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30 Years of Cartoon Network: "Ed, Edd n Eddy"

Alex is a School of Visual Arts graduate with a passion for media, writing and animation. He writes reviews for film, television and games.

"Ed, Edd n Eddy" Poster

"Ed, Edd n Eddy" Poster

Background and Conception

Be prepared to hear how this show was born. After working at Hanna-Barbera as an animator, Danny Antonucci opened his own studio—called a.k.a. Cartoon—where he produced an adult animated television series called The Brothers Grunt for MTV. Publicly, the show was panned as being short-lived. Antonucci returned to producing children's television series. During the design process for a commercial, he drew three characters he liked and pitched conceptual designs to both Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. Though both responded, Cartoon Network was the most enthusiastic and impressed. Imagine if the Eds found themselves on Nickelodeon? How would the series be different?

In any case, Cartoon Network gave Danny full control over the show after refusing to let the network exercise creative control. For the first time, Cartoon Network created a show outside Hanna-Barbera. Isn't that ironic? The main characters were created using qualities of Antonucci's sons mixed with comedy from The Three Stooges. Many of the show's characters were based on Danny's real-life during his childhood. Since Antonucci comes from an Italian immigrant family, Rolf was his most influential character.

Following a lengthy production process, Ed, Edd n Eddy's first season debuted in 1999 and became an instant hit with viewers and critics.

The Many Mis-Ed-ventures

The show is about a group of friends called "The Eds" who frequently try to con the kids in their cul-de-sac to buy jawbreakers. Although the premise of the show sounds simple, it's the execution that makes it special. As you may have noticed, there are only kid characters, no adults (especially parents or teachers) are shown. This is almost like a surreal interpretation of the Peanuts comics, but with more humor. Comedy is the main component that drives the show. You will laugh out loud throughout, whether it is the setup, dialogue, or slapstick. Every episode shows how desperate, creative, and ridiculous the Eds are to get jawbreakers. The majority of scams backfire due to miscalculations, sidetracking, or being unintentionally stupid. Their plans always end up with a flaw that gives them their comeuppance. In addition to that, some episodes evoke nostalgia for how kids spent their childhood or imagined summer adventures. As a side note, the show took place during the summer, which opens up many possibilities for the writers.

I have so many favorite episodes that I could almost make a list of them.

It has been said that some fans or parents that grew up with the show would find this show to have a mean-spirited tone. It is most apparent from how some supporting kids dislike them or from the way Eddy treats his friends. It may be true, but there is a catch. They hate the Eds for understandable reasons since they swindle them constantly. Depending on the episode, there are a few of them who do get along with them. Ed and Edd are the more tolerable and justified of the Eds. There will be emotional moments that give these characters some depth and there are certain episodes that convey a coming-of-age aspect. I’ll discuss more later about the characters since they were a major influence on this show. Fortunately, this cartoon is aware that it is a cartoon and there are many hilarious fourth-wall breaks. In other words, this show is not meant to be taken seriously and the comedy overshadows the tone.

Ed, Edd n Eddy was supposed to end after its fourth season, but a growing fan base helped lead to a two-season renewal. The season changed from fall to winter around that time, and the characters spent half of their adventures in school. Season five was a satisfying continuation, but season six was barely a season. Two episodes, that's it. Despite their moments, they felt like lost potential. Even with that, the core of the show and comedy remains solid and there will be a series of wacky adventures to remember.

Ed-Tastic Animation

Since its inception, Canadian animation has gone through a number of artistic changes. When it comes to Antonucci and his team at a.k.a. Cartoon Studios, they produce the most unique and comedic animation.

According to Danny, the character designs reflect the look and style of the 1940s to the 1970s. An important aspect of the animation is the use of "boiling lines." Some people mistake this technique for "Squigglevision" from shows like Dr. Katz or Home Movies, but boiling lines serve a very different purpose. By retracing the drawing a few times, animators create the illusion that the characters are alive instead of looking like flat cartoons like those from Hanna-Barbera. Additionally, the characters have been given multicolored tongues after Antonucci noticed his sons' tongues from eating different candies.

The boiling lines may make the drawings look alive, but the character animation has been adjusted to be as energetic as possible. Using squash-and-stretch, each movement and facial expression are exaggerated and perfectly timed. Furthermore, the characters would perform stunts, chases, and fight sequences that were always exciting. These action sequences emphasize timing and humor at the same time. This was when they used traditional cel animation and each drawing is very detailed. Even the scams they pull are constructed as a kid would build them. It really captures a child’s mindset. The artists sometimes experimented with different art mediums or went all out against the show's standards. In one episode, the Eds discover both strange and ordinary things, such as trees that are flat as cardboard and eating the sun. Another episode tells three stories made up of fantasy stories representing each Ed's perspective and personality. The animation has switched from cel animation to digital ink-and-paint since the holiday specials, where the colors and energy are more effective. A perfect example of this is during the Halloween special, "Boo Haw Haw," where Ed's delusional visions depict the kids as grotesque and scary monsters, along with effective use of special effects and filtering.

Peach Creek offers distinctive locations that cater to the concept. Every kid has their own room that displays their unique traits, such as a room covered in mold and movie posters while another has every piece of furniture labeled. Children would hang at the center of the cul-de-sac, the playground, or the lane. A junkyard and a construction site make ingenious settings for supernatural or sporting events. The creek is relaxing, but a trailer park is a sacred place. Peach Creek Middle School was a new setting that helped expand the world of the show, but it was sometimes empty. However, the antics of the characters make any place interesting, regardless of the circumstances. In the TV movie "Big Picture Show," the animators were proud to emphasize the significance of scope when the Eds traveled beyond the boundaries of Peach Creek. These places include a giant sunflower field, an abandoned gag factory, a swamp, and a shoreline amusement park. Unfortunately, it was the last Canadian animated project to use digital ink-and-paint. Still, the animators managed to give us an impressive animation style that is both creative and comedic.

Tongue-Ed-Cheek Characters

The show was inspired by Antonucci's childhood, so the characters are based on people he knew growing up. Every one of them stands out from the rest, regardless of whether they have good or bad traits.

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Let's start with Edd, Edd, and Eddy themselves. Ed is the dumb member of the trio. Although Ed is naive, lacks hygiene, and others find him annoying, his heart is in the right place when he helps out his friends. He also loves butter toast, monster movies, comics, and chickens. The genius of the three is Edd, or "Double D" as everyone refers to him. While he can be a neat freak and build scams, Edd is the most likable character for his polite nature and being socially acceptable in his neighborhood. Plus, we have no idea what's under his hat to this day. In terms of Eddy, he is the ill-tempered leader of the gang. As a greedy and selfish individual, Eddy would do anything for jawbreakers and cares little for his friends. On the other hand, his plans usually backfire. Eddy also takes after his older brother's personality and strives to please everyone.

The neighborhood kids are an interesting case. Sarah is Ed's younger, spoiled sister who gets violent whenever she's irritated or when someone ignores her. She is best friends with the timid and retainer-wearing Jimmy. Jimmy is generally a gentle kid and prone to accidents. On occasion, he will outsmart the Eds and be sketchy when motivated. Jonny 2x4 is the eccentric yet lonely kid in the neighborhood. Talkative, he enjoys acorns and would unintentionally annoy others. His imaginary friend is a piece of wood named Plank. Despite being a lifeless object, Plank seems to have a personality whenever Jonny "speaks for him.” Nazz is the sweet and laid-back girl who has been the object of the Eds’ affections. Kevin is the stereotypical jock who constantly calls the Eds "dorks." The funniest character in the show is the foreigner Rolf. There is something unpredictable about this kid. From the "old country," Rolf seems like a humble fellow. Owning a farm, he shares his customs with neighbors that either confuse or disturb them. If Rolf felt insulted, he would become angry and bombastic due to his pride. Every time he speaks in third person or asks about his ethnicity, you would laugh out loud...in a good way, of course.

Lastly, there are the Kanker Sisters, the antagonists. Lee, Marie, and May, based on Antonucci's childhood bullies, are troublesome girls with a crush on the Eds. Unless they get smooches in exchange, they would make anyone’s liives miserable. Although they are all mean, May is the most tolerable because of her sensitive nature and was smitten with Edd during the Valentine's Day special. The Kankers follow their unseen mother's advice on getting men and there are even visual clues that they were poorly raised.

Similarly, there is good voice acting. Though the actors screamed or went over the top half the time, their voices matched their characters' personalities. Even though there are male actors, most of the voices are provided by female actors, and some voices will switch back and forth throughout the series. For example, Tabitha St. Germain (who later became Rarity in My Little Pony) was the original voice of Nazz. Erin Fitzgerald, who is May Kanker's main voice, replaced Germain in season 2. Jenn Forgie provided voices for both Nazz and May during season 3. For the remainder of the series, Erin Fitzgerald returned as both Nazz and May respectively. Rarely, Antonucci would sneak in a voice cameo and voice director Terry Klassen was cast as Eddy’s Brother in the series finale.

Usually, I don’t talk about this element in TV shows, but the music composed by Patric Caird is highly memorable for either giving a smooth jazz atmosphere or a chaotic thrill ride. The sound mixing with stock cartoon sounds and recycled dialogue also helps the zaniness nature. There are characters that you will like or dislike about them, but as long as they are funny, they will tickle your funny bone.

A Series of Holiday and Special Ed-Vents

If the summer is getting monotonous, then don’t worry. The Eds have also tackled holiday specials as well. Each of the specials has a key element that stands out from the others.

The first was the Christmas special, “Jingle, Jingle, Jangle.” Eddy is so desperate for presents that he decides to get himself “adopted” by each neighbor while learning the true meaning of Christmas. Technically, there was already an episode where Ed decided to spread Christmas to the cul-de-sac...in July. Though the message seems recycled, the concept fits as it displays the biggest element: emotion. This is a rare occurrence where we see Eddy at his cruelest, but also at his saddest and redemption at the end. As expected, there are also nods and references to other Christmas stories and movies. Of course, there are legit funny moments, including a musical number by Rolf. Whatever your thoughts on this special, it knows how to keep the comedy and heart of Christmas alive.

The second was the Valentine’s Day special, “Hanky Panky Hullabaloo.” Double D and May are both love-struck for each other, which causes tension between their respective peers. This was the show’s introduction to the characters attending school. The story has Romeo and Juliet vibes whenever the remaining Eds or Kankers try to split or feud over this unexpected conflict. It has a vague supernatural element where Sarah and Jimmy are cupids while Rolf constantly tries to hunt them down. It is the funniest holiday special, especially with Ed trying numerous attempts to avoid girls or the characters getting into a food fight. It is noteworthy to give one of the antagonists some depth and sympathy and setting up for what’s to come. This is a special that you will love for a different reason.

The last holiday special was “Boo Haw Haw” during Halloween. After watching so many scary movies, Ed hallucinates each kid as monsters trying to stop their path to “Spook-E-Ville.” As mentioned earlier, the visuals are the highlight where the animators displayed a fantastic job of designing the monstrous characters. The autumn colors and the night setting really set the Halloween mood whenever the Eds went out trick-or-treating. Admittedly, the story could get a little predictable. Even with that, “Boo Haw Haw” is exactly the phrases how viewers would feel about.

Around 2007, Cartoon Network launched a crossover event called “Invaded” where episodes of their current shows at the time had a “connecting narrative” about an upcoming alien invasion. Ed, Edd n Eddy was the second show of the lineup and aired an exclusive special, “The Eds are Coming.” In that episode, the kids believe that Rolf’s house is invaded by aliens and must gear up to save him. In addition to adding winter as the next season setting, the story itself has pros and cons. For starters, Jimmy’s dream sequence is the most visually detailed and imaginative animation that the animators made before the movie. It started out as jolly and vibrant with candy and flowers everywhere. Suddenly, it becomes dark and disastrous where an alien-like mechanism appears from the sky and cuts a piece of the cul-de-sac. The second act does satirize sci-fi movies and raises mystery about what’s happening at Rolf’s place. The climax is hit-and-miss where the kids spectacularly fail at humorous proportions while the revelation can be predictable, though the ending caught me off-guard. Even if you took the crossover event out of context, the special works fine on its own. An admirable effort, at least.

I would include the TV movie "Big Picture Show" in this section, but I'm planning to make its own review because the movie itself is an Ed, Edd n Eddy adventure that began and ended the series on a powerful note.

Conclusion and Leg-Ed-cy

Overall, Ed, Edd n Eddy holds up as one of Cartoon Network's funniest and long-running series. This was Danny Antonucci's most unexpected and successful project that he ever brought. It was also one of Canada's longest animated series with unforgettable stories, well-crafted comedic animation, and a variety of characters. The series won a Rueben Award, six Leo Awards, and a SOCAN Award. It spawned some merchandise, including a series of video games.

The Eds would occasionally make cameo appearances in other Cartoon Network shows. There were many commercials, especially one where Ed dated Daphne from Scooby-Doo, and two music videos, such as "My Best Friend Plank" and "The Incredible Shrinking Day" that are a must-watch when searching them online.

As for home media, this was quite an "ed-barassment." The first two seasons and two episode compilations, with decent bonus features, were available on DVD, but the rest of the series never made it. Thankfully, HBO Max has all the episodes (excluding the specials and movie) available. With a growing fanbase, the Eds will always be remembered how they would do anything to get jawbreakers.

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