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TELEVISION REVIEW

The roar of a superhero kid called El Tigre

March 03, 2007|Robert Lloyd | Times Staff Writer

"El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera," which premieres this morning on Nickelodeon, is a bright and energetic new cartoon set in a sort of Mexican Townsville called Miracle City, "a spicy cesspool of crime and villainy" located at the foot of a volcano. But it should be said that as bad as things can get in a town with its own Evil Store, things are far worse in the mountain city of Calavera, a place so bad its mascot is a broken leg.

Schoolkid Manny, who becomes the superhero El Tigre with a twirl of his belt buckle, is the son of another superhero, the semi-retired White Pantera, who gains power from his Bronze Boots of Truth, and the grandson of a supervillain, Puma Loco, who possesses a Sombrero of Chaos. Manny carries the genes of both: He's fundamentally good but easily tempted into trouble, sometimes by his best friend, Frida, who has blue hair and poor impulse control.

Created by the husband-and-wife team of Jorge R. Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua, both born and raised in Mexico, this is the latest in what might be called a short line of Latin-themed cartoons, including "Dora the Explorer," "Maya & Miguel," "The Emperor's New School" and "Mucha Lucha," the 2004 Kids' WB series about junior Mexican wrestlers on which Gutierrez and Equihua both worked. If "The Powerpuff Girls" is the godmother of "El Tigre," both conceptually and (in rough terms) visually, the new show has its own look and feel, owing to its setting -- the design is rooted in Mexican folk art; the palette shows more than usual attention to browns, oranges and reds -- and the fact that it's Flash-animated. Originally created for Web-based animations, Flash has turned out to be a friend to the TV cartoon as well, a more than workable compromise between the economic expedience of computer-based animation and the personal mark of old-school drawing. It has a special fluidity and speed and other-worldliness and is used beautifully here in a witty little cartoon with the jolt of a swig of Tabasco.

*

`El Tigre'

Where: Nickelodeon

When: 10 to 11 a.m.

Rating: TV-Y7-FV (directed to older children, with an advisory for fantasy violence)

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