Home Channels For Kids Review: “Bunnicula” – Vampire Bunny Doesn’t Suck

Review: “Bunnicula” – Vampire Bunny Doesn’t Suck

Bunnicula Mumkey Business
Bunnicula gets cradled like a baby

Bunnicula Mumkey BusinessWarner Bros. Animation has been on a comedy roll of late. Teen Titans Go! may get a lot of hate from corners of the Internet, but I like its brand of madcap comedy, and Wabbit beautifully re-creates all the best elements of the classic Looney Tunes and updates them with just enough modern elements. To this list can be added Bunnicula, the latest comedy series from producers Jessica Bortuski and Maxwell Atoms, and based on the children’s book series by James and Deborah Howe. Bunnicula shares common ancestry with the 1982 Ruby-Spears cartoon of the same name, but little else. This modern update is adorably gross and very consistently funny.

The title character is a vampiric rabbit who sucks the juice out of vegetables. He lives with a teenager named Mina and her pets: the sensible cat Chester and the endearingly dumb dog Harold. Bunnicula relies on an “oblivious owner” setup, which is familiar territory but allows for lots of fun in the execution as Chester, Harold, and Bunnicula work frantically to make sure that Mina is kept safe and blissfully unaware of the seriously strange things that go on in their New Orleans house. In “Mumkey Business,” Chester’s efforts to lock Bunnicula away and return their household to normal backfires badly when a mummified monkey is released to wreak havoc in the house. A magic harmonica drives the plot of “Walking Fish,” when Bunnicula’s desire for some supernatural tunes brings all the dead fish in New Orleans to life and sends them converging on Mina’s house.

Despite Bunnicula’s top billing, the show seems to center more on Chester and Harold. This might be because Bunnicula’s dialogue is mostly incomprehensible babble (provided by Chris Kattan), while Chester and Harold get to talk to each other (and us) through the voices of Sean Astin and Brian Kimmet, respectively. Chester makes a marvelous straight man and voice of reason to Harold’s invariably idiotic pronouncements, all of which remind me of Dug from Pixar’s Up with about a third of the I.Q. points. Harold is the show’s comedic ace in the hole, possibly funnier than all the other characters put together. As Harold’s primary comedic foil, Chester manages to be nebbishy and unreasonably particular without being annoying, which is a tough balancing act to pull off. While she’s a relatively minor player in the show, Mina (voiced by Kari Wahlgren) comes off as a genuinely nice kid who probably wouldn’t be fazed at all by the weirdness unleashed by Bunnicula, Chester, and Harold. In fact, she seems like the type who would think the weird, creepy stuff was pretty cool and consequently get herself into way more trouble. The show could easily let her in on the joke without having to retool much of anything (or perhaps allow her to flip the setup to her parents).

Bunnicula Walking FishI am fascinated by the comedic timing of Bunnicula, which feels very different from the pedal-to-the-metal speed-gags of Teen Titans Go! and the anvil-to-the-head vignettes in Wabbit. The timing of Bunnicula feels much slower and less manic than nearly any other comedy cartoon on TV right now, which is a very refreshing change of pace. It’s not that the show doesn’t extract humor from gross-out material (witness the copious amounts of creature slime in play in the clip from “Mumkey Business” above) or that it doesn’t have its moments of fast-paced comedy (like the culminating gag in “Walking Fish,” involving the most creative use of the Heimlich maneuver I’ve seen in a while). I’m not sure if the slower pacing also allows the show to stretch its animation dollars further, but the animation quality also seems a cut above the norm (at least based on the digital screeners that were provided), as opposed to the more minimalist aesthetics of shows like Teen Titans Go! or Nickelodeon’s Sanjay and Craig.

I don’t think Bunnicula is likely to change the world of comedy animation. Most of what it does has been done before, although I would argue very few other comedy cartoons can justifiably claim to have done it better. So far, this new show is a solid, enjoyable contender and a welcome addition to Cartoon Network’s roster of shows.

Bunnicula premieres on Cartoon Network on Saturday, February 5, 2016, at 9:30 AM, with an encore presentation at 6:30 PM; all times Eastern/Pacific.

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Last pup of a dying planet, a young German Shepherd is rocketed to Earth, where he is bombarded by cosmic gamma rays emitted by a radioactive spider. Crash-landing in the forgotten land of Hubba Hubba, he is discovered by the Who-You-Callin'-Ancient One and his lovely wife Pookie. Instilled with their traditional American values, he spends his young adulthood roaming the globe, learning all the secrets of Comic-Fu. Donning battle armor fashioned from spilled chemicals splashed by lightning, he becomes the Sensational Shield of Sequential Art ACE THE BATHOUND! Look, it sounds a lot better than the truth. Born in Brooklyn, moved to Queens at 3 and then New Jersey at 10. Throughout high school, college, grad school, and gainful employment, two things have remained constant: 1) I am a colossal nerd, and 2) I have spent far too much time reading comics, and then reading and writing about them. Currently working as a financial programmer in New York City, while continuing to discover all the wonderful little surprises (and expenses) of owning your a home in the suburbs. Shares the above with a beautiful, wonderful, and incredibly understanding wife named Frances (who, thankfully, participates in most of my silly hobbies) and a large furry dog named Brownie (who, sadly, does not). Comics, toys, Apple Macintosh computers, video games, and eBay