Let’s face it friends, I’m a sucker for animation. So naturally, when Buddy Thunderstruck, a new series geared for kids and possibly older, let’s say fortyish kids-at-heart, hit Netflix on Friday, March 10th, I knew what I was doing Saturday morning. You guessed it–filing my taxes! Don’t get me wrong, I love cartoons, but avoiding costly fines and even possible jail time, takes precedence, after making coffee, walking the dogs, and checking Twitter. However, once the unpleasantries of paperwork and procrastination were behind me, I began to binge-watch the entire series.
In many ways, Buddy Thunderstruck is an extremely appealing show even for viewers who aren’t necessarily fans of the animation genre. How’s that you ask? Two words: Talladega Nights. If you’re looking for an animated show which combines the sheer goofiness of that movie, with the trucker, “tire-squealin’, fish-tailin’ gear-grindin” buddy-duo antics of Smokey and the Bandit or The Dukes of Hazzard, along with a style that is visually reminiscent of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, then this show’s definitely for you–and probably even your kids. Yee-Haw! The series is brought to you by American Greetings Entertainment and is the brainchild of Ryan Wiesbrock, who’s behind other animated shows such as: Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Holly Hobbie and Friends and Packages from Planet X. Now before you hit the brakes, keep in mind that Thunderstruck is the result of a collaboration along with Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, lauded for the award-winning stop motion satirical sketch comedy series Robot Chicken.
The series–consisting of 12 (twenty-three part) episodes–takes place in Greasepit, a small town inhabited by anthropomorphic talking animals including: boars, horses, bunnies, chickens, jackalopes, weasels, raccoons, and zealots–the racing type. It centers around the exploits of the titular character, Buddy Thunderstruck, an uber-cool, fair-haired, snaggletoothed, semi-truck racing dog and his grease monkey, Darnell, a pompadour-haired albino ferret. Buddy’s personality and characteristics seem like a mÃ©lange somewhere between Richard Rawlings of Fast N’ Loud fame and Middlesboro’s own Lee Majors The Fall Guy, with the voice akin to Jungle Recon from Action Figure Therapy, minus the sexual overtones and foul language. That is unless you consider the oft-repeated phrase, “fart nugget” a bad word. In some respects, I can relate to Buddy. We’re both extremely competitive, we both love chicken wings, and the only thing we hate more than losing, is smooth jazz. Concededly though, I’m not much of an armchair enthusiast when it comes to motorsports–I couldn’t identify a carburetor from an alternator. Hell, I cant even change the oil in my own car, but I do know clever and witty writing when I see it, and Thunderstruck’s is courtesy of Tom Krajewski. Although at first, the show was a bit of a bumpy ride in terms of some redundancies in both character development and initial setup, the show eventually clicked with me around the second half of the first episode, and from there “I knew there was no turning back (thunder).”
Apart from the painstaking process of stop motion animation, which took nearly two years to complete, what initially drew me to the series was its overall look. Shot in 1080i, the series is aesthetically cinematic–with real depth of field, creating blurred backgrounds juxtaposed with foregrounds that are both warm, softly-filtered and incredibly sharp. Allowing viewers to experience uniquely constructed, textured environments and settings, with such visual acuity that even the smallest of details can be discerned–from the real cottony puffs which bellow from the truck’s exhaust pipes, down to the woolen faces and woven, felty, stitched clothes of its characters.
Despite being a fast-paced, yet delightfully funny and handsomely handcrafted show, Buddy Thunderstruck isn’t without its flaws, which are minor, but exist nonetheless. Can we talk about all the catchphrases, like “Kaboom”? Branding is important and necessary to anchor a character and thus endear them and the show into the hearts and minds of audiences. However, there’s a fine line between usefulness and overkill. See Shaggy’s “Zoinks” or “Snarf” from Thundercats as evidence. Even Bart’s “Eat my shorts” and “Don’t have a cow man” eventually wore out it’s welcome on The Simpsons. Likewise, if the series gets picked up for a second season–which I really hope it does–I personally would like to see more unexpected and surreal, and even absurd moments permeate the show just like the brief parody of Office Space as seen in episode 5: “Moneybags and His Monster”. Regardless, the show overall is smile-inducing by being endearingly stupid–thus deserving of attention. One that’s safe for all ages. I’m glad I watched it–maybe you and possibly your kids will be too.
Buddy Thunderstruck is rated TV-PG