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Ben 10: Animation Differences and Tones
Cartoon Network once made shows that combined the action of superhero cartoons with its own brand of comedy. One good example was Ben 10, a show about a kid suddenly acquiring the ability of transforming into various aliens. Ben 10 as a show was interesting in that when the show's sequels had artistic changes, there were accompanying tone changes. Initially the show had the main character, named Ben, adjust to being a superhero in a rather haphazard manner. Ben made mistakes, never got the alien powers he wanted on a consistent basis, and some of the serious moments were resolved in a humorous manner. However, since this show did surprisingly well by the time the series ended, two sequels were produced. Titled Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, decided to become more mature in its content, which was reflected with all of the characters becoming slightly older and more realistic animation. The characters, including Ben, were more mature, there was not as much comedy compared to the original Ben 10, and Ben's ability to change into different aliens had a major improvement compared to the original series. After Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, another sequel was created called Ben 10: Omniverse. Here the whimsical silliness of the original series and the older characters from the first sequel series were combined. The character with the transformation abilities was unable to transform properly again, the animation looked silly, and scenes of Ben as both a kid and a teenager were shown.
Airing in 2005, Ben 10 was one of Cartoon Network's attempts at combining comedy and action. In the original Ben 10 series had a rather simple premise. One day, Ben Tennyson, a normal boy, was on Summer Vacation with his cousin, Gwen Tennyson, and his grandfather, Max Tennyson. During the first episode a meteor carrying a device called the Omnitrix fell to Earth near Ben. When Ben went near the Omnitrix, it spontaneously fused to his wrist. Now armed with the ability to transform into various new aliens, Ben spent the rest of the original Ben 10 series both enjoying Summer Vacation while juggling a superhero lifestyle. A majority of the episodes consisted of Ben and his family arriving at some destination in North America, encountering some threat to the surrounding area that was alien or man-made in origin, Ben and his family having to put aside their vacation to stop the threat, and ultimately enjoying themselves without anybody else discovering Ben's identity, more or less. Being a ten-year-old, Ben was not a very heroic person. As a character he was immature, impulsive, and when he was not fighting some extraterrestrial monster or humanoid bad guy, Ben used his aliens to do mundane tasks.
Being the original series, while the animation looked more realistic than some of the other cartoons from Cartoon Network, the characters in this series were still cartoon-like compared to its first sequel. Which reflected the immaturity that Ben, as a ten-year-old, possessed. As shown in one of the shorts, Ben had control with choosing some of his aliens during later point in the series, but it was mostly inconsistent. What this short also showed was Ben's disinterest at all things academic. He did not show interest at being in a museum, when criminals showed-up to rob the museum, Ben did not try to come up with a plan on what alien could best handle a situation, and decided to use an alien who did not possess the finesse to fight safely in a museum, and Ben did not even try to safely retrieve any stolen artifacts and was for concerned with beating-up the criminals. By the end of the short, while Ben did manage to stop the robbery, he also failed to save the artifacts, causing them to break. And rather than act genuinely apologetic about failing to save any of the stolen artifacts, Ben just says that his family should have gone to a water park instead. Being children, it made sense to make Ben act immature at times. The sequel series, however, aged the characters, which included increased maturity.
Ben 10's first sequel series, Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 19: Ultimate Alien were more mature compared to the original series. Which made sense since the people behind this sequel also wrote and animated Justice League and Justice League: Unlimited, other mature Cartoon Network action cartoons. This meant that the series as a whole looked far more realistic compared to the original Ben 10 series. Airing in 2005, Ben 10: Alien Force still had Ben Tennyson as the main character. The difference this show had with its predecessor was that Ben 10: Alien Force took place five years after Ben 10. Now a fifteen-year-old teenager, Ben Tennyson was far more level-headed and mature than his ten-year-old self. Ben was characterized as a lot nicer compared to his younger self, he actually planned things out rather than jump into things impulsively, and he even had more control with the Omnitrix compared to his younger self. Since this show was made by people who had experience making cartoons with more mature content, the animation and writing was slightly different. Ben 10: Alien Force took place after Summer Vacation so the characters were busy with other things like school. As a result, most of the episodes took place at night. Some other mature subjects that were used involved dating, learning how to drive, and dealing with enemies that were more violent compared to the original series.
Ben 10: Ultimate Alien was interesting in that it had Ben's secret identity exposed to the world. Now dealing with being a teenager in a world that knew who he was, Ben had a new set of challenges to deal with. First and foremost was the new gimmick of the Omnitrix's replacement, the Ultimatrix. With the Ultimatrix, Ben had the ability to evolve some of his aliens into new forms that were significantly stronger than their previous forms. And when dealing with problems like villains targeting his parents, having to deal with negative publicity, and fighting an Elder God from an old H.P. Lovecraft story. Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien were attempts for the Ben 10 franchise to take itself seriously in its stories, and people did not necessarily enjoy the change. The next sequel would try to go back to a more whimsical setting, but with older characters.
The Second Sequel
The second sequel to the Ben 10 franchise, Ben 10: Omniverse, aired in 2012. Here the tone and themes tried to take the older Ben from Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien and put him in episodes that were similar to the tone of the original Ben 10. Ben was slightly more arrogant about his superhero status, Ben had a more sillier personality compared to his previous incarnation, and Ben's inability to choose the right alien occurred more frequently in some episodes. Fortunately, Ben's experienced compensated and justified his more self-centered personality in that even if Ben did not get the desired alien from his new Omnitrix, he was still able to use whatever alien he got adequately.
This scene here showed an alien that Ben got from Ben 10: Alien Force use its abilities in a way that was not shown in the series where it originated. Here, Ben decided to use an alien that was more of a thinker than a fighter, mostly to prove a point. This would be different if this was a younger Ben because he would have just used a physically stronger alien and use brute force to solve a problem. At this point in Ben 10: Omniverse Ben at the very least learned that strength was not always the best solution. for all problems.
Ben 10 as a franchise had different tones that coincidentally were included with different animation changes. The original series looked like a standard Cartoon Network animated comedy and had a more whimsical tone. Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien tried to take the series in a more serious direction, and its more realistic animation reflected that changed. Ben 10: Omniverse however tried to be more similar to the original series in its tone and its animation looked even more like a cartoon than the original series. Which was interesting for a cartoon franchise.