As a cartoon fanatic, I love all cartoons, even ones intended for children (Bronies, I am right there with you.) Sometimes the ones geared towards very young children can gnaw on my tolerance for cutesy and improbable situations, but like many in today’s world I was fed a steady diet of similar shows when I was younger, so you give them grace for being what they are. When I watched Bubble Guppies: Bubble Puppy’s Fin-tastic Fairytale Adventure, I expected a cute and educational show, albeit with some hidden innuendos for the adult viewers. Yeah, I was wrong. Check the adult viewer enjoyment factor at Sesame Street and expect your mind to be numb for the total viewing time.
First off, I find the main premise of Bubble Guppies unbelievable, even from a child’s standpoint. A group of ethnically diverse toddlers with mermaid tails and their pet Bubble Puppy (he also has a tail) live underwater and attend school with a giant goldfish named Mr. Grouper as their teacher. Each episode has a topic that the characters discuss and then insert little educational lessons to make little kids’ brains grow, i.e. counting, colors, directions, though it is hardly seamless. While these little baby mermaids swim around and learn in their underwater world, everybody and everything else function as if they weren’t in an aqua landscape. Are you following me here? The guppies are swimming around, while other characters have legs , breath oxygen, and use electrical appliances underwater. This isn’t a SpongeBob Squarepants environment, at least the sponge in his pineapple home have bubbles and other fish living with him, but the Bubble Guppies apparently can defy the laws of nature and disavow a viewer’s “suspension of belief.”
Moving on, the main plot is as follows: the school of mermaid toddlers want Mr. Grouper to read them a fairytale they have never heard before. They kick off the hour-long adventure with a pop song that’s actually pretty catchy. I am going to assume it is called “Once Upon a Time,” which would be tolerable to listen to on your digital music device if you are forced to share it with your child. Two of the little guppies personify Jack and Jill, who are on their way to fetch a pail of water. Bubble Puppy encounters the arch-villainess creatively called the Witch, plus in a new and original way of thinking they make her green, wear a black pointed hat and cape, and she, too, has a mermaid tale. The Witch also possesses the enchanted mirror made famous in Snow White. For no reason, the Witch transforms Bubble Puppy into a frog. Jack and Jill are heartbroken and decide to confront the Witch, hoping an exchange of stern words will change her mind. The mirror thinks otherwise.
The mirror proves to be an interesting character from scene one. He obviously doesn’t like the Witch, has a decent set of morals, relays sarcastic comments, and is willing to turn against her. He quickly shoots down Jack and Jill’s idea, instead sending them on a scavenger hunt through fairytale land to recover ingredients for a cure Bubble Puppy’s frog epidemic. The pair encounter Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, and the infamous Jack, who provide the rest of the ingredients for the magic potion to curb the evil Witch’s frog potion. Another song about why the Witch is mean is tossed in; it’s not as fun as the first and tries to provide the necessary story development about why the Witch commits evil deeds. She simply likes to be mean to other people. The mermaid children make the potion, stop the Witch, prevent any more people from being turned into frogs, and return Bubble Puppy to his natural fishy canine state. There is one deviation from the usual “everybody gets along” ending, the Witch accidentally transforms herself into a frog and likes her new amphibious form. She does not become the children’s new best friend, but it ends happily.
The animation is actually quite good for a children’s show, the colorful, shiny plastic shapes have depth and shadow, the character’s mouths, however, are weird. Everything in the cartoon is rendered in CGI, but the mouths look like they were pasted on without being seamlessly blended into the environment. Another way to compare it is with old school cell animation when the overlaid cells didn’t merge well with the background or to a slight degree Clutch Cargo with real human mouth overlays.
Bubble Guppies just does not make sense to me. The characters are cute, but their world is hard to imagine into existence. The educational factor is random and sticks out of the story like a gingerbread house in the woods, i.e. it doesn’t belong there. As far as interactive children’s shows go, there are better ones for both children and adults. While this episode was an hour long special and deviated from the normal Bubble Guppies formula, the series will only resonate with a younger audience. While the entertainment factor wanes, Bubble Puppy was cute.