Given how crappy Americans are at geography, the idea of a kids series distinguished principally by its regional accent sounds OK in theory, but “Class of 3000” — set in Atlanta — is such a slight affair that there’s more drawl to it than droll. Musician-actor Andre “3000” Benjamin gets the royal cartoon-character treatment in an animated showcase that isn’t much to shout “Hey Ya!” about, unless the goal is simply to indoctrinate tykes to covet the OutKast star’s CDs and buttress his standing as a multimedia commodity.
The big draw, such as it is, involves Benjamin delivering an original song for every episode that’s then visualized as a semi-psychedelic animated musicvideo, which all smacks more of a marketing hook that killed in the pitch meeting than a significant creative addition.
Voicing his alter ego, Benjamin plays Sunny Bridges, a Grammy-winning superstar who sours on the limelight and, in the one-hour premiere, returns to his native Atlanta to become a music teacher at the Westley School for the Performing Arts. There, he discovers the joys of paperwork (under a bureaucratic principal who sounds like Ricardo Montalban) and is put in charge of the requisite ethnically diverse posse of kid musical savants.
Limited animation, uninspired character design and ho-hum writing (WGA prez Patric Verrone is credited on the premiere) conspire to keep this all on a rudimentary level. In the first batch of regular half-hour storylines beyond the initial setup, Sunny debates whether he can actually do this teaching thing, and student Li’l D — who worships him — sells his soul to the advertising Devil. (That latter plot is a trifle ironic, given that “Class of 3000” plays like an extended infomercial for Benjamin, who’s branched beyond music into features like “Be Cool” and “Idlewild.”)
Granted, there’s a long, rather embarrassing tradition of crass kidvid versions of popular entertainers and franchises, from the animated “Siegfried and Roy: Masters of the Impossible” (no honest, really, there was) to the MC Hammer vehicle “Hammerman” in the early ’90s.
Nothing new here, in other words, except that Cartoon Network has been fairly adept at identifying what kids deem hip, and in this case, the net’s just hip-hoppin’ on the bandwagon.