One of my favorite “kiddie” type cartoons is Fairly Odd Parents. A giant size of wit (surprisingly adult in nature on occasion) and a ton of charm make the cartoon a boatload of fun to watch. It was created by Butch Hartman who has a long list of popular toon credits including Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken and Dexter’s Laboratory. Eventually Hartman started to do more than storyboard or write cartoons. He created cartoons, including one such cartoon named Danny Phantom which is our subject today.
Danny Phantom was created in 2004 by Butch Hartman mostly based on the popularity of Fairly Odd Parents. (Basically, Nickelodeon wanted another cartoon from Hartman and asked him if he had an idea. Before “Danny Phantom” came out of his mouth, he had a contract). The show would run for a mild 45 episodes, 4 specials and roughly 3 seasons of work. But in doing so, he certainly generated a fan base who are still looking for new episodes until this very day. But before we get nose deep in some ghost hunting, lets go over the characters.
Daniel Fenton is just another fourteen year old freshman trying to fit in. His friends, Sam Manson and Tucker Foley are part of the unpopular kids at the local high school. They are the subject of ridicule from bullies and teachers alike. Sam practices the art of Ultra-Recyclo Vegetarianism and is a goth girl at heart while Tucker loves technology and the taste of meat. Needless to say Sam and Tucker tend to clash at crucial moments. But Danny is just a regular teenage boy, that is until one day when his molecules are rearranged.
See, Daniel’s parents are infamous ghost hunters, Jack and Maddie Fenton. Well Maddie is a very skilled ghost hunter, Jack tends to be more bark than bite. Anyway, one day Daniel becomes trapped in the Fenton portal (think the Ghostbusters containment unit, but a bit different) and suddenly his DNA is fused with ghosts which give him the ability of the paranormal. He assumes the name Danny Phantom, develops some catch phrases and springs into action. But the problem is now that he is half ghost, he tends to attract various ghost enemies.
Sometimes they can be mostly harmless such as the Box Ghost or the Lunch Lady but many times they are far deadly than meets the eye. There is Skulker, a popular enemy for Danny who specializes in hunting rare ghosts (this includes Danny) and using the latest technology. There is Walker who runs who runs the prison of the Ghost Zone. He considers Danny an escaped convict (of sorts) and will do anything to get him back in the slammer. But, Danny’s most important enemy is that of Vlad Masters also known as Vlad Plasmius.
Vlad is actually a half ghost too, the beneficiary of an experiment gone awry with Danny’s father Jack. He blames Jack for his condition as well as stealing away the woman he loves, Maddie. Vlad has used his powers for evil and has also amassed an enormous amount of wealth. But he discovers Danny’s true nature and will stop at nothing at obtain Danny and use his powers. That seems to be the only thing stopping him from world domination. Clever and intelligent, he plays one of the most important roles in Danny’s ever increasingly familiarity with his new found powers.
The thing that immediately appealed to me about this cartoon is well several things. First, it borrows just a little bit from the movie Ghostbusters. There are a couple of ghostbusting parents, Danny acquires a ghost trap (in the form of a thermos) and the minor ghosts all seem to look like Slimer at one time or another. They also like to use reoccurring villains like Skulker and Vlad Masters who help the ghost kid to develop relationships and rivalries. But the cartoon also has an almost Spider-Man quality to it. Let me explain.
Remember when Spider-Man first got his powers, he had no clue how to use them. In fact, he took some time to gain the responsibility to use them. With great power comes great responsibility. So, Danny has not only issues with figuring out how to use his new powers but also has to work with the emotional side. As the episodes progress, you can see him becoming stronger and adding new abilities to what he does. He is a superhero starting from ground zero but working to be more than just an awkward teenager.
But the show is not perfect. The most unnecessary character is that of Danny’s sister, Jazz. At first, she is borderline annoying as Jazz takes it upon herself to be Danny’s guardian since the parents are too busy ghost hunting. Then once she finds out about Danny’s powers (but keeps it to herself), she becomes a non-factor only occasionally helping out the parents fight some ghosts and do the typical things a 16 year old does. In fact, most of the females in the show are fairly one-dimensional and dull except possibly Maddie.
The video is framed in 1.33:1 fullscreen presentation. Danny Phantom is actually really fun to look at. From an assortment of ghosties to a rich environment to run around in, this show really sparkles among other cartoons. The color is excellent and detail is a lot better than one would expect. It felt slick and attractive and never felt like they held anything back in their presentation. Maybe there is too much green but honestly even that is a minor complaint.
For the audio portion, we get a 2.0 English Dolby Digital Track. From the moment the theme song hits and the phrase “He’s a Phantom” echoes through the speakers, we know we are in for a loud ride. The dialog is pitch perfect and the stereo is actually used from time to time for the left-right separation. Kids will immediately get into the blasts, scares and other noises. Even when Danny turns into a Phantom we get a cool swish sound. Subtitles are unfortunately not provided.
As a result of these dvds going into reproduction with Shout Factory, we can easily expect seasons 2 and 3 to shortly follow. This will probably happen in 2012. What might not be expected is that Hartman has expressed considerable interest in making more episodes. But in the meantime, Season One gets a hearty recommendation. I do think Shout Factory needs to include something in the extras arena (especially since Butch seems willing) but the presentation is awesome and the episodes are a wonder to watch. A worthy addition to any Nickelodeon library.
One of a Kind
Attack of the Killer Garage Sale
What You Want
Prisoners of Love
My Brother’s Keeper
Shades of Gray
Fanning the Flames
Teacher of the Year
Lucky in Love
Million Dollar Ghost