The name Butch Hartman might ring a few bells if you watched Nick over the years. From making a show about a young lad who has magical fairies that grant him wishes too letting the viewer explore a secret agent/spy show made up of talking animals, he has taken us on some really funny adventures. But what about when it’s time to get a bit more serious or have more action elements? The Fairly Odd Parents had moments where things get serious or action heavy but that wasn’t the main focus of the show.
A show having such a focus is unique, specifically for Nick which didn’t really have much action/superhero shows in the early 2000’s. Danny Phantom is Butch’s second television show on Nick and it lasted for three seasons. It follows the teenage boy of Danny who has the special ability to turn himself into a ghostly being. He uses this power to defend his home town from various spirits that cause havoc.
When it originally aired, it was a breath of fresh air for the network and really filled a hole that felt missing from it’s line-up of shows. But does the Phantom hold up in recent years? Or does it evaporate into a specter into the night? Lets grab our Fenton Thermos and try to catch some ghosts as we tackle the first season of this haunting show.
The show opens up with a well done intro that fully dives into the origin story of how Danny got his powers. There isn’t a episode (at least in Season One) that explains how Danny got his powers; it’s all done through the shows introduction you see during every episode. What happened is that Danny went into his family’s ghost portal after it wasn’t working and he accidentally pressed the ‘On’ switch, turning it on with him inside the machine.
Upon waking up, he walks out with powers that ghosts can preform; walking through objects, being able to interact with ghosts and even getting the ability to turn other people invisible! Using these powers, he protect’s his home of Amity Park with his best friends Tucker and Sam. Plots normally have an introduction bit where the conflict begins (ghost attacks town or a character’s actions triggers a ghost to get released) and end with Danny putting the ghost back into it’s home in the Ghost Zone.
What makes every episode so engaging is how sharp the writing is for every character. In many cases, the show feels like the spirit of Spider-Man crossed with the supernatural elements of Ghostbusters were smashed together. I say this due to how witty Danny is when fighting various ghosts, saying sharp lines or commenting on the battle he’s in. This is helped by how fun each ghost character is in the show, as everyone has a clear personality. Most of the time, if a ghost pops up in an episode, they will come back in some form in the future. Common ghosts Danny fights include the rock-star Ember who can use her guitar in different ways, Skulker hunting down Danny to make him part of his collection, and Technus who has the ability to mess with various electronics.
I loved all the different villains Danny encounters and they aren’t completely bad; they have human qualities and can hold their own when more then just Danny is on screen. It results in fun characters that you meet often, a great quality of a superhero show. If the villains are just as interesting compared to the hero, then you are doing something very well.
Supporting characters are also important, as Danny’s friends add to the show’s stories. Sam is the female best friend that is quite unique, as she isn’t just the ‘unique’ girl of the entire school. She is a vegan who love goth culture; not a character you often see in cartoons. Her dynamic with the cast is fun due to how dead pan she is most of the time. Tucker is the the ‘nerd’ character but using his PDA, he can hack into Ghost Tech that allows Danny to get the upper hand in battles. He also likes to take advantage of the situation (such as using Danny’s ghost powers to help him out with things) and it results in funny moments happening time to time.
Another side character I really enjoyed was Danny’s teacher ‘Mr. Lancer’. He cares about his students a lot but when he gets upset, rather then cursing, he states historical novel titles. It’s quite funny hearing him shout ‘Lord of the Flies! They are slipping right out of my hands’. Danny’s extended family also come into the story in various ways and I enjoyed how they add to the story. His parents are completely unaware of Danny’s ghostly-half despite the fact they are ghost hunters; their technology has some interesting impact on Danny as the show continues. From being part of his tool-set to being the cause of a major problem, his parents add a level of unknown into how battle/scenes play out.
The writing and characters make the show but action scenes are great as well. The usage of fall colors and more detailed animation compared to Butch’s past work help make battles have impact. Sound helps with fights as well, with hits having satisfying sound effects and characters do react to when they get hit. Speaking of animation, it’s overall quite good. Maintaining the style seen in the Fairly Odd Parents while also being more detailed, it looks great and holds up very well today.
Music in the show is very solid, with specific tracks being quite catchy. Ember’s episode comes to mind as despite having very simple lyrics, it’s a honestly good track even outside the show. The title theme also comes to mind in this regard, as it both narrates the story and has a great beat.
It sounds like I had no issues with Season One and to be honest I really didn’t have much issue with this season. Through taking it’s time to tell Danny’s story we get a idea on how he grows as a character, his early interactions with various characters, and finding a clear identity for himself at the very end of the season. I really enjoyed revisiting this show and I’m eager to watch the next season.