Disney’s live-action shows featuring its seemingly inexhaustible supply of disposable teenage stars that appeal so highly to the tweenie (10-12) and young teen (13-15) crowd are some of the most insipid, vapid shows I have ever had the misfortune of being stuck watching, yet Disney’s animated shows aimed at the same demographic (or perhaps a bit younger) are well-written and dare I say, even clever. I’m not sure how this happens. I guess Disney doesn’t pay too much attention to the television shows that come out of its animation studio. I’m surprised the writers of the live-action shows and animated shows don’t cause some explosion in the studio cafeteria when they meet, because they surely are the equivalent of anti-matter and matter on the writing scale.
But I digress. You already know I heart Darkwing Duck (and have a growing respect for the lead voice actor with each episode I re-watch). But it’s not just nostalgic ’90s cartoons (or ’80s) I’ve watched. I also have watched ’00s cartoons as well. Draw what conclusions you will about me. So this musing is about one of the more modern cartoons – “Kim Possible.” You’ll note she’s not in the title.
The show centers around Kimberly Ann Possible, an over-achieving fiesty redheaded high school cheerleader in a midwestern city and as the theme song says, she’s your ordinary average girl, which is of course not true because who watches that? Her website advertises “She can do anything” and through a mishap (she meant babysitting), she ended up going on missions to save the world.
Drakken: Why did she have to be a cheerleader!? If she was on the debate team, I’d have vaporized her by now!
Kim gets help from a lot of people (almost all the people schlepping her around the world have been saved by her at one point, hence why they are willing to schlep), but of course the show only features a few.
One of those people is 10 year-old boy genius Wade Load who serves as the communication center and hacker. Now, normally I’m a fan of puns, but I feel that particular one is somewhat mean, especially since the kid is drawn as pretty round and also he’s one of the token minority African-Americans (a fellow high school student, Monique, is the other one). Wade is present in nearly every episode either on the computer in Kim’s locker or on the screen of her Kimmunicator (a device clearly built just for her). A running gag is that Wade never leaves his room.
The aforementioned Monique is a transfer student and soon becomes one of Kim’s best friends but does not typically accompany her on adventures.
Her sidekick is her best friend since kindergarten (and later boyfriend, of course), Ron Stoppable. Ron is the typical bumbling sidekick but he does bring along the surprisingly useful Rufus, his pet naked mole rat. Ron, although afraid of monkeys (the reason for which is both explained and pathetically hilarious), through a series of mishaps also gains the mystical power of Monkey Kung Fu, which comes in handy when he can actually make it work (Rufus got part of the power as well).
Kim: A naked mole rat? Ron, ever think of getting a normal pet?
Ron: Like what?
Kim: I don’t know, something… not naked?
Ron’s place is not only as bumbling sidekick but also as a one-man, one-liner delivery vehicle. He screams, he jumps, he scares, he loses his pants (often). But sometimes he manages to step it up and prove himself useful instead of an obvious liability. He is often the distraction.
Ron: This place holds a lot of memories for me. Some bad, some…No. No, no, all bad.
Although generally good (except when he’s evil), Ron is single-handedly responsible for the Seniors’ descent into villainy. But more on that.
The Possible family includes Mr. and Mrs. Dr. Possible (a rocket scientist and brain surgeon respectively) whose names we don’t learn until the end of the series (James Timothy and Ann), and the “Tweebs,” the 10-year-old twins Jim and Tim (of course). As Kim said once upon witnessing the havoc wreaked by her siblings’ latest experiment, “This is what happens when a rocket scientist and a brain surgeon breed.”
Mr. Dr. Possible: Jim, Tim, there’ll be no rooting for your sister’s foe.
In between saving the world, Kim struggles with ordinary high school life that includes dogmatic, inflexible teachers (Mr. Barkin), rival mean girl (fellow cheerleader Bonnie Rockwaller), crushes on cute boys (Josh Manky), dealing with her hyperactive, super-intelligent brothers, and of course dealing with her well-meaning but occasionally very clueless parents. You’ll notice I have yet to list Shego.
Every hero needs a villain, or a dozen. Some are one-off villains and some are recurring characters. The most prominent recurring villain is the mad scientist Dr. Drakken, who happens to have been a college classmate of Mr. Dr. Possible until he turned evil and for some reason blue. Professor Dementor is pretty much the same, except with a vaguely Russian accent and generally more successful and less pathetic (and in no way blue). The Seniors (Senor Senior, Senior and Senor Senior, Junior) were well to do billionaires who took Ron’s misplaced advice about what to do with their wealth (he innocently suggested that their private island home already seemed like a villain’s lair) and started on the path of villain, although they are generally very harmless about it since they are new to the game.
Kim: Never, never tell anyone to go out and buy spinning tops of doom!
There’s Duff Killigan, the evil golfer who I am 95% sure was included just to make a bad pun regarding the name of his island lair (think about it for a minute…). There’s Motor Ed, who is Dr. Drakken’s cousin and pretty much exactly the type of villain you think he is by his pun-tastic name (Seriously!). There’s Monty Fiske, the rich British lord who paid good money to DNAmy to turn him into a human-monkey hybrid so he could master Monkey Kung Fu and become unstoppable (unbeknownst to him, but knownst to us, the monkey transcribing the prophecy had bad handwriting and what it actually wrote was, “The master of Monkey Kung Fu shall be Ron Stoppable”). But my favorite recurring character was Dr. Drakken’s trusted lieutenant, Shego. And yes, I heart her.
Initially Shego was introduced as just another minion, albeit one with glowing green hands of energy that could occasionally fire energy blasts. But Shego was also the resident deadpan snarker. She was much more competent than Drakken in almost every respect and occasionally tried to talk sense into him.
Drakken: So Kim Possible, you think to thwart my plan…
Shego: Don’t stop to tell her the plan!
But most of the time Shego just made fun of Drakken.
Drakken: Who wants to build a robot tick? I do, I do!
Shego: Er, Dr. Drakken, you do know you said that out loud, right?
And if you’re wondering why Drakken put up with Shego’s attitude, his other henchman (from Hench Co. [CEO Jack Hench]) were pretty terrible at their jobs.
Drakken: To clone any one of you would be a crime against humanity that even I am incapable of.
Shego was also smart enough to put a no-cloning clause in her minion contract. Senor Senior once brought her into tutor Senor Junior in villainy. Then the writers started to flesh her out and it turned out Shego had once been a hero. The same cosmic accident that gave her powers also gave her four brothers powers and together they were Team Go (this was possibly a jab at the Teen Titans). Hego wore blue and was super-strong, Mego wore purple and could shrink, and the twins Wego wore red and had super-speed. Eventually Shego got fed up with them and left, although her brothers tell a slightly different story.
Hego: The more we fought evil, the more Shego liked it.
Ron: The fighting?
Kim: The evil.
There was subtext in Shego’s fights with Kim that suggested she never quite finished Kim off because Kim reminded her of when she was younger and a hero. For the series, Shego was content to remain a trusted lieutenant, although the movie “Sitch in Time” (the mandatory time-travel episode), shows a world where Shego pulled a Starscream, figured out how to stop Kim and take over the world, with Drakken relegated to being her mindless minion.
Of course, aside from my favorite sarcastic trusted lieutenant, the show was well-written. Most of the good lines came from Ron, of course. There were pop culture references from Shaft to Star Wars to Planet of the Apes.
Senor Senior, Senior: This is no party. This is no disco. This isn’t fooling around.
There was the mandatory virtual reality episode and the summer camp horror movie episode. There was even a “Batman” parody featuring a character named “Timothy North” voiced by, well, you can guess. There’s also the mandatory “good guys go evil” episode which shows that Ron is frighteningly competent as a villain (and also turns blue) and a mandatory “evil guys go good” which shows that both Dr. Drakken and Shego aren’t so bad. There’s even a Christmas episode (that does reference “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”). I can’t say I liked what happened to my favorite green babe in the end, but then again, up until “Kim Possible” Disney had never allowed any animated show to go past 100 episodes, so they had to think of something for a fourth season. Still, even with that, it’s a good show and at least to me, totally worth watching.