I will always remain a kid at heart! As we delve into Dexter’s Laboratory, I must admit that I am a big fan of animation, over 20 years down the line. I grew up in the late 80s to early ‘90s on Scooby-Doo, Looney Tunes, and Original Tom and Jerry
Fortunately, I am not alone. Some creators who share my nostalgic affinity to animations have been working hard to review most of the shows that made our childhood in the ‘90s. The Simpsons paved the way for clever cartoons that could appeal to both adults and teens alike without compromising on the plot of the animation.
Dexter’s Laboratory is a good example of a blast from the past that has stood the taste of time. It is among the best shows I ever watched from Cartoon Network. In this Show, Dexter is a red-headed third-grader with a super keen intellect, which makes it possible for him to create amazing devices. These devices have just come to existence in the 21st Century. Most of which were mere fantasies back then.
Despite being smart, he is still a kid and prone to all the issues which would affect a typical third grader. His clothing featured a white lab coat, large rubber gloves, and boots, and he had a quasi-German accent. I found this accent fun, although the creators have never stated the reason why they chose to use a particular accent.
His dressing and talking style is, no doubt an indication of his super-intelligent character, a genius to be specific. This character has been popularized over the years in horror movies and b-films. In this Show, Dexter has a huge lab full of incredible technology that looks the part perfectly, even if it is mainly background scenery (Frankenstein’s Lab). All this is hidden inside their home, in his room, and he manages to keep it a secret from his parents. Dexter’s parents are a replica of the 50’s sitcom happily married couple. They love their babies, but not so much to not discipline them when they go astray.
While Dexter manages to keep his Lab a secret from the parents and friends, he can’t seem to keep anything away from his sister Deedee. Deedee is a free-spirited kid who keeps messing up with Dexter’s experiments. Deedee has blond hair and large blue eyes. She doesn’t mess things up intentionally; she is just a very curious kind of girl. Deedee always seems to inadvertently foil Dexter’s grand inventions with here tendency to press every button that she sees or dances carelessly in the Lab knocking things up.
The duo forms some kind of Ying and Yang, and their natural differences lead to a very interesting storyline. They still love each other as brother and sister. The sibling rivalry theme was a thing in the ‘90s that we could easily relate to. While the show has plenty of action, adventures, and fantastic gadgets, without such fleshy characters, the Show would be stale.
The characters were designed to be funny yet humanly enough to relate to them. The two have their strengths and weaknesses. While Dexter resents his sister’s propensity for unintentional destruction and her “older sibling” status, he always looks after her. He never fails to bail her out when she is in trouble. It is difficult to show the heart so subtly without hitting the audience over the head, something that Dexter’s Laboratory has managed to do effortlessly over the years.
And while sometimes brawling and fighting happens, nothing is ever graphical as compared to a show like Powerpuff girls. Certainly, Slapstick abounds, but I have never seen something that I wouldn’t let a kid watch. In short, Dexter’s Laboratory just strives to entertain against a backdrop of Sci-fi. And I must admit that the creators succeeded greatly in that regard.
When an episode is over, you probably wouldn’t have learned a lot, but you will have had a good time, much like watching the Old Looney Tune or the little Tom and Jerry. I truly hope that Dexter and Deedee will make a comeback one day. I think It is time to bring back the Sci-fi cartoons.
What do you recall from this Show?
Well, the three things that usually got my attention were:
- Dexter’s Lab itself, where does he get the money to equip his Lab like that? The Lab is one of the iconic settings in the Show. Did you ever pretend to be in Dexter’s Lab when you were a kid?
- Dexter’s accent – how comes Dexter is the only one in the house with a German accent?
- Dee Dees Body J I laugh every time I look at Dee Dee's body proportion! It makes no sense. It is like some of her organs are stuffed in her unusually long legs.
- Dial M for Monke – This one requires a Subtitle of its own. The funniest superhero I have encountered in any of the Hanna-Barbera series.
- The theme song – starts innocently and sweet with Dee Dee, who finds her way to Dexter’s Lab. The song changes gears quickly and lets you know that this is a horror movie. Try listening to the song to the end credits, “There is gloom and dullness as things go boom…. In DEXTER’s L-A-A-A-A-A-A-B”. Dexter is a Villain, ask Dru and Gru.
We are the generation that experienced the splashing announcement, followed by “What a Cartoon!” Show. An animation incubator program that took an audacious gamble, thanks to Fred Seibert, to begin a new era of American cartoons. Dexter’s Laboratory marked the end of Hanna-Barbera’s endless stream of cookie-cutter teenage characters, combined with an anthropomorphic sidekick, whether it’s a talking dog, a singing robot dog, a drum-kit shark player, or a dune buggy that talks.
Well, Hanna-Barbera’s Cartoons have been filled with charm, slap-stick humor, and predictable plot lines. But it was time to pass on the creative baton to a new set of minds after 20 years.
Let’s talk a tiny bit about the characters in Dexter’s Laboratory:
The Structure of the Show
Except for “Last but not Beast,” each Dexter’s Laboratory episode was divided into different segments that last about 7 – 12 minutes each. Occasionally a segment would focus on other characters other than Dexter and his family. The first season was presented in two parts, namely:
- Dial M for Monkey – this was the middle segment of six episodes of season one.
- The Justice friends – this took place after Dial M for Monkey until the end of season one.
This segment featured Monkey, Dexter’s pet laboratory monkey. Dexter thinks Monkey is just an average monkey and nothing more. But there is more than meets the eye. Monkey has immense strength and fights evil like a superhero. He is a secret superhero that even Dexter is not aware of.
Monkey is always joined in the fight against evil by his collaborator, Honeydew of Global security (Voice by Kath Soucie), General Commander (Voice by Robert Ridgely, later changed to Earl Boen). Genndy Tartakovsky, Craig McCracken, and Paul Rudish were developers of Dial M for Monkey. Superpowers of Monkey include excessive strength, telekinesis, flight, and great speed, among other features.
The Justice Friends
Their stories revolved less around their superhuman abilities and more about their inability to agree. Just Friends was like a sitcom with a track that laughs. Genndy Tartakovsky was got the inspiration for this piece from reading Marvel Comics while learning how to speak English. However, he was disappointed with how Just Friends turned out. He thought the show would be funnier than it was, with better quality characters and traits.
There is nothing as good as looking at going back to watch something you loved back in the ‘90s and finding new reasons to love it even more.
Do yourself a favor and take your time to visit Dexter’s Laboratory again. I wish I knew someone who could pitch me a scrip on the Monkey vs. Quackor show this would be a hit series.