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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Is “Ahh!! Real Monsters!” an Alternate Universe of Harry Potter?

Since it was Halloween recently, I was thinking back on some of my favorite Halloween/monster cartoons from when I was a kid. One that immediately came to mind was Nickelodeon’s “Ahh!! Real Monsters!”, a cartoon produced by Klasky Csupco (who also did “Rugrats” and “Wild Thornberrys,” to name a few) that ran from 1994-1997. The show was about three kid monsters who attend an institute under a city dump in New York (hidden from humans, who must never know monsters truly exist) to learn how to frighten humans in a variety of paranormal ways (including shape-shifting, growing to giant size, and pulling their guts out of their mouths. Seriously.)

Wait a minute…three kids – two boys, one girl – who attend a special school in a secret location apart from human society, to learn how to use their extraordinary, arguably “magical” talents? Why does that sound familiar?

Okay, so before you start telling me I’m seeing parallels that aren’t really there*, keep in mind that themes and ideas often are recycled in new, inventive ways. While both “Ahh!! Real Monsters!” and the Harry Potter series have their own distinctive universes, some of the similarities are pretty uncanny.

*Remember, this theory is just for fun. Not to be taken as a serious aspect about the Harry Potter canon.











Ickis = Harry 
     So he may not sport a lightning-shaped scar or iconic round glasses (although in the pilot episode and Monsters, Get Real!, he does wear glasses), Ickis shares a couple things in common with the infamous boy wizard. For one, he comes from a family line of great “scarers,” and his father Slickis was the greatest scarer that Monster Academy ever had (hmm…kind of like the greatest “Seeker” Hogwarts ever had?) So there’s a lot of pressure on Ickis to live up to the family name. He also proves to be exceptional among his monster peers, being the only student able to hear the Pool of Elders (just as Harry only hears the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets). Ickis most frequently faces the reoccurring antagonist of the series, Simon, who routinely threatens all of monster society (we’ll get to him later). There is even an episode where Ickis literally becomes trapped in Simon’s head…not quite like a piece of Voldemort being trapped inside of Harry, but the “protagonist and antagonist sharing the same body” theme is eerie in both cases.


Oblina = Hermoine  

The top of her class at Monster Academy, Oblina not only shares Hermonie’s class status but several aspects of her personality as well. She’s the brains of the group and a bit of a know-it-all, and doesn’t miss a moment to point out when her fellow students are breaking the rules or being inept.  But she’s also kind to her friends, playing a sort of big-sisterly role at times. Oblina’s specialty includes shape-shifting, which is a factor that Hermoine brings into play in “Chamber of Secrets” with the polyjuice potion. Both Oblina and Hermoine love to read, and are the most practical of their friendship trios.


Krumm = Ron    

At first glance, there doesn’t seem like a whole lot of similarities between Ron Weasley and Krumm – Krumm is a monster who must carry his eyeballs around in his hands as he has no head, and his signature scaring method is his horrible stench. Ron doesn’t possess either of these traits (as far as we know), however both are best friend to the main protagonist, as well as having a tendency to bumble. Krumm routinely loses at least one of his eyes in a mishap and has to retrieve it, while Ron has chronic wand-breaking problems and trouble executing magic in the way he intends. But both are fiercely loyal, no matter what trouble their friends get them into, and do their best to cheer them up when they are down. And while he never ends up in a romantic relationship with Oblina (as Hermoine does with Ron), in episode 43, “Krumm is dumbfounded when he believes that Oblina likes him as more than a friend.”










The Gromble = Dumbledore / Prof. McGonagall


The Gromble seems to possess traits from both Hogwart’s headmaster and its Transfiguration professor.  No, neither Dumbledore or McGonagall are as intimidating to their students as The Gromble (nor have either of them eaten their students on occasion), but the Gromble does want the best for his students and tries to keep his school safe from invasive forces in the outside world (much like Dumbledore). His no-nonsense, tough-love attitude keeps his students in line (like McGonagall) and he tends to target Ickis and Krumm the most often to keep them from causing too much trouble.

In episode 50, the Gromble gives the perpetually late Ickis a clock that can control time. Remember when McGonagall gave Hermoine the time turner?

In Episode 39, the Gromble is threatened to be displaced as headmaster of Monster Academy because his superior doesn’t find his teaching acceptable – just as Dumbledore was going to be displaced as headmaster. But both in the end retain their positions.

Also, doesn’t “Gromble” sound a bit like “Dumbeldore” and “McGonagall” smushed together?
Simon = Voldemort  
Simon actually looks like he could be a much older version of Harry, having thick round black-rimmed glasses and gray-black hair (that you could figure as a kid was black). However his intentions a truly more Lord Voldemort-worthy – to expose the monster world for his own personal gain, and to gain control over all monsters. Not a monster himself (not in the biological sense,
anyway), his reasons for villainy are different from Voldemort, but he is the main antagonist and often employs more na├»ve, weak-minded characters to do his bidding, including other monster hunters and even children. He is also thwarted most often by Ickis, and as mentioned before the two characters even shared bodies for one episode. However Simon gets a much happier ending - meaning, not dying – and is more of a comical villain than the spine-tinglingly wicked Voldemort.


The Snorch = Hagrid / Argus Filch

The Snorch is a big guy, arguably the largest monster working at the Monster Academy. He is also much smarter than he looks – everyone underestimates the big guys, right, Hagrid? – as proven in an episode where he learns that Oblina is tired of not having anyone to intellectually converse with, so the Scorch reveals for the first time how eloquent he can be. 

But the Snorch’s primary role is to “discipline” students who break the rules. That’s a job that would seem a perfect fit for Hogwarts caretaker Argus Filch – “It's just a pity they let the old punishments die out… hang you by your wrists from the ceiling for a few days, I've got the chains still in my office, keep 'em well-oiled in case they're ever needed… “ 

Of course, the Snorch resorts to more “monster-specific” forms of punishment, like square-dancing and forcing students to frolic through a field of flowers. On top of having pint-sized companions who acts as a second pair of “eyes” around the school, Filch and the Snorch could be the best of buddies.



Zimbo = Miss Norris

The Snorch has a small assistant named Zimbo who sits on his head most of the time, and because Zimbo can fly, he often darts around the halls of the school spying on the monster students. Miss Norris likes to keep an eye on students as well, drawing Filch to any misbehavior that might be happening, although thankfully she
cannot talk. Zimbo likes to harass and insult the students of Monster Academy, particularly Ickis and Krumm, figuring he is untouchable because he is “protected” by those in superior positions– a touch of Draco there, perhaps?



So what do you think? Do you think there’s a bit of something more monstrous in Harry Potter than we first thought?



Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A look-back on a DragonCon 2015 YA panel


So it only took me two months to finally post this video to my website, despite that it's been on Vimeo for a while...

Before we get rolling into CONjuration in about a week and a half, here is a video from DragonCon 2015, "The Heroine's Journey" panel. It featured a bunch of YA and fantasy authors: Delilah S. Dawson, Alexandra Duncan, Cindy Pon, Tamsin Silver, Nancy Springer and me. It went over fabulously and I think the audience enjoyed it.


So for those feeling the post-DragonCon blues still, here's a snippet for you:


DragonCon 2015 Panel