In true “Itchy and Scratchy” fashion, “Happy Tree Friends,
Volume 1: First Blood” has brought the gruesome hack and slash
cartoon to the forefront. While trying to deliver humor through
violence alone, this oddball animation disappoints far more than it
satisfies.

Todd Weiser

In short, “Happy Tree Friends” features a group of cute, cuddly
animals, consisting of brightly animated squirrels, bears, moose,
beavers, and the like, that all get horribly and viciously
mutilated, electrocuted, decapitated, torched, impaled,
dismembered, sliced, diced or otherwise destroyed in each of the 14
episodes.

Though it may elicit laughs through shock value alone, the DVD
is nothing more than a web site on disc. This type of gross-out
humor has already been explored and exploited with Internet sites
such as joecartoon.com, which feature short animations of bizarre
and over-the-top violence.

While some of the episodes, such as “Treasure These Idol
Moments,” seem more thoroughly conceived and better thought out,
most end up feeling like nothing more than cop-out methods to
destroy these little creatures in the most unusual and gruesome
ways possible. It may be amusing once or twice, but it quickly runs
its course.

The extra features included on the disc are unimpressive. Aside
from the standard creator’s commentary and voiced-over sketchbooks,
there are four interactive “Smoochies,” fuzzy critters that you’re
allowed to destroy and dismember through three different and unique
means. While admittedly funnier and more clever than most of the
standard episodes, in the end, the “Smoochies” wind up following
the same formula as the infamous “Hamster in a Microwave” and “Frog
in a Blender” stints of joecartoon.com. The sketchbook commentary
provides a few laughs as the creators mock each other and laugh
over sketches of the early, conceptual Tree Friends, but there’s
nothing too spectacular about it.

The other features, including the original “Happy Tree Friends”
cartoon, “Banjo Frenzy,” as well as playing card style biographies
on each of the Tree Friends and pop-up video like commentary over
each of the episodes, are hardly worth mentioning.

Fans that have followed “Happy Tree Friends” across the Internet
and through the Spike and Mike Twisted Animation Festival may get a
kick out of the DVD and the fact that they won’t have to wait for
the cartoons to buffer because of slow bandwidth; others will find
the humor and the originality lacking.

Show: 1 1/2 stars

Picture/Sound: 3 stars

Features: 2 stars

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