Cartoon Classics #4 – Dexter’s Laboratory

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The Cartoon Network has been the home to many great original cartoons over the years, none quite as successful as Dexter’s Laboratory. Anyone who has had siblings know how easily they can invade your personal space but, Dexter’s Lab took that to a different level and gained a huge cult-like fanbase because of it. Let’s take a look at why Dexter’s Lab has earned its place as a FYIG Cartoon Classic.

Dexter’s Laboratory debuted in February of 1995 as part of the What a Cartoon! project under the  World Premiere Toons banner. The series would be picked up the following year with a 13 episode season and that’s when Cartoon Network audiences got to see just how great Dexter’s Lab would become.

Dexter’s Lab has a very simple premise compared to some cartoons who have complicated story arcs and a vast amount of characters. The main character is Dexter who has been said to be based off of series creator, Genndy Tartakovsky’s older brother Alex. Dexter is a young boy genius who has a massive laboratory hidden behind the bookshelf in his bedroom. Access to the lab is restricted with passwords or certain switches contained in the bookshelf. Dexter himself is very short and blocky in appearance with trademark glasses and a very thick accent. His personality is somewhat egocentric and he’s always looking for praise. While Dexter is a huge part of the show, it wouldn’t be the same without the next character.

Dexter, the tiny boy genius and main character of the show.

Dee Dee is Dexter’s sister and resembles a tall ballerina which is said to be based off of some drawings from Tartakovsky. Dee Dee is a very spirited girl who is always gaining entry to Dexter’s Lab no matter how hard he tries to keep her out. Once inside, Dee Dee normally touches everything in sight and ends up destroying Dexter’s creations resulting in him screaming, “Dee Dee, get out of my la-bo-ra-tory!” Dee Dee is sometimes ditsy while other times she can actually make Dexter see the other side of things.

Dee Dee in on of her infamous “Ooooo” moments.

There were other prominent characters in the series such as Dexter’s parents who are completely unaware of the existence of his lab for most of the show’s run and play out like normal North American parents. Others such as Mandark who is Dexter’s arch-enemy and really has a close resemblance in personality to Dexter. There are other minor characters throughout the series but, most of the time, these were the people that you got to see on a show by show basis.

Unlike most other cartoons, there were shorts that sometimes went beyond the actual show. Dial M For Monkey was one of those shows that made special appearances featuring Dexter’s pet monkey that, unbeknownst to him, has super powers. He fights with his partner, Agent Honeydew, Commander General, and various superheroes. The segments usually aren’t too long and I doubt there were that many made as I don’t remember seeing too many but, they were very creative segments that made Dexter even more fun to watch.

Dial M For Monkey was a recurring segment featured on Dexter’s Lab.

There was yet another segment that I certainly enjoyed and that was The Justice Friends. This one followed Major Glory, Valhallen, and Krunk. These characters were all notable parodies of Captain America, Thor, and Hulk. This series of segments was so much fun to watch because it played out more like a sitcom than a cartoon complete with a laugh track. Unfortunately, The Super Friends were never really taken to the heights they could have been and I really think they could have had their own series.

The Justice Friends were another hilarious recurring segment based off of Marvel’s Avengers.

Dexter Lab was a great cartoon for people young and old and was often filled with laughs and outlandish stories that you could never think of. Dexter’s inventions and creations are something to behold and the way the’re often destroy is even better. More than that though, Dexter’s Lab is the story of sibling rivalry at its finest. Dee Dee and Dexter are always at odds and usually results in Dee Dee antagonizing Dexter even more after she realizes that he’s getting irritated. Anyone with a sibling has been there and can relate to this cartoon who ended its run far too quickly as is the case with most great animated television shows.

Unfortunately, not all episodes are available on DVD in North America at this time as just season 1 has been released. The whole series minus the “Ego Trip” special are available on iTunes for those who would like to purchase it digitally.

It’s hard to explain why Dexter’s Laboratory was so good but, after you watch a few episodes, you’ll truly understand. The humour is second to none and launched the careers of many prominent cartoon writers such as Craig McCracken (The Powerpuff Girls) and Seth McFarlane (Family Guy). Go check it out, I know I’ll be continuing to watch for as long as the episodes remain on TV.

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