Teen Titans Go!

Just forget about Young Justice. Teen Titans Go! is a lot more enjoyable if you don’t think about how this candy-colored madcap children’s show is replacing one of best superhero series in TV history. Teen Titans Go! is geared to a much younger audience than Young Justice, and while this first episode has its charms, there’s a simplicity that makes it less than ideal for older fans. This series première contains two stories that reveal an effervescent sense of fun but also a heavy-handed incorporation of moral lessons. The first story exemplifies the former quality as Raven sends the rest of the team on a trip across the globe to find legendary sandwich ingredients, but the second story showcases the latter as it delves into Beast Boy and Cyborg’s friendship. 

This intensely kid-friendly show is all about light-hearted costumed comedy, bringing back the cast of the early ’00s Teen Titans cartoon for a new series that shies away from the anime inspiration of its predecessor for a tone and visual style closer to the current Mad cartoon or late ’90s animated fare like Dexter’s Laboratory and Powerpuff Girls. That makes sense considering executive producer Aaron Horvath is coming to this show directly from Mad, and “Legendary Sandwich” begins with a pop-culture parody as Raven sits in Titans Tower watching the adventures of Sparkle Face and Butter Bean on Pretty Pretty Pegasus. When the boys interrupt her viewing with loud and messy sandwich eating, she sends them (plus Starfire) on a quest to find mythical sandwich ingredients that, when combined, create a food that gives its consumer eternal life. 

Kids apparently really love food, because these first two shorts forego any sort of actual superheroing to focus on the team’s relationship with sandwiches and pies. In a lot of ways, this show is carrying the torch of the beloved Tiny Titans comic book, telling stories about a group of kids hanging around who just so happen to have superpowers. I don’t see any reason why this show should limit itself to just the core group of five Titans, and with such great lineup of characters to choose from (as shown on Young Justice), hopefully this series will expand the cast as it continues. 

The original Teen Titans voice cast reprises its roles, and everyone slips back into their characters as if no time has passed at all. Greg Cipes and Khary Payton give Beast Boy and Cyborg a similarly bro-y energy that establishes an immediate connection between the characters, while Tara Strong’s deadpan delivery for Raven sets her apart from her intensely enthusiastic teammates. Hynden Walch’s Starfire is cheerfully oblivious about all Earth things, and her attempt to throw Cyborg a birthday party is the highlight of this week’s second story. (Her plans include balloon animals made from pets stuffed into balloons, pin the tail on the donkey with a railroad spike, and my personal favorite: duck-duck-goose played by dropping real birds on people’s heads.) As the leader of the Teen Titans, Scott Menville’s Robin is delightfully full of himself, which is why his plot in “Legendary Sandwich” is such a scene stealer.

To find the legendary sandwich ingredients, Cyborg is sent to the Lava Lake for mystical bacon, Beast Boy digs underground for the King’s lettuce, Starfire goes into space for the stellar tomato, and Robin has to brave the grocery store to find pretzel bread. As the rest of the team fights off giant sandwich guardians, Robin is overcome by crippling ennui as he waits for his number to be called. The serenity of the grocery store is a great contrast to the dynamic action of the other scenes, and it shows how much of a goofball Robin is when he’s put in a completely ordinary environment. Robin’s teammates sacrifice hair, arms, and teeth for their ingredients, and they all argue over who deserves to take the first bite of the completed sandwich. While they’re fighting, Sulky sneaks in to devour the food and immediately vomits it up, proving to Robin that he’s still the superior sandwich crafter.

Will Friedle (of Boy Meets World and a plethora of voice acting gigs within and without the DC Animated Universe) wrote “Pie Bros,” an episode that has Beast Boy putting his friendship with Cyborg at stake so that he can buy a birthday present for Vic that he can’t afford. Gar gets a job at Mother Mae Eye’s pie shop so that he can buy Bubble Bots, but things go wrong quickly. Cyborg starts making fun of Beast Boy’s uniform and then he’s forced to work during his best friend’s birthday party, forcing Gar to learn that getting a job and making money is a generally soul-crushing experience. Actually, he learns that it’s not about how much money goes into a present, but how much thought goes into it, and Cyborg ends up totally love the drawing of alien Gar riding dog Vic through space. It’s a predictable story that makes the moral very clear by the end, although there are some great moments courtesy of Robin and Starfire. 

“Pie Bros” doesn’t quite know what kind of story it wants to be, especially with the very strange subplot of Mother Mae Eye baking people into her pies. While Beast Boy and Cyborg have a giant pie fight in the restaurant, Mother uses her mind to lure Raven, Robin, and Starfire into her pie-making machine, which then rips off their clothes and turns the fabric into pies. Once the two bros make up, they chow down on the pies made from their teammates’ costumes, and the episode ends with half-naked Robin, Starfire, and Raven watching in disgust and confusion. It’s an overly bizarre ending to an otherwise straightforward episode, although it does show willingness from the creative team to go in some unorthodox directions. This first episode is definitely for the younger crowd, but it’s a well done cartoon that emphasizes the fun of being a superhero.  

“Legendary Sandwich”: B+

“Pie Bros”: C

Stray observations:

  • Frequent Beastie Boys collaborator Mix Master Mike remixes the original Teen Titans theme for this new series, moving away from retro-flavored J-Pop to a more cheerful contemporary sound. I always thought the original TT theme was a bit grating, so I like this new simplified version.
  • I love how quickly Beast Boy transforms between animals, allowing him to show off a lot of different forms over the course of one episode. 
  • Tara Strong is also the voice of My Little Pony’s Twilight Sparkle, putting a nice little meta twist on Raven’s obsession with Pretty Pretty Pegasus
  • “Ain’t no mountain high enough to keep me away from that sandwich!”
  • “The sandwich will look beautiful in my hair.”
  • “I am thinking perhaps this is too much trouble for a tomato!”
  • “Some people prefer swords or like lasers, but I like to use this staff, see? (Starts fighting air.) Just crack! Crack! Ka-kow! Right on the head! The knee! Crack! Clavicle! Whatever! Really gets the job done.” 
  • “How you gonna eat with no teeth? You gonna gum the sandwich down?”
  • “What?? Not expensive enough for you, fancy pants? You know, I’d like to think it’s the thought that counts. (To Beast Boy) We cheapos need to stick together.”
  • “Well my hallucination of you in a store window did!”