South Coast Today - January 21, 2005

Tune In Tonight

Odd mix of influences fill 'American Dragon'

      Connoisseurs of odd cartoons should not miss "American Dragon: Jake Long" (8 p.m., Disney), an amusing amalgam of a million cartoon clichés, martial arts gibberish and hip-hop slang. The makers of "Dragon" clearly enjoy mixing and matching pop-cultural eras and references.
      Jake is a teen with a secret identity. He'd like to skateboard and chat in 10-year-old hip-hop patois with his 'tween pals, but his Yoda-like grandfather keeps calling him away for instruction. Apparently, Jake is a dragon, or rather half a dragon. His mother descends from a long line of Chinese dragons entrusted with protecting the order of an invisible, mythical universe of unicorns, fairies and elves. But she went and married a mortal, the goofiest TV dad since Darrin Stevens of "Bewitched."
      For reasons known only to the cartoon gods, Jake's grandfather also has a sidekick assistant -- a 600-year-old canine named Fu Dog who has chosen to talk in the gruff manner of a cabdriver from a 1950s movie. An inveterate gambler, Fu Dog places bets with his bookie every time Jake gets into a fight with a rival dragon or other mystical entity.
      For all the multicultural urban hipness on display, the animation style of "Dragon" is a throwback to the 1960s, and the theme song would not be out of place on "Josie and the Pussycats." On the plus side, any cartoon that splices so many influences into its mix is worth watching at least once. Then again, any cartoon in which a character says "my bad" and "aiight" more than once can also prove grating.

Kevin McDonough can be reached at

This story appeared on Page B5 of The Standard-Times on January 21, 2005.

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