DVD Review: Beetlejuice (The Complete Series)

There comes a time in a college student’s life when they give up watching Saturday morning kid shows. This usually happens when they repeatedly stumble into the dorm room as the cartoons start. They need to recover from Friday night’s adventure. Annoying voices and chipper music will not let the brain slide away. But before entering this stage of life, there’s always that last cartoon that they don’t mind watching half awake. In my case, it was Beetlejuice. The fascination began simply because the Tim Burton film seemed an odd jumping off point for a kiddie show. How do you turn a movie about a perverted undead ghoul and a suicidal goth teen into an animated confection that mixes with Cap’n Crunch? Could it really keep me awake at 10:30 a.m.? Beetlejuice: The Complete Series brings back hazy memories at a more vivid hour.

The big change between Beetlejuice the movie and the series is ignoring that whole death business. There’s no talk about the afterlife or how the civil servants are suicide victims. Instead that other side of life is called Neitherworld. Lydia Deetz (voiced by Alyson Court) is not the depressed character portrayed by Winona Ryder. She’s annoyed by her real life and comes to life on the other side of reality. She has an red spiderweb dress and Pebbles Flintstone hairdo when she visits Beetlejuice (voiced by Slings and Arrows‘ ghostly Stephen Ouimette). This is completely where the cartoon takes the characters into its own dimension. No longer is Beetlejuice a creep with an out of control libido. He’s now a safe character for a high school girl to befriend. It’s truly an alternate universe as he becomes more naive than nefarious. He’s more man-child than creepy old man around Lydia. While this should sound shocking, somehow the animated version doesn’t feel like a complete cop out. They’ve tenderized so much about his life so it doesn’t seem unnatural. He now has regular neighbors that are a little less shocking than the mutilated people in the cinematic afterlife. Jacques LaLean is a French skeleton that’s addicted to working out. Ginger is a tap dancing spider who can’t quite master her steps. The Monster Across the Street is a giant hairy beast from Texas. He takes care of his dog Poopsie. Beetlejuice lives to annoy all of them. But since this is a kid’s cartoon, the ghoul learns that his bad boy behavior is not acceptable.

Lydia has her own pack of friends in the human world. Her parents are back and as clueless as ever. Neither of them know about Beetlejuice being a ghost. They don’t even recognize the pale blonde with bad dental when he arrives at their door disguised as a plumber, a girl scout and other occupations. Lydia also has school friends this time around. Bertha and Prudence are there to help and not overshadow Lydia. Neither of them are a threat to steal her goth girl thunder. Claire Brewster is Lydia’s big rival. She’s the perfect preppy girl who runs the school. Lydia does her best to keep Claire from taking over the world with her entitled attitude. Beetlejuice doesn’t like her either. This leads to several episodes where Beetlejuice uses his spooky tricks with the girls. “Stage Fright” has a school play get altered when Claire beats out Lydia for Juliet. Beetlejuice has script adjustments. “Campfire Ghouls” has Beetlejuice dress up as a girl and take Lydia and her friends on an outing to the Neitherworld.

Beetlejuice had a long run for a Saturday morning cartoon. The show lasted three seasons. What’s rather amazing is during its third season, the series was picked up for the debut season of Fox Kids. This was the after school slot from Monday to Friday. Nearly 2/3rds of the episodes on Beetlejuice: The Complete Series is from the Fox Kids season that happened concurrently with the third season on ABC’s Saturday morning line up. The boxset has it listed as Season Four. It’s a shame there’s no bonus feature to let the creative team explain this massive order. How did they go from 25 episodes in the first two years to cranking out 69 episodes in the last year. This huge order didn’t mess up the show’s quality. You can’t tell the difference between the Saturday morning and after school episodes. There’s no letdown in the afterlife. Beetlejuice: The Complete Series remains a goofy view of a spirit who couldn’t be exorcized, but could be toned down to be safe for small kids. This truly deserved to be the last Saturday morning TV show that kept me partially awake.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer look fine for a show that appears to have been finished on standard video. The CGI moments do look good. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels bounce when they use Danny Elfman’s musical cues.

There are no bonus features.

Beetlejuice: The Complete Series is a case of a movie toned down properly. The animated version won’t shock kids, but won’t completely turn off adult fans who want their kids to enjoy the characters. The show maintains its ghostly charms after all these years. For those not wanting the entire series, Shout! Factory is offering a 2 disc set of Beetlejuice: Season One.

Shout! Factory presents Beetlejuice: The Complete Series. Starring: Stephen Ouimette, Alyson Court, Elizabeth Hanna and Roger Dunn. Boxset Contents: 94 Episodes on 12 DVDs. Released: May 28, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

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