The Off-Beats title card
|Created by||Mo Willems|
|Directed by||Mo Willems|
|Narrated by||Mo Willems (opening only)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||14|
|Running time||approx. 4:00|
|Production company(s)||Curious Pictures|
|Original release||1996 – 1998|
Sheep in the Big City
The Off-Beats is a series of short animations that was created by Mo Willems (who would later create the Cartoon Network television series Sheep in the Big City). The first episodes were produced as stand-alone short films for Nickelodeon; but after the series was nominated for a cable ACE award, more segments were produced for KaBlam! The series was initially called "The Misfits", but Nickelodeon had Mo Willems change the series' title (and re-animate the intro) at the very last moment before it was first broadcast. The series was the first to end on KaBlam! due to Mo Willems moving to Cartoon Network to work on Sheep in the Big City, which too got canceled after 2 years on the air.
The show features a distinct art style, which was mainly a lot of flat, dry colors and characters that moved with clothing patterns. The animation was also similar to UPA, Curious Pictures and Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but mostly, the series itself (especially in story and concept) hearkened back to the classic Peanuts TV specials, especially since the majority of the voice cast are children actors. Each episode is scored with a jazz soundtrack, sometimes featuring big-band music, but mostly featuring a simple combination of a piano, drums and a double bass. Each segment ran for two to four minutes running time. Most of the soundtracks in the shorts are similar to The Pink Panther cartoon shorts.
After 15 years, the Off Beats Valentine Special, thought to be lost media, can now be viewed on YouTube as of February 27, 2014.
The theme intro to the shorts always consisted of this short poem, spoken by Grubby Groo (voiced by Mo Willems):
Dey nervous, dey nebbish, dey small, and the Populars don't like 'em at all. But that's okay, life is sweet. Dey cool. Dey the Off-Beats.
The intro to the original pre-Kablam shorts uses a different variation from when they were named The Misfits.
Dey nervous, dey nebbish, dey small, and the Populars don't like 'em at all. But that's okay, dey don't call it quits. Dey cool. Dey the Misfits.
The Valentine's Day special uses a different variation of the theme song specifically for the special:
They nervous, they nebbish, they small, and the Populars don't like 'em at all. It don't matter, dey hip. Dey got they own friendship. But when love is in the air. It can cause quite a scare. And sometimes it's hard to define. What goes down on Valentine's.
Betty Anne Bongo - Betty Anne is the realistically thinking "leader" of the clique. She usually can be found playing her bongo set. She also often sang her own little theme song, the lyrics consisting of: "My name is Betty Anne Bongo, I sing this little song-O, I sing it all day long-O!" along with rapidly banging on her bongos (although on one occasion, she sings it without the aid of her bongos). Betty originally was against puppy love since she didn't believe the point of it since friendship is another option but then developed a crush on Brad Groo. She was voiced by Mischa Barton.
Tommy - Tommy loves his plaid coat, so much so that in one episode it is the basis for the plot when it went to the cleaners and he goes temporarily insane. On numerous occasions he will break his calm demeanor and lose his temper exclaiming him to shout with words coming out of his mouth, usually startling his friends and himself. On a side note, he is not the only character who could shout like that; Betty is able to copy Tommy's movements and yelling voice at ease without hesitation, and Repunzil is able to do the same as shown in the Valentine special. His catchphrase is "Let me just say..." when confronting the Populars, accompanied by his yelling (voiced by Kevin Seal). He also claims he's an outsider in the pilot. He seems to love fishing as he did it in the pilot and The Statistic. Tommy was voiced by Mark Wagner.
Repunzil - Repunzil is the youngest in the clique, and at times can be quite naive. She is known for her floor-length hair (which is why she was named somewhat for the fairy tale character Rapunzel). She can be slow-witted at times due to her young age and does not know how to tie her shoes. Repunzil is also an animal lover as she ordered a lot of animals (and a toaster) in the Sweepstakes episode and kept on setting up September with a duck and an elephant as a crush in the Valentine special. Also at the same special she has a crush on Tommy and tried to give him a Valentine chocolate gift before eating it. She also gets mad at her mother for doing her hair in a goofy way which she tends to state; "Sometimes I hate my mom". She was voiced by Trisha Hedgecock.
August - August is the most technologically inclined brains of the Off-Beats; many of his gadgets however would often fail or backfire unexpectedly. While some episodes imply that August makes his gadgets himself, others imply that he purchases them. He also has an interest in impressing The Populars and gaining their respect. On a side note, August and his dog September are the only characters to appear at least once in every episode. He may have a crush on Tina since he tried to get her to be his valentine with an invention he made which resulted him getting thrown in the punchbowl at the party. He is voiced by Dylan Roberts.
September - August's sarcastic talking dog, usually ambivalent to most situations and plot-lines. Despite that, he does enjoy the company of the Offbeats. September is also paid to like August as shown in one episode and also has a contract of being owned by him that permits him of having at least one day off. Despite his natural intelligence, he can't seem to open a simple can of dog food. He can play the bagpipes as shown in the last short. One of his pasts was that he fell in love with a falling cat named February which was strange with his dog friends. Eventually, a dog war broke out and he and his girlfriend had to flee from Paris before the dog invasion. Although she said she'd be at the train station, she never showed. They finally reunited when February fell into September's turntable during the dance making September happy again. He is voiced by series creator Mo Willems.
Grubby Groo - The beatnik-looking adult friend to the Off-Beats, and the only one who realizes how big of jerks the Populars are as shown in the pilot and The Sprain. He works in a cafe called "Cafe Ad Hoc" where it's famous for its special ice cream called the Junkyard Sundae, compiled with several storied ice creams and sparkling fireworks, which was so great that he didn't even make one for the president. But he did make one for Betty Anne when she got the Sprain. He golfs as shown in the last short. He also has a nephew named Brad (voiced by Bradley Glenn), who Betty Anne has a crush on, who helped him set up the Valentine's Day dance. He voiced by creator Mo Willems.
The Populars are the clique popular kids, usually seen traveling in a huge nose-in-the-air clump. Led by Tina. Whenever they come across an adult, they all put on phony smiles and pretend to be really nice. But Grubby Gru knows that they're just hiding their evilness. The Populars not only walk together, but they sleep and live together as well and each individual is qualified a bathroom break allowing separation of the group to commence. This is how Beth was able to talk to Tommy without getting into trouble.
Tina - Tina is the mean-spirited leader of the Populars. If the Off-Beats ever have any (shown) self-esteem, she is there to squash it. Despite her spoiledness and bad attitude, she seems to be intelligent as she is curious of Betty Anne's inability of reacting to her negative comments. Some of her insults mean little to no sense, or deemed too childish as in one episode, she just called paddleball "Stupid" and said that Betty Anne would get "bumpkis" once Repunzil wins the Sweepstakes. She is something of a stereotypical "school diva". Voiced by Kathleen Fasolino.
Beth - Tina's sidekick in the group. It's her job to warn the Populars whenever a grown-up is near; she usually shouts, "Adult!" Then the Populars begin their phony "nice" act. Once she and Tommy fell in love with each other, and they had to keep it secret. Voiced by Tara Ketterer.
Billy - A boy who wears a red beanie cap. A running gag in the series usually involved Billy saying something that would get Tina mad, and then the Populars would literally throw him out of the group, causing Billy to crash into something (most likely a trash can given the sound effects) and him screaming. Voiced by Jimmy McQuaid.
The remaining Populars are voiced by Tim Duffy (P Boy), Keith Franklin (Hat Boy), and John Morgan (Back Boy)
List of Segments
The animation was choppier and the character's voices are younger. Also, that the bean-shaped logo for The Off-beats was green instead of pink and a Nickelodeon arrow logo appeared at the logo. These episodes were made to promote the premiere of KaBlam!.
- My Dog Can Talk: In an effort to befriend the Populars, August tells them that his dog, September, is able to talk. When he said "bow", the Populars laughed but then he corrects the Populars and commands them to bow down to him, shocking them all.
- Shoelaces (a.k.a. "Your Shoe's Untied"): The Populars play the old "Your Shoe's Untied" prank on the Off-Beats, but it only works on Repunzil, who then asks Grubby Groo to tie her shoes for her.
- The Twig: Betty Anne finds a twig and tries to save it with the "help" of Repunzil. It does not work and they ask Tommy for advice but he suggests to leave it alone (his yelling also killed the twig even more) and then August and September use it for a game of "fetch" (which is played the other-way around).
Season 1: 1996-1997
The first season now features The Off-beats logo pink and without the Nickelodeon arrow logo.
- Too Much Attention for September: August takes a ride in his new invention, the heli-cart, and September refuses to go with him. As he does this, everyone tries to talk with him or play with him driving him insane.
- Betty Anne's Glasses: When Betty Anne Bongo loses her glasses after playing her bongos, the Populars find them and Tina puts them on to mimic her. They hide them from the Off-Beats so they don't realize it, and then September figures it out and devises a plan to get them back; they disguise as the president, Bill Clinton (who was the president at the time of the episodes' production).
- The Robodog: Because of September taking a day off from being his dog, August orders a new robotic dog, which "plays 4-ever." This soon tires August, and September begins to get jealous. So September obtains a Roboboy, which also "plays 4-ever," which causes the Robodog to leave August and befriend the Roboboy instead.
- Tommy's Coat: When Tommy has his coat sent to be dry-cleaned, he begins to slowly go insane due to the lack of his prized possession, as Betty Anne tries to help him. He even hallucinates the Populars having the same color pattern as the coat! Note: Although it was produced in the first season, it was held over to Season 2 for unknown reasons.
Season 2: 1997-1998
- Paddleball Record: When August is too busy in trying to break a paddleball record, September goes off to party, but realizes he cannot open his can of dog food, so he is incredibly hungry. Thankfully, August sees this and feeds his dog in time.
- The Sprain: Betty Anne sprains her wrist, and despite all the attention she's getting, she is depressed because she can't play her bongoes. The Populars are jealous of the huge Junkyard Sundae Grubby Groo makes for her, and try to fake being injured so they can get a sundae, too.
- Repunzil and the Sweepstakes: Repunzil gets an entry form in the mail for a sweepstakes with a million-dollar prize. She believes she is going to win, and the Populars befriend her in hoping she'll buy stuff for them.
- The Suave-O-Matic 5000: August wants to be friends with the Populars, so he uses his Suave-O-Matic, which results in him getting taller and cooler and with a deeper voice. The Populars befriend the new August, and all goes well until he decided to play paddleball, which causes the Suave-O-Matic to explode.
- Tommy's Song: Tommy hears a song from a radio and gets it stuck in his head, and he can't stop singing it, so Betty Anne tries to help him out. He is even able to scare away the Populars with his song because the song is now stuck in their heads. Once they finally helped him, Repunzil arrives with the song stuck in her head, which gets to the Off-Beats as well.
- The Statistic: When the gang hears from September about a probability that a person in a group of four would be conked on the head from something falling from the sky, Tommy tries to leave the group because he seems to be the target for being hit or getting someone hit. Note: This episode features more adults, backgrounds, children and locations than any other episode; although the Valentines special will do the same. This was also the last episode produced and was taken off of the KaBlam! roster after season 2, but had its Valentine's Day special debut in 1999.
- An Off-Beats Valentine's: This half-hour TV special features everyone getting ready for Valentine's Day, and Tommy and Beth of the Populars develop a crush on each other. September also reminisces about a female cat named February he was in love with. Repunzil tries to get September a new crush and tries to give an escaping Tommy a valentine gift, and August tries to figure out how to get a girlfriend without the use of technology.
Note: In this episode, Tommy is seen without his hat for the only time in the series, revealing that he is bald. This episode reveals September had a girlfriend that is explained in backstory. This episode also proves that the Populars do in fact sleep and live together and each individual member is qualified a bathroom break. Repunzil is shown to yell like Tommy. She's the second Off Beat to do so; the first was Betty Anne. This was also the very last episode produced as Mo Willems moved to Cartoon Network to create Sheep in the Big City.
Production notes: As the original voiceover children actors and animators returned, everyone was set for the production as cited in a press release with "We've had the same team of independent animators and voiceover kids for the past four years, so everyone really understood their characters and was ready to jam,". It was produced in 1998 and aired in Nickelodeon in 1999. This is the first episode to reach 30 minutes timeline, and the only holiday (Valentine) special. It aired on Nickelodeon during the Nickel-O-Zone era rather than only in KaBlam!. Willems uploaded the music score for the cartoon's theme song, the flashback of September's girlfriend story and the sad valentine song September played in the dance which was kept low at a minimum due to the horrific lyrics. The script for the full episode was also placed before being removed. Thought to be a lost media, it was finally uploaded in YouTube.
- http://mowillemsdoodles.blogspot.com/2007/01/popular.html. Missing or empty
- An Off-Beats Valentine's (1998 Nickelodeon Special)