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"Happy Tree Friends" Season 1: The Best DVD Menus I've Ever Seen

You may be wondering why I’ve given this review its headline. Well, it’s because that’s the one redeeming aspect I can find to the Happy Tree Friends Season 1 DVD. Okay, maybe not the one redeeming aspect. I really like the DVD itself. The menus seamlessly transition to the episodes themselves, the encoding is crisp and sharp, and there are plenty of extras.

However, I don’t particularly enjoy the show. I mean, I’m all for comedic violence, especially when it’s done to cutesy cartoon characters. After all, that kind of thing at the root of animation in almost all cultures, be it Bugs Bunny tricking Daffy Duck into getting shot or a harem-anime protagonist getting slapped for infringing upon some girl’s privacy. Typically though, there is some motivation, some reason for it to happen, that justifies the payoff. To put it another way, it’s okay when Wile E. Coyote falls off a cliff, because he really deserves it—it’s almost karmic. Even shows that take cartoon violence to extremes, like Beavis and Butthead and Ren and Stimpy, still ground it with a certain justice, albeit one saturated at points with schadenfreude.

Happy Tree Friends Season 1 all too often misses this element, so that it seems sadistic rather than humorous. To be fair, certain shorts on this disc, like “Ipso Fatso” and “The Wrong Side of The Tracks,” are enjoyable and funny even though they’re grotesque, because they have good gags and timing. They also have a bit of that previously mentioned “it’s funny because they deserved it” aspect. Unfortunately, the random violence of such other shorts as “And the Kitchen Sink” and “Doggone It!” is more cringe-inducing than funny: it isn’t Bluto or Elmer Fudd getting the snot beaten out of them for being complete jerks, it’s stuff like a baby getting sucked down the sink disposal because of his father’s incompetence. I mean, I know it’s been said that comedy equals tragedy plus time, but that’s only if the delivery is right, and somehow Happy Tree Friends misses that. Even worse, perhaps, most of the shorts on this disc don’t even manage to be cringe-inducing: they just sit there.

I’d compare Happy Tree Friends to Drawn Together, another show that goes out of its way to use shock humor, but even Drawn Together at least started with characters who really deserved everything they were dealt. But Happy Tree Friends, even when it features outstanding timing and pacing and downright ingenious gags, misses being funny because the gags have no setup: it’s usually just characters minding their own business until they get whaled on—and if you’re at all empathetic, it makes the show a very unrewarding watch.

If you’re already a fan of the show, you’ll love the DVD, because they really did do an excellent job of it—it fits the series perfectly, gets an excellent layout, and I honestly wish more DVDs had such appropriate and well-crafted menus. If you don’t know the show, I suppose the best way to gauge your probable reaction to it is to ask yourself whether you laugh at dead baby jokes. That’s an odd barometer, I know, but it’s probably fitting for a review that headlines the quality of DVD menus.

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