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'The Amazing World of Gumball' season premiere review: Wildly imaginative, with tantrums and giggles

There are few examples of mainstream children’s programming as wildly imaginative, as visually and narratively daring, as The Amazing World of Gumball, which began its second season on Tuesday evening.

Gumball Watterson, the clever, mischievous, if rather dense young cat, offered the hairy giant Hector some poor advice on how to be “less boring,” advice that consisted of making more demands upon his mother and generally raising a ruckus. And when you’re a creature the size of the Abominable Snowman, raising a ruckus really causes a big mess. The episode explored visually what goes on psychologically inside a kid’s head when he or she is frustrated, angry, and/or confused: Tantrums! Tears! Fury! Stomping the ground until the Earth rumbles with tremors!

Gumball, created by Ben Bocquelet and directed by Mic Graves, made an instant impression during its first season for its look: Set against live-action backgrounds, the characters represent an array of different creatures and shapes. Gumball’s sister is a very clever pink bunny; his adopted brother Darwin is a goldfish; his mom may be a hard-working cat (somewhat) like Gumball, and his dad is a plump stay-at-home rabbit. The animals and other characters, such as Penny, a peanut with antlers, a banana named Joe, and a piece of toast, Anton, are rendered in a highly stylized manner. Bocquelet has said that he gathered many of these characters from leftover creations from TV commercials he used to work on; his time- and genre-jumping storytelling is derived, he’s also  noted, from “an ’80s atmosphere” of pop culture, citing in particular the Gremlin and Back to the Future movies.

The result is a riot of animation looks and styles that could have clashed and come across as merely messy. Instead, The Amazing World of Gumball truly is amazing. The visuals may hook very young viewers, but the sophisticated composition of the characters and the show’s mastery of decades of pop fun (the show’s title logo throbs with the glow of an old Pac Man screen) appeals to older viewers as well. Gumball has already won a number of awards including the prestigious BAFTA, but all your kids need to know is that it’s fun and when it’s on.

Do you and/or your children watch Gumball?

Twitter: @kentucker

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