The Class of Andre 3000

At one point in the pilot episode of Cartoon Network’s new animated series, Class of 3000, world-famous musician Sonny Bridges returns home to the ATL, where he encounters the old preacher from his childhood church. This slicked-back pastor steps out of his swank limo dressed in green robes punctuated with dollar signs and hails the return of one of his flock.

PREACHER: Welcome back, Sonny! How’ve you been?

SONNY: Fine. I just got back into town.

PREACHER: You been in prison?




PREACHER: Ah, then you made it into the NBA!

SONNY: No, sir.

PREACHER: Well, what else is there?

Or something like that. After their little chat, the reverend boards a dollar-green helicopter and flies away. The hints were there earlier, but this is when it became clear that this was no simple children’s show.

Like Seth, I got the chance to catch the premiere of Class of 3000 at the Fox Theater on Wednesday night as part of Cartoon Network’s big premiere bash. (From the looks of it, Seth, we were seated right next to each other.) This was my first time inside the Fox (though that’s a post for another day), and my first time seeing (or, indeed, even hearing of) Chris Brown.

That kid, by the way, was phenomenal. So much of the hip-hop stuff I see gets edited to hell, when just zooming out and showing us the show is more impressive. You know how sometimes a performer brings out some token acrobat to do backflips as part of a climactic dance sequence? Chris Brown does his own damn backflips.

Anyway, maybe it’s been awhile since I watched what the kids are watching, but the voice of Andre Benjamin‘s Class of 3000 struck me as casually, cleverly bold. It sends signals without shouting. It communicates through its instrumentation, not just its lyrics.

The show centers on an art school’s music class, made up of seven or eight boys and girls, whose backgrounds run the gamuts of wealth and race — and it hardly ever comes up. We get a Latino principal, a Jewish pawn-broker and a reckless-driving bear, but there’s no moral at the end of the story about how music can bring people together. That’s old news, and the show knows it. It’s a given that all these kids will be in school together, that they can all get along and share a common love for art.

Instead of doling out a stale lesson of fellowship through music, this first episode is about kids who love to learn, who like going to school, and who are striving for the best teacher they can get. These kids don’t have to learn that learning is fun, they know it already.

At the same time, it’s the story of superstar Sonny Bridges (voiced by Andre Benjamin), whose love of music has been scratched and tarnished by show business. He rides through Tokyo in a limo, crowded like a bus with back-up singers and businesspeople he doesn’t know. Between this and Idlewild it seems like a thread in Benjamin’s work:

No one wanted to dance
when I had a lot of time on my hands.
Now I got a lot of hands on my time
and everybody wanna be a friend of mine.”
— “PJ & Rooster,” Outkast’s Idlewild

When the kids sneak into Sonny Bridges’ wacky mansion in the woods outside Atlanta, they find it full of art and musical instruments and greenery. Super-cool Sonny Bridges has tastes that stretch well beyond what’s hip, and the kids don’t think it’s lame. They’re focused on music, but their mood — and that of the show — is simple enthusiasm for all things art.

Mixed into it all are these funky musical numbers with stylized animation trips calling back to the classic TV cartoons of the 1970s, when Andre Benjamin was a kid. Through it all, simple character designs are given unique attitudes through sophisticated gestural work. In the big, kaleidoscopic musical sequence set in Little Five Points, the exaggerated motions on street dancers dazzle. The whole thing has the kind of enthusiasm that comes from rediscovery.

Honestly, I think Class of 3000 is Andre Benjamin’s great work this year. And I say this as a guy who likes pretty much any movie with hot jazz and gin joints. What I saw was a cartoon that was classy, funky, energetic, literate and positive without quite giving anybody cavities. Recommended.

4 Comments so far

  1. Annie (unregistered) on October 21st, 2006 @ 11:20 pm

    Awesome review. Thanks!

  2. Oliver (unregistered) on October 23rd, 2006 @ 11:15 am

    I second Annie’s comment. You should write reviews for a living. Even as a huge Outkast fan since Southerplayalisticadillacmusik I didn’t really consider watching this, but after your review I will seek it out.

  3. Breemond Holmes (unregistered) on November 4th, 2006 @ 7:19 pm

    Hi,ANDRE you is fun. And my mom is looking for a boyfrend. Email my so you and my mom can meet.

  4. Breemond Holmes (unregistered) on November 4th, 2006 @ 7:20 pm

    Hi,ANDRE you is fun. And my mom is looking for a boyfrend. Email my so you and my mom can meet.

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.