There is a Dumb and Dumber cartoon. It is insane and it demands your attention.
This may come as a shock if you weren’t watching animation on ABC in the mid-1990s. It was never exactly well-regarded, or even regarded at all. It was canceled after its first season, which ran from October of 1995 through February of 1996. Harry and Lloyd only managed to gallivant through 13 episodes before they were evicted from the screen until 2003’s ill-begotten prequel and, of course, Dumb and Dumber To. The characters, created by the Farrelly Brothers, have had quite a bizarre franchise history.
That said, the Farrelly Brothers were not directly involved with Dumb and Dumber the TV series. It was their co-writer on the original film, Bennett Yellin, who stepped in to write the television series. It was produced by Hanna-Barbera, their last project for ABC. This was an important moment for the storied animation studio, which would be entirely absorbed into Cartoon Network Studios in 2001. Later series like Johnny Bravo, Dexter’s Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls would become Cartoon Network productions by the end of their runs. Dumb and Dumber, for whatever it’s worth, is one of the last few projects that started and finished with a Hanna-Barbera stamp.
Was it a proud way to go out? It was certainly an interesting endeavor. Matt Frewer, now of Watchmen and Orphan Black fame, stepped into Jim Carrey’s shoes as Lloyd. Jeff Daniels was replaced by Bill Fagerbakke, perhaps best known as the voice of Patrick Star in Spongebob Squarepants. Their performances are essentially impressions of Carrey and Daniels in the movie, which becomes odd once you realize that they inhabited the roles for well over two hours more than the original. Television adaptations are always bizarre in this way, but it becomes particularly strange in broad comedy. After two decades, including all of the material, there are now over nine hours of Harry and Lloyd. How far can these characters actually hold up?
The creators of the television series tried solving this problem in a few ways. The most significant was the introduction of a new character. Her name is Kitty, and she is a large purple beaver. Harry and Lloyd think she’s a cat, and treat her as such. She is smarter than they are (obviously), but she also cannot speak. This dynamic, between idiotic blabber and silent wisdom, is hardly a new one for cartoons. Yet what makes this particular incarnation somewhat unique is its remarkable commitment to noise. Dumb and Dumber is a ridiculously brash piece of entertainment.
Everything about it is loud. The music is near-constant and almost always intensely annoying. This is complemented by other astonishing elements of the soundtrack, many of them having to do with Kitty. She’s not exactly mute, nor does she make noises like a real cat. Every time she opens her mouth is an excuse to insert a stock audio clip of some other animal or mechanical screech. The world of Dumb and Dumber always sounds as if it is bursting at the seams, about to explode into the sort of world-ending mass-hysteria most recently on display in Too Many Cooks.
The images follow suit. Everything is as bright and obnoxious as possible. The colors are aggressive, as are the characters. The villain of the first episode breaks through a telephone-call split-screen to shriek more directly into the ear of his henchman. Harry and Lloyd leap frog over each other with little respect for the laws of physics. Otto the dog car is just one of many overwhelmingly silly vehicles, gathered for a unique automobile competition. Surreal images abound, the first episode including a particularly dumb joke about “dog whistles” that ends in the screen filled with loud little canines. The plot is almost irrelevant.
This is a sometimes fascinating, sometimes horrifying peripheral cartoon that howls on the fringes of animation history like a confused idiot dog chasing its own tail. Watch it, it’s bonkers.