The Cartoon Couch: Cartoon Gene
Let’s wax about Out of Jimmy’s Head for a bit, shall we?
For the uninitiated, Out of Jimmy’s Head was a live-action/animated television series. It was Cartoon Network’s second live-action/animated television series, the first being Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, and was based on the live-action/animated telefilm Re-Animated that aired on December 8, 2006. It was about a kid who after a trolley accident at a cartoon theme park, receives the brain of a deceased legendary animator via a brain transplant (why or how a trolley accident would require a brain transplant is beyond me); the animator happened to possess schizophrenia, and as a result, our young hero ends up with cartoon characters residing inside his noggin which only he can see. The show also featured such hee-larious characters and tropes such as Jimmy’s astronaut mother, who tends to walk around the house in her spacesuit, dispenses dehydrated food pills for dinner and whose daily routine consists of such tasks as blowing up random moons and laser-blasting alien invaders, his father who was like if Goofy came to life as a human being, his adopted sister who was a green skinned space alien, complete with My Favorite Martian style antennae, the mad scientist son of the deceased animator who was hell bent on murdering Jimmy and obtaining his father’s brain so he may gain notoriety as a cartoonist (his companion is bag of money with a dollar sign painted on it which he talks to), and take over the world, as well as stuff like the alien sister’s werewolf boyfriend, cyborgs, criminal grannies, a septuagenarian junior high school student, a preteen animal lover who brings his menagerie of critters to school with him and an opera singing duck. All of that’s fine and dandy except……
The show was allegedly about a kid who had cartoon characters living in his brain. That’s already wacky. You don’t make the ‘real world’ around him also a zany cartoon, because that only makes the cartoons seem unnecessary and redundant by comparison. If the human world is wacky, nutty and cartoony, then why even have the cartoon characters at all? I personally think the only reason why the Appleday Gang (the toons in question) were on the show at all was to justify the show’s presence on CARTOON Network. The Appleday Gang would typically just pop onto the screen at certain intervals, engage in some little bits o’ business and then literally disappear until they were needed again; rarely if ever did the toons actually play a major part in the stories. There was no reason for the separation of human and cartoon at all on the show, as OOJH was just silly stuff on top of other silly stuff.
Why am I talking so extensively about Out of Jimmy’s Head when that’s not subject of this article? Because it’s necessary for context.
You see, years later in 2009, Teletoon, the Cartoon Network of Canada, released a pilot of their own with a similar premise entitled Cartoon Gene, about a teen whose wacky scientist father invented a way to bring cartoon and video game characters to life and somehow got biz-zay with one of them, a hardcore video game heroine named Kitty (played by Karen Cliche–if you watched a lot of bad syndicated TV in the 00’s you may remember Ms. Cliche as Lexa Pirece on the 3rd and last season of Mutant X) and as a result of this odd tryst, is half-human, half-cartoon. (I can relate.) The highjinks ensue whenever Gene’s cartoon half kicks in at given moments, resulting in stuff like idea light-bulbs, rain clouds and hearts sprouting out around him depending on his mood and the situation. AFAIK, Cartoon Gene was never made into a full series, all we have of it is this 3-minute pilot trailer.
Granted, “surviving the high-school” (TM) shtick was very, very cliche (the ’emerging toon powers’ thing was meant to be a metaphor for adolescence, after all, see also X-Men), so while it’s not too surprising that this didn’t get bought, Cartoon Gene did one thing very right: it actually incorporated the cartoon angle into the main premise, whereas OOJH felt like a generic tweencom with some cartoon characters in it, and also unlike OOJH, Cartoon Gene had a more real world-ish setting, so the cartoon style gags stood out more. Plus I liked what I saw of Kitty. (Rawr-rawr.) Also, think about it: Gene’s dad managed to develop technology that enabled him to not only bring cartoon and video game characters to life and into our world, but also make them 3-dimensional, to the point where he could have sex with one and produce a child. How is this guy not a billionaire?? In the real world, nerds and geeks would be beating down this guy’s door for this formula so they could fulfill their lifelong dreams of making love to Wonder Woman, Wilma Flintstone and Judy Jetson.
Was Cartoon Gene a master work? No, but had it actually been made, it looks like it would’ve been a better Out of Jimmy’s Head than Out of Jimmy’s Head turned out to be.