Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids
The Original Animated Series – Volume 1 (Urban Works-2005)
Hey! Hey! Hey! It’s Fat Albert! And it’s about time. Forget the recent lame Fat Albert feature film, a new 3-DVD collection, Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids – The Original Animated Series (Urban Works) is just the primer you need to enjoy the comical exploits of this musical gang of lovable misfits.
Created by Bill Cosby, Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids was an instant cartoon sensation, premiering on Saturday mornings in 1972 and running for an additional twelve years. The series aired during a tumultuous time in U.S. history marked by radical political and social upheaval. A brilliant comedian and master communicator, Cosby was also a fine writer and in this show he was able to infuse serious issues with a facile comedic flair.
This collection contains the first 12 episodes of the series. The series showcases a slew of memorable characters including Fat Albert, the wise-crackin’ Rudy, Weird Harold, the marble-voiced Mushmouth, Dumb Donald, and Russell. Cosby ensured that these characters, based on friends of his while growing up on the mean streets of Philadelphia, were identifiable and relatable to every race, creed or color.
Beautifully animated in glorious day-glo colors, each smartly constructed episode deals with a theme, whether tackling liars, distrust, racial tolerance or the pressures of conformity. Not having watched these shows for almost twenty-five years, seeing them again one is impressed by how well they hold up. Sure, there’s the occasional dated dialogue, and static animation, but on the whole they still shine with mountains of wicked wit, invention and punchy panache. Opening and closing with real-life footage of Cosby who introduces each episode and provides a prologue, the shows navigate a fine line of entertainment and education. Cosby, however, is aware of the dangers of falling prey to heavy-handed didacticism. Importantly, the messages imparted at the conclusion of each episode are conveyed with a light touch.
The show’s fourth episode, “Creativity,” is a highlight, centering upon the gang’s general aimlessness. Finally they come to the solution of uniting together by forming their own Junkyard Band. Using make-shift instruments borrowed from a local junkyard (a tuba made out of spare plumbing parts and a radio speaker, a bass constructed with a long piece of wood, a washtub and a heavy string), Fat Albert and his cohorts get their groove thang on, creating a joyous musical racket that sounds likes Barry White meets The Jackson Five. That episode like the other eleven represented on this collection blends intelligently-written stories earmarked by a social, cultural or educational message.
Making this collection even more indispensable for fans is the inclusion of a bonus 14-track audio CD packed with the musical performances from each show. Written by Ed Fournier and sung by the late Michael Gray, the tracks range from the infectious title song (with its contagious “Na, na, na, gonna have a good time” hook) to the instructive “Don’t Go Tellin’ A Lie” to the funky “There’s No Fool Like A Fool Playing Hookey,” these songs help spread the message of understanding, tolerance and most of all, fun.
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 21, 2005.