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'Happy Tree Friends' equals gratuitous violence

By Susan Bonicillo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 29, 2005
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A passing glance to the cover of the Happy Tree Friends "Overkill" DVD set may cause you to think that this box set is just for kiddies. Cute and cuddly creatures with heart-shaped noses abound, and it just may be the sort of saccharine-sweet cartoon you liked when you were 5 but have since moved past to bigger and better things. Like movies with partial nudity. Or subtitles. Or both at the same time.

However, upon closer inspection, you'll see that the seemingly innocuous surface hides something far more dark and sinister, just like with Martha Stewart.

A double-amputee beaver graces the front of the package along with a collection of other fluffy creatures running and screaming for their lives. The inside of the cover reveals two smarmy-looking raccoons gleefully tossing a grenade to each other while a doomed sunshine-yellow bunny is about to step into a bear trap.

These sorts of twisted and sick surprises characterize the entire realm of the Happy Tree Friends' world.

If you've never heard of the Happy Tree Friends before, then first you must realize how empty and incomplete your life has been without them. Second, think of them as a version of Itchy and Scratchy except with cuter characters and much more elaborate deaths.

9 out of 10
"Happy Tree Friends"
Mondo Media

The "Happy Tree Friends" started off as just a weekly Internet cartoon broadcast created by Kenn Navarro and Rhode Montijo which has now built up a rabid cult following. They have since organized and created this nice DVD set that you can buy for $34.99 to play at your disgusted and shocked leisure.

Its appeal is probably the dichotomy of having adorable pastel creatures meeting with the most ingenious and painful ways to die. It'll make you cringe, laugh, come back for more and then have you realize what a horrible person you are.

However, if seeing a pink chipmunk getting its innards turned outward is too much for you, don't worry, it will all be over in a minute (no lie).

Made for the MTV generation with attention spans rivaling that of goldfish, "Happy Tree Friends" episodes run between one and three minutes. One of the bonus episodes, "A to Zoo," runs a whopping seven minutes, so prepare yourself for the duration.

The three-disc set combines previous releases of the first three seasons, respectively titled First Blood, Second Serving and Third Strike.

As for the bonus features, the guys over at Mondo Films really put forth some effort. Usually when DVDs have special bonus features, they have some lame commentary by an assistant grip or trailers for films that went straight to video.

Instead of this weak excuse for a bonus, the "Happy Tree Friends" offers you Smoochies, an interactive feature reminiscent of the Nanopets of yore. Select a Happy Tree Friend of your choice and pick a method to die, by spinning, water, car, etc.

You could also sing along with the theme song that has no words, experience a "Happy Tree Friends" Christmas card and stock up on episodes not seen in the online version. Favorites include the tale of the Buddhist Monkey seen on discs two and three in "Enter the Garden" and "Books of Fury."

The inevitable commentary involved in any DVD tries to "give you as much bang for your dollar" as one of the show's creators says on the aforementioned commentary. Not only do they give you commentary on the show, but they give you commentary on the commentary. Please stay for the commentary, as the people are genuinely interesting and it will probably give you some insight into the twisted minds that could come up with using a stage set as a guillotine on an unsuspecting chipmunk.

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