'Chowder' is a new cartoon from UT graduate C.H. Greenblatt, a storyboard artist who has worked on "Spongebob Squarepants" and
"The Grim Adventures Of Billy and Mandy." The show, which premiered on Cartoon Network Friday, follows Chowder, a young boy in the midst of a chef's apprenticeship in Marzipan City. All Chowder wants to do is become a great chef like Mung Daal, his master, but his out-of-control hunger and desire to eat (or at least taste) everything in sight hinders him.
It's no surprise that the show offers little in the way of originality, as the current state of cartoons isn't anything to write home about. Therefore, "Chowder" has to hope that what it lacks in uniqueness it makes up for in execution. Does it?
Sort of. Chowder is the typical gullible youngster with a one-toothed, off-balanced grin. His inability to bring back a load of groceries without eating half of them isn't cute, it's a little disturbing. It's also ironic considering the societal fear of overweight children, at a time when cupcakes are cited as the No. 1 murderer of kids (watch The Daily Show). But according to the show, his insatiable appetite is a good thing, as it's that hankering for food that saves the day in the first episode.
There are a few bright spots on the show in the form of the backup characters. The best is Shnitzel, a rock monster that is also employed at Mung Daal's bakery. Chowder's hijinks often inadvertently harm Shnitzel and put him in a bad light. That, coupled with years of cleaning up after the young boy's messes, have made him the epitome of a disgruntled employee. The kicker is that Shnitzel doesn't speak in any intelligible language, instead saying ""Ra-da Ra-da" over and over again during his dialogue (if it's a short response his answer is simply "Ra"). The comedic value here is all in the tone of the voice, a characteristic John DiMaggio has completely covered. He is the voice of Bender, after all.
Another great side character is Gazpacho, a dimwitted elephant storekeeper who sells strange foods to his customers. He often ends up counseling Chowder, in turn confusing the young boy and altering his worldview. In the second episode of the series, where Chowder's rival apprentice Panini claims to be his girlfriend and kisses him, Gazpacho tells him that he has to marry Panini to save her reputation. "That's why Mother doesn't let me kiss any girls," Gazpacho explains.
All in all, 'Chowder' is pretty much a throwaway series in an endless string of mediocre cartoons. The animation is nothing special - although the colors are a little trippy - , the dialogue is cliché kids show speak save for a few adult references, and the stories are the same contrived ones we've seen over and over again. It is cute, however, which is more than can be said for a lot of today's cartoons. It might interest your nieces and nephews, but until Chowder gets embroiled in controversy via a sex tape or a crack addiction, very few others will care.