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February 18, 2003

Decapitated animals move to DVD. Why, God? Why?

If everybody in the world were to draw up a list of their favorite hobbies/interests/activities, I cannot imagine even one person listing "watching short cartoons about innocent animals being horribly mauled." If you are unfamiliar with Happy Tree Friends, then you probably have no idea why I would even make such a ridiculous claim.

I make it to illustrate the fact that I cannot possibly think of the "demographic" which Mondo Media Shows hopes to excite by releasing 14 episodes of HTF on DVD. Where is their target audience? Sure, sure, some of my friends and I have been known to watch an episode online from time to time (mostly to shock newbies). There were those few episodes that made us laugh, or made us wince. But can they possibly think that anybody would spend money, cash, ice in order to own 14 episodes?

Well, I recently saw a copy sell on eBay for 17 bucks, so apparently they've got more sense than me. For the uninitiated, here is an example of a typical "episode": cute little bear is cooking cupcakes with cute little koala bear. Cute little bear, with his back turned to the oven, starts to smell something burning. Oh no! Cute little bear's tail is on fire! Quick, little one, run to the sink to douse it out! Oh dear! You slipped on a stick of butter, and now your face is being mixed up by your mixer! Your brains and fur get mixed together into a flesh porridge! Little Koala comes back from the bathroom to see his friend with his head stuck in the mixing bowl, but can't see what's happened. Assuming that his friend is gorging himself on the cupcake mixture, Little Koala Bear chuckles heartily and dips a finger into the bowl and licks it without looking at it. In horror, he realizes that he is chewing on his friend's eyeball! Fade to black.

Every single episode is similarly organized, so watching many in a row creates an absurdity of repetition. Usually online you can only watch one or two episodes in a row, so it's not an issue. But if you own the DVD, you feel compelled to get your money's worth. If you actually sit, God help you, through all 14 episodes in a row (which total a measly half hour, or less), then I can't promise you that you'll be the same person afterward.

The point being that what seems horribly cruel and tasteless, but hysterically funny, for five minutes, seems only cruel and tasteless after 25. The strict formula to which the creators adhere is oppressive because it can only surprise you once. After that first episode, you begin to feel foul, because you're in collusion with the animators.

And the icing on the cake is that the torture has started to begin earlier and earlier. The old episodes were bright and happy for long enough to make you wish (consciously or unconsciously), that they would turn out all right. In them, the beginning of the blood was always looming around the corner, foiling your wishes right when you thought that everything might work out for Cuddles and Lumpy. But in recent episodes there has been only a split second of peace and harmony before the carnage begins. This means that they have stopped playing with audience expectation, and have started to cynically pump as much gore into the brief duration of an episode as possible.

Ultimately, even if you enjoy every HTF episode, it should hit you: you're spending your time watching little cartoon animals be tortured in a systematic fashion. Even if you don't wish to cultivate your sensitive side, wouldn't you rather be playing video games?