Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Finite Cartoons II

Here is the next Finite Cartoon I wish to tell you about. For a definition of “Finite Cartoon,” see this link to the previous post.

Danny Phantom is Butch Hartman’s spin on the formula of Stan Lee’s Spider-Man. Danny Fenton is a fourteen year old high school freshman whose somewhat eccentric parents are into ghost hunting (and busting.) Their portal to the Ghost Zone doesn’t work initially, but Danny takes a look at it when they are not around. In true comic book fashion, there is a freak accident and he becomes a halfa, half boy and half ghost. Actually he is able to switch at will. Thus, Danny Fenton becomes Danny Phantom. Like Spider-Man, he keeps a secret identity, though his best friends Sam(antha) and Tucker know the truth. He battles the ghosts that plague Amity Park (kudos on the name. They also attend Casper High.) Again like Spider-Man, using his super powers for justice and protection are often misunderstood by the media and public, forcing him to grapple with acceptance and his dual nature in addition to the horrors of high school. It evolves into his arch nemesis being Vlad Plasmius, an evil adult halfa, aka Vlad Masters, a college mate of his father’s. But both Danny and Vlad are sometimes at the mercy of bigger, badder villains from the Ghost Zone. Admittedly, Danny Phantom is not rich in a basis of mythology and legend as is Mighty Max. But Hartman is to be praised for his imaginative new creations.

Okay, on to the Finite part. Oh, the horror! Hartman had a plan for the series from the beginning. He had a definite story he wanted to tell when he pitched the series to Nickelodeon. (He already had the very successful Fairly Odd Parents [which I also love, but is not Finite] on the network.) I don’t recall the exact number (nor is it important) but they allowed a chunk of them. Well received, they gave him another chunk, circa 20. Hartman happily set to work on fleshing out his storyline…recurring characters, developing relationships and situations. Danny also discovered new ghostly powers as it went along. Hartman certainly kept it interesting. While some had aired and some were being written, Nickelodeon gave him even more. About double what he had. Thus, he excitedly expanded his storyline further, able to write in much more developments. But…eventually Nickelodeon pulled the plug…in the middle of his story. He had a fixed number left, nowhere near his allotment. A trooper, Hartman had to rework his arc to fit within the only remaining episodes he had. Guess what happened next. Yes, possibly due to fan outcry, they went ahead and reversed their decision. However, by the time they did so, Hartman had already retooled the storyline. Now he had the opportunity to make it closer to his original vision, but still not quite the same given the changes that had been made. Then, they did it…again. Poor Hartman! I’d like to think I can sympathize with his trauma. To make matters worse, they aired episodes out of order! Now, in a regular show, this most likely would not make a difference. But for a Finite series, it throws it all out of whack. It does not make it easy for good storytelling at all, no fault to Hartman, who informed fans on his website of the shenanigans. It finally ended up that they gave him a set, final limit. Having already had some “movies” (hour long episodes) during the course of the show, they also gave him a “movie” to finish it off. (How nice of them.) So Hartman had to shuffle it around yet again and get his story back on track to its conclusion in much less the space than planned. Though he will admit that some small bits feel rushed (but can you blame him after that frenzy?), he is pleased with how it turned out. And I have to say, I am very impressed. In light of what insanity he had to work under, he gave us a fabulous adventure, with a satisfying ending to boot. Yes, it leaves it open for more. But not in the sense of a Hollywood movie where it is painfully obvious that more is on the way. In the final movie "Phantom Planet,"Danny Phantom is wrapped up nicely, all the loose ends tied into bows, secrets revealed and major dilemmas solved. Yet if he wanted to, he could start another story arc from there.
Danny Phantom could be considered as falling into the Puer Archetype as well. But my next and last report of my favorite Finite Cartoons will not include a traditional Puer.

Coincidentally, you will find Rob Paulsen's vocal talent in this series as well. He plays Danny's father.

As of now, many episodes of this are on YouTube, hunt it down if you wish. Also as of now, the first two seasons are available from iTunes.

Finite Cartoons I
Finite Cartoons III


Danielle Mari said...

So, I don't think it will- but does "The Tick" count? It feels more episodic, but then after Chairface tries to inscribe his name on the moon, the moon remains affected in every subsequent episode...

Peter Von Brown said...

I'm sorry, I would have to say no, The Tick does not count. Actually, in the next post I planned to address such shows, that have continuity, but not an "arc." Then again, I could be wrong as I have not seen every episode of The Tick. If it all leads to a conclusion of a story throughout, then, yes...

Danielle Mari said...

I do not feel hurt by your exclusivity, and neither does the Tick! He is, after all, nigh invulnerable!