When I was asked to write a review of Bill Perry Jr.’s online cartoon series ToonLife I said heck yeah. Mainly because I don’t normally comment on Facebook posts unless I really have something to say. I don’t sugarcoat. I call it like I see it—good or bad—and I usually hurt feelings by being so blunt.
Honestly, I’m not into animation or cartoons. So writing about ToonLife is something I probably wouldn’t do, just like watching ToonLife, but I did.
As a Blues guitarist and former Blues venue owner, I had a club that was featured in the New York Times and Rolling Stone for hosting many Blues legends. I first met ToonLife creator Billy Perry and the Perry Family through our mutual love and passion for jazz and blues music. Like his father Bill “Howl-N-Madd Perry and his sister Shy Perry, the first thing that stood out about Bill was his multi-faceted and diverse talent. All three of the Perrys are extremely talented musicians, writers, and singers, which obviously has to be in the DNA of the Perry genes. But when Bill, completely out of the blue, invited me to watch his animated Toonlife series, I’ll admit I balked at first. I’m just simply not into animation, and I’m certainly not into comedy cartoons. Then I said, oh what the heck, I’ll watch it to be courteous, thinking I’d probably close it halfway through anyway. Worst case scenario, I’ll give Bill the customary thumbs up and make him feel good.
When I started viewing the first ToonLife episode I thought, okay, this looks like it’s gonna be cheesy. But like Jazz and the Blues, there are thousands of so-called musical artists and only a hundred of them are exceptionally good or unique. B.B. King, regardless of his great songs, will always be known for playing the same two simplistic notes on the 17th fret; yet his music became complex and unique when placed perfectly in his songs. Bill Perry has this same gift in his script writing. It is simplistic, unique, and complex at exactly the right times. After about two minutes into the first video, this became apparent, and it pulled me in.
Okay, so I watched his first ToonLife video, so what? First of all, Bill’s clever writing was straight out of Mr. Roger’s: “getting to know you, getting to know all about you.” Bill draws you in with the simple introduction of a few key characters by strategically not revealing too much about them. You’re left wondering and guessing, being slightly confused while watching small talk dialog between the characters, which I affectionately refer to as “a tease.” He gives you just enough to make you want more. Bill intentionally, flawlessly pulls this off in week one’s introduction.
On to week two—okay, let’s see what happens next. We see more characters emerge. Some of them have boyfriends, some have girlfriends, some are enemies, some are rivals, some are friends. You see more simple small talk dialog, exchanges, chance meetings, and bumping into each other on the street. These interactions help the viewer start to see the characters’ personalities, in an unknown place and time. Interpersonal relationships develop as a small community begins to unfold. The background is laid out and powers begin to come into view. Again, were still in introduction mode here. There’s only so much you can reveal in five minutes, so you’re intentionally left hanging before you can begin to put any of the pieces together. I call this brilliant on Bill’s part. He’s trying his best to hold back and not let too much information out. How tempting it becomes to the viewer to say, I wish I didn’t have to wait till next week to learn more.
Week three. Well folks, I intentionally decided before I wrote one word that I wasn’t going to reveal the characters or describe the scenes in Season One of ToonLife. I waited till I watched the first episode of Season Two before I started writing to make a comparison. If you really liked Season One, you’re gonna love Season Two; trust me, it’s a 360 degree unexpected twist and turn from Season One. So there’s my tease. There are 20 episodes in Season One.
Why won’t I divulge more, you ask? Because if you’re reading this review, you probably haven’t seen ToonLife yet and any hints or descriptions I gave away would distract from the surprise. I will tell you this: there’s drama, some thought provoking scenes, hidden messages, a moral to the story, humor, real life, romance, and fiction. There’s good, bad, and evil. But above all, there’s a good time to be had watching each week’s series unfold. You never know what’s gonna happen next or what new character might emerge. There’s even a deep side to ToonLife. Each week is different and new.
I wholeheartedly commend Bill Perry on his creation of ToonLife, his script writing ability, his characters, his sense of humor, and his skillful plots throughout the series. Well done Mr. Perry, well done indeed.