“You don’t have super powers. You don’t get to be funny.”
The first season of Danny Phantom was a pleasant surprise. A sense of playful fun and some genuine character development helped the show rise above its “kiddie” exterior. This continues throughout the ten episodes on this Season Two, Volume One release.
Thanks to a mishap from messing with his mad scientist parents’ devices, Danny Fenton (David Kaufman, Superman: The Animated Series) is now half-human, half-ghost. Good thing, too, because ghosts have a habit of escaping from the “Ghost Zone” and running amok on Earth. It’s up to Danny to stop them, with help from his friends, goth girl Sam (Grey Delisle, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated) and gadget-loving wannabe ladies man Tucker (Rickey D’Shon Collins, Recess).
Danny Phantom is comfort food TV — the grilled cheese sandwich of the airwaves. It’s not complicated or deep, there are certainly more sophisticated programs out there, but it does enough right and is so energetic and intentionally silly, that you can’t help but get caught up in it.
The two-part episode that kicks off shows the writers and animators really flexing their creative muscles. It’s a massive continuity-a-thon, featuring a return of almost all the villains and supporting characters from the first season, as everyone faces the threat of an even bigger enemy, one feared by both ghosts and humans. It further changes the status quo for some characters in the “who has a crush on who” category. As exciting as all this was, it’s not really designed for first-timers who’ve never seen the show before, and it feels more like a season finale than a season premiere.
After that, Danny Phantom continues its streak of being a superhero comedy that’s not a superhero parody. Rather than riff on the various clichés and tropes of the capes n’ tights genre, the laughs come from the characters interactions with each other and their reactions to the situations they’re in. You could argue that it’s not realistic for everyone to stop in the middle of a battle to make quips, but this is show about ghosts with laser beams threatening to overthrow the Earth, so realism is not a friend to this show. Additionally, Danny’s father Jack (Rob Paulson, Animaniacs), a wannabe ghost hunter, provides some of silliest laughs, and I love the running gag where his crazy gadgets always have pictures of smiling face on them.
As over-the-top as the ghost battles can be, the show manages to develop its characters over time. In one episode, all the adults in town are abducted (by ghosts, natch) and Danny and his classmates have to put aside the usual high school cliques and stereotypes in order to work together and save the day. This had the supporting cast of bullies and/or popular girls stepping out of their comfort zones, which was fun to see. Danny himself gets put through the wringer, often having to come up with solutions to problems without using his powers.
This is a bright and colorful show, with a lot of sharp greens and reds competing for attention, and the DVD’s picture quality shows them all off with great clarity. The audio is good as well, making the most of the many laser blasts and explosions. There are no extras, which is too bad, as it would have been fun to learn more about the hows and whys the show was made. The episodes are in a different order from their original broadcast order, and in a different order than the list printed on the inside of the package. How does this happen?
Fun show. Goofball jokes combined with supernatural superhero action? Pretty hard to get that wrong.