First things first, I must say that The Beano Videostars is slightly better than its predecessor. It may be slightly longer, but it does have less stories, so it doesn’t feel as rushed as The Beano Allstars. Also, for you Beano fanboys out there, if there are any, it has a few more characters from the comic. It is, however, a Beano product, and thus still suffers from poor animation, tepid voice acting and stupid humour.
If you don’t know what the Beano is, go look it up on Wikipedia, I guess. Or you could look at my recap of The Beano Allstars perhaps. A very popular British anthology comic for kiddies, where most of the stories were about misbehaving children. And bears. It also led to two animated specials, which adapted stories from the comics, and The Beano Videostars is the second of these.
What more introduction do you need? It’s a cartoon about children being naughty based on a comic about children being naughty. They introduce the characters in the special itself…kinda. So, let’s watch:
We begin with Planet Earth being wrapped around a giant banner of some kind. Is this what happens when Galactus wants a doggie bag? No, the banner reads ‘Beanoversal PresREALLY?
The ribbon disappears and some giant spotlights emanate from the United Kingdom. Yes, they now have spotlights so powerful they can be seen from space.
This catches the attention of a pair of aliens, which have one of the weirdest extraterrestial designs I’ve seen. Big Shrek-like honkers for ears and noses, spots all over their bodies as if they’re suffering from a disease and organic bowler hats. Yes, they’re not wearing bowler hats, their hats are built into their bodies. What fucked-up evolution led to that? What purpose does it serve? Intimidating prey by looking sophisticated? Can they detach the hats and use them as weapons Oddjob style?
Thing is, the aliens are actually established Beano characters. I at first thought they were made just for the video, but a bit of digging around and I found they were actually in a three-page story in a Beano annual, bowlers and all. Also, they spoke English in the comic, but in the cartoon, speak in Jabba the Hutt gibberish undercut by English words like ‘okey dokey’.
What were those spotlights? Why, it’s the premiere of the new Beano video! There have been direct-to-video films that have been given big-screen premieres, like the Lego Batman movie, but I can’t say that the Beano is something that deserves the red carpet treatment. There’s a generic presenter guy who I’m going to call Generic Presenter Guy because he doesn’t have a name, who is here to introduce the characters to us.
The first to arrive is Dennis the Menace, not the American blonde kid, but the kid with spiky black hair, who, despite not being more than ten, has his own fucking car. Wow. In the last Beano Video, he had a measly soapbox cart, but now he has a car with a built-in gun that shoots tomatoes at GPG. Where did he get that? How did he afford it? Is that one of the perks of being the main character in a cheaply-made cartoon?
Dennis disappears – yes, we don’t see him enter the building or anything or his car drive away, so it seems like he’s disappeared. GPG then presents the Bash Street Kids, and The Bash Street Kids are just like Dennis the Menace if there was a whole classroom of Dennis the Menaces. The 3 Bears, not to be confused with the Grimm characters, are with them, and so is…an elephant in a beanie?
Look at those two people in the back. The ginger Harry Potter and the kid in the yellow jumper. It looks like they know this video is crap but they’re pretending to enjoy themselves to avoid hurting the feelings of those involved. ‘No, no, this is great, really. The tomato bit was funny, really.’
Anyway, we’re introduced to the first of two Beano characters who didn’t appear in The Beano Allstars, Billy Whizz. He’s different from the other Beano kids in that he doesn’t misbehave, but he’s still cut from the Marmaduke cloth; he can run really fast and that’s all there is to him.
Minnie the Minx, who is just Dennis only a girl, appears as well, as does Ivy the Terrible, who is just Dennis only a pre-school girl and another character who didn’t appear in the previous Beano video. I can imagine a stupid kid who likes the Beano – I was one of those stupid kids – watching The Beano Video and saying ‘Hey, where’s Billy and Ivy?’ but their presence really does highlight the lack of variety in these cartoons.
Then the aliens appear, and instead of gasping in wonder that there is life in the universe, GPG gets frustrated and says this whole thing is stupid. Well, yeah, it is. The aliens go in the theatre and thus we get our first story: Dennis and Gnasher in The Snowman Army. Those expecting something akin to Jack Frost the horror movie or that Doctor Who Christmas special are going to be disappointed, I bet.
Basically, it’s a snowy day, and Dennis, who I think sounds quite different than he did in the last Beano video, has made a bunch of ‘snow menaces’. The cartoon is just him using playground equipment to throw these snowmen at people; it’s just as boring as the previous video’s fare but the audience at the premiere like it. In fact, in the middle of the cartoon, we cut to the aliens in the theatre laughing. Now, Simpsons blogs Dead Homer’s Society and Me Blog Write Good made a good point about ‘The Last Temptation of Krust’ episode: if a TV programme makes a joke the viewers are supposed to laugh at, and the characters in the programme laugh at the joke, it just feels weird. The only interesting thing in this cartoon is how one of the snowmen frowns when he’s being given a haircut; maybe these snowmen are sentient and Dennis is committing murder by using them as ammo.
Next up is Minnie the Minx in Jelly Babies, which is just as insignificant as the cartoon preceding it. The whole conflict is that Minnie wants to eat green jelly babies. Sorry, I’m not The Doctor, so jelly babies don’t interest me. Wow, another Doctor Who reference, I really am a nerd. The next cartoon is a Bash Street Kids, and this one is worth writing about in detail as it actually tries to have something resembling a story.
It begins with the titular kids attacking the teacher with school stuff, and attacking those watching the video with their horrible, horrible voice acting. They all sound like retarded Martians attempting to poorly replicate human speech. I’ve heard better voice acting from a talking doll.
The plot begins when an inspector gives the school, well, an inspection, and Bash Street School is crap. They even get away with a reference to gambling, as the headteacher bets on the races. This isn’t really the place where you’d expect a satire on the state of British education, though, as evidenced when the whole school staff are given the sack and actually bounce away in a sack.
It’s not enough that the school is closed down for the inspector, no. He kidnaps the Bash Street Kids, who are apparently the only kids in the entire school and decides to help improve them. How? By hypnotising them into being well-behaved, of course! He gives Plug, who you may remember being the ‘ugly kid’ in The Beano Allstars, plastic surgery, gives another of the kids ‘a new brain’ (you mean he ripped the kid’s old brain out and put a new one in? Cripes), and…replaces one kid’s glasses with contact lenses, ‘cause I guess that makes him smarter or something.
The kids are then taken to the new Bash Street Academy, because ‘academy’ sounds more refined then ‘school’, and they have a robot teacher. Because why not? Wouldn’t this new school be as expensive as hell though? What would the kids’ parents think? What would the kids’ parents think if one of their kids GOT A FUCKING LOBOTOMY? Really, who approved of the Inspector’s plan?
In the school, Plug’s plastic surgery wears off, and for some reason, whatever brainwashing he had wears off too, so the Inspector expels him. This means Plug is thrown down a rubbish chute too. Wow, the old Bash Street may have had a gambling headmaster, but really?
Speaking of which, Plug sees his old staff as hobos, living in the dump behind the new school, and they form an alliance of sorts to overthrow the new school. When they learn the robot teacher is powered by compact discs, they work together to create one of their own which will apparently reverse the Inspector’s brainwashing.
And that robot teacher? Next time we see him, he’s threatening to vaporise a student just for asking a question and not taking his hat off. He even vaporises said hat to point out that he’s willing to do so. Jesus. I mean, I once criticised a cartoon where the villain’s plan to improve Christmas wasn’t evil enough, now here’s a plan to improve education which is far too evil. There’s trying to make a school better, then there’s lobotomizing the kids and forcing them to work under a murderous killbot. All I have to say to The Beano Videostars is…bravo.
Plug puts his disc into the robot and it sings probably the most ear-shatteringly awful rap you’ve ever heard. It undoes the brainwashing – despite the fact one of the kids has a different brain now – and makes the robot teacher go haywire. So yeah, the bad guy’s lair always has to blow up, so the robot teacher blows up, taking the academy with it in an explosion big enough to be seen over hills. Good riddance to that robot, but since it’s only five feet tall, I doubt it exploding would destroy a whole school.
So the old school reopens and everyone’s happy. Now that…that was actually kinda decent really. But I have a feeling it’s going to go downhill from here.
Now here’s Billy Whizz. No, he doesn’t get his own cartoon, it’s just something in the theatre. He thinks his drink is warm so he gets some ice. But get this, he finds his ice in…the South Pole! Because he’s fast! Ho ho! And he doesn’t appear again. Yep, one trick pony, that’s what he is.
The next cartoon is a Minnie the Minx and is a pretty damn surreal one. Minnie’s Dad – who is named George, apparently (the GPG and the evil inspector don’t get names but he does?) – says that he wants to live his life again, so Minnie obliges by…well, she dresses him up as a baby, then tries to get him to do her homework, then describes to her Dad a scenario where he becomes a clown and is so popular he is voted King. And…and…and then George actually believes he is King, for some reason. Next!
Now is a little musical interlude. The Beano Rap. It’s actually pretty catchy.
The Three Bears in Bag Those Pipes. The Three Bears skits in The Beano Allstars had ‘Hank’s Store’, now we actually get to see Hank. He decides to have a ‘Scottish Day’ for some reason and plays the bagpipes a lot. So the Bears throw a cactus at him, and the bagpipes run away. Makes sense.
Then we have…ads? Yes, WACKY PARODY ADS. Oh, remember when I said the Three Bears weren’t to be confused with the Goldilocks ones? Well, they’re eating porridge now. None of the ads are funny or memorable, even if one for a ‘Beanotown Party CD’ has some more catchy music in the background.
Ivy the Terrible on Safari. Thing is, you’ll never actually believe she’s “terrible” from this cartoon as she just seems to be an innocent little kid using her imagination. She has loads of toys of wild animals, and tries to “set them free” by throwing them about everywhere. This tries to be cute but Ivy has one of the most annoying voices out the whole cast, which is saying quite a bit.
Huh, and guess what, I just happened to dig out the comic this is an adaptation of, and it’s actually fairly different. In the cartoon, Ivy puts a toy alligator in a swimming pool, gives a toy cheetah roller skates, throws a spider into someone’s bathtub, puts a gorilla up a tree and attaches elephants to people. The comic has the cheetah, gorilla and elephants, but has Ivy put a snake in a sauna, a giraffe on a ladder, makes a bear go fishing and uses a toy lion to scare some other girl so she can steal her sweets. In the cartoon, Ivy disguises herself as a bear while she disguises herself as a gorilla in the comic. Small differences, but worth highlighting.
In terms of more significant differences, the comic certainly looks livelier than the cartoon (look at that comparison image – it’s like a post at Badly Recreated Animation Film Frames), but in some ways, I actually think the cartoon is better. Both renditions of the story are very poor, but the comic has a more actively mischievous Ivy while the cartoon just makes Ivy a naive kid who doesn’t really mean any harm more than anything, which helps differentiate her from her co-stars, and the cartoon actually has the characters narrate their actions less than the comic.
After a forgettable cartoon including Gnipper, we get our final cartoon, which is a Dennis. Walter the Softy waltzes in to Dennis’ front garden and declares that he is in love. Sure enough, a little girl called Cynthia comes by. Maybe they’re trying to dissuade people that Walter is gay, considering what a stereotype he was in the last vid…oh, wait. Walter’s in love with Cynthia’s doll. That’s just…ugh. Are we sure we’re watching The Beano Videostars and not Norman Bates’ home movies? So Cynthia whacks Walter with her doll and WALTER’S BLASTING OFF AGAAAIN. Dennis then befriends Cynthia and they kiss.
And then Dennis steps out of the cartoon, goes into the projector room at the theatre, and changes the ending.
Are there two Dennises now?
The credits roll, and afterwards, Dennis is being pursued by Cynthia, even hitching a ride from the aliens to avoid her. So did she step out of the cartoon too, or was she at the premiere? Anyway, Olive, the Bash Street dinner lady, tells us to ‘rewind the tape’, as if we needed more reminding that this cartoon is an ancient relic.
As I said before, this was better than The Beano Allstars, but so is having your organs harvested. The animation and voice acting are still terrible, and the stories still don’t go anywhere. The one decent short was The Bash Street Kids one, and even that felt undercooked. I mean, it didn’t really introduce the kids for those who haven’t read a Beano comic. And that’s really the problem. This is meant for Beano readers and Beano readers only. Remember how Pokemon: the First Movie thrilled kids but confused adults because you needed to have watched every episode of the cartoon to understand the plot? Well, this is like that, though in this case it’s more likely adults will know who the Beano characters are, because the comic has been around for decades, but still.
And the Beano is still going. In fact, it even had Barack Obama (!) in one issue. Really, the news reported it and everything. New strips include a bunch of rats who look like humans with claws and weird noses, and a ripoff of Itchy and Scratchy. It’s like a fucking bad guy in a horror movie. It won’t go down.