Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Dexter's Laboratory

(Alternate Title: "Changes")

Created, Written and Directed by: Genndy Tartakovsky
Art Directors: Craig McCracken, Paul Rudish
Music: Steve Rucker & Thomas Chase
Voices: Christine Cavanaugh, Alison Moore, Kath Soucie
Produced in Association with: Fil-Cartoons, Inc., Philippines and Jaime Diaz Productions, Argentina

We go from one piece of cartoon history to another, as this we have here is the short that started it all for one Cartoon Network's very first series, Dexter's Laboratory. Quite a funny and charming cartoon, filled with great humor and animation, and starring what's probably the best cartoon duo to ever come out of Cartoon Network.

It's early in the morning and Dexter and Dee Dee must get get ready for school, so Dee Dee goes into her brother's room to look for him, but really it's just an excuse for her to wreck havoc in his lab, which Dexter's room leads too. Inside, Dee Dee gets hold of Dexter's last invention, a remote control that can turn people into various animals. Dee Dee transforms Dexter into a rabbit, then Dexter turns Dee Dee into a frog, and the rest of the cartoon is basically a wild chase/battle with the two kids transforming into various animals, until they go back to normal in the end just before Mom catches them... or did they?

It's no wonder Dexter's Lab was chosen among the first CN cartoons to become a full series, because this a very impressive cartoon. The animation is top notch and full of life, with lots of greatly timed sequences to go with it. The art direction and background design are also amazing, with every wide shot of the lab looking so majestic. My favorite one would have to be when Dee Dee peeks into Dexter's room and we get this long pan where the room suddenly goes into Dexter's Lab. The change is a little abrupt, but the designs themselves are simply gorgeous.

One thing "Meat Fuzzy Lumkins" didn't do well was establish a proper relationship between the three girls. Here, on the other hand, the interactions between Dexter and Dee Dee are really what make the whole cartoon stand out. As I said in the intro, they're a great duo, with Dee Dee's loose, carefree attitude contrasting Dexter's intelligence and and obsession with "everything being in the right place" perfectly.

The entire "changes" sequence that follows lasts for nearly half the cartoon, but it's great because it never stops and keeps the viewer interested through its entirety until the climatic point where Dee Dee and Dexter (as a turtle and a snail) must reach the remote before Mom opens the door to the room. There are great gags and bits of animation inserted all the way through to make this sequence work, and the music only makes it more memorable. Speaking of, Rucker & Chase's trademark score for the series is already present here, as we hear Dee Dee's theme for the first time as she leaves her own room to go to Dexter's, and later when most of the cues during the chase sequence will be reworked into the series' main theme.

There are lots of series out there where the fandom will tell to skip episode 1 if you're trying to get into it. Not the case here, as this short is a great introduction to the series' main premise and characters. Definitely give this a watch if you haven't yet.

Hey, Dee Dee, you're on TV!

Can't be truly expressed on screenshots, but Dee Dee's dance around the hall to Dexter's room is great.

Dee Dee is a very expressive character, as you can tell by these stills. Also, I love how she knocks the door and calls for Dexter very quiiieeetly so she can have an excuse to go in.

Amazing pan of Dexter's room that changes to his laboratory. Whoever owns the original drawing has my praise.

The very first shot of Dexter. Nothing impressive, but it's here for history.

Dee Dee's first "HI!". Not, "Hi, Dexter!" sadly. Dexter's reaction is hilarious.

Nicely timed gag with Dee Dee triggering a beam that zaps Dexter. Love how his skeleton is a skull with two bones.

That's a weird keyboard. At least two letters are repeated.

Nice walking cycle on Dee Dee after she finds out Dexter has been experimenting on her doll.

"Ohhhh... what does THIS button do?" Along with "Hi, Dexter!", this will be one of Dee Dee's catchphrases in the series. It will come in many variants.

Another great Dee Dee dance animation. Look a lot better in motion.

Good use of squash and stretch on Frog Dee Dee.

Another great sequence, with Tiger Dee Dee chasing Dexter and turning him into various animals. The walrus is my favorite.

Screenshot of Penguin Dexter because oddly enough, it's the only transformation that retains a piece of clothing (his glasses).

More great animation as Tiger Dee Dee falls down the stairs.

This is a hilarious gag, with the Dinosaur not able to brush his/her teeth since he/she can't reach his mouth.

How convenient Mom never opens her eyes in this scene.

Hilarious shot of the bear as Mom tells the kids to chew their food.

Also, LOL. By the way, I know it looks I'm screenshotting everything, but it's hard not to when there's so much eye candy in the cartoon.

Another part that looks a lot better in motion, but the part where Dexter and Dee Dee battle over the remote and their arms are seen switching to various animals is pretty well done.

The scene of the turtle and the snail making it to the remote before Mom opens the door is very well timed, specially with the music. I do like how there are electricity "residues" behind the door, indicating they were THIS close of not making it.

Well, that didn't go exactly as planned.


  1. I wonder if Tartakovsky did all of the animation himself. He's really expressive when he gets around doing it.

    1. I wouldn't be surprised if he had a hand in doing it on this short.

  2. This was also a favorite as a child and I loved the sheer intensity of it. There is no rest stop once they get their hands on the remote, it's utter chaos. I have to commend the animators for drawing all those animals in like, what, five minutes total? It's madness, I tells ya.

    You pointed some of the gags I like (such as the T-Rex and Beaver brushing teeth scene). I also love Dee Dee's first introduction where she innocently can't open Dexter's door, then mischievously - almost diabolically so - unlocks it with a credit card.

    The ending is classic, simply because it'll be a standard staple of the show: nothing every goes the way Dexter wants it to. Usually the results will be much worse and boy do I love it.