Release Date:  October 2004
Genre:  Cartoon
Run Time:  30 min.
Creator/Publisher:  Cartoon Pizza

Cartoon Pizza founders David Campbell and Jim Jinkins are on to something new with their latest children’s animated series, “HoopDogz,” which teaches kids the Ten Commandments in a fun, hip-hop urban way. But, if you recognize any of the pair’s previous award-winning programs, like “Jo-Jo’s Circus,” “PB&J Otter,” “Stanley” and “Allegra’s Window,” the message is not so very different.

“While we love what we’ve been doing through secular television,” says Jinkins, who together with Campbell has worked with Nickelodeon and Playhouse Disney, “our mission and vision has always been to help today’s kids understand biblical truths in a way that is entertaining, funny and never too preachy.”

Preachy, “HoopDogz” definitely isn’t.  In fact, it even makes fun of tele-evangelists – in a very appropriate manner that both kids and adults will be able to relate to.  But it also gets the message across – the biblical message – in a way that is direct, yet fun.

Set in the fictional urban town of Wobble Hill, “HoopDogz” recounts the life of 9-year-old V.J. Bumpus, his mom Yorleen and his baby brother Hudney. Like V.J.’s best friends Weiner and Trina, V.J. is obsessed with basketball.  They shoot hoops on the court behind the HoopDogz Diner, occasionally taking breaks for snacks with V.J.’s Grandpa Moe, who runs the place.  A local cable show hosted by over-the-top, gold-throne-sitting evangelists, Chad Dimple and Rebecca Ruth St. Esther Eve, provides great entertainment.  Sometimes, however, the kids find it necessary to call in to the show to correct the big-headed but good-hearted preachers. 

In the first episode of “HoopDogz,” called “God Good, Idols Bad,” which focuses on the second commandment, V.J. and Weiner can’t stop obsessing about the big, bad rock singer named Mad Doggie Dog.  V.J. has a Mad Doggie Dog action figure that he worships – literally – even spending all of his allowance money on the toy, when he should have been buying his mother a birthday gift.

When Mad Doggie Dog sings, “Bow-wow down to the Mad Doggie Dog,” V.J. and Weiner do just that, whenever and wherever they can.  So when the boys hear that their idol is coming to town, they do everything they can to get in to the show – even ditching the birthday party for V.J.’s mother.  Unfortunately, like all idols, Mad Doggie Dog isn’t at all what he makes himself out to be – a bit like Ashlee Simpson, lip-synching on “Saturday Night Live.”

The teaching is subtle, but clear: don’t worship idols.  Not only is it wrong, but it will negatively affect your relationships.  Moreover, these idols simply are not real.  They’re not at all who they pretend to be – no matter how big or bad they may look on the outside.

It’s a great lesson, particularly today, when we all have a tendency to bow down to idols – rock idols, American idols, fashion idols – every day. And it’s told in a very cool, hip-hop style message, with lots of good songs of a wide variety of music styles, that will definitely connect with kids.

“HoopDogz” is a very creative bit of animation, with good dialogue, funny lyrics and more than a few winks at adults, which should prove to be very popular with Christian parents and educators. I highly recommend it.