Judge Victor Valdivia also goes bump in the night, but that's mainly because his bedroom is a cluttered mess.
He goes a hundred miles an hour, he's green dynamite.
Bump in the Night aired on Saturday mornings on ABC in the mid-'90s and ran for a couple of seasons. It might have been forgotten as just another TV kids' show, except that over the years the show has picked up a small but devoted cult following due to its humor, its classic claymation style, and the elaborate songs that bookended each episode. Shout! Factory has reissued all of the show's episodes and songs in one package, and it's possible to see that Bump in the Night is actually a pretty underrated show that should appeal to fans of edgier animation.
Facts of the Case
Mr. Bumpy (Jim Cummings, The Princess and the Frog) is an adventurous green monster who lives under the bed of a boy and only comes out at night, usually to throw things around, make noise, and eat his favorite meal: dirty socks. His best friend Squishington (Ron Paulsen, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius) is a timid blue water monster who lives in the toilet tank. Together with levelheaded comfort doll Molly Coddle (Gail Matthius, Saturday Night Live), they embark on a series of adventures where they deal with other toys, the endless search for socks and fun, and the fearsome closet monster. This four-DVD set compiles all twenty-six episodes from the show's two seasons, as well as the hour-long Christmas special Twas the Night Before Bumpy.
Bump in the Night is a cut above most animated kids' shows because it seems like the creators and producers decided early on to make the show to amuse themselves rather than kids. Some of the gross-out humor seems a bit contrived (we really didn't need to see the many ways Mr. Bumpy eats dirty socks with phlegm), but what other animated show purportedly for kids would have references to Midnight Cowboy, Thelma & Louise, and Apocalypse Now? Those aren't exactly kid-friendly favorites, and the references are so detailed that they're really only hilarious to adults familiar with them.
Actually, Bump in the Night is crafted in the same spirit as classic old Warner Bros. cartoons. Kids may enjoy the colors and noise, but it's not really made for them any more than Tex Avery's cartoons were. There are moments of self-referential humor (the characters know they're characters on a TV show), references to pop-culture elements that are beyond the knowledge of children, and humor so fast-paced and intricate that young viewers might not catch all of it. Kids, for instance, will be amused with the episodes in which a pair of clueless aliens attempt to invade Earth and are stopped by Mr. Bumpy and his friends. Adults will be even more amused that the aliens have Beatle-esque mop tops and speak in thick Scouse accents. In the same way that Looney Tunes introduced the World War II expression "Is this trip really necessary?" to generations too young to understand what it really meant, Bump in the Night will appeal to viewers on two levels, particularly after parents explain to their kids who the Beatles were ("They invaded us too, dear, sort of like the aliens…").
Also worth noting are the songs. They appear in various episodes but were most featured in special stand-alone "karaoke" segments, all collected on this set. These are more than average kiddie songs. They serve as fairly detailed miniatures of popular music, from hip-hop to rockabilly and the way that they're frequently integrated into each episode is more seamless than on some other shows. If anything, with their mixture of cheeky lyrics and enjoyable (not cloying) melodies, they're reminiscent of the songs in South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Coupled with the claymation, which is far more charming and intricate that the usual cheap-looking ink-and-cel animation of most kids' shows, they become the real highlights of the series.
The episode "Night of the Living Bread" epitomizes Bump in the Night at its best. The storyline is deliberately silly: Mr. Bumpy leaves out a slice of bread overnight, which, in a freak accident, comes alive. It's really a frame for some of the series' best jokes. Mr. Bumpy eventually gets irritated with the ludicrously over-the-top narrator, the piece of bread begins as a parody of Frankenstein and slyly ends up as an homage to Young Frankenstein, and the characters argue about how exactly the episode should end. It's a witty piece of animation that represents how amusing Bump in the Night could be. This is the episode to start with on this set.
Shout! Factory has done a good job reissuing the show on DVD. The full-screen transfer and stereo mix are both superb, with no glitches or flaws to speak of. The visual transfer is so sharp that you can actually make out glitches and imperfections in the claymation. The only extra, apart from the songs on each disc, is the full 60-minute Christmas special. That's 60 minutes without commercials, which makes it a bit of a slog at times. Still, there are enough funny moments to make it worth sitting through.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There are two reasons why Bump in the Night may be an acquired taste. First, the voices are fairly extreme even by animation standards. The voice that Cummings uses for Mr. Bumpy in particular might grate on some viewers, especially those who watch several episodes in a row. Second, the gross-out humor does tend to go overboard at times. The jokes about bodily fluids are probably there to appeal to third-grade boys of all ages and genders, but the show probably could have toned down some of them in favor of more subtle gags.
Bump in the Night is a cut above most kid shows, mainly because the humor is far more ambitious and the animation more endearing. It's not quite a great show but it is an enjoyable and entertaining one that deserves to be rediscovered by animation fans looking for something new. If you like more daring animation fare, give Bump in the Night a look.
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