Joint Venture 104: The Venture Bros. from the Very Beginning

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Here at Techland, only one television program manages to tie into so many of our geeky obsessions all at once. Superheroes, mythical creatures, action figures and barely believeable sci-fi all flop onto each other on the glorious cavalcade that is The Venture Bros. Cartoon Network’s just started airing the series from the start and Techland’s Hive Mind is taking the occasion to re-watch the exploits of Hank, Dean, Brock and Dr. Thaddeus Venture. Join us as we witness how Venture Bros. evolved over its four stellar seasons.

[Programmming note: Anyone who’s been actually watching the Venture Bros. re-runs has noticed by now that they’re not showing the series in order. Rather than jump around the continuity, the Joint Venture feature’s going to keep going on in series order. This is because we love you, dear reader.]

This week, Michelle Castillo, Graeme McMillan and Evan Narcisse talk about Season 1/Episode 4: “The Incredible Mr. Brisby.”

EVAN: This is the episode where I finally got how far-reaching the scope of Venture Bros. was going to be. I mean, it’s a long way to go from boys’ action series to Walt Disney, but clearly the producers traveled the distance because they saw gold in them thar hills.

I love that the core conceit of this episode is the family trip to Disneyland. It’s about as close as America’s got to a universal cultural pilgrimage (secularly speaking, anyway) so it’s ripe for satire. Walt Disney as an evil genius beset by a rebel group sick of how his attraction’s come to dominate their lives.

MICHELLE: I love the line, “Well I was going to let you go on the runaway shoe ride after my meeting, but you two just sassed yourselves back on the X1.” It reminds me so much of parents at Disneyland and how they can get their kids to behave just with a simple threat like that. It’s very interesting this strange hold Disney can have on youth culture, so much so that families are forced to spend all their vacation money going to a temple of corporate culture in order to appease their kids.

EVAN: If Venture Bros. is all about commenting on stuff nerds of a certain age grew up with, then this episode reckons with a particular tension. Kids love cartoons. I’d wager that I watched just about anything animated when I was growing up. But, even as an adolescent, I wanted more bite from the cartoons that aired during the “Wonderful World of Disney” programming block that would air from time to time. I only grew to have a wider appreciation of the Disney empire (coupled with a bit of revulsion at its cultural hegemony) when I was older. A lot of the times when, say, “The Jungle Book” came on during a Saturday afternoon, I’d’ve much preferred a “G.I. Joe” repeat. So what I love about “The Incredible Mr. Brisby” is how it taps into that desire, to have all that awesome Disney power coupled with a cutting edge.

While “The Incredible Mr. Brisby” is lighter on action, it’s pretty heavy on the subtext. Roy Brisby’s BrisbyLife/beehive living rant at 11:30 clearly aims at the real-world town of Celebration, FL and the anti-Disney sentiment voiced by the OCLF guru also has some basis in the real world, too. After seeing the BrisbyDome, I can never look at the octagonal panel of the Epcot Center’s geodesic dome the same way ever again.

MICHELLE: The references to how Disneyland took over Orange County and is taking over the world hits a little close to home. Everyone who works in the area is pretty much employed by the company, because it is one of the only businesses in the area.

EVAN: This first appearance of Molotov Cocktease elaborates on the idea that Brock’s a guy for whom the boundary between sex and violence is hilariously blurred. Brock, too, is emblematic of a certain male archetype–the mullet, the guyabera, the muscle car–and it makes a weird kind of sense that Molotov tried to kill him at a Lazer Zeppelin show.

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