I don't trust that smile

I don’t trust that smile

Originally published 29th November, 2012

You know who was a good artist? Salvador Dali.

Say what you will about his moustache, but dammit, that guy knew surrealism like the back of a floating monkey head (because surrealism, ha!) I mean, look at this:

Look at how vibrant and full of activity it is! Stare at it long enough and you can actually imagine it moving!

And, of course, Salvador Dali was a hell of a lot better at art than HunterxColleen2.

I know, I know, it’s unfair to compare a master to some DeviantArt brat, but still. Look at this guy’s work: I mean, geez. I was introduced to this bloke by the YouChewPoop forums when they were talking about the Nostalgia Critic’s review of The Secret of Nimh II; this guy loves that movie. Really, really loves it. Secret of Nimh 1 is held in pretty high regard, but this guy’s gallery is filled with crappy fanart for the much-maligned sequel. OK, different people have different tastes, but seriously, all those MSPaint squiggles of Timmy and Jenny…brr…

You may also notice the presence of another female mouse in several of his pictures, one with a Mr. Sardonicus smile and inflated hips. One drawn in a variety of clothes but little variety in pose. Her name is Thea Stilton and HxC loves the shit out of her. He even wrote her a poem:

WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT? Someone took the time to write a poem for a fictional character, one who’s not even human, and put it up for everyone to see. Well, this is the internet, so stuff like this shouldn’t surprise me what with all the crap bronies have put out, but the poem’s absolute shit too! It makes me wanna take my copy of The Ode Less Travelled and shove it up the author’s brain. There’s no beat or structure, it utilises images Shakespeare himself found cliché, and the subject matter is all over the place (why are you suddenly talking about mermaids? Are you saying you don’t want her to have legs?). Seriously, HxC, if you’re reading this, take a look at ‘The Problem With Poetry on TVTropes’. It might save your life.

After seeing this collection of abominations, curiousity overcame me and then I tried to find where Thea originated from. A quick search reveals that she is from Geronimo Stilton, a series of Italian children’s books, and she is the title character’s sister. I haven’t read any of the books, and I don’t really want to, but it’s about a mouse journalist who goes on adventures and solves mysteries with his family and stuff. It seems to be pretty much Ducktales if its world had a different dominant species. Nonetheless, it’s the most popular children’s book series in Italy, and it spawned a cartoon. And it’s the cartoon version of Thea old Hunter is lusting over rather than her prose counterpart (book Thea has a fur jacket, but toon Thea doesn’t).

So, just for the hell of it, let’s look at an episode of the cartoon, ‘Castle Creeps’.

We open with the bane of all adventure-themed cartoons – the annoying kid sidekicks. These are Benjamin, Geronimo’s nephew, and his friend Pandora, as they chase after a hamster. Yes, a hamster. And they’re bigger than the hamster. I’ll just leave you to make a theory about that – I’m just going to say that perhaps this takes place in a future where aliens turned all the mice in the world intelligent and six foot tall and had them kill all the humans.

Benjamin is tracking the hamster with a little device – oh great, if there’s anything worse than a kid sidekick, it’s a techno-whiz kid sidekick – and they follow it to a park. And the state of the park seems to solidify my above theory. Then they follow it to a generic spooky-looking castle, and I bet you can guess what happens next. Thunder and lightning even though it was a sunny day minutes ago, door slams shut behind them weird noises yeah. And there’s that evil laugh stock sound effect I’ve heard a million times before in cartoons that sounds kind of like Bowser’s laugh from Super Mario 64 but not quite. Still, if people are saying the spooky castle is haunted, the series can do worse than have the haunting caused by Koopas.

Then we get our title character, sipping away at a coffee. Now, I just have to notice how different toon Geronimo looks from book Geronimo. Like I said, haven’t read the books, but book Geronimo was fat, had glasses and a waistcoat. Toon Geronimo is thin, has no glasses and no waistcoat. Book Geronimo looks like a kindly old storyteller, Toon Geronimo looks like richer and more dynamic.  It’s like they’re two completely different characters.

The kids barge in and barricade the door, and then we get the title sequence. Have to admit, it’s pretty catchy. Sadly, it uses the word “cheddar-riffic” and suddenly my hopes for this show being good sink. Yeah, a show where ponies ruled the world that had “Mane-hattan” became an internet phenomenon but “cheddar-riffic” is the worst synonym for “good” since “awesomesauce”.

Benjamin and Pandora tell Geronimo the details, when Trap, Geronimo’s cousin, comes in and talks about how the castle the hamster is trapped in is haunted. Oh look, the wacky character! And he’s fat too! Yay! Sadly, he seems to be the only one here putting any effort in. Geronimo and Benjamin sound very monotonous and grating. Trap sounds grating too, but at least his lines have some energy to them.

Geronimo agrees to help the kids find their hamster, and wants to do a story for his newspaper about the castle’s hundredth anniversary. Benjamin mentions there’s supposed to be a fortune hidden…oh great.

Ever read ‘The Animation Writers’ Cliche Test‘? It is making fun of clichés in bad cartoons. Look at Question 4. That is making fun of a poor cliché. Yet, that is what this episode is basically about. An episode of a cartoon made in 2009.

So the gang go to the castle and take a look about. Just in case you weren’t aware Trap was meant to be wacky, he makes a joke that “the ghost is clear”.  Instead of “the coast is clear”! You card, Trap! Also, yes, ghosts are usually clear because they’re transparent.

Speaking of Trap, he also goes about taking pictures of the castle with a mobile phone camera, and since this show feels like a generic cartoon from the 90’s, his technology feels so out of place here. Anyway, they think they hear the hamster, so they go upstairs and pass a bunch of paintings of the castle’s former owners. And guess what? One of the painting’s eyes move. Just like in that hit Hanna Barbera cartoon about the kids and the dog…what was it called…yes, Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har.

They see the hamster run down a hall, BUT THEN A SKELET…I mean, A GHOST POPS OUT! A ghost made out of a Photoshop gradient, no less! In tried and true fashion, the gang run away, but Geronimo falls down a trap door, into a secret library, complete with instantly-illuminating candle.

The kids look for Geronimo, and find a self-igniting fireplace. And the fireplace falls over on top of them! Yay, they were burned alive! No more will I have to suffer through…oh wait, they went through another secret passage. They end up in the library just as Geronimo was browsing through such classics as the works of William Cheesespeare and A Tale of Two CheddYOU’RE NOT EVEN TRYING. Also, Geronimo found “a secret room within the secret room”. Secretroomception. Hey, if they’re not trying, then why should I?

Geronimo finds a journal just in time for Trap to spring another secret passage. Surprise surprise, it turns out they’re being watched by a bad guy in a suit of armour. Suit of armour? Come on, even in a cartoon for very little kiddies, that one’s creaky, no pun intended. Once again, the age of the gag is highlighted through the presence of a mobile phone. And how long had that guy been standing in the suit of armour? What if he needs a piss?

The journal Geronimo found has clues to the fortune apparently, but then the gang decide to look for the oddly-sized hamster. When they do, the magic candle goes out, turning the library into the opening credits of The Trap Door before the lights come back on and the journal vanishes. Now how much more cliché can this get? Would you believe they do a variation on the old horror movie cat gag? You know, when the character thinks they hear a ghost but it’s really a cat? Replace “cat” with “hamster” and there you go.

So they find a way out of the library and HOLY SHIT GHOST ORGY. The foyer is dominated by a cacophony of the undead, floating about, playing the organ, making the clock spin and other crap ghosts like to do for some reason. Then Geronimo pulls on a visible string and it turns out the ghosts are fake. Um, villains? If you want to scare away the heroes and convince them the house is haunted, is this a good plan of action? “I know how to make the heroes think the house is haunted! We’ll fill the foyer with fake ghosts and put the fake ghosts’ controls right where the heroes can see them!”


The gang go back to the office, and oh look, there she is. Thea herself, lacking the child-bearing hips I’ve seen in artwork. She sounds as bland and bored as her brother. Said brother then barges in with his merry crew and marks spots on a map where the castles’ family members were born. As he does, the pins make a shape – an arrow pointing right at the office! No, actually, the spots make up a rat’s head.

Oh great. If mice are the good guys in a kiddie story, then rats are always the bad guys. What’s wrong with rats? I like rats! They’re neat. Plus I’m pretty sure at least one kid watching this has a rat as a pet. Oh yeah, and they say the trail is shaped like a rat’s head, but it looks no different than a mouse’s head. Anyway, Geronimo and Thea are headed to the most important rat landmark or whatever I don’t care.

So Thea and Geronimo are on a cliff edge, walking towards a cave shaped like a rat’s head, and although Geronimo more or less kept his cool in the haunted house, he becomes a blubbering idiot at the sight of heights, and even has a bunch of crap dumped on him. In Thea’s presence, he has become another Trap. Maybe she deserved that poem that made ‘The Tay Bridge Disaster’ look like ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ after all.

The two go into the cave and we discover the guy who was in the suit of armour was a descendant of the haunted castle’s owners, who is looking for the treasure. And he’s still wearing the armour. Must have been hell to wear around that setting. He’s also with some bitch I assume is the villain of the show. The bad guys then did up the oh it’s going to be metaphorical treasure or hidden someplace else.

Indeed, all the baddies find is a message that basically says “There’s no treasure so leave me the fuck alone.” Oh yeah, there’s also a clue or something.

Geronimo goes home and writes up his story on his laptop. Seriously, this cartoon feels so old-school in its characterisation and storytelling that mobile phones and laptops feel like alien technology in this setting, like that person talking on a mobile in the Charlie Chaplin thing that wasn’t really a person talking on a mobile but looked like she was talking on a mobile. After writing up the story, he goes to bed, but then suddenly remembers a bunch of clips from the episode and comes to a conclusion of some kind. I bet someone on TVTropes saw this and theorised he had Asperger’s.

He then goes back to the haunted house and finds out that there is a fortune, only it’s hidden in the paintings…now how would he not have noticed that the first time? The jewels weren’t even hidden in a compartment behind the paintings, but in the paintings themselves. You’d think it’d be pretty hard to make jewels look discreet in paintings, as paintings don’t sparkle or twinkle. And since the eyes of the paintings were looking at Geronimo and the gang, that implies the bad guy cut out eye-holes or something. Why didn’t he notice if he was using the paintings to spy on Stilton?

Oh, who cares? This was even more generic than Raw Toonage and has less of an excuse to be so since it came out later. All the mobile phones and laptops in the world can’t make “journalists investigate a haunted castle which only appears haunted due to a bad guy seeking treasure” exciting. At least HunterxColleen’s art is entertaining in its infinite shittiness.


About jabberw

A writer of short stories and reviews, who likes to dabble in other creative media as well.
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