Could a Crash Bandicoot Cartoon Work?Posted by HP Zoner on
The Crash Bandicoot series is known for many things, not the least of which is having a very cartoonish feel. Crash himself is a lot like a character who would fit right in with the Looney Tunes, thanks to having a very distinct, very zany personality which is only highlighted by the similarly exaggerated villains and the many predicaments they can put him into. It's part of why losing a life in most Crash games is usually not too frustrating, because at the very least you get to see Crash comically being squashed, blown up, popped like a balloon, and reduced to a pile of ash, among countless other creative demises that you can't help but chuckle at.
Because of their look and feel, Crash Bandicoot games can be thought of as interactive cartoons in some ways. It's a major reason why so many people keep asking for an actual cartoon show, and it's a perfectly valid wish. We all want to see more of these characters in action, and we can't get enough of Crash's antics as he confronts a horde of the wackiest marsupials and evil scientists you've ever seen. The question is: Can it work?
As a popular franchise with a mascot character created in the 90s, it's actually a little weird that Crash has never had a cartoon show. Lots of other game franchises did — Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Earthworm Jim, you name it. The closest thing we (almost) got was that unused intro for the original game, but even that wouldn't see the light of day until the year 2015. That said, there is still a good chance for a Crash Bandicoot cartoon to happen, and I'd argue that now is the best time to do it.
Portraying Crash Bandicoot
If you're not yet up to speed with recent news, it may surprise you to learn that Crash has actually appeared in a cartoon show already, and this time it's no mere parody — The orange boy made a licensed crossover appearance in Skylanders Academy, an animated spin-off of the franchise he just recently guest-starred in. In many ways, it serves as a reminder of what Crash, as a character, should be like in a cartoon (or rather, what he shouldn't be).
First things first: This show is very different from what we're used to seeing in Crash games, even if both are similarly light-hearted in nature. As such, it makes some sense that Crash isn't quite the bandicoot we remember when he appears in this show. For starters, he talks! Quite a lot, in fact. You could argue that he should have brought Aku Aku with him to do the talking (and frankly, that would be my first choice too), but that's a whole other can of worms. Let's leave the ifs and buts aside for the time being, because even though this may have been a dubious decision, it's also a guest appearance in a totally unrelated show, and as such, it's totally harmless.
If anything, having Crash talk highlights exactly why he doesn't do that in the games. Crash has always worked just fine as a silent character, akin to Charlot. His humor comes from his goofy personality and how he reacts to the world around him, and you can always tell how he feels just by looking at him. For instance, you can tell from the faces he makes that he really hates slippery surfaces like ice, and who could forget that devious expression when he finds an animal to ride? We all know what he's thinking, and we never need a single word coming out of his mouth. It's a big part of what defines the character and why a talking Crash should stick to Skylanders Academy.
Speaking of which, talking was just one of the changes that caught many Crash fans off-guard. The bandicoot is not only quite intelligent in this show, but he's also much more competent and confident than in the games, to the point where he's essentially a super-hero (in fact, he literally says he has super powers at one point). He's not even remotely silly apart from a brief moment where he tiptoes behind a rock. This, again, comes in stark contrast to the character that we know so well. In most games, Crash rarely has the situation under control, and though he always beats the odds, a quick look at him will tell you he often feels like a fish out of water, whether it's because he doesn't know where he's at, or because he doesn't understand a lick of what other people are telling him.
Quirks like that can be good for a character, because they make us relate to them more in the long run. We all have times when we need to act out of our element and leave our comfort zone, so a character who has to go through the same is easier to sympathize for. Take away all of Crash's flaws and his zany personality and you're left with a very boring and generic character, something Skylanders Academy unintentionally illustrated to a T. I dare say that Crash in this show is a 180º turn from what we're used to. Thankfully, there is zero chance that this will make its way into the Crash franchise, and in the end, he was at least portrayed in a very positive light.
The Right Kind of Show
Now that we've established that Crash should stick to his personality from the games, this poses a new question for a hypothetical Crash Bandicoot cartoon: In a cast where pretty much everyone talks, would it be appropriate for Crash to be silent? This isn't a problem in the games because they're not too reliant on dialogue to begin with, and a talking Crash would add nothing to the overall experience there. On the other hand, I don't think it would be much of a problem on TV either.
There are many great cartoons with silent protagonists, like, say, Tom & Jerry for instance. The main issue with Crash is that most other characters actually do talk, but there are a few ways around this. The simplest solution is to feature other characters scarcely (which would be a waste in my opinion) and/or omit dialogue entirely. This format usually translates better into a series of short episodes focused around individual and simplistic plots. Just take a look at the silent intro in Crash of the Titans to get an idea of what I'm suggesting.
Another way to go around it is to only give Crash focus during simplistic plots or shorts, allowing the rest of the cast to shine in the limelight as much as he does, or perhaps even more. The villains in these games are so neat that I've always wanted to see what's beyond their limited roles as bosses. Their quirky designs and personalities suggest there is a lot of unused potential, and because each of these characters is so unique, their interactions with one another would certainly be very fun to watch.
When I think about this, I'm always reminded of that piece of concept art from Twinsanity where the baddies are playing poker against each other. I think it would be a lot of fun to see them in more mundane situations like this every so often, because "mundane" is something these characters are a far cry from, and that can be funny. Crash Nitro Kart already had shades of this, with Cortex and his cronies providing some enjoyable banter and a bit of insight to their everyday lives.
There's a ton of things you could do with these characters. Let's have Pinstripe interacting with his mafia and Dingodile dealing with kitchen mishaps. Make a short about Ripper Roo trying to keep his cool and what's left of his sanity. Show Komodo Moe messing up his brother's training. The possibilities are endless, and the more I think about them, the more I want a Crash Bandicoot cartoon to happen.
2D vs. 3D
3D animation was both expensive and very experimental until just a few years ago, and as a result, it would often look wonky. This was especially true when it was trying to be realistic, which I think is still a problem these days, albeit to a much lesser extent. Luckily, the designs for Crash characters are very cartoonish and exaggerated, and now that we've reached a point where 3D animation can rival and even surpass 2D animation in terms of motion and fluidity, a Crash Bandicoot cartoon could go either way.
This would obviously depend on the show's budget, but if Skylanders Academy looks pretty good for a kids' cartoon, I'm sure 3D animation would suit Crash just fine. After all, this has always been a 3D-looking franchise from the get-go, so it would make sense for the show to match the games' visuals. Heck, just make it look like the cutscenes in the N. Sane Trilogy and it'll be perfect!
But hey, 2D animation can be really great too. I'm sure a 2D animated Crash cartoon would be just as fun to watch if it had some classic squash and stretch animation (instead of the more restricted Flash look you often see on television these days). In the end, I think this all boils down to the budget and the studio choice rather than the stylistic choice between 2D and 3D. These days it's no longer a case of one thing being superior over the other, and it has more to do with the talent behind it all. Personally, I'm leaning more towards 3D thank to the franchise's history (and because the N. Sane Trilogy has given me that extra push with its gorgeous-looking cutscenes), but 2D wouldn't disappoint me if it was done right.
To Be Continued...
The potential for a Crash Bandicoot cartoon is tremendous, and it's something that, if done right, could really help strengthening the brand. If there ever was a perfect moment for this to happen (beyond Crash's conception anyway), it's definitely now while the series is being revived and trending all over the world. Crash's TV debut in Skylanders Academy is living proof that we're getting closer to seeing all these lovable characters starring in a show of their own. Hopefully this revival will do well enough to make this more than a pipe dream.
What do you think a Crash Bandicoot cartoon should be like? Share your opinion in the comments and let's hear some ideas!