Sealab 2021 (1999)
By: David Michael Brown on October 11, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Madman Entertainment (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 187 minutes
The Movie
Director: Adam Reed, Matt Thompson
Voices: Erik Estrada, Harry Goz, Kate Miller, Bill Lobey
Screenplay: Adam Reed, Matt Thompson
Music: Julie Stepanek, Calamine
Country: USA
Sealab 2020 was originally made by Alex Toth and Iwao Takamoto in the early Seventies. Back in a time when kids would watch shows like The Banana Splits which included cartoons like the Arabian Knights. Simply animated cartoons full of action and excitement were your average kids daily intake of fun. Speed forward to 1999 and Matt Thompson and Adam Reed have taken this cartoon and reinvented it as Sealab 2021. According to the DVD intro they stole the master tapes when they were fired from the Cartoon Network in 1985. They took this naïve, simple cartoon and turned it in to a deranged series of adult cartoons full of foul mouthed charcters by simply re-editing and redubbing the original, adding a little bit of newly animated fun here and there.

Skipper Murphy plays like a deranged version of Leslie Neilson's doctor in Flying High. In the first episode where the majority of the crew of Sealab inanely discuss what it would be like if their heads were put onto a robot body while the underwater base begins to sink. The skipper has some marvellous dialogue involving his desire to be an Adrienne Barbeaubot with laser beam eyes and chain saw hands. One hopes that the star of Creepshow and The Fog has seen this particular episode and was suitably impressed.

He isn't the only bizarre character on board; Erik Estrada voices the Hispanic Marco Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar Gabriel Garcia Marquez as a Seventies gigolo. We also get Derek "Stormy" Waters: the cyborg who built a "superfly cybermatic host body for my brain." This is irreverent fun, in one episode we see the animated actors behind the characters and in another the camera pulls back during a fight scene between Erik and Feng Shi designer Master Loo to reveal studio mates Master Shake and Meatwad from Aqua Team Hunger Force playing the Sealab show game on a beaten up old Atari video game.

With a selection of storylines ranging from the crew becoming addicted to stimulants, hunting for a missing Happycake Oven, fighting killer aliens and a potential outbreak of the bubonic plague there is plenty to enjoy. The most entertaining thing about this entire enterprise, however, is the shear gall that the makers of Sealab 2021 display is taking someone else's work and altering it for their own gain. Director's like Woody Allen and the Mystery Science Fiction Theatre team have taken old movies and reinvented them as comedies but as far as I know this is the first time an entire animated series has recreated into a different genre. One wonders with interest which animated classic that Matt Thompson and Adam Reed will desecrate next.
The image does what it has to do. It's colourful and clear with the occasional damage where the original Sealab 2020 masters were not in great condition.
The opening song is punchy and dynamic without really testing. The stereo mix is fine but doesn't do much to impress but this is a Seventies era TV cartoon so the expectations were not too high.
Extra Features
As always with their Adult Swim DVD sets Madman deliver the goods. Pitch Pilot is the team's first effort at butchering, sorry re-inventing, an old episode of Sealab 2020 and gives a nice incite into how their idea has developed. We then get some alternate endings for the I' Robot episode, uncensored scenes from Radio Free Sealab and deleted scenes from Little Orphan Angry.
The Verdict
Great fun, especially if your childhood harks back to the golden age of cartoon action when hand drawn animation was the only way to travel to exciting new worlds. There is something quite surreal about watching these vintage 2D heroes happily chatting about sex and drugs whilst swearing like troupers and acting like lunatics. What the original makers of Sealab 2020 would think of this, lord only knows!
Movie Score
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