After watching another round of this murderous animated mayhem, Judge David Johnson doesn't feel quite so bad about drawing pictures of Mickey Mouse cannibalizing Goofy in his tenth-grade English notebook.
Not for kids.
If you've ever wondered what a bunch of sick minds think is on the inside of animated woodland creatures, wonder no more: Happy Tree Friends will reveal all.
Facts of the Case
The Happy Tree Friends are back for another dose of cute, cuddly slaughter. Presented in a playful, storybook-like animated style, each six-minute episode tells a simple story starring some recurring animal characters and the inevitable painful death that they will each encounter before the story is done.
Happy Tree Friends: Volume 2 ushers in nine more tales of mayhem:
"Easy for You to Sleigh"
"Who's to Flame?"
"Ever Litter Bit Hurts"
"As You Wish!"
"Take a Hike"
"Snow Place to Go"
"Dune Upon a Time"
"Gems the Breaks"
Here's the deal with the Happy Tree Friends: it's a one-joke show, a series devoted entirely to a single gimmick. And that gimmick is seeing how the animators top themselves in their depiction of ridiculous over-the-top violence being perpetrated on cutesy cartoon animals. It's sick, disgusting, and pretty funny if you've got the depraved mind of a junior high school delinquent, like I do.
The thing is, it's a humor that is fleeting, a series of one-shot gags aimed at shock and ewww, leaving little to linger on. The amusement the psychos behind Happy Tree Friends have crafted is enjoyed best in small doses, and by the time the tiny episodes wrap and the blood has been spilled you will have already forgotten about what you just saw and wonder how these guys will top themselves in the next cartoon. That's the nature of the beast with this kind of gonzo animation; the gags are cheap—but effective—and you'll forget about them as soon as you eject the DVD.
Of course there is a place for this kind of humor, and I can appreciate it. Happy Tree Friends is essentially the deranged doodles of many bored kids in study hall brought to vivid life. At the risk of being reported to Homeland Security, I freely confess that me and my idiot pals filled up many pages in our five-subject notebooks (between the Earth Science and Italian II sections) with scribblings of horrible things happening to cute cartoons. Happy Tree Friends is for us, and for what they're going for, the dudes in charge deliver.
Really, the bloodshed is remarkable, as each subsequent cartoon drums up more creative ways to demolish the characters. Eyeballs pop up, brains are spilled, skin is scraped off with steel wool, flesh burns, bodies are ground into the pavement by fire trucks, teeth are broken and nerves are exposed, veins are torn asunder, and so on and so forth. So much bad stuff goes down it all gels together in an unidentifiable blur of death and dismemberment. This brings us back to the built-in handicap to this brand of humor: its short life span. Yeah, you may bust out the HTFs to show your buddies or gross out your girlfriend, but I doubt you'll be dipping back into the sinew-strewn well that frequently.
So, nine six-minute episodes will grant your nearly an hour of animated crap that you, if you're like me (read: emotionally stunted), will enjoy and laugh and cringe at, but after the runtime expires, well…now what? Hey, don't look at me. At some point you're going to have to make your own decisions.
The episodes look fine in their full-frame digital incarnations. Colors are strong and distinct, bringing the gore to vivid, wretched life. The disc case lists the runtime at 150 minutes, which is misleading. The cartoons themselves only total to about 60, but the commentaries (on each episode, delivered by the creators, who are obviously total nerds; one of them mentions Chun Li's nude shower scene from Street Fighter II the movie!) and the handful of brief behind-the-scenes featurettes bring the Total Runt Time up higher—but it's kind of a slippery way to get there.
Happy Tree Friends is like eating Easter candy. The experience is short, sweet, a little sickly, and over fast.
If you were the type to lodge firecrackers in your He-Man figures and light the fuse, this may be for you.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BCI Eclipse
• Episode Commentaries
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