Judge Adam Arseneau got his judicial robes after being vetted by dodgeball contest.
Sideways stories from Wayside School!
Holy cow, they made a cartoon of "Sideways Stories from Wayside School"? I loved that book as a kid! And the cartoon is every bit as insane as the source material? Even better!
Facts of the Case
Todd is the newest student at Wayside School, transferring in for a new semester. He looks forward to meeting new people and his teachers, but something is slightly off at Wayside. For one thing, the school: it was supposed to be built one story tall with thirty classrooms, but the builders got the plans backwards, and constructed one classroom per floor…thirty stories tall!
And then there's the staff. The principal is convinced his students will usurp his power and spends most of his day locked in his office, terrified of all visitors. Todd's teacher, Mrs. Jewels takes new age teaching to the extreme, encouraging all her students to sleep and not do their homework. Todd's attempts to raise his hand in class and hand in his work only land him in detention, or delegated to riding the Kindergarten bus home from school. Also, the school has an inordinately high volume of cows roaming its corridors. Welcome to Wayside High, where off-the-wall shenanigans are the norm!
Ah the rarest of treats; an animated kids cartoon that is quirky enough for adults to appreciate and enjoy. Twisted logic abound, Wayside is a riot, full of preposterousness, zaniness, and all manner of impossibilities. Poor Todd suffers endlessly in a string of short episodes as the faculty and students of Wayside High constantly confound his sensibilities and test his patience. Ultimately, Todd learns to appreciate that as the normal student, he is the strange one. Kids will take away an appreciation for uniqueness and confidence to be different in their lives, and adults will just laugh themselves stupid. Everyone wins!
Created by Canadian animation heavyweights Nelvana, the animation in Wayside is nothing short of ludicrous. In a good way, mind you. This is the completely ridiculous, full-on hilarity animation styling heavily influenced by the John K., Ren & Stimpy school of wacky style—angular character designs, thick black outlines, excessive pastel colors, large bulbous eyes and outrageous pantomime at every turn. The style is egregious and hilarious in equal measure and perfectly suited to the bizarre source material.
Each thirty-minute "episode" is actually two fifteen-minute episodes back-to-back. Believe it or not, the ultra-short format actually works well for the wild-and-crazy erratic plot styling of the source material. Todd is the perpetual voice of reason at Wayside, which puts him on the outside of every conversation he is part of. Cows roam the hallways, doors open to nowhere, class elections are decided by dodgeball, his teacher constantly punishes him for "good" behavior, and the principal is practically a paranoid schizophrenic. Also, the entire thirty-story school is held up with string and bailing wire. It's like a world where kid logic runs supreme—the effect is hilarious, but oddly appealing. You find yourself secretly jealous when watching Wayside that school was nowhere nearly as interesting for you.
The most satisfying part of Wayside is how the show feels perfectly balanced—it has enough wacky antics and bizarre events to satisfy young audiences, enough logical fallacies and defiant attitudes to amuse middle-aged kids, and enough clever and sardonic wit to please adults fortunate enough to find themselves in front of a television set while the show is playing. This isn't a show parents need fear avoiding; this is one they should seek out and force their kids to watch.
Extras on the actual DVDs are light, but Wayside School: Season One comes with a particularly spiffy supplement. The set is shrink-wrapped up with a paperback copy of "Sideways Stories from Wayside School" by Louis Sachar, the original novel that inspired the cartoon series. A very thoughtful and nice addition, if you ask me. I'll take a book over some mediocre trailer any day!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Honestly? I'd be worried about anyone who has much negative things to say about this show. In my book, this is as good as cartoons get these days—because let's face it, kids today and their cartoons. They suck compared to my day, back when we had real cartoons made proper, none of this faux-anime garbage clogging the airwaves. And snow! When I was a kid, we had to walk to school in the show, thirty miles! In bare feet! And another thing…
A perfectly delightful animated series, Wayside School: Season One is the perfect cartoon adventure for families of all ages. I just wish my school was like this when I was a kid.
Guilty! Except it's opposite day, so not guilty!
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Scales of Justice
• "Sideways Stories from Wayside School" by Louis Sachar (paperback novel)
Review content copyright © 2008 Adam Arseneau; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.