Dan objects to just about everything in the world around him. That’s what makes him Dan, and what makes Dan Vs. one of the best TV cartoons on The Hub television network, the TV destination for kids and their families that is a joint venture of Discovery Communications and Hasbro, Inc.. Dan Vs. premiered on The Hub on January 1, 2011.
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In this animated series, Dan thinks the whole world is against him. Dan dreams up his wild plots to get even with whomever or whatever he thinks is out to get him, usually aided reluctantly by his best friend Chris. When the local fast food restaurant mistakenly puts cheese on his burger, he ends up chained to the register while the building is burning and a mob forms outside. When his computer blows up, his journey includes a back woods encounter and an ultimate battle with fembots.
Dan: Walking around in a black T-shirt that says “JERK,” Dan is abrasive and cynical. But his bad attitude stems from the multiple times he’s come up against the outside world and lost. Now he takes everything personally, looking for a way to teach everyone a lesson. Played by Curtis Armstrong (Risky Business, The Closer).
Chris: Chris is Dan’s shuffling, easy-going best friend. He tries to talk Dan into behaving reasonably, but winds up reluctantly assisting Dan in his crazy revenge schemes. Played by Dave Foley (Kids in the Hall, NewsRadio).
Elise: Elise is Chris’s wife, who is part friend and part mother to not only Dan, but also her own husband. In “Dan Vs. Technology,” we find out she’s secretly a top-secret spy of an unnamed agency. Played by Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds, Huff).
Don: Don is Elise’s formidable father. He deeply disapproves of Chris. He also owns a string of cupcake stores. Played by (Stunt casting alert!) Michael Gross (Family Ties).
Elise, Sr.: Elise, Sr. is Elise’s mother, who likes Chris a tad more than Don. It’s unclear whether she comes from a family involved in the Mafia. Played by (See above alert!) Meredith Baxter (Family Ties).
Dan Vs. was created by Dan Mandel and Chris Pearson, fresh out of school. Occasionally Dan lends his voice to characters in the show, like the Spy Boss.
Dan Vs. is a co-production of Starz Media’s powerhouse animation studio Film Roman and The Hatchery. Executive producers are Dan Angel (Goosebumps, The Hub’s R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour: The Series). Dan Vs. is also guided by Film Roman General Manager Dana Booton.
My Two Cents
Dan Vs. sucked me in right from the beginning of “Dan Vs. Burgerphile.” Dan and his best friend Chris are ordering at a fast food restaurant’s drive-thru. Dan repeatedly tells the disembodied voice issuing from the speaker that he Does. Not. Want. Cheese. On his burger. Though I could see it coming a block away, it was a satisfying moment when Dan’s burger came with cheese on it. The story unspooled from there, ending with Dan chained to the front counter, a mob forming outside the locked doors, the manager battling the franchise owner Captain-Kirk-Versus-The-Gorn-Style and everything on fire.
Dan Vs. is a cartoon everyone can relate to, because everyone has been thwarted by something uncontrollable, whether it’s technology, crappy dinner theater or institutions like banks. But Dan goes where we cannot, avenging himself on these things with poison meatloaf or baseball bats.
The dialogue is smart, almost turning into an existential discussion at times. The jokes are organic, meaning they stem directly from the story and the characters’ emotions, not from pop culture slams or cutaways.
What would make this show better, however, is faster pacing and smoother animation. While the dialogue is smart, a more machine gun rat-a-tat speed would make it snap, with more laughs and more room for other jokes. The animation is Flash, which can be tricky to translate to TV, and at times I felt like I could see the user at work on the software.