Monday, 5 October 2009

Space Goofs - Then and Now

Now one of the most surprising revivals to the media world has been Space Goofs (Aka: "Home to Rent" in the UK), created by French-based animation studio Xilam. The series revolved around five aliens (Etno, Bud, Candy, Gorgeous and Stereo) who crash-land on Earth and hide out in a house to rent while trying to find ways to return to their home planet - at the same time, having to put up with strange residents who take refuge in the house.

It's a pretty cool series, which had a shaky start, to be honest. From having reviewed the original episodes after a 10-year absence from my life, the first series from 1996 suffered quite a bit from slow-paced animation and half-decent storylines. Some ideas sounded good but didn't have enough energy or "pazazz" to keep them entertaining enough. In fact, weren't it for the fact that this show included Charlie Adler and Maurice LeMarche as part of the voice cast - as well as a rockin' them tune from Pop Sensation Iggy Pop - this would have sunk out of existence entirely...


In 2000, Xilam announced that Space Goofs was to receive a second series, which earned itself a healthy, long-time run on Nicktoons and Nickelodeon for quite a spell in the UK. From watching every episode of Season 2, it seems that the writers, animators and even the creators have avoided the same mistakes from before - the animation was more rubbery and certainly cartoony, the storylines sharper with plenty of tougue-in-cheek, slapstick humour and it made great use to update the aliens with modern technology, such as DVDs and mobile phones (one episode was even based entirely on parodying Anime!)

To show what I mean, let us take a look at how much these rubbery weirdos from space have evolved by observing the opening sequences frame-by-frame. Apologies for the quality, BTW. This was all I could find online :P :

I have no idea why but the top frame somehow makes me grin; just seeing how ridiculously blank the aliens' faces look, especially Candy's (the green one).
Whereas the bottom frame from the recent series has brighter colours and shows more emotion for the cast present. Note (if you can) that Gorgeous (the blue alien) is taking over the "driving" from Candy, and pretty fed up with it he looks, too!

Now this is another fun moment; the aliens' reactions just before their ship hits the asteroid that causes their ship to crash-land. The top frame from the First Season is any excuse to have the aliens go completely off-model (which seemed pretty normal throughout the series itself), but the wild takes weren't pretty common in the first season, sadly.

The bottom frame, on the other hand, has the character more on-model, but the reaction isn't as wild and exaggerated as the original version. However, the animation of the crash is much smoother than the first season's opening. Notice how the space BG has some cool-looking cloud-like atmosphere and, like the aliens, appears more brighter and colourful thanks to digital colouring.

The first time we "meet" Candy, showing his love for cleaning with his trusty vacuum cleaner. It's obvious to see how stiff, colourless and tired Candy looks in the top frame (mainly due to the position of his arms) whereas the bottom frame from the second series shows him more into his work; bouncy, busy and content. Notice that his hoover has been redesigned to be more detailed and chunkier, and not ressemble a strange lollipop XP

And now we "meet" Bud (the orange dude) and Gorgeous. This is a great comparison to how much Xilam have upped the design and style in this particular series of theirs.
See the position of their legs in the top frame, which seem weirdly drawn for some reason, as well as seeing that Bud and Gorgeous both seem to be missing an arm each!

But the bottom frame has both characters nicely on-model, showing their arms and legs caught in action in perfect, lively action, not to mention have them appear more "cuddly" and colourful than before. (I personally adore how Gorgeous looks here!)

And again, as we meet Etno (the purple brainiac, having been booted out of a mouse hole), here we can again compare to the line of action.
Etno seems to resemble too much like a purple sausage in the top frame, with some oddly-drawn arms and legs stuck onto his otherwise misshapen face.
But in the bottom panel, they've given his body, arms and legs more life - better structure and an even funnier, perplexed expression for this hapless alien.

...Oh, I hear you cry "hey! Where's the two-headed alien guy?"

This was another surprise from Xilam. Stereo was removed from the Second Series for admittedly behind "a very weak character" to write for. However, he does appear in a couple of episodes when he returns to the house (from having gone to get help, so it appears) and has gained an usually large fan base amongst fans. Just type his name on "Google" and you'll see what I mean...!

So that's really the long an' short of it - from how a not-so-great series was given a second chance and outshone the first season by lightyears! Below you can view an episode each from both seasons and compare the many changes that it went through.

"Old MacDonald had a House" from Series 1 was one of a few episodes that actually gave Stereo a speaking role! You can see some of the stale points in this episode, the saving grace this being a sly touch towards George Orwell's "Animal Farm":

OMDHAH - Part 1

OMDHAH - Part 2

"The 'Thing' From Beyond" is, sadly, the only episode of Series 2 available online (and in English!) but it demonstrates the fun and frantic behaviour it adapted - from the hilarious Disney parody to an outstanding performance from Candy, visual and verbal. I believe this was all down to Olivier Jene-Marie, who directed, storyboarded and wrote most of the episodes from the start of Season 2 (so far as I know); he is one of a few people in this team that has a somewhat wilder imagination next to Thomas Szabo (who went on to create the fantastic "Minuscule" series):

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