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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

“The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy” – Remembering Cartoon Network’s Gateway Horror Show

For this month’s installment of “TV Terrors” we revisit the animated series “The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy,” which aired from 2001 through 2007 on Cartoon Network.

Billy, Mandy, and Grim were first introduced in Maxwell Atoms’ “Grim & Evil,” a series where they shared the bill with “Evil Con Carne.” The latter followed the adventures of Hector Con Carne, a wealthy playboy whose body is destroyed in a tremendous explosion. His only surviving organs are his brain and stomach, which have been placed in jars and attached to a circus bear named Boskov. He’s aided by the evil henchman Skarr.

“Grim & Evil” only lasted 30 episodes, but the titular pint-sized hell-raisers went on to star in their own successful spin-off: “The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy.” The series stars a (somewhat) moronic young boy named Billy (Peter Horvitz) and his devious megalomaniacal friend Mandy (the legendary Grey Delisle). They meet the mythical Grim Reaper (Greg Eagles), who is assigned to collect the soul of Billy and Mandy’s dying hamster. However, Billy and Mandy aren’t prepared to let their favorite pet go just yet and challenge the Reaper to a wager.

If the children win a limbo contest, Grim will be required to become their slave for all eternity. If they lose, the Reaper gets to take the hamster as well as the kids. The children cheat and Grim is tasked with becoming their eternal servant and new best friend. Grim’s presence, along with his magic scythe, allows the demented pair of kids to go on some truly horrific misadventures, where they confront all sorts of gruesome monsters, hideous ghouls, weird demons, and ugly underlings. Most of them desire Grim’s scythe, which holds massive power.

Among some of the best episodes, there’s Season 2’s “Brown Evil,” in which Billy and Mandy do battle with a horde of the walking dead (thanks to a batch of bad brownies that Grim makes). They have to fight alongside a cleft-jawed, egomaniacal, horror hero named Hoss Delgado. The only problem is that he’s dead set on killing Grim. Season 5’s “Pandora’s Lunch Box” is a biting spoof of “Dora the Explorer” as a new girl in school named Dora (with a familiar hairstyle) meets Billy and Mandy, the latter of whom she becomes instant friends with. What Mandy doesn’t know is that Dora is actually Pandora, and the mysterious lunchbox she carries around houses evil demons that she tricks Mandy into unleashing.

There’s also “The Crawling Niceness,” a particularly twisted tale that finds Billy accidentally fathering a giant spider named Jeff. Billy is terrified of spiders, ironically, and the eight-legged Jeff will do anything to gain his dad’s acceptance.

Outside the normal episodes, “Billy & Mandy” was never afraid to get epic, featuring a slew of multi-part episodes, excellent serialized shorts, and even hour-long specials. In “Billy and Mandy Save Christmas,” Billy and Mandy learn that Santa Claus (voiced by the late Gilbert Gottfried) is, in fact, a blood sucking vampire who was spawned by his wife Mrs. Claus, an omnipotent and very powerful head vampire. There were also three great Halloween specials. In “Billy and Mandy’s Jacked Up Halloween,” they battle an undead prankster named Jack who rises from the grave and plans to steal Grim’s scythe to help him rule the world. The feature “Big Boogey Adventure” finds Billy, Mandy, Grim and Irwin in the underworld when Grim’s powers are stripped. They race against the Boogey Man and a crew of monster pirates that plan to capture a powerful artifact capable of making whoever wields it into the scariest being alive.

Finally, the series finale (meant to be a spin off) “Underfist: Halloween Bash” centers on the show’s more popular supporting characters Irwin, Hoss, “Evil Con Carne’s” Skarr, and Jeff the Spider on an adventure of their own (with Billy, Mandy, and Grim slowly phased out).

A wacky and hilarious twist on horror/fantasy, the series often broke the fourth wall, crossed over with various other cartoons, and even paid homage to quite a number of films, TV series and directors. This included H.P. Lovecraft, Ratfink, Dragon Ball Z, Harry Potter, The Evil Dead, The Flintstones, and John Carpenter, just to name a few.

The show was great at creating some memorable characters and twisted villains including the aforementioned Hoss Delgado, a mix of Ash Williams and Snake Plissken who packed a nigh endless armory of prosthetic weapons. There was the moronic demon Fred Fredburger, the often devious villain Nergal, and unique twists on classic Universal monsters including Dracula (hilariously modeled after Blacula and Redd Foxx). Creator Maxwell Atoms was able to get as wild as he wanted with the series, often opting for suggestive gags, and was also never afraid to reference shows from other networks. In “My Fair Mandy,” Mandy’s happiness creates a rift in their dimension, and the trio of title characters somehow awakens as The Powerpuff Girls in their reality.

Through the series’ entire run, Atoms always kept every episode fast paced and filled with laugh out loud dark humor that embraced the horror genre and created a very memorable, often hysterical amalgam for audiences of all ages. He also even included cryptic messages at the end of every show, an interesting precursor to Disney’s “Gravity Falls.” The series drew to an unofficial close in 2007 when Maxwell Atoms moved to Disney for the animated comedy “Fish Hooks.”

If you’ve never seen “The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy,” it really deserves to be discovered and re-visited. Its humor has aged beautifully, and it’s especially valuable if you’re anxious to find gateway horror for the young ones. It was the last great show from the “Cartoon Cartoons” era.

Is It On DVD/Blu-ray/Streaming? All seven seasons of the series are currently streaming complete and uncut on HBO Max, as well as Amazon Prime Video.

The post “The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy” – Remembering Cartoon Network’s Gateway Horror Show appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!

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