The Cartoon Couch: Sparkles & Gloom
Today the Cartoon Couch looks at a forgotten cartoon which never actually became a show.
Let’s go back to 2006. During this time, Nickelodeon/Nicktoons Network was airing an anthology series entitled Random! Cartoons. Much like the earlier Oh, Yeah! Cartoons, R!C showcased pilots for potential new Nickelodeon animated series in the form of one-shot shorts. While OY!C launched no less than 3 ongoing series for Nick (The Fairly OddParents, ChalkZone and My Life as a Teenage Robot), only 2 shorts from Random! Cartoons went on to become shows: Fanboy & Chum-Chum and Adventure Time (yes, that Adventure Time), the latter of which switched networks before getting greenlit (evidently Nick wanted to change too much of Pendleton Ward’s original vision, so he ended up taking his act to Cartoon Network instead. That’s right, Adventure Time was almost a Nickelodeon show). One of the many R!C shorts which didn’t receive the call was an overlooked (in my opinion) little gem which is the focus of today’s Cartoon Couch: Melissa Wolfe and Anne Walker Farrell’s Sparkles & Gloom.
For the uninformed, here’s the skinny: Sparkles and Gloom are the twin daughters of a wicked witch and Prince Charming; the former is a perky, bubbly, relentlessly cheery Strawberry Shortcake/Rainbow Brite type, the latter is a pragmatic, Goth-dressing sourpuss. Each girl posesses magical powers, while Sparkles’ abilities involve conjuring things like “happy rainbows”, Gloom deals mainly in curses, black smoke, skulls and poison mushrooms. Their opposing ideologies cause them to elevate sibling rivalry to a whole new level.
It’s a bizarre world that our titular duo inhabits, one where shiny, happy, toyetic goodniks and creeps and monsters cohabitate in PC togetherness. This movement is culminated in the academy the girls attend, the Geevil School, “Where Good and Evil are Best Friends”, in which fairies, Royals and cute little teddy bears, bunnies and unicorns rub elbows with green skinned witches and big purple monsters. The rest of this world is OK with this co-existence, however, our title pair just can’t seem to get on the same page.
Here now is the 1st (and only) episode of Sparkles & Gloom. (NOTE: since this is only a one-shot short and not an ongoing series, I won’t be giving it the full series assessment treatment. I’ll instead just list what I both liked about the short and didn’t like quite so much, or at least felt could have been improved.)
- The premise was definitely unique. There certainly wasn’t anything else like this on TV at the time, nor is there now. the only show which comes close IMO is Disney’s The 7D.
- I liked how the 2 main characters were girls, yet the producers and writers didn’t try to water down the zany factor. The whole “girls can’t be funny” idiom is one which I’ve been on a mission to bury for years now. Apart from this and The Mighty B!, for a while there was a serious movement to make a girl-centric comedy cartoon at Nick.
- In a word, Sparkles. She was hands-down my favorite character in this, she was freaking adorable. Upon revisiting this cartoon, Sparkles kind of physically resembles a mutant version of Shrinkin’ Violette from The Funny Company. Not that Gloom was bad or anything, just that as the more level-headed sister she at times came off like the straight kid, sort of Leonard to Sparkles’ Sheldon. (Incidentally, Gloom was voiced Jessica DiCiccio, who also voiced Erin in Cartoon Network’s Miguzi wraparounds and Lexi Bunny on Kids’ WB!’s Loonatics Unleashed.)
- Speaking of voices, this short employed the talents of Kevin Michael Richardson, who voiced Prince Charming and the judge fish. Any cartoon which employs KVM is OK in my book.
- I loved the idea of a world inhabited by fairies and cutesy mascots. Some of the background character designs (such as Sunny Honey Bear, the blue-winged fairy girl and the lavender unicorn girl) looked like they came straight out of a greeting card line. Honestly, I could’ve watched a cartoon about just Sparkles and the other Fairies.
- It might not have been the best idea to have the characters switch powers and have to deal with that in the pilot short. After all, you first have to establish a status quo before you can shake it up.
- The artists and writers weren’t nearly as creative with the ‘evil’ characters as they were with the ‘good’ ones, as a result I didn’t find them quite as interesting. Aside from Gloom, a green-skinned witch and the big purple monster, the badniks consisted mainly of generic looking guys with pointy ears.
- While I liked both the leads, I kind of grew tired of them constantly butting heads. I’d have rather seen them partnering up a little more often. These days I prefer fictional siblings who aren’t always fighting like cats and dogs.
- Hopefully if this had become a series, they wouldn’t have focused all of the stories on the school. I’d like to see more of this world and the characters doing other stuff, hopefully together as a team.
-My overall rating for this short:
On a scale of 1 to 5, I’d give Sparkles & Gloom a solid 3. Not perfect, but still pretty good. Maybe these creators could pitch this series somewhere else, or give us something similar. It was definitely more deserving of a series than Fanboy & Chum-Chum. If you can find it floating around on the internet, get your magic on and give it a watch.