DVD review: All the mayhem of the Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation

    At first glance, one might think this is going to be a very boring DVD: cute, cuddly and downright friendly. “”Happy Tree Friends”” looks like its something out of the child-orientated Golden Book series. And then I looked closer; the subtitle isn’t “”fun for all”” or “”caring is sharing,”” but “”Volume #1, First Blood.””

    OK, so that’s not your typical children’s style, and neither are the cartoons, which make it a point to offer up as much pain and animated suffering as one could possibly jam into a short.

    The whole design of the series, which has several cartoons playing at this year’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation, is going for sickly sweet. Somewhere between Teletubies and other benign children’s cartoons in terms of sheer cuteness, each character is a fuzzy little woodland animal. Be it Petunia, the air freshener skunk, or Handy, the armless handy-beaver, they are all twisted but loveable.

    If there was any amount of confusion about what kind of cartoons these are, then simply viewing the first of the 14 “”heart-burning episodes in Happy Color”” would prove that some disturbed individuals came up with this. Despite its innocuous beginning, three quarters of the characters are soon gruesomely killed by the desire to be spun faster on a merry-go-round.

    The use of the DVD’s capabilities is done well, beyond the 14 episodes (mostly three to four minutes each) and ironicly punctuated with public service anouncements like: don’t forget to floss, there are four “”smoochies”” to “”play with,”” which are nothing less then your opportunity to take a stab — no pun intended — at the torture of small smiling cute creatures. The simple games are reminiscent of the flash animations, such as a frog in a blender or a hamster in a microwave. Candy-aholic “”Nutty”” gives you the opportnity to kill off the squirle with over doses of sugar.

    The other extras include the now-obligatory artist/director commentary that never finds much to interest this reviewer, but beyond that, there is also a discussion and art display of the creation process. There is also a fun-fact section, where each of the characters is given a bizarre bio and a personality that would make your mother cringe should she walk in on you. Irreverince is mixed with soul crushing depression, Shifty, we are told, has crippiling emotional problems.

    If it’s any consolation to you, the look of abstract horror that is likely spreading accross yoru face is absolutely called for. Trust me.

    Happy Tree Friends

    ****

    Executive Producer: John Evershed

    Available now

    Rated CV for Cartoon Violence

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