You know, I told myself I wouldn’t look at any more episodes of Dr. Zitbag’s Transylvania Pet Shop, I wouldn’t watch any more of that douchebag doctor working in his castle with his skeleton dog and zombie rabbit. I had said everything that needed to be said: it’s boring, Zitbag’s a twat. There.
Yet something’s been bothering me; I’ve never looked at the origin episode.
I’ve talked about how poorly Zitbag runs his pet shop and how he mistreats his dog Horrifido, but I’ve never looked at the episode which explains how Zitbag got said pet shop and said undead cur. This is all explained in the very first episode of the show – ‘Welcome to the Transylvania Pet Shop’…well, it’s slightly more creative a title for an origin episode than just reusing the title of the show.
So, let’s take a look at Zitbag: Year One, shall we?
This show is set in a Transylvania occupied almost entirely by ghouls and monsters, so it’s a completely different world from ours, and yet the origin episode doesn’t really give us much of an introduction to this setting. The first scene is zombie-like Zitbag working in a crappy department store pet shop with a Dracula boss, and we’re just supposed to accept that. I mean, the freaking original Dracula novel introduced Transylvania to the readers better, and that was “our” Transylvania, one with humans!
Anyway, Zitbag is working the till at a shitty pet department. He’s slouching, so in comes his boss, who looks like Dracula with toothpaste for hair, like a newsreader from a later episode. Why does this show believe vampires have toothpaste for hair? Because they need to keep their fangs clean? Anyway, Drac boss is called ‘Mr. Fullmoon’ (Siiigh. Wouldn’t that name work better if he was a werewolf?) and gives us our first words of the series: ‘Tut, tut, tut.’ Yeah, in terms of opening lines, that’s up there with “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad”. It’s the perfect foreshadowing of the show’s quality. (Seriously though, I prefer ‘Have you ever been hit over the head with a welding mallet?’)
Fullmoon chastises Zitbag for not selling enough pets, but fear not, our valiant hero has a trick up his sleeve: a machine that turns animals into monsters! It blows up, however, so Fullmoon fires Zitbag. Now, it’s worth mentioning that Zitbag is a little less of an asshole than he is in later episodes. In fact, he starts off somewhat sympathetic, really. He’s an overeager scientist wanting to improve his workplace, only to have his plan blow up in his face. Too bad he’ll later become a criminal scumbag then.
Despite the fact that his ‘Monsteriser’ blew up, it’s still intact for Fullmoon to throw at Zitbag. Hey, come on, Fullmoon, it’s not like your movie studio makes any better product.
Then we get our introduction to our “villain” Officer Deadbeat, who wants a better and bigger police station. Improving law enforcement is truly the most severe of crimes. Also, at this moment, he has Zitbag’s sidekick-to-be Zombunny in his employ. No wonder he needs a better police station if a retarded rabbit is the only one willing to apply.
Both Zitbag and Deadbeat learn about a castle for sale near a place called “Dead Man’s Curve”. Naming things is not one of this show’s strong points, nor is anything, really. Plus, that name sounds a bit redundant in a place where most of the citizens actually are dead. You wouldn’t call a place near here Living Organism Land. Zitbag and Deadbeat drive towards the castle and Zitbag wonders why the rent is so cheap – ‘Maybe it’s haunted.’ Later episodes would have him happily serve bedsheet ghosts, so a castle being haunted shouldn’t be a problem for him nor should it be a reason for cheap rent. That’s the thing with this show – sometimes it forgets Zitbag is a member of the undead. Maybe he was originally meant to be a human mad scientist before someone thought making him a monster would better appease the kiddies or something.
Zitbag reaches the castle first. Why? Because one of his hubcaps fell off and knocked a sign the other way, diverting Deadbeat. So yeah, Zitbag’s a little less sympathetic now that he gets his fruits solely by luck.
As Zitbag drives, he says to himself, ‘I’m not mad; mad people always talk to themselves.’ Ha ha. What’s sad about that joke is that everyone, not just Zitbag, talks to themselves solely as a clumsy way to set up exposition and things (ie. Later on in this episode when Deadbeat finds out Zitbag leased the castle, he doesn’t just say ‘Well, shit’, he goes off on a big long monologue to himself and no-one else. The most egregious example in this show was probably William Waggledagger explaining his motives to absolutely no-one.)
Then we’re introduced to the vampiric Exorsisters Sinistra and Bimbella, and just by their names, you can tell there’s a nice naïve one and a screechy mean one. Did I mention they have the worst voice acting in the whole show? Bimbella’s voice is far too airy-fairy but Sinistra’s is nails on blackboard material. I think they’re supposed to be Zitbag’s landladies – so this is the horror edition of Not Going Out? Zitbag leases the castle and they tell him that the castle is haunted by the ghost of a dog that once belonged to Charles De Ghoul (ha ha). Once again, later episodes show Zitbag interacting with a whole host of Castlevania-y creatures, and he’s pissing himself over the possibility of a dog’s ghost. Hell, there’s a picture of Charles in the castle’s hall and he’s another vampire. I’m again wondering if Zitbag, Deadbeat and everyone except Horrifido, Zombunny and Zitbag’s other creations were originally people but it was changed because kids prefer monsters to humans in their spooky cartoons. Zitbag and the Transylvanian villagers being people would help the whole ‘Universal Studios monster movie parody’ feel they’re going for, but whatever.
Anyway, after Zitbag leases the castle, he takes a look around, and then Deadbeat appears and he takes a look around too. Both wonder about the castle loudly narrating their actions and thoughts. You know that old “As You Know” trope, where exposition is given to the viewers/readers by having characters tell each other things they already know? ‘So, as you know, some manchild attempted to make a blog reviewing bad cartoons and horror movies out of boredom…’ It’s even more annoying when characters are telling themselves things they already know. Case in point, Zitbag not only puts up his diploma, he says he’s doing so ‘in accordance to old Transylvanian law’ and blah blah blah.
Also, while he’s looking about, he turns over that painting of Charles De Ghoul, revealing some dog bones. Wow, keeping the carcass of your pet behind a painting, that’s just…ugh. Must be a Transylvanian thing. Oh, and remember that dog ghost? He’s here, and he joins in on the exposition-to-one’s-self game: ‘My bones! Now I don’t have to be a ghost anymore!’ He then possesses the bones, with wings on his head appearing for some reason, and Voila! Zitbag’s kinda-sorta straight man Horrifido! After Zitbag gathers some supplies, he meets Horrifido, and is utterly, well, horrified, despite seeing the undead on the streets on a regular basis and striving to actually create terrifying organisms. Why does he want to create scary monster pets if he’s shocked by a monster pet who’s actually friendly?
Deadbeat returns to his police station and massages his feet…and he has five toes despite having four fingers (three fingers and one thumb to you purists). OK, he’s a monster, but it’s still a little odd. A birth defect, perhaps. A subtle joke about the image of a big-footed policeman? What am I doing, suggesting this show might have subtlety?
Deadbeat then learns of a new law. Ready for this? All pets sold at pet shops have to be terrifying now…but…wait…the animals at Fullmoon’s pet shop were all normal and Zitbag was talking about monster pets like it was something that had never been done before. Deadbeat is overjoyed to hear this new law, believing if Zitbag doesn’t abide by it, Zitbag’s pet shop could get closed down. So, did Fullmoon’s store also get closed down later on because the pets weren’t scary (hence why Zitbag has the ‘only pet shop in Transylvania’ in ‘Ants in Your Pants’). You know, I think this version of Transylvania has some pretty backwards laws. I’m pretty sure all the vampires there wear tuxedoes and capes as some sort of dress code. Deadbeat also realises Zombunny isn’t scary, so he plots to give Zombunny to Zitbag to sell. And that’s how Zitbag got his retarded rabbit sidekick, kids. Next week on Cartoon Storytime, we’ll tell the tale of how Fred got his special car that can magically gain seats.
Horrifido then befriends Dr. Zitbag and the way Horrifido talks about how much he wants to faithfully serve Zitbag seems to foreshadow the Stockholm Syndrome he exhibits in later episodes.
Then Deadbeat gives Zitbag Zombunny, and apparently Zitbag’s pet shop is open for business now despite him not having any pets to sell. Um, shops don’t usually open when they don’t have stock, Zitbag. Business 101. Now that Zombunny is being sold in Zitbag’s pet shop, Deadbeat tells Zitbag if Zombunny isn’t made terrifying by midnight, the shop will be closed down. So Zitbag puts Zombunny in his machine and guess what Zombunny turns into that Deadbeat finds terrifying. If you’ve ever seen any monster cartoon, you can probably guess. Yes, Zombunny has turned into a cute, fluffy bunny who gives Deadbeat some flowers and Deadbeat is terrified. GET IT? HA HA HA!
Also Zombunny is (presumably) male and the ‘cute’ bunny he becomes is a girl.
So the origin episode of Dr. Zitbag’s Transylvania Pet Shop was actually decent by the show’s usual standards. It was still cliché as all fuck, and little introduction was really given to the show’s setting – the only monsters other than the main cast were Fullmoon and a werewolf hobo – but Zitbag was slightly more likeable here. He’s less of a dickhole than in later instalments – he actually gives credit to Horrifido and seems to be in the pet business for the chance to be creative and revolutionise the industry. Had Zitbag been more like this throughout the series it might have been a little better. Shame – it took Homer Simpson ten years to go from a simple doofus to an unlikeable “jerkass”, it took Zitbag a couple of episodes.
Still, I can’t recommend this show to anyone, even for kids, despite how childish it is. The show does attempt to appease an older audience at times – the second episode has Deadbeat offer to buy some drinks at a pub, but most of the time, it’s desperately trying to get kids’ attention. Look at the monsters! Look at the funny skeleton dog! LOVE US!
So, as you can tell, I don’t really care for this show.