Two-D or not 2-D, that is the question.
Since the advent of Pixar and "Toy Story" in 1995, many fans of traditional cartoons have migrated to computer-generated fare. Some, however, remain faithful to old-fashioned two-dimensional cartoons, preferring their artistry and graphic power.
Chief among the practitioners of traditional cartooning has been Craig McCracken, maker of the Emmy-winning Cartoon Network series "The Powerpuff Girls" and "Fos ter's Home for Imaginary Friends." He also worked on the gorgeously produced series "Dexter's Labo ratory," created by Genndy Tartakovsky, also for Cartoon Network.
Making its debut is McCracken's latest creation, "Wander Over Yonder" (9 p.m., Disney, TV-Y7). It's in-
teresting that it appears on Disney. I've always considered most Cartoon Network fare to be a tad edgier than Disney and usually a knowing, retro send-up of mainstream kids' entertainment, not unlike the way old Warner Bros. and Looney Toons cartoons were aimed at theatergoers a little too hip (or was it "hep"?) for Uncle Walt's fairy tales.
Perhaps, with the rise of Cartoon Network programs such as "Adventure Time" and "Regular Show," with their accent on low-key absurdity and minimalist psychedelia, it's McCracken and his emphasis on powerful graphics that have become the throwback. As with Tartakovsky's work, watching a McCracken cartoon is a bit like getting a history lesson in commercial animation. Every time you look you can see a Warner Bros. reference here and a touch of Hanna-Barbera there. It's always a thoughtful eyeful.
"Wander" involves a simplistic hillbilly character, voiced by Jack McBrayer ("30 Rock"), who continually frustrates the evil schemes of powerful intergalactic dictator Lord Hater (Keith Ferguson). Not unlike Mojo Jojo of "Power puff" fame, Hater is self-absorbed, pretentious, verbose and absurd. He's first seen invading and destroying a pastel-colored planet of lovable little amorphous creatures, given to frequent hugs and kisses. As in "Powerpuff," this cartoon juxtaposes scenes of kindergarten innocence with images of unspeakable evil and malevolent mayhem. It's as if a horde of rapacious bikers savaged a "My Little Pony" universe. The results are always startling, strange, anarchic and amusing.
McBrayer's main character channels every foolhardy simpleton ever created. He's simply too naive or obtuse to see the evil around him, yet he frustrates it at every turn. Gorgeous to look at, "Wander" is loud and manic in the extreme. It seems, or rather sounds, very much like an early Saturday morning cartoon, something the kids might watch while the parents sleep in, preferably in a soundproof room.
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Kevin McDonough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.