Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and God Hates Geeks.
Shut up, bird!
I’ve probably watched the first three or four seasons of Archer, but I’ve never regularly followed the show. Similar to how season eight catered to a noir aesthetic for Dreamland, season nine is all about Danger Island. The season is visually the most colorful the show has ever been while physical threats are literally around every corner whether it’s a tribe of a cannibals, a pack of howler monkeys, or a group of Nazis hell-bent on discovering an idol that would only make the Fuhrer more powerful.
Danger Island takes place in 1938 and while Archer’s voice cast returns some of them are voicing different characters. These seasons taking place in different time periods is a result of what happened to Archer in season seven; he is still in a coma after being shot by Veronica Deane and this is all a part of Archer’s imagination. On the Pacific island of Mitimotu, Archer and Pam are co-pilots and partners. Archer, while still very much an alcoholic, wears an eye patch and is missing an eye while Pam looks better than she ever has. Compared to other seasons, Pam has a strong presence in the season overall and has kind of catapulted from being a side character that gets trampled on by the main cast to a key character who is basically the voice of reason for Archer.
Archer and Pam work for Malory who owns the bar that they also live in. Cheryl is now Charlotte Stratton, who was on her honeymoon but slept with Archer and screwed that up. She now works for Malory who is making her sleep with tenants to earn her keep. Chris Parnell is putting on a German accent this season portraying a Nazi intelligence officer named Siegbert Fuchs. While Lana is still MIA in the current Archer storyline, she portrays a princess in Danger Island named Princess Lanaluakalani. Saving the best for last, Lucky Yates is a parrot named Crackers this season who talks way too much even for a parrot.
The season revolves around the search for the idol known as a tupua. Writer Adam Reed was inspired by a television series from the 1980s called Tales of the Golden Monkey which lasted one season and essentially has a similar storyline to Danger Island. Lana teams up with Fuchs to search for the idol while Archer and Pam attempt to come up with ways to fix their sea plane which only becomes more dilapidated as the season progresses. Crackers is arguably the funniest part of the season with his ability to talk in coherent sentences being a major gag during all eight episodes. Chris Parnell has an incredible character evolution if you look at how Cyril is during the early seasons of Archer compared to how he is on Danger Island. Fuchs is this sexually hungry German who turns into this bloodthirsty madman that rivals Adolf Hitler.
It doesn’t look like Archer has been released on Blu-ray since season six. This seems to be an attempt to keep the cost of each season low since seasons 1-7 look to run around $7.99 each on Amazon while season 8 is $11.69 and season 9 is $14.96. The problem with this set is that the sound quality isn’t great, especially for the first few episodes. There’s this distorted, glitchy, kind of echo to everyone’s voice as they speak in the first 2-3 episodes but that’s also nearly half the season. The visuals don’t look bad on DVD, but you can imagine how much they’d pop in high definition with how vibrant Danger Island is in general.
Personally speaking, the downside to Archer is that the show’s formula has grown stale during the decade it’s been in syndication. Quips take precedence over everything else and it’s grown redundant. The change of time periods and the voice cast jumping to new characters is a fun idea initially, but it’s something that will likely frustrate loyal viewers who want a continuation of the main storyline. Remember the big cliffhanger on South Park that occurred at the end of season one that was met with the Terrence and Phillip special, “Not Without My Anus,” when season two began? Archer has basically pulled that dick move for two full seasons with a third on the horizon since Danger Island teases Archer going to space and parodying Ridley Scott’s Alien in season 10. The tenth season is called Archer: 1999 and is rumored to be the show's last.
There aren’t a ton of special features, but the few you get are fairly entertaining. There’s a four-part featurette entitled Inside Look: Making Archer that is approximately 13.5 minutes long total. Amber Nash, who voices Pam Poovey, tours Floyd County Productions in Atlanta, Georgia; the animation studio where Archer is made. Lucky Yates is dressed in a black leotard with a parrot hand puppet with the gag being that they’ll digitally remove him in post-production. It’s a behind the scenes look of what goes into making each episode of Archer. Here are a few highlights:
- Floyd County Productions was formed by Matt Thompson and Adam Reed in 2001 specifically to create Archer.
- The time it takes each episode to be created, that’s script to completed episode, is about nine weeks.
- Adam Reed writes a new episode by himself every three weeks.
- The dialogue from each new script is broken down and voice overs are recorded right away.
- Rough thumbnails are done from the initial script, which evolve into rough sketches. Sketches become storyboards/animatics and the finished product is fleshed out from the animatics.
- The show utilizes a photography team for references. About 10,000 photos are taken and utilized each episode.
- The photos allow the animation team to keep the same style throughout the show and help with poses for the characters.
- The show is animated in After Effects, which allows the animation team to work very quickly.
- There are two different animation teams and programs used on the show. Harmony animation is used for mostly background elements on the show.
- There’s a 3D department that helps animate cars, planes, and trains; pretty much anything mechanical.
The only other special feature is a short 3.5 minute featurette called Crackers Costumed Playings, which played at San Diego Comic Con. It’s Lucky Yates voicing Crackers as he tries on different costumes for the convention. His costumes include Cyclops from the X-Men, Lion-O (or Crackers-O) from Thundercats, Dr. Krieger from Archer, and Thanos from the Avengers films which results in a funny snap gag where Crackers loses all of his feathers.
Archer: Danger Island Season 9 isn’t worth the nearly $15 it’s going for right now. The season itself has a few funny moments, but is mostly just okay overall. If you’re a big Archer fan, you may want to wait until it drops under $10. Its presentation seems like a cheap and affordable way to get the seasons out quickly for fans, but the audio and visual quality of the season seems to suffer. The DVD format of the physical representation of the show seems to be pushing fans to purchase the show in HD digitally, which costs nearly twice as much.
© 2019 Chris Sawin