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Future Spotlight: The Amazing World of Gumball - Part V - Review Time

It is a difficult task to review something that you have been following for over a year and a half. When I first learned about The Amazing World Of Gumball on September 24th, 2009, it struck a chord with me. They had only released one image at the time, but the mixture of animation techniques intrigued me, as did the wide array of unusual characters. I decided to follow the series, routinely searching for new information and sharing what I found on the forums and in blogs. I got to know the people who worked on the show, having sent out numerous e-mails and conversing with them. Such things make it difficult for me to be an objective observer, but having seen the first episode, I don’t believe that my faith was misplaced. However, I do have some concerns.

As I watched the first episode provided, “The Responsible/The DVD”, something felt off. Perhaps it was the glitched audio synchronization in the review copy, which caused the audio to run faster than the video resulting in horrible lip-sync, but as I thought about it more it dawned on me: its complexity in design is belied by its simplicity in execution. Gumball has been described by others as “a show about kids being kids”, and that is a fairly accurate description; its visual style may have an undeniable charm, but when you get to its heart, it’s a rather standard sitcom. I do admire that they have the gravitas to make episodes about things like breaking a DVD and then dealing with the consequences of that action, but simple things don’t necessarily make for the most riveting television.

However, like Regular Show before it, Gumball is capable of taking the mundane and pushing it to the extremes. While events in this episode don’t rival the insanity of Mordecai and Rigby’s world, both plots build up to frantic climaxes that you wouldn’t necessarily see coming. These moments are easily the highlight of the episode and I hope that they will be a regular occurence.  The rest of the episode is still enjoyable and I liked a lot of the jokes, but some of them are hit-or-miss and may be more entertaining to a younger audience.  Gumball isn’t rated PG like some of Cartoon Network’s other shows, so people shouldn’t expect the humor in Gumball to have the same edge found in in Adventure Time or Regular Show. Gumball also appears to be more morally driven than those shows, and certain things, such as Darwin’s commentary on piracy being theft, feel somewhat heavy-handed and out-of-place in a children’s comedy.

As far as the characters are concerned, I think the show is going to be fine. They may not all feel entirely original, but they have very cute designs and I like their personalities. Gumball and Darwin are good kids who don’t always make the right decisions; I really like the fact that they actually love their parents, which is surprisingly uncommon in television nowadays. One scene in “The DVD”, where they showed concern for their mother, was particularly touching. I am somewhat concerned about Anais, the four year old genius bunny; she was a fun character, but I believe she could become tiresome if she is constantly treated like a baby, as she was in “The Responsible”. Nicole, the mother, is my favorite character so far; she appears to be a cliché “perfect mom”, but she has some deep anger issues that make her a ton of fun. Richard, the father, wasn’t in this episode very much so it’s hard to form an opinion on him, but I believe that he could bring such much needed craziness to the show as long as he isn’t overused.

I think the biggest selling point that the series has is its unique visual style, and I find it to be just as amazing as when I saw that first released imagery back in 2009. The characters existed in their live-action world in a convincing manner. While there weren’t very many interactions between characters of different animation techniques, the other clips that I’ve seen have given me reason to be optimistic. I also love the opening sequence; its short, but sweet. It has a lot of visuals and a nifty tune. Ben Locket did an excellent job providing the score for the show and it’s accurate to say that it adds a lot to the quality of the show. I also give a lot of credit to the voice actors, especially the three children who voice the three children; there is a lot of dialogue in the show and everybody did their jobs admirably.

Ultimately, as long as the show doesn’t become over-reliant on cliché sitcom plots, and aspires to have its humor better match the craziness of its visual style, I am confident that Gumball will be fine. However, it’s a very fine line to walk. Disney’s Fish Hooks is in a very similar situation and general opinion is that it has crossed beyond simplicity and into outright blandness, but Fish Hooks has managed to gain a fan base of its own so perhaps there is room for middle ground.  I would still recommend kicking up the craziness, however, as that is where Gumball shines. I am looking forward to seeing what else the show has in store, and if it is any indication of the quality of work we can expect out of Cartoon Network Development Studio Europe, I am looking forward to their next show with great anticipation.

The Amazing World Of Gumball premieres May 2nd in the United Kingdom at 10:00 AM BST, with encores airing throughout the day at 2:00 PM, 4:30 PM and 8:00 PM BST. In the United States, Cartoon Network is airing a sneak peek on May 3rd at 8:30 PM ET/PT, immediately following the premiere of The Looney Tunes Show. The series is scheduled to premiere in full May 9th at 7:30 PM ET/PT.

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