Smart and Dumb: Nerds and Monsters

Wouldn’t it be nice to be trapped on a desert island with your best friend and your crush? Would it be great if you could satiate all of your nerdly needs by exploring and researching the island? Why don’t we throw in a couple human eating monsters, just to keep your life interesting, like on Nerds and Monsters.

Show Specs
Target demographic: 6-12
Length: 11-minute segments
Genre: Comedy
Style: 2D animated
Production Company: Slap Happy Cartoons Inc. (founded by the creators of this show!)
Networks: YTV
First aired: March 2014
Seasons: One currently out, just greenlit for a second.
Created by: Josh Mepham, Kathy A. Rocchio, Greg Sullivan and Vito Viscomi

On September 15, 9 Story Entertainment announced their broadcast deals for Nerds and Monsters. (Here is the press release via Canadian Animation Resources.)

  • TVE (Spain)
  • Canal+ Family (France and Africa)
  • E-Junior (UAE)
  • Noga (Israel)
  • MBC Kids (Middle East)

The premise: Three nerds and a jock become stranded on a monster-ridden island. The humans use their brains (and the jock’s brawn) to outsmart the relentless monsters each day.

The Humans: three super nerds and a misplaced jock.

Nerds-and-Monsters-postDudley (voiced by Tabitha St. Germain) – The OCD, egotistical, self-proclaimed leader with a short man complex.

Irwin (voiced by Vincent Tong who also voices the main character, Dan from Packages from Planet X, check out my previous blog post) – He is an allergy-ridden perv who tries to woo Becky.

Becky (voiced by Tabitha St. Germain) – She is always looking to collect new data on the island. She is also the only girl on the island and Irwin’s crush.

Stan (voiced by Ty Olsson- also played Troll in Packages from Planet X) – A dumb football player with unlimited enthusiasm. (My favourite kind of combo.)

Some of the monsters:

Zarg (voiced by Brian Dobson) – The chief of the monsters who wants to either eat or overthrow the humans on his island.

Lyle (voiced by Brian Drummond) – The only nerdy monster of the group. He tries to learn “how to human” but only makes matters worse for the nerds and Stan.

Vink (voiced by Michael Daingerfield) – A giant pink child-like monster who thinks with his stomach. There are many adventures to be had with his digestive tract alone.

What I like about this show:

  • The theme song explains premise
  • Love the poop/fart humour
  • The difference in what the nerds and monsters find normal is hilarious. What is disgusting to the monsters is perfectly healthy food for the humans.

Stan the jock and Vink the dumbest monster are my favourite. They both live such blissfully ignorant lives. They are so enthusiastic, love to eat and love to play. Both eager to go along with anything they are instructed to do.

A monster trying to become human is a beautiful tale! *Sniff* Will Lyle ever be as nerdy as the humans? Will he ever understand why humans do all those weird things like tickling, swimming and what the heck is ‘writing’? I’m excited to see how this will develop in Season 2!


Mission Blue – A Netflix Original Documentary

Misson Blue (directed by Robert NixonFisher Stevensis a gorgeously put together and orchestrated Netflix Original Documentary. Our main subject is Sylvia Earl, a most inspired and unforgettable marine biologist. Sylvia serves as our through line during this film. Her life and experiences as the world’s most accomplished female marine biologist holds our hand as we discover the voice behind the stunning visuals.

First and foremost, the cinematography in Mission Blue is just spectacular. It was so exhilarating to see a documentary that showed me the obvious beauty of the oceans we all have viewed in such heavy-hitters as the Planet Earth series, but also juxtapose the darker side to what’s beneath the big blue. Once again – and more commonly I am seeing now – the use of either found footage, or a mix of found and re-enacted film enhanced the overall experience I had viewing this film. These segments were used to illustrate the life of Sylvia as we accompany her memories and musings about her research and exploration of the world’s water.

In the typical rhythm of the environmental documentary, this film scared the crap out of me. Putting into perspective the true situation us humanoids have gotten ourselves into, which is a great big ugly mess. Part of the way through this film I just felt flat out worried. It was a big relief to say the least that the filmmakers and Sylvia had already put into action a plan to help contain parts of the ocean for absolute protection. Although it’s incredibly saddening that this even has to be fought for, it is important to note the documentary also included a partial answer to the inevitable audience questions of: “Well, what can I do to help?”

This was a very different way to frame the ocean. Taking on the timeline of this much respected  and adored ocean explorer through her life and marking the different missions she had taken on was a brilliant way to structure the film. As we learned of Sylvia’s journey, we would get to see the comparison of what she spoke of in her memory and what that place was like now in current day. Devastating doesn’t really begin to explain the situation the oceans are in. The pollution issues, off-shore drilling for oil (which has grown at an alarming rate) and gross over-fishing of our oceans have become our very sobering reality. I hope to get more involved with the Mission Blue movement and I encourage everyone to seek out this amazing initiative online.

I didn’t stop to think, “hmm, should I change to another film?”, once while watching this. I am very pleased and impressed with this film’s technical presentation as well as the content-driven theme and overall togetherness. I would recommend that every single human watch this film, and that they get real about our planet.

Much appreciation and love goes out to Sylvia for her work and ongoing fight for a better planet!


Celebrating Differences: Using Diversity in Your Writing

Let’s talk about people who are different from each other, how that’s a good thing and how this will make your writing even better.

Do you specify what gender your character is? Do you specify if a character is gay? What race they are? Does your character has mental health issues? Are they disabled? All these factors make diverse characters and affect how they have been treated and treat others.

Diversity gives you a wealth to draw from. Even how they feel about their race is important. Does he have white guilt? Is she proud of her cultural heritage or ashamed that her parents don’t speak English? Is he worried that his house always smells like curry? When did she come out? How were they treated in high school? What did they get from Christmas? All of these factors depend on the world that you are putting them in but can create a whole ball of conflict for you to roll around and see what it picks up (sorry for the Katamari reference).

I think that the idea of writing colour blind and our cultural obsession of eliminating racism through painting everyone the same only white washes (completely intended) what could be something beautiful. What makes us different is what makes us interesting. Celebrate those differences and use them in your writing. What makes your characters the most interesting are the differences between them.

Now something to take into consideration is the fact that, like it or not, being white has informed who I am, just like it informs your character. And yes, it is a choice. Writing colour blind will make your work feel just as bland as it sounds. Being of colour, a different sexual orientation, religious belief, or economic level make for interesting characters.

And if you don’t feel comfortable writing for a black or brown or gay or epileptic character, that’s fine. It would make sense that you don’t. But talk to somebody who is. Talk to them about their experiences, if they have experienced any racism or homophobia or general ignorance. What do they wish people knew about them. How do they want to be treated. Just because you are white doesn’t mean you can only write white characters. That would just make you a terrible writer. Just make sure you do your research and make your characters true.

Let’s look at an example like How to Train Your Dragon. At the end of the first movie, Hiccup loses his leg but it’s meaningful because he know understands what his dragon is going through. They complete each other. I was a little disappointed in the second movie  since he just used a replacement leg and it no longer mattered. Sure Toothless needed somebody to fly him but Hiccup’s identity was not significantly effected by being disabled. I know it’s a kids movie so I shouldn’t expect a deep psychological portrait, but I feel like it should have been an issue that was dealt with in a more meaningful way. Diversity opportunity lost.

A flaming sword doesn't make up for missing a leg.
A flaming sword doesn’t make up for missing a leg.

Karen King spoke to my class about diversity and the biggest takeaway for me was that diversity isn’t just about the big issues that we all talk about. We have all had different experiences that have made us who we are and effect how we interact with the world. Look at your inner knowledge and see what you can use. So maybe you aren’t a black, Jewish lesbian who grew up poor. But maybe you know what it’s like to have a gay brother. Maybe your best friend in school was First Nations. Maybe your grandfather had two wives. Maybe your sister is an alcoholic. Maybe your father struggles with depression. Use your unique experiences.

When you are writing, use diversity to your advantage.