Crackle’s new stop-motion series, “SuperMansion!” is proof positive that animation has become less about finely grained and precise artistry and more about hitting below the humor belt in an effort to tease the millennial funnybone. Move over Disney, PES and Nick Park — we live in a world where “Robot Chicken” and “Celebrity Deathmatch” are coin of the real with young, fast-twitch audiences. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with such an evolution.
But when a series is totally derivative and bases its very being on the use of high-profile voice actors — in this case Bryan Cranston, Chris Pine and Keegan-Michael Key — the result is boring and predictable. One of the reasons you get the feeling you’ve seen it all before is “SuperMansion!” comes from the studio that is responsible for “Robot Chicken.” “Chicken,” however, is far more clever in its concept, and has that sense of daring that comes from the fact it originally aired on a cable net (Adult Swim), which made it seem like it was pushing some sort of programming boundary.
The story of “SuperMansion!” goes something like this: Titanium Rex (voiced by Bryan Cranston) is an aging superhero who is heads the League of Freedom, a former force in the world of of super heroes. Crusty old Rex becomes mentor to some wet-behind-the-ears young heroes who have little interest in their noble profession. Much to Rex’s displeasure, they’re all thrown together to live in the SuperMansion, where the new kids on the block learn how to harness their superpowers and fight for justice and modern relevance.
While “SuperMansion!” does not add much to the stop-motion genre, it is fast-paced and sports the occasional lowbrow bellylaugh. For Crackle, it’s a decent addition to its diverse lineup, but won’t come close to the popularity of “The Awesomes” (Hulu) and “BoJack Horseman” (Netflix).
With good intentions, Visibly Shaken Productions has launched a new series, “The Shades,” which (according to the PR notes) “takes a satirical look at religious extremism and suburban life.” Based on the first two installments, “The Seed” and “Good Karma,” the concept isn’t close to delivering on its promise.
Out in the burbs, we have contrasting couples, one of which is sort of your average young marrieds while the other is a poorly drawn version of a husband and wife trying to live by some unknown super cosmic, earth friendly, concerned parent universe. The satire is too heavy-handed to be effective with the occasional misdirection (such as the human rabbit in episode one) that adds little to the plot.
There is promise here — the overall production is good, and the acting is solid but the narrative and writing needs some spit and polish.