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"Time Warp Trio": Where's Mr. Peabody When You Need Him?

With all of these violent cartoons on the air today (such as Avatar, Kim Possible, and Naruto), not to mention other shows that are apparently using subliminal messages to teach kids naughty stuff, it’s hard to find a show for young children that’s safe and innocent in every single way. Enter Discovery Kids’ Time Warp Trio.

Fred, Joe, and Sam are your average grade school kids who are just looking to have fun. Fred is the typical “cool” kid who would rather eat pizza than study, while Sam is the exact opposite (you can tell he’s a nerd because he wears glasses), and Joe is the leader of the group, by virtue of a book from his magician uncle that allows him to travel through time. By accident, they meet up with their descendants Freddie, Jodie, and Samantha (how clever) and they all prance around history for one reason or another. They go to the year 2105; they meet Genghis Khan; they save Napoleon [Good heavens, why? -Ed]; they get captured by Native Americans; they travel with Lewis & Clark; they help invent the light bulb; and Joe has what he believes to be a final, apocalyptic battle with the rogue time-traveling criminal Mad Jack.

As you’d think, this show is decent fodder for the little ones and not much else. But Time Warp Trio does a lot of things right. Despite the target demographic, it isn’t afraid to go dark and grim. Sure, everything’s still sanitized for the kiddies, but the boys still get into real danger and are often only moments away from being killed. (Though, oddly enough, they do get run over by a wild bull and come out without so much as a scratch.) After being overloaded with sanitized Kids’ WB! and 4Kids shows these past few years, it’s kind of refreshing to see somebody pull a knife and threaten to kill a bunch of ten-year-olds on children’s television. The show’s educational moments are squeezed in anecdotes at the end or in introductions of the central historical character, i.e. “Wow! You’re Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb and a whole bunch of other electric stuff!”

Unfortunately, though perhaps humorously given the premise, the episodes on Time Warp Trio: Past, Present, and Future are out of order. There’s no introductory episode for the concept, leaving an average debut episode is aimed at girls feeling like “episode 2.” Even worse is Mad Jack, who first appears at the end of this volume. I’m assuming he’s introduced in some other episode on one of the other DVDs, but he just shows up here and the audience is automatically supposed to know who he is. As for the episodes themselves, they often start out relatively well, but more often than not drag in the middle before rushing towards a conclusion that neatly ties everything up. While I am glad the writers didn’t fall into the three-person-team trap — the cast really is mixed up quite nicely — the characters are still pretty flat overall, and even the historical figures don’t get much development. Have I mentioned the boys get run over by a bull and yet don’t get injured in the slightest? I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Animation is done by Soup2Nuts, whom most people will associate with the cult favorite Home Movies. Like that show, Time Warp Trio is animated in Flash, but unlike such other modern Flash cartoons as Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends or Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, the Flash used here is rather stiff, resulting in animation that doesn’t flow very well or disguise its origins. This was acceptable for something like Home Movies, which relied on its dialogue anyway, but when you’re taking something as visually diverse as this show and mixing action into it, the whole thing comes off as too cheap for its own good. Character motions are stiff and facial expressions are about South Park-quality (and those are intentionally bad). On the positive side, colors are bright, and the transfer, though nothing special, is pretty good.

The six main characters all have voices that fit and shouldn’t grate on your nerves too long (unless you watch all seven episodes in a row, but who would do such a thing?), and the majority of the historical figures have good though stereotypical voices. It’s better than almost any dub produced by 4Kids, and that in and of itself makes it worthwhile in my book. Music is kid-friendly rock for the most part and works well enough as background filler.

Unless you want to count the little trivia anecdotes at the end of each episode, the only extras on this DVD are character profiles, which are merely brief paragraphs on the main characters and the major historical figures spotlighted in each episode. There are also a bunch of trailers for some of the more kid-friendly FUNimation licenses: Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monsters, 4Kids’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spider Riders, Code LYOKO, Sonic X, and another Time Warp Trio DVD. There’s also an insert advertising other Time Warp Trio merchandise, such as books and other DVDs.

Overall, it’s not too hard to figure out what you’re going to get with this DVD. If you have a little one who’s a fan of the series, this is a good buy for them. Everyone else would be better served by renting it first.

Episodes on Time Warp Trio: Past, Present, and Future:

  • 2105
  • You Can’t But Genghis Khan
  • Able Was I Ere I Saw Elba
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Goofy
  • Lewis & Clark… and Jodie, Freddi, and Samantha
  • Hey Kid, Want to Buy a Bridge?
  • Breaking the Codex

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