

The episode in question is “When Pants Attack”, and I can say that the plot of this episode is just as absurd as the title sounds. In this episode, Jimmy really wants to go with his friends to the movies after school, but his mother refuses since his room is too messy. Now, for the average child, this situation is pretty familiar to many since cleaning a bedroom isn’t exactly a fun activity for a kid, and naturally they will find ways to get out of doing it. Jimmy, on the other hand, isn’t an average child, as he is extremely intelligent for a boy of ten years old, so even in a mundane situation like this, he puts his skills to use. Jimmy uses nano-chips (which, in this universe, share the same name as a popular brand of chips, which leads to some jokes in this episode) to create a mechanism within the pants which will make them put themselves in drawers, so Jimmy can have a clean room without putting the pants away himself. His mother is so impressed by this that she allows him to go to the movies, and it seems all is well. But the next day, the pants start to cause problems as the nanochips have brought them to life, and they begin their attack on the city while bringing other pairs of pants to life. Since Jimmy’s creations have now become a threat, he and his friends must team up to stop the pants from taking over.

This is such a ridiculous set up for an episode, but the writers manage to make it engrossing and funny for the intended audience. Even the jokes in the episode move beyond just the pants puns someone would expect, and there were actually a few moments that got laughs out of me, which I hadn’t been expecting. So, with this in mind, I’m going to run this episode through my four pieces of criteria to analyze how it works as a set up and why so many people fondly remember this show during its run.

First I want to look at the show’s animation and overall visual quality. The animation, compared to other shows from that era, is rather impressive, since it’s made with 3D animation which was not common at the time. I was especially drawn to the lighting and shadows in certain scenes, namely during the nighttime moments or parts where bright lights are shining in dark backgrounds. The character designs, with the large heads, round eyes, and exaggerated anatomy reflect the show’s silly premise, and this art style helps set the overall tone of the show. Despite this, there are some animation flaws, such as moments where the lip syncing was slightly off or where the movement looks unnatural, but these flaws are rather minor and don’t negatively affect the viewing experience.

Is the voice acting any good? In my opinion, it’s pretty standard. Jimmy’s voice fits him well, and the same goes for the other characters. Even the character Sheen, who really doesn’t sound like he could be ten, has a voice that sounds like it could come from someone who looks like him. All in all, the voice cast is well-chosen and the actors give a good performance with the characters they’re given.

As for the writing: like I said earlier, the humor is fun and I even laughed at a few parts, but humor aside I will say that I was very impressed by the way the characters are written and how they interact. This episode in particular has excellent interaction between the characters as the writers do a great job of setting up their individual personalities and relationships. This element especially works in the first episode, since it creates a base of characters and relationships to write more stories from. I’m also impressed by this because this show started after the release of the movie, so people who maybe haven’t seen the movie can still watch the show and get a sense of who these characters are and what they’re like.

A side note: the more I watched the episode, the more I started to get a sense of who Jimmy is as a character. Going in, I didn’t think there would be too much “analyzing” to do on the characters, but I find Jimmy interesting because while he’s incredibly smart for his age, he lacks the impulse control to know what to do with his intelligence because despite how much of a genius he is, he’s still very much a child. I like this detail a lot, and I actually find it intriguing to have a character who is very smart but also very immature.

There is one part of the writing that I don’t like, however, and that’s Jimmy’s parents, specifically his father. Jimmy’s father is supposed to be an incompetent but well-meaning fool who is the comic relief throughout a lot of the episode, and while I understand that jokes surrounding dumb fathers have been in many TV shows for a while, it’s a type of comedy that makes me roll my eyes. Of course, Hugh Neutron has funny moments sprinkled throughout the episode, such as a scene where he interrogated a pair of pants, and to be fair Jimmy’s mother is also a bit of an airhead, and maybe they’re meant to be a contrast against Jimmy’s intelligence. Either way, I just find the “idiot father” trope to be pretty tiring, even though I know it was especially popular during early 2000s shows, and even before then, I’m sure.

Lastly, what would a child find appealing in this show? It was intended for children, and it was nominated for a children’s choice award, so what’s the appeal here? First of all, the type of humor in this episode alone could really make any kid laugh, since it’s absurd and simple enough for them to grasp. While there are jokes adults might get here and there (like an Alfred Hitchcock reference), the overall tone of the show is one that is meant to, and obviously did, draw children in. The stakes in the show, especially this episode, are actual threats to the characters, and while the violence which takes place is minimal, it’s just enough action to keep viewers invested in the story. The color style of the backgrounds and what the characters are wearing are these bright colors that children would appreciate, and while I can say that I never watched Jimmy Neutron as a child, I can recall vaguely seeing a part of an episode at the doctor’s office years ago. While I couldn’t tell you which episode I saw way back then, I remember being somewhat invested in it and then being disappointed when it was time for me to see the doctor.

In conclusion, The Adventures Of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genuis is a fun show that really does deserve the praise it gets. It’s smart, funny, and I really do recommend it. Even if it is a bit old, I think any kids today who have maybe never seen it would enjoy it.