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Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law

Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law is a North American animated television series comedy created by Williams Street that airs on Cartoon Network during its Adult Swim late night programming block. The series' pilot first aired in 2000, and later became a series in 2001. The show revolves around the activity of the Sebben & Sebben law firm, which is staffed mainly by superheroes and other characters who had originally been featured in 1960s-era Hanna-Barbera cartoons, most notably Birdman and the Galaxy Trio. The series had its final episode in 2007.

Premise

Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law features ex-superhero Harvey T. Birdman of Birdman and the Galaxy Trio as an attorney working for a law firm alongside other cartoon stars from 1960s and 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoon series. Similarly, Harvey's clients are also primarily composed of characters taken from Hanna-Barbera cartoon series of the same era. Many of Birdman's nemeses featured in his former cartoon series also became attorneys, often representing the opposing side of a given case.

Harvey usually fills the role of a criminal defense attorney, though he will act as a civil litigator or other such job when the plot calls for it. The series uses a surrealist style of comedy, featuring characters, objects, and jokes that are briefly introduced and rarely (if ever) referenced thereafter. Also, because the series relies heavily on pop culture references to classic television animation, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law constantly delves into parody, even featuring clips of these series or specially-created scenes which mimic the distinctive style of the animation being referenced. Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law is the first Williams Street cartoon to maintain continuity through the entire series. Various episodes reference Harvey's (or another superhero's) former crimefighting career. The episode "Turner Classic Birdman" even serves to bridge the gap between Birdman and the Galaxy Trio and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.

Instead of rigid plot structure, much of the humor is derived from the fact that superheroes and supervillains are given more realistic and human qualities, such as a mad scientist named Dr. Myron Reducto, who becomes a paranoid prosecutor. Also, several of the plots revolve around the popular myths about classic Hanna-Barbera characters, such as Shaggy and Scooby-Doo being stoners.

Although the first season was animated using traditional cel animation, the remaining seasons were animated using Adobe Flash. The reason for the switch was that the animation studio was having difficulty maintaining the fast pace of the show, and thus the production of episodes slowed down due to constant retakes. By animating the series at Turner Studios in Atlanta, Georgia with Flash, not only were problems corrected faster, but production costs were much lower. Some animation was also done for the show at Bardel Entertainment in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Characters

Sebben & Sebben

  • Harvey T. Birdman starred in the Hanna-Barbera show Birdman and the Galaxy Trio in the 1970s (his alter ego from that show, Ray Randal, is not used). He gets strength and power from sunlight, and grows weak if kept away from the sun for too long. His superpowers include flight, the ability to create a shield of solid light, and the ability to shoot destructive energy beams from his fists. These powers are thought to stem from the crest on his helmet, though Harvey isn't entirely sure of the crest's true role in his powers. He has since retired from his superhero job and is now working for the law firm of Sebben & Sebben. Harvey is 6'6", and has large wings growing out of his back, genetically inherited from his father. His clients consist of other Hanna-Barbera characters of the past and present. He was presumably killed by Phil Ken Sebben in the last episode after being hit by a bus, however in the episode before the last episode, Harvey was duplicated for jury duty and possibly the clone was the one who was killed.
  • Avenger, a large purple eagle, is Harvey's old sidekick, who now serves as his legal secretary. Avenger sits on a perch on Harvey's desk, and sleeps in a canary cage in the office at night. Avenger's tasks usually involve taking dictation or filing. Avenger is badly hindered by his inability to speak (except in the episode "Mufti Trouble", where Avenger temporarily developed the ability to speak), even though it is clear that he can understand, or at least perceive the meaning in, the speech of other characters. Avenger can type and write English by claw, and Harvey seems to understand every "caw" he says. As a running gag, Avenger will commonly snatch the cute animal sidekicks of the people Harvey represents (Scrappy-Doo, Chim-Chim, etc.) in his talons.
  • Debbie is Harvey's secretary; although she is clearly seen in a few episodes, she's usually presented as just a voice on Harvey's intercom. It's implied that she hates her job, and that Harvey greatly relies on her. First appearances: "Bannon Custody Battle" (voice only), "X, the Exterminator" (full appearance).
  • Peanut was hired by Harvey to be his legal clerk; this character is modeled after Birdboy, who appeared in several episodes of the original Birdman cartoon. Unlike Birdman, Peanut's powers are not biological; his wings are mechanical, and his shield and energy beams come from "power bands" on his wrists. In most cases, he is unnervingly cool and calculated, often in extreme contrast to the goings-on around him, but can often be seen working behind the scenes towards uncertain or explicitly seedy ends. He sports a pink and green sweater-vest and often speaks in a hushed and whispered tone. He has an ongoing rivalry/partnership with Avenger where they dig a large hole in the middle of Harvey's office or play Foozball together. He speaks Japanese, Spanish, and French. First appearance: "Shaggy Busted." Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law#Peanut
  • Phil Ken Sebben is the deranged president and co-founder of the law firm Sebben & Sebben. In the original Birdman series, Phil's character was code-named 'Falcon Seven.' His name in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law is a play on these words (Falcon Seven = Phil Ken Sebben). He is recognizable by his blonde hair, an eyepatch, and a dark suit. He co-founded the firm with twin brother Bill when they were twenty-six years old (they were distinguishable by the fact their eyepatches are on opposite eyes). It is uncertain if he really has a religion, but he is shown making Harvey a bounty hunter in a very Jewish way in the episode "Booty Noir". He has a habit of laughing whenever he says a double entendre or a non sequitur, followed by a short joke. For instance, his arm seems to have been turned backwards after falling off a building. Once he gets up, Phil asks a passer-by "Hey lady, I need a yank. Ha ha, Dislocation." He has numerous vision problems; it is implied that he is blind in the eye not covered by his eyepatch, and he states that he "sees everything 3 feet to the left" of where they really are, and must account for this fact. Said partial blindness causes him to kill Birdman in the series finale by hitting him with a bus, which crashes into a building. He confirms this by showing everyone Birdman's blood, causing everyone to laugh, as most episodes end. First appearance: "Death By Chocolate." Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law#Phil Ken Sebben
  • Peter Potamus works at the law firm of Sebben & Sebben as a lawyer. The former star of Peter Potamus, he has taken the role of annoying co-worker, as well as an accomplished lecher and glutton. He often uses the catch phrase, "Did you get that thing I sent you?" He takes this catchphrase to a personal level (he gets upset when someone doesn't get the thing) and to almost a spiritual level (whenever he is portrayed as a god, the catchphrase is almost the whole focus of the religion). Potamus is often unexpectedly caught mating with women in the office, often on a desk, followed usually by a quick "What the-", or the occasional "Mein Gott," German for "My God." He has a love/hate relationship with Judy Ken Sebben, and later in the series he acquired the ability to transform into the savage "Incredible Hippo" when angrily provoked. He had fingers up until late in season 3, after which they were replaced by flat, fingerless hands. First appearance: "Deadomutt, Part 1." Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law#Peter Potamus
  • Antonio de Ribera Garcia Azul Falcón ("Blue" to his friends) is a Spanish lawyer who is very charming and popular. Also known as the superhero Blue Falcon, Falcón was first introduced as a new partner in the Sebben & Sebben firm. Falcón often relies on his sidekick Dynomutt. He has a penchant for giving away "expensive and beautiful" silk clothing, which is often a cue for throwing an impromptu party (upon which he yells "Now, we make PARTY!"). An incompetent lawyer, he was later demoted to a men's room attendant in the Sebben & Sebben building. Phil states that he has a "sissy European lisp thingy." First appearance: "Deadomutt, Part 1." Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law#Azul Falcón
  • Judy Ken Sebben is Phil's daughter, who seems to be very interested in Harvey's work as a lawyer. She takes on the alter ego of Birdgirl (who appeared in one episode of the original cartoon) and attempts to integrate herself with the "Bird Team"; however, her over-eagerness and clumsiness grates on Harvey, and he only begrudgingly accepts her role as his "sidekick." Birdgirl's actions seem to hearken back to the action TV shows of the '60s and '70s, often using campy full-screen onomatopoeia like "Punch!" and "Wham!", similar to the original Batman series; she also gave Harvey's inconspicuous sedan a complete overhaul, changing it into the Birdmobile (akin to the Batmobile, complete with "recirc rocket"). She has a habit of speaking her inner monologues regarding her secret identity out loud and often into a public address system. Her father Phil is oblivious to the fact that "Birdgirl" is really his own daughter, and flirts with her in their encounters when she is wearing her mask. Judy also assisted Peter Potamus in controlling his transformation into the "Incredible Hippo" with grinding, erotic yoga exercises. First appearance: "Birdgirl of Guantanamole."
  • Bear is a recurring pantomime character who appears randomly throughout each episode, often at the end joining in with the laughter of the rest of the cast. Bear's actual role at the law firm is unclear, commonly believed to be a lawyer/bartender, and his presence among the employees seems to often go unnoticed or unmentioned by the others. He is often seen randomly assisting the others in various bizarre tasks. He sometimes comments by smiling and releasing a cute and inquisitive-sounding "Awr?" The bear was designed by Vincent Waller, an animator and story-board artist who worked on The Ren and Stimpy Show and other John Kricfalusi projects, as well as SpongeBob SquarePants and Duckman. Ouweleen describes the bear as "the most zen creature on Earth." First appearance: "Very Personal Injury."

Rival lawyers

  • Myron Reducto is an attorney at Freezoid, Zarog & Skon, and is one of Harvey's most common courtroom opponents, as well as one of Birdman's closest friends. He is a small man with green-tinged skin, and brandishes a raygun that shrinks its target. He is highly obsessive compulsive about items smaller than he (Atom Ant and Inch High Private Eye for example) and usually responds with "BACK OFF" and using his Shrink Gun to ward them off, he is also prone to occasional paranoid and/or conspiracy theorist monologues, particularly about people who are smaller than he is, like Inch High Private Eye or Atom Ant. He drives a new Mini Cooper, and his political views have been suggested to be Libertarian. He is also voiced by Stephen Colbert, as seen in the show's credits. First appearance: "Very Personal Injury."
  • Vulturo is another one of Harvey's former villains turned rival lawyers. His primary set-back is a speech impediment that he seems entirely unaware of; he has a thick, pompous accent (reminiscent of and perhaps inspired by the speech patterns of actor James Mason) and though he will often start talking in a normal posh voice, he soon trails off into incomprehensible gibberish. This seems to have little effect on his success rate as a lawyer. He lives in a subterranean lair, somewhat similar to the Batcave. His original assistant, Dirth, was a robotic vulture but is now a cigarette lighter. First appearance: "Bannon Custody Battle."
  • Evelyn Spyro Throckmorton is a villain/lawyer with tendencies toward the dramatic. Fancying himself as a thespian, he stages theater, spoken word plays, and opera in the courtroom as oral arguments. He often talks above witnesses, occasionally questioning them in foreign speeches. He prepped at Choate and received his law degree from Yale. First appearance: "Shaggy Busted."
  • Stan Freezoid (known as Dr. Freezoids in the original series) is another villain/lawyer, whose main ability is freezing. His personality and demeanor as a lawyer is that of a stereotypical ambulance chaser, though Reducto says he is "the best criminal defense guy in the business." His business suit appears to be painted onto his robotic form. Of all the rival lawyers, he is by far the least eccentric and most level-headed. He usually seems rather benign, but he has an explosive temper when ignored, often threatening, "I'll freeze your ass!" He is a Name Partner at Freezoid, Zarog & Skon. First appearance: "Deadomutt, Part 2."
  • Shado the Brain Thief is a lawyer who has telepathic abilities, much like those of Mentok. However, unlike Mentok, Shado uses his abilities to harass opposing counsel in a rather obnoxious manner. Shado is apt to sway juries with his 'brain-thieving.' First appearance: "Harvey's Civvy."
  • M!!!butu is an African Witch doctor who often appears during chaotic scenes yelling in mock-Zulu and jabbing a spear. His name is pronounced "Mmm*click*click*click*mmbutu", and he is a member of the board at Freezoid, Zarog & Skon. First appearance: "Bannon Custody Battle."

Court

  • Judge Mentok the Mind-Taker is a former enemy of Birdman, but now is a court judge who often hears his cases. He has various psychic powers including: teleportation, telepathy, hypnotism, precognition, and telekinesis — all referred to as "mind taking" — but he rarely uses them for anything beyond sophomoric mischief. He has been given the personality of a cocky and flamboyant stage magician; because of this, he often predicts the result of the cases he presides over before they have even started. Indeed, he often appears bored during trial; a expressionless look with his head resting in his hands. He often makes an entrance, such as appearing in a cloud of smoke or from a bolt of lightning. Mentok's gavel is a brain on a handle, which squishes when struck. He also seems to enjoy patronizing people such as Inch High Private Eye and especially the courtroom's bailiff, while the bailiff usually just ignores him and stares forward with a blank expression. During his time on Earth, Mentok has worked as a mufti, a genie, a sex trade worker, a Cossack, and an E.S.T. instructor. His main catch phrase is "Booweeoop" to give the impression of eerie sci-fi theremin music and is said whilst moving his hands around in a circular motion often when 'Mind Taking'. It has also been implied in several episodes that he is a cannabis user. First appearance: "Shoyu Weenie."
  • Judge Hiram Mightor was a Hanna-Barbera superhero of the Sixties known as Mighty Mightor, one who lived in prehistoric times and got his powers from a magic club. He uses a club as a gavel of sorts and speaks with a Southern accent (as opposed to the cartoon from which he is derived). He dresses in traditional judge's robes and wig. Mightor is always coughing up various objects, including a squirrel, a clown car, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, and a miniature Mightor which proceeds to cough up another, even smaller Mightor. He has a problem remembering names, often mangling Birdman's name into "Mister Birdbath," "Mr. Bumnuts," "Beanbag," "Mr. Buttermilk," or "Bootylicious." On occasion, when a double entendre is made about something related to male genitalia, the scene will briefly cut to Mightor in a setting holding a long object upwards (for example his a golf club (in "SPF"), a pool noodle (in "The Devlin Made Me Do It") etc.), while swirling it around slightly and saying, "Deedle-deedle-dee." In some episodes (especially those aired after The Dabba Don), he is seen lying under a large rock, with a muffled "Hello?" heard coming from beneath it. First appearance: "Bannon Custody Battle."'
  • The Bailiff is the court's bailiff. His main function is to announce the arrival of the judge, and Mentok in particular often has the Bailiff announce him in a particularly grand fashion. Often picked on by Mentok who is shown at one stage explaining to The Bailiff the importance of mind taking. In later episodes, he became a mute character, referenced by Mentok saying "Oh, you don't talk.". If a double entendre is made related to genitalia, he will zip his fly up. First appearance: "Shoyu Weenie."
  • The Stenographer is the court's Stenographer. In the series, The Stenographer is a female. Her role to the court is to transcribe in short hand, all the verbal communication that occurs.

Others

  • X the Eliminator is an enemy of Birdman's who was originally commissioned by the organization F.E.A.R. to obtain Birdman's (alleged) source of power, the Crest on Birdman's helmet. This is a departure from the original series, in which he was hired to kill Birdman and bring the crest as proof — in this series, X does in fact suggest killing Birdman, which F.E.A.R. reacts to with surprise. His failure to do so has, over several decades, turned him into a stalking fanatic with a love/hate relationship with Birdman, despite the fact Birdman had completely forgotten about him until he meeting him once after becoming a lawyer. X's tool of choice is an ungainly silver death console with a telescoping laser emitter that uses obsolete vacuum tube technology. It takes so long to recharge, Harvey has time to escape. X sometimes arrives at Harvey's office to destroy him, he tends to be thwarted by inattentive office personnel. According to the credits of the episode of his first appearance, one of the voiced characters is known as "X's Wife". Other evidence seems to suggest he lives with his close friend Zardo as well. First appearance: "X, the Exterminator."
  • Gigi is a recurring character, first appearing as a trainer in a gym. She has at least ten husbands and frequently philanders with male characters on the show, except for Harvey (despite his being one of her husbands). She usually calls him "Harry" or "Henry." She is based on the character Gravity Girl (hence the name: G.G.= Gigi) from the original Birdman and the Galaxy Trio; her Galaxy Trio team-mates Vapor Man and Meteor Man have occasional cameos as her current/former casual boyfriends, Vince and Terry. First appearance: "Trio's Company."
  • Apache Chief is a small-time superhero and former member of the Super Friends, whose power is enlarging himself to immense size. Apache Chief once hired Harvey to represent him in a case where he spilled hot coffee on himself and burned his genitals, losing the ability to enlarge. From then on, he appears in various episodes with a deep fear of coffee. As a fellow third-string superhero, Harvey often comes to Apache for advice such as having him talk to Peanut about going through "superty". First appearance: "Very Personal Injury."
  • Black Vulcan is a small-time superhero who was once a member of the Super Friends. His power is that of lightning, which he sums up as, "Pure electricity... in my pants." He used to insist upon being called "Supervolt," but has since accepted "Black Vulcan" as his super-moniker, although he insists he got the name because of racism. In most of his appearances, he or another character says some variation on the phrase, "In my pants." First appearance: "Very Personal Injury."
  • Zardo is a former enemy of Birdman, having relented his criminal ways apparently to be a home-maker and best friend of X the Eliminator. He has a mace in place of a left hand, is never seen without his bullet-shaped helmet (through which only his eyes can be seen), and speaks with a German accent. Although he does his best to assist X, he is frequently annoyed by the fact X considers himself "alone". First appearance: "X Gets the Crest."
  • The Bartender is the man behind the counter at The Birdcage, a bar Harvey frequents with his friends. Oddly, he appears to be a former agent of F.E.A.R., an organization that was determined to destroy Birdman in his superhero days. First appearance: "Very Personal Injury."
  • Mr. Fezz is a man from somewhere around Saudi Arabia. He is a short bald man, wearing a red fez, a pink vest, and white pants. He usually steals Harvey's office supplies. First appearance: "Grape Juiced."
  • Professor Elliott Taggart the Deadly Duplicator is a villain from Birdman's superhero days who continues to be his enemy. First seen (in this series) in the background during Murro the Marauder's civil suit against Harvey, Elliott later became a recurring character who's determined to destroy Birdman after Birdman mistakenly pronounced his name "Eel-ee-ot" after reading his nametag (his nametag incorrectly spelled his name with one 'l' and one 't', much to Elliott's chagrin, and the mistake couldn't be corrected despite the fact that the copy shop he was working at offered "nametags while you wait"). He wears a pair of glasses that fire a ray which instantly creates living, thinking duplicates of whomever it's aimed at; the duplicates and the original often have difficulty determining which of them is which. He works for a duplication service company, rides solo on a bicycle for two, and lives in a house that has two of everything, including chimneys. First appearances: "Harvey's Civvy" (non-speaking cameo), "Identity Theft" (speaking role).
  • M!!!butu Junior is M!!!butu's son. He is identical to M!!!butu, but is slightly shorter. He is a master of voodoo arts and is quite nifty with a blow dart. First appearance: "Grape Juiced."

Episodes

Cast and crew

Main cast

Crew

Guest appearances

DVD releases

DVD name Release date Ep # Additional information
Volume One April 12 2005 13 This two-disc box-set contains the first thirteen episodes of the show ("Bannon Custody Battle" through "High Speed Buggy Chase") in production order, along with commentaries on selected episodes, deleted scenes, and other special features. A Region 2 version is to be released on November 3rd.
Volume Two October 10 2006 13 This two-disc box-set contains the next thirteen episodes of the show ("Back to the Present" through "Evolutionary War") in production order, along with commentaries on nine episodes, additional footage and other special features.
July 24 2007 13 This two-disc box-set contains the final thirteen episodes of the show ("Turner Classic Birdman" through "The Death of Harvey") in production order, along with special features.

Video game

A video game based on the series has been released for the PlayStation 2, Wii and PlayStation Portable video game consoles.

It was developed by High Voltage Software (developers of Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude) and published by Capcom, with gameplay mechanics similar to Capcom's Ace Attorney trial simulation series. It was released on January 8th 2008.

See also

References

External links

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