Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Stop-Motion

MORAL OREL was a stop-motion animated 15 minute show that aired on the Cartoon Network during their "Adult Swim" blocks. If you happened on an episode of the first two seasons, you'd think it was just a parody of the old "Davey and Goliath" Christian claymation show which taught Christian morals with each episode. And certainly, MORAL OREL takes a lot of its initial cues from D&G. The titular Orel being a young, devout Christian boy looking for answers to his questions about life in the town of Moralton.

But something happened in the third and final season. A season that aired in 2008 but I've only just discovered.

The show went from being a dark comedy to being... STAGGERINGLY DARK.

I know that most of you won't actually seek this out so here's the plot of one of the Season 3 shows...

A description of "Passing", Episode 8 of 13, from Wiki:
This episode... is a flashback which explores [Orel's father] Clay's relationship with his mother and father. The episode begins with Clay giving Orel "Ol' Gunny" before flashing back to Clay as a child.

It is revealed that when Clay was around Orel's age, his mother doted on him endlessly, much to the chagrin of his uninterested father. Clay's father seems completely unaffected by the religious extremism of his wife and the other people of Moralton, often expressing doubts and taking the name of God in vain (at one point even claiming "there are no miracles").

While looking through old photo albums with his mother, Clay discovers pictures of his mother, presumably pregnant with him. It is revealed that Mrs. Puppington actually miscarried ten times before successfully bearing Clay and it is hinted this is due to her smoking, drinking, and engaging in strenuous activities such as jumping on a trampoline or riding roller-coasters during her other pregnancies; she says she was too busy praying while pregnant with Clay to do any of these things.

After being devastated by the news that he is not indeed his mother's "precious only-ever" child, Clay pretends to shoot himself with "Ol' Gunny". Clay's father eventually discovers the ruse, and when he forces Clay to cease the charade, his mother has a heart attack due to the stress and dies, crying out to God to take her life instead of her son's.

Clay's father blames him for the death of his wife, frequently hitting him to express his frustration. Clay actively seeks his father's punishment, finding it the only source of attention he can get from his emotionally distant parent. At the end of the episode, Clay's father gives "Ol' Gunny" to Clay, insisting that he can no longer bear to have it since it is "tainted with blood." Clay attempts to defend himself from his father's blame, but when he looks up, his father is gone.

The final shot of the episode comes in the form of Clay staring into his drink. The song that plays throughout the episode and during the closing sequence is "Love Love Love" by The Mountain Goats.
There is a great interview with Scott Adsit from 30 ROCK, who also served as a writer, co-executive producer, director and voice talent on MORAL OREL. His thoughts for where the show would have gone if it had survived beyond the third season:

"I wanted to evolve Orel from the innocent guy who wants to believe his authority figures are right about everything they say into a fully evolved human being. We would take him on a journey from what he is in season one, essentially: just kind of informed, self-aware, and skeptical, but happy. But then it would be his journey. And also, I guess that journey would then have an effect on his parents and his brother and his grandfather. And hopefully watch everybody change because that's dynamic and more interesting."

You can watch some clips and a scattering of episodes online at the Adult Swim site. Seasons 2 and 3 are currently not available on DVD in the USA. Pity because this show needs to be seen.

1 Comments:

Blogger Nick Gaffney said...

That's a good song from a good album, The Sunset Tree, by the Mountain Goats.

1/19/2012 09:43:00 AM  

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