Created By: Butch Hartman
No. of Seasons: 3
No. of Episodes: 53
Original Channel: The WB Television Network
Original Release: April 03, 2004 – August 24, 2007
Though not precisely the dictionary example of this, Danny Phantom is one of the few cartoon series that I frequently cite as one that allowed for a ridiculous application of censorship where such things were not only unnecessary, but it would only make more questions than answers. That’s not to say that Danny Phantom wasn’t a great cartoon series. In fact, it alongside with a select few others of past and present cartoons is what I would definitively name as true blooded “Nicktoons.” There was an appropriate amount of action, drama, and cartoon comedy to be found in every episode, even in those whose plotline borderlines on a rating more befitting the more matured minded folks.
The intro to the series is one that fell to the usual trope of being a literal introduction to the show via musical summarization. Though sung, it outright tells of how young Danny Fenton’s parents —a pair of eccentric ghost hunters— have built a portal into a “world unseen” later to be named simply as the Ghost Zone. Unfortunately, it appears that the device is a failure and they give up on it but Danny, either through curiosity or perhaps something more, takes a look at the machine for himself and unwittingly discovers the flaw that his parents failed to notice.
They forgot to push the on button.
Geniuses. Always figuring out a hard way to every easy solution. Anyway, Danny accidentally activates the Ghost Portal whilst still inside it and its activation floods his body with ectoplasmic energy, rearranging his molecules to turn him into a creature never seen before. A literal living ghost, a hybridization of human and specter, a… halfa as the ghosts of the Ghost Zone would eventually name him.
Halfa… I’m sorry but really? Couldn’t there have been a better name choice for his species than that? I can understand wanting to make it easy for kids to pronounce and spell, I still occasionally forget to include the “h” in dhampir never mind pronouncing it correctly, but “halfa?” Every time I hear it spoken in the show I keep waiting for someone in the background to pop up with a loud exclamation of “Half of what?!”
Anyway… Danny soon discovers that he’s able to change to ghost and human form at will and that in either form he can turn invisible, intangible, and fly though these abilities are easier to control in his ghostly form. He swiftly learns that the Ghost Portal’s activation has made it easier for ghosts from the Ghost Zone to enter the mortal plane and that he, with his powers, must stop them from coming through and sending them packing.
It’s rather interesting to note that in the intro, Danny appears to outright destroy the animalistic ghosts that are attacking him and his town of Amity Park but in the show proper he never, not once, accomplishes this feat even to those ghosts whose existence threatens the entirety of both the living and ghostly realms.
The titular character of the series, Danny Fenton or Phantom in his ghostly form, is… not the stereotypical teenaged kid. Oh, Danny’s still a teenager but he’s one that isn’t a stereotype nor is he one that I would call an adult’s idea of what a teenaged boy is/should be. Don’t get me wrong, I loved shows like the Power Rangers but it was a little ridiculous how overly perfect those kids were with all the various charity works and sports and science competitions they took part in.
Danny outright admits that he’s not a perfect student, citing on more than one occasion that he could have utilized the easier solution to a problem, ghostly or otherwise, if he was a better student, is surprisingly moral but at the same time a bit vicious to those who hurt him or his, and, for a time, actually loathes Christmas for justifiable reasons but that’s a separate episode altogether.
As Danny grows and develops as a person, so too do his powers and his control over them change and grow to a point where he starts to develop his own unique set of powers that differentiate him from the only other halfa in the series, the villainous Vlad Plasmius, a “friend” to Danny’s parents who secretly loathes Danny’s father and loves Danny’s mother to an extremely creepy degree.
As for the introductory episode of the series, “Mystery Meat” it serves as more of an introduction to the actual characters of the show rather than its initial beginnings. Really, it isn’t until the start of the second season where we see the events of the intro theme in full detail and frankly, that’s perfect.
“Mystery Meat” showcases everything that we need to know about Danny and his two friends Sam, his vegan goth-minded eventually-to-be-girlfriend, and Tucker, the tech-savy comedic relief member of their merry band. We also meet the atypical schoolyard bullies in the form of the jocks, the one hard-cased teacher who loves to shout exclamations of shock/horror via classical book titles, and Danny’s eccentric family including his older sister Jazz.
Like many of the ghostly villains that appear in the series, especially in the first season, the aptly named Lunch Lady Ghost appears thanks to the actions of the main cast, in this case Sam and her anti-meat stance towards the lunch menu of the school. Whether by actual influence, or her family’s incredible wealth, Sam somehow manages to get the lunch menu to go full vegetarian and thus incurs the wrath of the Lunch Lady Ghost, whose shtick is… meat.
No, I’m not kidding, her thing is literally telekinetically controlling and altering large quantities of meat products to a point where she can create monsters of meat. While certainly not the worst of Danny’s villains to appear and definitely not the most annoying of the bunch, she does an amazing job of showcasing the running theme of the ghostly villains and ghosts as a whole in the show. She is also one of the few ghosts confirmed as having been alive at some point prior and had actually worked at Danny’s school where she insists that the lunch menu hadn’t been changed in over fifty years.
That’s… really kind of disturbing in it’s own right but I digress.
Still, as good as an introduction to the series this makes, I wouldn’t call it my personal favorite of the bunch and honestly, I’m still having a difficult time pinning down a singular episode. Episodes like “Reign Storm” and “Ultimate Enemy” are incredible examples of how amazing this show could get with plots that are all but ripped straight from the pages of classic comic book sagas but the both of them are two-parter episodes and thus I can’t rightfully include because blast it, I hate cliffhangers. That and honestly, if even if I review them with as little detail as possible, I fear spoiling one of the greatest bits of character development I’ve seen in a superhero cartoon, particularly one geared towards kids.
As such, I’ve decided to pick the episode that premiered my favorite ghostly villain of the series. That is, until I realized that I’ve already did a review for Desiree and that as much as I love her character, her few episodes focused more on the results of her granted wishes rather than Desiree herself. As such, I went with my close second favorite ghostly villain and their featured episodes, both of which I’ll discuss in their character review later this week. For a little teaser however, I will say this: turn down the volume, things are going to get LOUD.