US/UK animated tv series (pilot 2008, 2011-current). Cartoon Network Studios Europe. Created by Ben Bocquelet. Executive producers: Ben Bocquelet, Michael Carrington, Sarah Fell, Patricia Hidalgo and Daniel Lennard. Directors include Mic Graves. Writers include Ben Bocquelet, Joe Parham and Tobi Wilson. Voice cast includes Kwesi Boakye, Steve Furst, Nicolas Cant, Teresa Gallagher, Logan Grove, Donielle T Hansley Jr, Hugo Harrison, Jacob Hopkins, Kyla Rae Kowalewski, Lewis Macleod, Terrell Ransom Jr, Dan Russell and Christian J Simon. 220 11-minute episodes to date. Colour.
On first acquaintance the Wattersons are a sitcom family lifted wholesale from central casting: twelve-year-old boy protagonist Gumball (Cant, Grove, Wilson); his fat slobbish father, Richard (Russell) and sensible attractive mother, Nicole (Gallagher); his smart younger sister, Anais (Kowalewski) and his pet goldfish Darwin (Boakye, Hansley, Ransom, Simon). This is animation, so the father and daughter being rabbits and the mother and son cats does not surprise: however, Darwin having grown limbs, lungs etc to become Gumball's adopted brother (and best friend) is unusual, as is Gumball not being a brat (initially he is usually sweet-natured) and Nicole being, at times, downright scary.
A memorable feature of the show is the variety of animation styles for characters, including 2D, 3D, CGI, stop motion, puppetry, flash and live action. The secondary cast includes Gumball's school-friends, among them an emo ghost (see Supernatural Creatures), a banana, a T Rex (see Dinosaurs), a cloud, a Robot, a balloon, a daisy (with plant pot), a two-dimensional bear made of paper, a winged eyeball, a piece of toast and a clay Shapeshifter. Gumball's girlfriend, Penny (Gallagher), spends the early seasons in a peanut shell with only limbs and antlers protruding, until the third season when she literally comes out of her shell to reveal a (lightbulb-shaped) fairy. Of the teachers, of particular note are Principal Brown (Furst, Macleod), a hirsute slug, and Ms Lucy Simian (Harrison, Macleod), a monkey-like primate aged at least two million years (see Apes as Human; Time Abyss), who has been teaching humans for a while ("bashed on the head with a rock by two Homo erectus parents because I taught their kid how to make fire ... chased out of [another] tribe for trying to integrate the wheel into the curriculum" [see Anthropology; Origin of Man]): this has left her bitter.
The plots often start mundanely (for example, a lent-out pen is returned chewed) only to escalate in bizarre fashion. There are a number of Fantasy- and sf-related stories, the latter including the apparent End of the World; a Robot wishing to become a real boy; creating life; sentient viruses (see Biology); a self-aware Internet; speeded-up Evolution; being caught in Virtual Reality; and an alternate Dimension where the world's mistakes are stored.
Though ostensibly a children's show, its stories appear blithely unconcerned whether or not their references are comprehensible to its intended audience (for instance a plot about libertarians whose homeschooling renders their child unintelligible). Gumball is an enjoyable, imaginative series: amusing Absurdism with Satire and many dark touches. [SP]
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