"It’s Danny Phantom meets The Powerpuff Girls meets Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. Excpet those are all good cartoons, let’s make ours distinctive!"
Tajja Isen (Betty), Adrian Truss, Rick Miller, Bruce Hunter, Colin Fox
Betty is a normal schoolgirl with normal schoolgirl problems. She has an awkward relationship with her male best-friend (and obvious future lovah) and deals with the trials and tribulations of not being one of the "popular kids." But when Betty’s not being the female version of me in Middle School, she takes on another persona – as Atomic Betty – Galactic Defender! With her sidekicks Sparky and X-5 they battle Supervillain Maximus IQ and other baddies all before bedtime. Sound familiar? Yeah, it should…more on that later.
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Well, the first thing you’re going to notice is the case art. I like it. I like it a lot. It’s simple but it carries the theme and tone of the show very well. The colors, fonts and graphics fit the atomic-age, 50’s vibe that the creators were trying to convey. It might not stand out against the vibrant colors of, say, The Trollz, but this is a lot less intrusive and a lot more pleasing to the eye. Once you get it in your player, the video and audio are crisp and clear, but nothing to write home about. It’s not very vibrant visually, but I expect that’s intended as while everything is crisp and clean, there is this somewhat flat, pastel sheen to it all – kinda like the Jetsons if they were re-made today. When it comes to extras, they exist but they might as well not. On Volume 1 there’s a Music Video to accompany the theme song, made up of (what else) clips from the show. On volume 2, there’s this mock interview thing with Maximus IQ that lasts like 2 minutes. It looks like they were trying to emulate the brilliance of the Pixar End Credit Out-Takes, but they didn’t do a very good job with it. But I will give them points for producing something original for the DVD – something a lot of animated shows don’t take the time to do.
Even though I’m 25, cartoons have always remained a part of my every day life. Granted, as I got older I tended to stick with what I knew (Simpsons, Looney Tunes, Family Guy, Disney Classics, etc.), but with the addition of my daughter to the couch, I was exposed to the newer shows that she enjoyed. Thankfully, my daughter never got exposed to, or developed an interest in, Atomic Betty. When the old-schoolers say that today’s animation is crap, this is the type of show they’re referring to. Atomic Betty is an amalgamation of a lot of different cartoons: The Atomic-Age themes of the Jetsons, the artistic style of The Powerpuff Girls, the Space Adventures of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and the awkward-school-kid-hiding-their-secret-identity dynamic of Danny Phantom. However, like I said earlier, there is one difference. Those other cartoons are good. Atomic Betty is not.
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What’s really bad about that is when you’re taking elements from so many different quality shows, how can you fail to make a quality show yourself? Take The Jetsons, for instance. The Jetsons was a futuristic cartoon set in…well…the future. Atomic Betty takes those conventions and tones and sets it in the present day. The problem is, when she’s Atomic Betty it feels like the future (which is a good thing), but when she’s just Betty, it has an entirely different aesthetic to it and the fact that they jump back and forth several times in an episode really gets tiresome. The other immediately apparent comparison is to Nickelodeon’s Danny Phantom. Like Danny, Betty has to hide her super-identity from her peers and several of the story’s sub-plots revolve around Betty’s experiences at school. Unlike Phantom, however, which has a great family dynamic and a unique premise, Betty’s mom just serves as fodder for some cheap jokes and you don’t really get a sense of our hero being connected in the "Real World." Everytime they have an opportunity to flesh out some real-life situation with Betty and the other kids, they have her rushing out into space to fight the newest super villain, devoting a few minutes at the end to wrap up whatever situation she left at the beginning of the episode. Shows like Danny Phantom and the Powerpuff Girls obviously devote time to the super exploits, but the writers make sure to give the viewers insight as to how the characters’ powers affect them in their normal, everyday lives. With this, either you’re watching Betty or Atomic Betty. There’s no real effort to try and connect them. The only redeeming value is the "Girl Power" element for the young ladies, but you can get that with the Powerpuff Girls or Sabrina or, to a lesser degree, Dora the Explorer – and get it in a much better product (although I do have to give the artists credit for making excellent use of the 24-style multi box split screen). Oh, and another thing – how can you have a super-kid show and not devote a single second to how this kid became super? We know the PPG’s origins, we know the Ninja Turtles’ origins, not to mention the origins of almost every other super hero on tv, but we have no idea about what made Betty so damn Atomic. It’s just lazy, people!
In the end, you can’t even call this Kiddie Crack (i.e. Pokemon or Power Rangers), as the kids would at least get a thrill from that. This is more like Kiddie Seeds & Stems. Or…um…not that I know anything about that. It’s boring, it’s mindless and your kid will receive nothing valuable from watching this – maybe the desire to take a nap. Which actually is somewhat valuable in the right situation…