Freakazoid! is an American animated television series created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini for the Kids' WB programming block of The WB. The series chronicles the adventures of the title character, Freakazoid, a manic, insane superhero who battles with an array of super villains. The show also features mini-episodes of adventures of other bizarre superheroes. The show was produced by Amblin Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. The cartoon was the third animated series produced by the collaboration of Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros. Animation during the animation renaissance of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Bruce Timm, best known as a major principal of the DC animated universe, originally intended for the series to be a straightforward superhero action-adventure cartoon with comic overtones, but executive producer Steven Spielberg asked series producer and writer Tom Ruegger and the Animaniacs team to turn Freakazoid! into a flat-out comedy. The show is similar to fellow Ruegger-led programs such as Animaniacs, and the humor is unique in its inclusions of slapstick, fourth wall firings, parody, surreal humor, and pop cultural references.
The series was one of the first to debut on the new Kids' WB Saturday morning block of The WB, on September 9, 1995. The series lasted for two seasons, finishing with 24 episodes, the final one broadcast on June 1, 1997. Although the series originally struggled in the ratings, reruns on Cartoon Network from April 5, 1997 until March 29, 2003, and a huge fan following have elevated the series to become a cult hit.
The show's title character is the superhero alter ego of geeky sixteen-year-old Dexter Douglas who attends Harry Connick High School. His name is a parody of various superheroes' alliterative names (e.g. Bruce Banner, Peter Parker). Gaining his abilities from a computer bug (becoming absorbed into his computer and instantly gaining all the information on the Internet), Freakazoid has enhanced strength and endurance, extraordinary speed, agility, and negligible amounts of sanity. These changes make him a powerful and fearsome force for upholding freedom and righteousness, unless he gets distracted by something like a bear riding a motorcycle. He has a base called the Freakalair, a parody of the Batcave, built by his mute butler, Ingmar. The Freakalair contains a "Hall of Nifty Things to Know" and even a mad scientist lab. His greatest weakness, as he once explained to a villain, is that he can be imprisoned in a cage with graphite bars charged with negative ions. He also expresses a great aversion to "poo gas."
Peripheral powers come and go: Freakazoid once developed telekinesis triggered by anger that was never mentioned again after the episode, and once crossed the globe to yell at a Tibetan monk for raking too loudly. He also has the ability to assume the form of electricity and cover long distances instantaneously, although he just as often simply sticks his arms forward and runs while making swooshing sounds with his mouth, pretending to fly.
Dexter can change into and out of Freakazoid at will with the words "Freak out!" and "Freak in!" When not in Freakazoid mode, Dexter looks and acts completely normal, and his family is unaware that anything has happened to him. Freakazoid spends this time in an area of Dexter's brain called the Freakazone, where he reflects, has profound thoughts, and watches reruns of The Rat Patrol.
The "secret key sequence" that must be typed for the computer bug to become active (a reference to the Pentium FDIV bug) begins with: "@[=g3,8d]\&fbb=-q]/hk%fg" (the quotes are included) as seen when Roddy MacStew types the combination in "The Chip (Act IV)". The bug manifests when the user presses Delete after entering the string. The bug was first manifested when Dexter's cat crawled onto the keyboard.
While the show's setting is set around Washington D.C., the locale often varies with the show's humor, taking Freakazoid to locations around the world as needed.
Freakazoid! also features several mini-segments, primarily during the first season. Each of these have their own theme songs, title cards and cast, and only rarely "cross over" into the continuity of the main show. These segments include:
A John Cleese-esque superhero (voiced by Jeff Bennett) from the United Kingdom in an outfit slightly resembling that of a Roman soldier. He doesn't do much in the way of superheroism; in fact, he's very snooty, cynical and unwilling to do unpleasant tasks in the course of his duties such as entering a sewer to perform a rescue. Likewise, he gets little respect and recognition as a superhero from the general public and even his wife and mother-in-law, with whom he lives. At one point he loses his name due to a trademark dispute with a bakery of the same name, after which he changes his name to Lord Smoked Meats and Fishes. Has been mistaken for a party clown. His theme song is delivered in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan's song "A British Tar". His real name is Nigel Skunkthorpe.
The Huntsman (voiced by Jeff Bennett) is a good guess at what Robin Hood would be like if portrayed by Charlton Heston. He can never find enough crime to fight and secretly suspects that the police are hiding crimes from him because they don't trust him (It is also possible that he was so good at being a superhero that his villains simply gave up). He was once a hunter called Marty Feeb, who saved a chunky elf from being eaten by a crow. The elf rewarded Marty Feeb with a magic sack of corn. Upon eating it, he was granted strength, speed, and shiny teeth, thus as the Huntsman was reborn. He also has a brother called Hector Feeb, who he claims lives in a townhouse. He can be summoned by a policeman blowing into the Horn of Urgency on top of the local police station, and his battle cry is "Into action!". When he appears before Lt. Artie King (voiced by Dorian Harewood), the Huntsman is told in those two episodes that either a rookie mistakenly blew the horn or the blowing of the horn was a false alarm. Possibly a parody of comic character Green Arrow. His trademark phrase is "Darn, the luck, darn!". His sketches are often themed around beginning with a lengthy, overly heroic opener, with a title that would indicate an action-oriented episode, that ends up being a short anticlimactic skit of the Huntsman not being needed. In one of his episodes, it was mentioned that he had fought Lobe and Cave Guy, and he is shown fighting Cave Guy and Candle Jack in his opening.
The Lawn Gnomes
A group of lawn statuary that come to life at night in a parody of the Gargoyles animated series. Infamous for their mischief, they were cursed to become stone by day by a powerful wizard after they played a prank on him and after they attacked his brother Erik the Large. They would revert at night, during which time they were given the opportunity to mend their ways to fight evil alongside mankind, after which the curse would be lifted. They have yet to do so to this day.
A (somewhat) loving parody of Jonny Quest, featuring the voices of Scott Menville, Don Messick (in his last role before he died), and Granville Van Dusen (all of whom provided voices for JQ). That was originally written by Tom Minton as a twelve minute stand-alone short for Animaniacs, but slotted into Freakazoid! after that series was green-lighted and had an eight minute opening. The completed twelve minute Toby Danger storyboard was trimmed by director Eric Radomski to fit into the available Freakazoid! time slot.
Fatman and Boy Blubber
The misadventures of two morbidly obese superheroes, in a parody of the Batman TV series. Their only segment involves them saving a boy being bullied about his weight, only to unintentionally bully him themselves when they try to take a sweet bun in his lunchbox to prevent him from getting fatter, as he practically only eats sweet buns. Fatman also makes an appearance during "Heroboy" where it is revealed the episode is also a storybook being read by Fatman to children.
The humor in Freakazoid! relies heavily on slapstick, parody, and pop cultural references. Due to the series being meta-fiction, much of the series was self-aware humor (i.e. breaking the fourth wall); for instance, after the first appearance of the Freakmobile, the show goes immediately into an impromptu commercial for a toy version, and later in the episode, Freakazoid addresses an audience, congratulating the staff on how hard they have worked to make the show toyetic. A typically strange running gag involves a repeated credit for "Weena Mercator as the Hopping Woman", though no such character appears in any episode. Her credit is usually preceded by a number of other fictional names and followed by a fictional director. The show also incorporated humor aimed at the then-newly founded WB Network, such as questioning the meaning of the initials "WB", e.g., "Weird Butt" or "Wet Bananas" instead of Warner Bros.
Freakazoid! made frequent use of stock footage, including the peaceful scene of a field of flowers ("Relax-O-Vision"), numerous people screaming ("Scream-O-Vision"), traditionally dressed Bavarians dancing and slapping each other, a man being shot in the belly with a cannonball and a man wrestling a bear.
Cameo appearances were also a major element of the show's humor. At various times, Freakazoid! hosted appearances by characters from other Warner Bros. Cartoons such as Pinky and the Brain, Animaniacs and even an insinuation appearance of the Batman from Bruce Timm's animated version, which has a similar drawing style (its concept of old movie-style title cards at the beginning of each episode was also replicated in Freakazoid!). Portrayals of many celebrities (including producer Steven Spielberg) and guest appearances by such figures as Jack Valenti, Leonard Maltin, and Mark Hamill as themselves were also commonplace. Norm Abram had an entire episode, "Normadeus", built around him. One original character, a bizarre-looking man named Emmitt Nervend, plays no role whatsoever other than enabling a Where's Waldo-esque hunt for his constant cameos (complete with the number of his appearances announced in the closing credits).
One of the show's longest cameo appearances was when Wakko (from Animaniacs) and Brain (from Pinky and the Brain) appeared in a scene in which they argue with Freakazoid over which of their shows is Steven Spielberg's favorite, with Freakazoid arguing that his show was the favorite because "we got a memo." (Tiny Toon Adventures was not represented in the discussion as it was on Nickelodeon at the time, while the others were on Kids' WB.) However, when the trio confronts Steven over the issue, he simply replies: "Who are you people?"
Warner Home Video has released the entire series on DVD in the United States. Season 1 was released on July 29, 2008 and season 2 was released on April 21, 2009.