ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.8 - NOVEMBER 2000
The Music, The Pageantry, The Fourth Grade
(continued from page 1)
Spot showing us that we can be who we want to be. © Disney. All rights reserved.
Working together with Baseman, their combined skills produce a show that avoids being flat or heavy educational fare with burdensome lessons presented in textbook manner. Rather, the Steinkellners produce characters that build stories which are engaging for adults and children alike. In the episode "Being Mrs. Leadready," Spot finds himself playing the role of dog, mother and son. The over-achieving dog isnt able to keep up the farce, but from the beginning we get a clear sense that his time is not wasted. Its a pleasure to see Spots attempts to pull off his deception and the simple lessons that come forth when he realizes and considers the impact of his actions. Spots determination and intensity is always counterbalanced and tempered by a genuine caring for his master, Leonard, and his ability to recognize his own dynamics within a group. Spots horrible tummy ache resulting from eating too many liver wraps and the sincere regret he exhibits for overextending his ruse is sufficient enough to teach us all a good lesson.
If the Cat Could Only Talk...Uh, and the Canary Too
So, what else can you add to an already exceptional educational and informational program created and produced by the likes of Baseman and the Steinkellners? How about the voice talents of Tony Award-winner Nathane Lane as the rambunctious four-legged scholar; Shaun Fleming (Once Upon A Christmas) as Leonard; Debra Jo Rupp (That 70s Show) as Leonards mother and fourth grade teacher Mrs. Helperman; Jerry Stiller (Seinfeld) as the voice of the napoleonic family bird, Pretty Boy; David Ogden Stiers (M.A.S.H) as the Helpermans plump, neurotic cat, Mr. Jolly; Rob Paulsen (Pinky and the Brain) who supplies the voice of know-it-all classmate Ian Wazselewski; and Wallace Shawn (Toy Story and Toy Story 2) portraying the cat-loving, overlord Principal Strickler? Together, the characters that populate the show create a diverse group of dynamic personalities. Mr. Jolly, the cat, and Pretty Boy, the canary, along with the rest of the pack, make a spirited addition to the central story line. Often cranky and overly opinionated, Pretty Boys call-it-like-I-see-it mentality consistently clashes with Mr. Jollys far more gentle and careful sensibilities.
The model pupil, Scott outshines the other students in the classroom. © Disney. All rights reserved.
"Pet Project," yet another clever installment of the Teachers Pet series, has Leonard and Spot vying to win a writing competition. Each needs to decide which pet will serve as their muse in forming pages of flowing prose. The competition is brought to an unexpected turn when the pets are invited to the classroom to serve as visual accompaniment to the written works. The press will be there, prizes are to be awarded and the pressure is on. Pretty Boy and Mr. Jolly after all their squawking back and forth prove that they are equally good at being friends as they are at being rivals. Pretty Boy steps up to protect Mr. Jolly when Ian Wazselewskis snake tries to intimidate him. The snakes simple rebuttle is to chomp Pretty Boy up in one gulp. Mr. Jolly is quick to recover and rises faithfully to the occasion, jumping onto the surly serpent causing him to belch up Pretty Boy. In the end, the two friends decide that they belong at home, and not at school. Unlike their friend Spot, the two find their hoots and hollers in the safety of the Helperman home. In addition to the trials of Spot and Leonard, the other members of the household learn equally valuable lessons about themselves along the way.
One More Thing
As difficult as it is for me to admit -- I catch myself singing the theme song for this show a lot -- borderline annoying, but catchy nonetheless. Teachers Pet airs on ABC Saturday mornings. Times are available at www.disney.com/teacherspet.
Joan Kim received her B.A. in English Literature from UCLA and currently is the editorial administrator for Animation World Network. Previously as a graphics consultant she produced several company reports and manuals and continues to pursue an education in computer graphics.
1 | 2