One thing you have to keep in mind if you’re reviewing cartoons is that, of course, a cartoon for children is generally inferior to a live-action film for adults. Something created for the purpose of showing a great truth of the world is going to be better than something created for the purpose of getting kids to shut up for five minutes. Nonetheless, there are a lot of cartoons that adapt live-action movies and television shows into animation. The general quality of these can be explained via this question from The Animation Writer’s Cliché Test:
Question #6: A smash hit movie known for its irreverent comedy, satire and vivid action scenes has been adapted for animation. What won’t the writers be asked to do:
a) irreverent comedy
c) vivid action scenes
d) a second season
e) all of the above
So yeah, something like say, Robocop loses something in the transition to animation. Hell, The New Adventures of Batman was a cartoon version of the 1960’s Adam West Batman TV show which failed to understand what made the live action show such a classic. The cartoon had as much surreality as the TV show, but lacked the self-awareness about it.
Also, there was a Blackadder cartoon, albeit an unofficial one.
Oh god, I fucking love Blackadder, but I don’t hold that same admiration for this semi-adaptation. BBC’s iconic Blackadder series followed various members of the titular clan as they blundered their way through various periods in history, with every Blackadder played by Mr. Bean himself, Rowan Atkinson. The second series, Blackadder II, featured the shrewd, sarcastic Edmund Blackadder in Elizabethan England, the third series, Blackadder the Third, featured the shrewd, sarcastic Edmund Blackadder as a butler for the Prince of Wales. Likewise, Mad Jack the Pirate featured the shrewd, sarcastic Mad Jack the Pirate as, well, a pirate captain. Sadly, Jack was not played by Rowan Atkinson, but rather by the show’s creator Bill Kopp, putting on a sub-par Atkinson impression. Like Blackadder had his dim-witted sidekick Baldrick, Jack has a dim-witted sidekick called Snuk (played by Billy West as opposed to Tony Robinson. Boy, between this and The Wacky World of Tex Avery he’s made some bad choices cartoon-wise). And Snuk is a giant anthropomorphic rat. Well, okay, that actually kind of makes sense for a cartoon version of Baldrick, considering the character’s lack of hygiene. Hell, the actual Blackadder show utilised the idea of an adaptation where a human character was made an animal.
There are other similarities between the two shows as well. There is a character called Flash who is more or less Lord Flashheart without the genius of Rik Mayall, there was an episode called “Captain Snuk” which bore a passing resemblance to “Duel and Duality” from Blackadder the Third, and there were even jokes taken almost word-to-word from Blackadder:
Blackadder: We are going to go to Mrs. Miggins’, we are going to find out where Dr. Johnson keeps a copy of that dictionary, and then you are going to steal it.
Blackadder: Yes, you.
Baldrick: Why me?
Blackadder: Because you burnt it, Baldrick!
Baldrick: But then I’ll go to Hell forever for stealing.
Blackadder: Baldrick, believe me: eternity in the company of Beelzebub, and all his hellish instruments of death, will be a picnic compared to five minutes with me… and this pencil.
–Blackadder the Third “Ink and Incapability”
Mad Jack: Tomorrow morning, you’re going to steal back the money and hand it over to Sharkface Willy!
Snuk: But if I steal the money, I’d get in trouble and go to Hades forever for stealing!
Mad Jack: Snuk, an eternity of torture at the hands of Lucifer and all his terrible devices of pain and misery will seem like a day in the park compared to five minutes with me and this stapler.
–Mad Jack the Pirate, “Mad Jack and the Beanstalk”
Wow, they not only ripped a joke straight from Blackadder, but one of the least appropriate for a kiddie show too. Not only that, but the way they rephrase it and say it pretty much sucks the humour out of it too, making it sound less natural and more laboured. The Blackadder joke was delivered with skill and sharpness, the Mad Jack quote is akin to a geek trying to get popular by parroting Monty Python. Besides, Snuk, everyone knows rats don’t have souls.
So yeah, the show is pretty much Blackadder, with bits and pieces of Monty Python and Captain Butler sprinkled in, and whisked with generic cartoon storylines and gags. The general idea is Jack and Snuk just sailing around the world trying to look for treasure, going through various tribulations to get it, only to lose the treasure or for the treasure to be worthless. The show doesn’t really have all that much to do with pirates, really (going around looking for treasure doesn’t make you a pirate but I guess Mad Jack the Treasure Hunter doesn’t have the same ring) but it does have a shitload of anachronisms – hell, one episode revolves around the making of a movie (thus I’m not going to make a pirate-related pun about this show like “Thar it blows” or “this show should walk the plank”. Consider yourself lucky.)
Another episode is called “The Island of the Pink and Fuzzy” and the sole joke the episode has is there right in the title. They go to an island to find some treasure and everything is cutesy and happy until they beat up Jack. I did kind of like the teddy bear with Wolverine claws but he overstayed his welcome. He beats up Mad Jack. Then he beats up Jack again. And again. Then he beats up a barbarian. And another. And a-bleeding-nother.
The use of pirates and anachronisms actually remind me of Alex Ze Pirate a bit. Imagine if Alex and Jack hooked up, what a terrifying fanfiction that would make.
There were one or two jokes in the show that made me smirk though; in one episode, Jack thinks Snuk is taking him to a strip club (yes, they all but say it is), and when Snuk says he isn’t, Jack tiredly replies ‘Boy, this really is a kids’ show, isn’t it?’ That was actually kinda okay, but the same episode also had Jack getting beaten up by a defective theme park robot , after a scene that is stolen from The Simpsons rather than Blackadder for a change of pace.
That’s the problem with rewatching this show with adult eyes; it’s simply a Diet Coke version of one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. It’s more pointless than when How To Learn French was translated into French (see, I can do it too!)