So joint Valentine’s Day/Friday the 13th special away!
I did an article about an episode of Cosgrove Hall cartoon Avenger Penguins last Christmas, and now I’m going to do another article based on an episode of that show. For those that need a refresher about the show, it featured around a trio of penguins who were motorcycle enthusiasts, and they had to stop the evil machinations of gothic lardbucket Caractacus P Doom and his sidekick Harry Slime.
You know, I do think the series has held up pretty well, but not as well as some other shows, if that makes sense. It’s still entertaining, but there’s a feeling of something missing. For example, like all kiddy shows worth their salt, Avenger Penguins makes references to more mature movies as a nod to the parents watching. The aforementioned Caractacus P Doom is a parody of Orson Welles, and his sidekick (based on Peter Lorre) is named after Welles’ character in The Third Man. The Brain from Pinky and the Brain, however, is also a Welles parody and a much more thorough one; one of that show’s episodes was a full-fledged spoof on The Third Man, after all.
Most of the parodies Avenger Penguins did were pretty routine for a kid’s show: Batman parody, James Bond parody, Star Trek parody with a joke about how the redshirts always die. In the episode we’ll be looking at today, there’s a villain called “Annabelle the Animal”, who spoofs both Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates. Those are more impressive subjects for the show to spoof than the three others I mentioned, considering those are less kid-friendly, but are pretty common spoof subjects. Still, a kids show with an ersatz Hannibal should have some novelty to it, so let’s do this shit.
We begin with the penguins riding down the road, Marlon, Rocky and Bluey. Avenger Penguins was meant to be a parody on Ninja Turtles and shows like it, and the penguins could more or less be described like the Turtles were. Marlon leads and is cool but rude. Bluey does machines, and talks weird on top of that. Rocky is a party dude, sort of I guess, but he’s more the ‘duuuh moron’ of the group.
Anyway, Marlon tells his teammates he’s going to tell Bella how he feels ie. he wants to fuck her brains out. Bella is a female penguin who works at the penguins’ favourite ice cream joint; if Marlon’s going to tell anyone he loves them, it’s good that it’s a fellow penguin given other episodes had Marlon and the others pull a Brian Griffin and lust over human women. As per tradition, he gets all twitchy when he tries to tell Bella his feelings, but not before a weird fantasy sequence where he kisses the froglike Harry Slime. Yup, that happened.
Speaking of Slime, we cut to him in the DARK and EVUL Doom Tower watching the eponymous show-within-a-show Surprise Fate, which is a spoof on Blind Date. Also one of the dates in the show is a two-headed monster, which, as Doom then says, has ‘more spots than a measles epidemic in a dominos factory’. Then there’s a newsflash about the escape of the notorious Annabelle the Animal, a psychopath who gorges on anything that is black and white. I’m sure you can see where this is going. If not, you probably need psychiatric help more than Will Graham did.
Yes, Doom has freed Annabelle, and sure enough, she’s tied to a gurney and speaking like a female Anthony Hopkins might. Spoofs on Hopkins’ Lecter are pretty common (even the Hannibal TV series did it with Eddie Izzard’s character) but I kinda like Annabelle. Her design makes her look like an even crazier Cruella DeVille (why doesn’t she try to eat her hair) and she does come across as pretty creepy and unhinged.
So with her free, it seems the Penguins are pretty damn boned. We’ve established in the “Christmas Carol” episode that Doom knows where the Penguins live, so all he has to do is send Annie-poo over there to have ‘an old friend for dinner’, and they’re dead.
Well, no, actually. Doom’s plan is to put the Penguins and Annabelle on Surprise Fate. Why? I mean, you want the Penguins dead, you have someone who is willing to eat the Penguins, and if this plan works, Annabelle will only eat one of the Penguins. Doom even sees a flaw in his plan; Marlon shows up to the show in a gold tuxedo that makes him look like “a cut-price Elvis impersonator”. I dunno, he’s still pretty black and white, considering his black feathers are showing and his shirt is white. If Annabelle eats things that are only black and white and no other colour, then she probably wouldn’t eat the Penguins anyway, considering their clothes are different colours. Even if she does catch them naked, their beaks and feet are still orange. So either Annabelle would eat Marlon (just noticed how that sounds in a “date” context) regardless of what he was wearing, or she wouldn’t eat the Penguins at all. I love overthinking cartoons, don’t you?
Also she goes on the show in a black and white dress. Shouldn’t she be trying to eat that?
Marlon says he’s ‘a black and white guy’, so Annabelle chooses him. Doom, watching Surprise Fate on TV, is outraged and demands she pick either Rocky and Bluey even though their clothes look more colourful than Marlon’s. I do kind of like the line, ‘I know you can’t hear me, but listen anyway!’
Annabelle picks Marlon and Bluey and Rocky bugger off just as their leader and the crazy lady go off on their date. Bluey and Rocky stumble into a news studio where they’re doing a report on Annabelle, and they recognise her as the woman Marlon drove off with. Wow, Doom didn’t even bother giving Annabelle a disguise, and no-one in the entire studio recognised her. Doom should be glad everyone in Big City is as stupid as he is. Also, it turns out Annabelle became the way she is because her Grandma fed her nothing but mint humbugs. Well, I’ve heard worse villain origin stories. At least she got one, which is more than can be said for Doom.
Now the episode starts picking up, as Marlon and Annabelle are driven to a Bates-esque motel that looks pretty neat. Slime is in disguise as a bellhop (he gets a disguise but Annie doesn’t?) and Doom is also there spying on Marlon. He has video cameras set up around the motel, and his plan is to record Marlon being devoured by Annabelle so he can watch it over and over again later. Jesus. And when I say that, I mean it in a good way. I just like seeing a cartoon villain have such a twisted, fucked-up plan, and when Doom announces it, every syllable he speaks drips with sadistic glee. This show does have some stupid moments but it also has such wonderful moments like these.
Doom sees Marlon in the shower, and since Marlon’s out of his tuxedo, Doom tries to get Annabelle in the bathroom. Now, given that Doom sprung Annabelle, Annabelle should trust him, so all Doom has to do is go up to her and go, ‘Hey, there’s a tasty black and white thing in the bathroom’, she should be all ‘K’ and boom, Marlon kebab for dinner. No, instead Doom pretends to be the voice of Annabelle’s “Granny Humbug” over an intercom. Hmm, creepy motel, shower, voice of parent figure talking to a looney. Don’t know what the hell they’re referencing! If you want to reference Hitchcock, why not have the Penguins attack Tippi Hedren?
Annabelle is convinced to go to the bathroom though, but just as Doom is about record his future masturbation aid, the lightning shorts out the TV, and he gets Slime to go fix it. Then we have the whole Psycho stuff where Marlon is taking a shower but then there comes a scary shadow, but instead of Anthony Perkins with a knife, it’s Rocky with a newspaper! Ho-de-ho. Rocky tries to convince Marlon that Annie is a looney, but just as she does, Annie herself barges in and tries to eat them. The lights go out, and Rocky thinks Marlon is holding him, but it’s really Annabelle. Is that a reference to The Haunting, or am I giving them too much credit?
Slime is up on the roof trying to fix the feed as Marlon and co are running away from Annabelle. I kinda like when they’re trying to find a door to go through, find what looks like a normal room, but is only a picture which is torn away by Annabelle on a pendulum. Soon they end up in a room where Doom and Annie are, and just as Doom is about to feed the Penguins to Annie, Slime falls down the chimney, covering everyone in soot. He wipes some off Doom’s face, and then Annie tries to eat Doom. Doom’s face doesn’t look that white to me, more bluish-grey. Besides, since he’s always wearing a black cloak, shouldn’t Annie have tried to eat him the moment she saw him?
Complaints aside, this episode was actually pretty good fun. The horror movie spoofs worked well without being too sanitised, and I can’t help but love Mike McShane as Doom. He’s having such fun with the role, and actually managed to make him seem threatening even when there were pretty big flaws in his plan.