The streets under our cities are full of things. Weird things. Strange things. And monsters. Lots and lots and lots of monsters. What do these monsters do? Scare people of course. And eat garbage. And go to school. Yes, monsters go to school to learn how to be better monsters. Much like our main characters Ickis, Oblina and Krumm.
Ickis–short, red and bunny-eared–is the son of a legendary monster and has a self-sabotaging combination of arrogance and extreme confidence issues. Oblina, tall, black and white and shaped like a umbrella handle, is the daughter of a couple of American blue bloods despite her very British accent. Krumm, who is short and brown and holds his two detachable eyes in his hands, is of no noted parentage and has an extreme body stench. These three and a hundred or so other monsters are all taught by the Gromble, a four legged, green-skinned gentleman of generally ill-temper who likes wearing red high heels.
That’s basically all the setup that Aaahh!!! Real Monsters really needs. There’s no continuing plot to any of the episodes. Even episodes that theoretically should have some greater effect on the show don’t. So don’t pick this up hoping for that, because it ain’t here. What is here is a collection of 12-minutes bits showing what happens when animators and voice actors get a little bit of leeway and run with it, usually under some really outrageous direction. Each episode is pretty much in motion non-stop. There’s no frame-saving passages where the characters stand around for long periods of time talking to each other. There certainly are passages where they are standing around talking, but they’re almost always moving in some way, be it just breathing or making some kind of usually disgusting body motion. Granted, the tendency to not stop does lead to some times where the show railroads through its plot lines without giving much time for things to develop, but given the short running times there probably wouldn’t be much of a point to developing anything anyway.
Most episodes start with Ickis sticking his foot in his mouth in a way that gets him into trouble, be it accidentally volunteering for dangerous duty, ticking off the Gromble in some way, or just generally not thinking before he jumps. Not that all of the episodes are like that, but it does tend to be the default plot. Otherwise, the show is blessedly light on direct parodies of things that would have been timely in the mid-1990’s, preferring to go for pastiches of recognizable tropes, like westerns, or simply going its own way entirely. One episode is devoted entirely to Krumm’s armpit hairs. Others delve very lightly into Oblina’s family life and the way they make their money by raiding a nail salon for toenail clippings. She has a brief dating life with The Snortch, the school’s resident disciplinarian of great size and little discernible speech without his faithful companion and school snitch, Zimbo, a fly with a human face and foot voiced with an odd French accent by Tim Curry. (Yes, that Tim Curry.) The rest of the cast is rounded out by a number of long-time voice actors like Charlie Adler as Ickics, Christine Cavanaugh as Oblina, Gregg Berger as Gromble and newcomer David Eccles, husband of one of the producers, as Krumm. There’s also a guest spot from Jim Belushi as Simon, a very hapless monster hunter who tried his best to get visual evidence of the monsters to show to the world. Of course, given the number of people the monsters scare and the number of times they venture into places that would have security cameras, it’s a little hard to believe evidence of them isn’t widespread, but that’s probably over-thinking things.
Image-wise, the DVDs aren’t bad, but it’s also pretty evident that the master files were just dumped onto the DVDs without any cleanup work. Interlacing is very evident, as is a lot of digital noise and mosaic effects. Adding to the grungy effect is the somewhat drab color palate of the show itself. The audio is basic 2.0 television broadcast, not that a 5.1 mix is likely to exist, though it would have been really neat to have on some of the episodes. Not a single extra to be found on either disc, and that really is a shame. Come on Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory, you couldn’t at least get some of the production crew or VAs together for an afternoon to crank out some interviews or commentary tracks?
Those grumbles aside, if you liked Aaahh!!! Real Monsters when it first aired feel free to grab this set and the others and enjoy the nostalgia trip. Just be careful you don’t trip too hard and face fault. I’m sure the Gromble would be very displeased by that.