Monsters Sing Melodies at 'Honkbarn'

By 12/12/2008
Monsters Sing Melodies at 'Honkbarn'

In the long, grand tradition of Oompa Loompas and FragglesHonkbarn’s “idiots” are half-familiar, half-alien creatures that seem to be best able to express themselves through dancing, singing, and hitting each other.

As animated by Todd Ramsay – perhaps best known for his work on the latest TV version of George of the Jungle, which is drawn in the same bold, simple-moving Ren and Stimpy-esque style – Honkbarn’s five very short episodes consist of strange songs created by musician Dave Girtsman of indie band Blimp, visually represented by the idiots who sing and play them.

For instance, in the first and shortest episode (none of them are given names), an obese, green, amoeba-like monster plucks the banjo and intermittently shouts a troglodytic “a-bu!” while his thinner, larger-mouthed neighbor bounces up and down on a horn yelling “heh!” until Mr. Green jumps on the latter, bringing the piece to a climactic blat.

The episodes increase in complexity until combinations of sounds and monsters manufacture a sort of symphonic majesty. Episode two is much more melodic, evoking doo-wop with its chorus of rolling, roundish thingamabobs.

One recalls Nickelodeon’s fun and innovative monster barbershop quartet spots, a link strengthened by Honkbarn episode three, a jazzy romp that brings together several of Ramsay’s fanged beasts. Visually things get messier this time in stark contrast to the lighthearted tune (“bom-be-DA, bom-bom-be-DA” to slinky cymbal-sounding “ch”s), though it does make good on the literal connotations of scat.

Episode four is a little more friendly, with a batch of aquatic idiots teaming up for an under the sea jam featuring jellyfish, squids, slugs, and coral, although toward the conclusion several of them scare each other off screen (the idiot voices are provided by Ramsay and Kai and Johnny Darrell).

And Episode five is the first of the episodes to introduce a recognizable English phrase for lyrics (“Whatcha talk about?”, spelled “Whud cha tak a boud” on the screen at one point) and a more abstract, scribbling animated background.

While it doesn’t seem as if Ramsay and Girstman are interested in taking their project to another level (in other words, don’t expect any surprises coming from episode six), they’re certainly working variations on a theme and multiplying the musical and cartoon possibilities (see the “meet” section of the Honkbarn website, which contains profiles of all of Ramsay’s creations) as much as their carved niche will allow them.

Honkbarn’s major ancillary interactive link is to its merchandise site where characters from the art become buyable commodities in the form of t-shirts and backpacks. If he expands on his universe even more and produce full-fledged story vehicles for Honkbarn, Ramsay might be able to branch out to action figures.

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