Review: ‘Icebox’

It may still be finding its way around the programming arena, but Netcaster Icebox.com offers up some of the cleverest cartoon content available in cyberspace from a team of producers and writers associated with television programs such as "The Simpsons," "King of the Hill" and "Seinfeld." The site, which officially launched in June, features six distinct programs -- Webisodes -- which run three to five minutes long and often end in cliffhangers.

This review was corrected on July 10, 2000.

It may still be finding its way around the programming arena, but Netcaster Icebox.com offers up some of the cleverest cartoon content available in cyberspace from a team of producers and writers associated with television programs such as “The Simpsons,” “King of the Hill” and “Seinfeld.”

The site, which officially launched in June, features six distinct programs — Webisodes — which run three to five minutes long and often end in cliffhangers.

The silly but sweet “Zombie College” is the best of the bunch, bringing to mind a combination of “Evil Dead” and “Animal House.” Created by “Futurama” producer Eric Kaplan, the series begins with love-struck teen Scott turning down a scholarship to MIT. He follows his high school sweetheart Zelda to Arkford U, also known as Zombie College, complete with ghoulish undergrads.

With a catchy theme song, clearly defined characters and an unpredictable plot, “Zombie College” seems to be the best candidate to cross over into mainstream media.

But that may not be so easy. Thus far, not a single TV network has turned a Web show into tube fare. (Urban Entertainment’s “Undercover Brother,” which was recently purchased by Universal as a feature film, is an anomaly.)

When Icebox doesn’t work, you get “Mr. Wong.” Created by South Park alumni Kyle McCulloch and Pam Brady, project has fallen under fire with critics who charge the program relies on racist caricatures for mindless laughs.

Although not completely humorless, the saga of an aging Asian houseboy with a Bing Crosby complex doesn’t seem to hold much appeal for any audience, or make a good contender for more conventional, and more profitable, distribution outlets.

Like most animation sites, Icebox utilizes Flash 4, an Internet-friendly animation program that works well with 56K modems and does not require broadband for pleasurable viewing. Cartoons are downloaded, not watched in streaming video; downloading takes from five to 15 minutes. Because cartoons are drawn with limited scene changes, the animation moves smoothly, avoiding the jerky effect.

Other Icebox programs include “Hard Drinkin’ Lincoln,” “Heaven,” “Superhero Roommate” and “Garbage Island.” While waiting for each episode, users can play games that surely push the taste envelope. Maneuvering Princess Di across a mine field was never so much fun.

Icebox

Production

3453 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90016. Reviewed at both broadband speed and 56K modem June 29 and June 30, 2000.
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