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Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, The

Entry updated 5 July 2021. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (2003-2008). Cartoon Network Studios. Created by Adam Maxwell Burton (aka Maxwell Atoms). Directors include Robert Alvarez, Shaun Cashman and Juli Murphy. Writers include Maxwell Atoms, C.H. Greenblatt and Gord Zajac. Voice cast includes Grey DeLisle, Greg Eagles and Richard Steven Horvitz. 77 23-minute episodes (1-3 segments per episode), three specials and nineteen shorts, plus a crossover episode with Codename: Kids Next Door (see What a Cartoon!). Colour.

When he materializes to carry off an aged pet hamster, the Grim Reaper (Eagles) is surprised that his appearance does not scare the children present. They are Billy (Horvitz), an exuberant idiot, and Mandy (DeLisle), of dour countenance. Billy simply misidentifies him – "Look! it's Santa!" – whilst it takes more than a hooded skeleton with a scythe to faze Mandy. She persuades him to play a game: he loses and must be the children's best friend forever. Adventures follow.

Most stories centre on fantasy and the supernatural, including an appearance by the ghost of Lord Byron, but there are segments with sf-related plots. In one Grim shows the pair a future (see Time Viewer) where Mandy is Empress of Earth, her power derived from cinnamon and having achieved Immortality by taking the form of a "hideous worm-like creature" (the influence of Frank Herbert's Dune sequence, particularly God Emperor of Dune [1981], might be detected); Billy keeps her company, albeit as an accident-prone Clone, currently at his 2,187th iteration. Mandy has a laboratory where she grows "horrible creatures to combat the resistance", which she proceeds to crush, using the knowledge gained from having been shown this future by Grim (see Time Paradox).

On discovering a secret laboratory breeding giant chickens, Grim wonders, "What is this place?" with Mandy responding, "I'm sure a writer's convenience will turn up and fill us in": sure enough, a Scientist appears, explaining the laboratory was built by the military during the Cold War; the giant chickens then escape – Mandy asks Grim for help, but ... "These Monsters were built by science – outside my jurisdiction!". Grim gives Billy a remote control for the space-time continuum – pressing pause freezes time, rewind makes it go backward (including to the age of the Dinosaurs), fast-forward goes to the future and pressing several simultaneously brings all eras together (see Stasis Field; Time Distortion; Time in Reverse; Timeslip): it finishes with Billy stranded in the prehistoric past and meeting a stone-age girl ... then cuts to the present where everyone clearly has Billy's genes (see Origin of Man; Prehistoric SF). An AI asked the meaning of life replies "life has no meaning, only machine intelligence is truly important on a cosmic scale" (see Computers) – rather worryingly Grim remarks, "Hmmm, I didn't think he'd get that one right." Much of the Underworld's magic is revealed to be advanced Technology designed by F (clearly based on James Bond's Q). There are references to the Cthulhu Mythos with both Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu having their own episodes. One day Mandy has to smile: reality falls apart and the trio turn into the Powerpuff Girls (1998-2005). An unfrozen caveman is revealed to be Fred Flintstone (see The Flintstones). The trio go to Japan and meet various Kaiju, with Mandy piloting a Mecha and Billy becoming Ultraman in all but name. The Emperor of Mars conquers Earth. Billy is abducted by Aliens.

Though frequently gross and grotesque, the show keeps its Horror chirpy – a child whose limbs are eaten still retains an optimistic outlook. It was an enjoyable series: Billy works better as a secondary character – his stupidity funniest when served in small doses; Grim has his moments, but is the least memorable of the trio; it is Mandy who shines, if that is the right verb for such a stern, cynical soul for whom the description "morally grey" is probably too flattering.

The show was initially part of the Grim & Evil (2001-2002; 26 episodes) television series: each episode had three segments, two being The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. The third was Evil Con Carne, about an evil, rich genius who wanted to rule the world, only to be blown apart in an explosion: his brain and stomach were then attached to a circus bear (who still retains some autonomy). This does not curb his ambition, but now he also seeks to recover his other body parts. It was also given its own show, Evil Con Carne (2003-2004; 13 episodes), though over two-thirds comprised repackaged Grim & Evil segments. Similarly, the first eight episodes of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy were made from segments first broadcast on Grim & Evil. [SP]


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