I finally understand all the animation references in Arthur’s most bizarre episode
I take into consideration the PBS Children collection Arthur rather a lot, however I’m haunted by one explicit episode: season 4’s “The Contest.” Initially aired on Oct. 8, 1999, the episode relied on a handful of late ’90s cultural references that I, merely put, didn’t comprehend because the present’s goal demographic of small little one.
In “The Contest,” Arthur and his friends hear a couple of contest hosted by their favourite present (an in-universe riff of Arthur itself), asking viewers to ship in story concepts that might be made into an episode. Every principal character takes a stab at writing a narrative, and the squad will get collectively to share their concepts. Every sequence unfolds in a distinct animation model, handled by the creators of Arthur as an homage to a distinct present.
To this present day, Arthur offers in refined cultural references and celeb friends. Yo-Yo Ma, Mr. Rogers, and Neil Gaiman have all appeared on the present as themselves. It’s spoofed Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tintin, and even Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. But in contrast to many of the different popular culture references in Arthur, “The Contest” dealt in adult-themed, nearly lewd homages. Solely years later, after I caught an episode of Dexter’s Lab on Cartoon Community, did I begin understanding what was actually occurring. However that was the tip of the iceberg.
Now, armed with 20 years extra information than I had as a baby, I’ve lastly discovered which present every sequence referenced. For anybody else who didn’t perceive, right here’s a breakdown of Arthur’s weirdest episode.
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Buster: “The Day The Earth Was Saved”
Arthur’s alien-crazed finest good friend Buster comes up with a narrative about aliens crash-landing on Earth and kidnapping Arthur. The UFO squashes Buster, however the aliens determine to not eat Arthur as a result of his ldl cholesterol is simply too excessive. The paper-cutout model and the massive heads on tiny our bodies evoke the animation-style of South Park. The characters additionally converse in the identical high-pitched, barely sped up tone because the present’s characters. And on prime of that, the alien idea is a nod to South Park’s personal collection premiere, which noticed Cartman obtain an alien probe.
On the time the episode aired, South Park had been on Comedy Central for about two years — a yr lower than Arthur itself. These two ‘90s staples continued on into the 2000s and 2010s, one tackling huge points in kid-friendly methods and the opposite goals to offend nearly all people. The media panorama would possibly change, however Arthur and South Park, apparently, are ceaselessly.
Muffy: “My Life As A TV Present”
Spoiled, wealthy lady Muffy goals up a narrative the place she’s a runway mannequin. Stylized like Mike Choose’s Beavis and Butt-Head, full with exaggerated foreheads and jaws, Arthur and Buster mock her and name her the “fifth Teletubby.” The MTV present premiered a number of years earlier than Arthur in 1992, and ran via the ’90s. Beavis and Butt-Head additionally spawned a by-product in Daria (which has sadly not been spoofed on Arthur) and returned for one final season in 2011. The present’s lewd humor influenced South Park and is presumably the furthest factor from Arthur’s household pleasant strategy on the market.
Enjoyable truth: this isn’t the one time Arthur parodied the Mike Choose animated sitcom. An earlier episode incorporates a comedian and cartoon known as Peabrain and Nuthead.
Mind:“Hair Development System”
With daring strains and exaggerated proportions — together with Mind sporting a imprecise Japanese European accent — this sequence pays tribute to Cartoon Community present Dexter’s Laboratory. It’s the one certainly one of these segments that particularly parodies a fellow youngsters present as a substitute of 1 aimed toward adults, and becoming, as Mind, the neatest child in school, would concoct a narrative the place his innovations are foiled by the incompetence of his mates.
Genndy Tartakovsky’s debut collection premiered on Cartoon Community in 1995 and ran via 2003. Not like Arthur, it wasn’t an academic present and simply centered on lab hijinks and humor. The collection is notable for launching the careers of Seth MacFarlane (Household Man) and Butch Hartman (Pretty Odd Dad and mom), whose reveals would’ve doubtless been on this episode had it come out 10 years later. That places the weirdness of this episode in perspective — think about Arthur parodying Household Man in 2020.
Francine And Binky: “The Wonderful Struggle”
This sequence doesn’t parody an animated present, however as a substitute the WWE. (As a result of this episode got here out in 1999, the WWE was the WWF, World Wrestling Basis, which modified its identify in 2003 to keep away from confusion with the World Wildlife Basis.) Sporty Francine and difficult man Binky spin up a narrative the place Arthur goes face-to-face with an animated Hulk Hogan. Simply by stomping his foot, he simply defeats Hulk Hogan after which goes up towards John L. Sullivan, Floyd Patterson, Barney Rose, and the United Press Worldwide (which Binky admits he simply copied from the caption of an image he discovered).
Arthur: “The Troubled Sister”
The episode’s last sequence can also be the reference that eluded me the longest. Rendered in a largely monochromatic world with shaky outlines, an 18-year-old Arthur speaks to his therapist about his annoying sister. The sluggish, rambling speech, the setup of a psychiatrist, and the black and white background are all indicative of Comedy Central’s Dr. Katz, Skilled Therapist. The truth is, the psychiatrist that Arthur sees is Dr. Katz himself — simply with Arthur-verse animal ears. Dr. Katz, Skilled Therapist premiered in 1995 and initially, all of Dr. Katz’s sufferers had been stand-up comics who recited units that had been then animated. A number of the dialogue for the present was ad-libbed, making the present a predecessor to raised recognized collection like House Films and Bob’s Burgers.
All 22 seasons of Arthur can be found to buy on Amazon.
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