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Western Animation / Pelswick

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Created by (but not directly based on the cartooning of) quadriplegic American cartoonist John Callahan, Pelswick was a Canadian animated series produced by Nelvana and animated by Suzhou Hong Ying Animation. In its home country, it was shown on CBC Television for two seasons and 26 episodes. In the United States, it aired on Nickelodeon from 2001 to 2003, and the Nick on CBS block from September to November of 2002.

The show was about Pelswick Eggert, a 13 year old boy who struggled with the average problems that 7th Graders have, such as trying to decide between impressing a girl and going with his gut feelings, and dealing with bullies, while also being in a wheelchair.

In most episodes, Pelswick would have to learn An Aesop from his Guardian Angel, Mr. Jimmy. No matter what the Aesop was, Pelswick would usually not get it until the very end of the episode.

In 2004, a poll on FUNimation's website revealed that they held the DVD rights to Pelswick. They didn't end up releasing any episodes on DVD, likely because of low interest. The show is available for free streaming on Tubi TV, who also streams a bunch of other shows from the Nelvana library.

Also see John Callahan's Quads!, Callahan's much less kid-friendly animated series featuring the same artstyle and many of the same anti-ableism themes as Pelswick, incidentally also produced by Nelvana.

This show contains examples of:

  • Accidental Aesop: In-universe: Mr. Jimmy did not intend the Aesop: "You are taking something that is not that bad and covering it up with a lot of things that are worse" in the dance episode; he just really wanted to cover his bald spot.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Kate is much more savvy and has a much higher vocabulary than most girls her age.
  • Adults Are Useless: The only adults of any prominence are the two old ladies caught up in their rivalry, the Cloudcuckoolander and overprotective vice principal, and the father caught up in political correctness. Oh, and the guardian angel, who despite his weirdness ends up being the wisest character on the show.
  • An Aesop: Pelswick has to learn one from Mr. Jimmy in every episode. The topics vary, but can cover a wide variety that are usually not brought up.
  • All There in the Manual: On the old Nelvana website, it is revealed that Pelswick’s mother was killed in the same car crash that caused his accident.
  • Alpha Bitch: Sandra is very snooty and competitive, although she's actually not as cool as she thinks she is.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Vice Principal Zeigler has a lot of stereotypical mannerisms, was at least as interested in going to the N*Talented concert as the middle-school girls and occasionally dresses up in a fairy costume. See G.I.R.L. for one of those examples.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Pelswick thinks Kate was put on earth to pester him.
  • Appeal to Authority: Zeigler suspends Pelswick in "Pelswick on a String" because Dr. Stevens wants to, but doesn't have the power to, and Zeigler was convinced he was an expert. He spends most of the episode blindly following everything Stevens says because of his expertise, and is rightly upset when he finds out Stevens' secret.
    Zeigler: I wanted an expert, not an emu!
  • Asian and Nerdy: The Japanese-American Ace is the tech whiz of the group, and also has a tendency to correct people for their diction.
  • Attention Whore: Any opportunity Sandra has to be in the media, she'll take, often to the point of having Skewed Priorities.
  • Author Avatar: John Callahan was disabled, disliked being pitied, regularly engaged in Self-Deprecation, and wrote comics about it, and created Pelswick Eggert, who is disabled, dislikes being pitied, regularly engages in Self-Deprecation, and at one point writes a comic about it.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Quentin grows one when he's unemployed. He's only unemployed for three days. And it grows the day after he's fired.
  • Black Comedy: Pelswick occasionally pokes fun at his own disability, and the creator himself also likes to poke fun of himself being stuck in a wheelchair, as shown in some of his adult animations which have a bit more black comedy than Pelswick.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: In "Shall We Dance?", Pelswick goes out on a date with Christina, who is Black. Inverted in that it's not racial issues affecting the relationship, but rather Pelswick trying to hide the fact he's disabled from her.
  • Blatant Lies: In the episode, "Boyd, Here Comes the Flood," Gram-Gram makes up all sorts of farfetched stories about the flood but everyone believes her (except her family) because "she was there." Ace starts to catch wise eventually, at which point Pelswick helps with the lies.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: After being confused by his dad speaking words he doesn't even know, Pelswick adds that if he talks like that, "they're gonna need subtitles." Cue a shot of Pelswick "translating" Dad's language on a reality show.
  • Buccaneer Broadcaster: One episode focuses on Pelswick starting up a pirate radio station after his favorite station was bought out by a car salesman just to advertise his dealership. Pelswick's dad was a literal one during his youth, too.
  • Buffy Speak: Pelswick asks: "what's Boyd doing with a raft and an auger? Or, as kids around the world know it, a 'drilly-thingy.'" This is later combined with Insistent Terminology when Pelswick refers to an auger as a "drilly-thingy" to Gram-Gram.
  • The Bully: Boyd and his two toadies seem to think of bullying as a passion and an obligation. In one episode, Boyd cuts bullying Melvin short so that he has time to bully Pelswick before he goes to the post office.
  • Can't Use Stairs: The school bully picks on Pelswick as the favored target, but knows he can't use physical force on a kid in a wheelchair and opts toward psychological abuse. One of his methods was to jump on top of a staircase so Pelswick couldn't follow.
  • Chained Heat: One episode dealt with Boyd being handcuffed to Pelswick's wheelchair. Pelswick himself was even told by Mr. Jimmy to watch The Defiant Ones but didn't want to watch a black and white film.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Vice-Principal Zeigler is very airheaded and weird. He even has a Leitmotif that plays whenever he's being sufficiently nonsensical.
  • Cool Old Lady: Gram-Gram likes to make wisecracks and always wonders why no one has any fun, to the point that when she fills in as Pelswick's substitute teacher in history, she starts telling Blatant Lies to make it more interesting.
  • Cool Shades: Mr. Jimmy wears square sunglasses.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Mr. Jimmy likes to give Pelswick advice on what to do, it's just that he never wants to do it in a straightforward manner. In one episode, he does... But since Pelswick is so used to these, he tries too hard to figure it out.
  • Dirty Old Woman: Gram-Gram spends a lot of her time fantasizing about being with younger men, even going against her preconceived notions that she didn't care about an athlete to chase after him because he was cute.
  • Disabled Means Helpless: The vast majority of the adults in the series seem to believe this. Pelswick naturally finds this treatment patronizing and annoying. The main theme of the show? Treat people with equality.
  • Disabled Snarker: Pelswick is generally snarky about everything and everyone, including himself. Given the weirdness he has to deal with regularly, it would be more surprising if he wasn't snarky, but he's portrayed as having an unusually positive attitude for this trope.
  • The Ditz: Goon is very slow-witted, to the point he has to be reminded at one point that stop signs don't turn green.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Pelswick hates it when other people express pity for him, mainly because he's completely self-sufficient and not nearly as much of a burden as people make him feel like. Their pity usually actually makes things worse for him, such as preventing him from going on a camping trip for little reason or getting his crush suspended. Somewhat ironically, when Boyd is temporarily confined to a wheelchair, Pelswick feels sorry for him, and this is Boyd's reaction too.
  • Drama Queen: Sandra reacts to everything in an over-the-top manner.
  • Dumbass DJ: When Pelswick starts his own pirate radio station and invites his friends to DJ with him, Goon naturally becomes this, cracking jokes about sidewalks.
    "How come they call them sidewalks when they're in front of your house? And how come they call them sidewalks when you can run on them?"
  • Eccentric Mentor: To call Mr. Jimmy "eccentric" is an understatement, but he also always has the right advice to help Pelswick with his problems.
  • Erudite Stoner: Mr. Jimmy spends a lot of time acting like he's at a Grateful Dead concert... And is also the one to provide each episode's morals.
  • Fantastic Comedy: It's mostly realistic, except for Pelswick's guardian angel, Mr. Jimmy, whom he frequently talks to.
  • Fiery Redhead: Julie can have a short fuse, especially when her friends are being treated unfairly or when she's arguing with Sandra.
  • Funny Background Event: When Pelswick is shown working at the middle school radio station, you can see Vice-Principal Zeigler admiring an unhung bulletin board of socks.
  • G.I.R.L.: Pelswick's friends warn him about the dangers of online dating, and say that the "girl" could be a guy; in this particular case, Vice Principal Zeigler.
  • Gag Nose: Almost every character has one.
  • Gentle Giant: Goon has a big frame and a big heart.
  • Guardian Angel: Mr. Jimmy is one to Pelswick, who generally guides him to the episodes' morals but doesn't tell him what they are.
  • Guilty Pleasure: N*Talented is this for Pelswick until he finds out who is really playing.
  • Headdesk: Pelswick does this because he can't enjoy Boyd's misery. Mr. Jimmy calls it a "head solo!"
  • Honor Before Reason: Even when facing suspension, Julie does not disclose Pelswick's identity on his anonymously-submitted comic.
  • Hype Aversion: N*Talented is an in-universe example. None of the guys (except Zeigler) want to listen to the band, but when Julie finds out Pelswick lied about liking them to her, she makes him listen to them, and he finds out, to his horror, that he actually likes them! He finds out alongside everyone else it's because their music was actually being performed by Megadirt, a washed-up metal band that his dad was a fan of, even recognizing their music at the concert.
  • Hypocrite: The puppet therapist Zeigler hires to help students talk through their inner feelings convinces Zeigler to suspend Pelswick for refusing to put his self-image puppet into a wheelchair, and then it turns out his self-image puppet is an emu, which in turn causes Zeigler to fire the therapist.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Julie's official bio explains that "she hates all the cliques and popularity contests at school and seems to care mostly about her popularity and image."
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: In-universe in "Oh, Bully, Where Art Thou." Sandra and Julie are replanting a tree and Sandra says that the seed came from "the very orange that fell on Galileo's head." When Julie mentions that it was Newton and an apple, Sandra is offended.
  • Insistent Terminology: Ace corrects people often when they misuse words, use words that aren't specific enough ("actually, if it has strings, it's a marionette,") or even just define them improperly ("vanilla isn't plain ice cream, vanilla is a flavor.")
  • Is This Thing On?: Vice Principal Zeigler tests his microphone in this manner, causing large amounts of feedback. The entire student body, yells "Yes, it's on!" in frustration while covering their ears.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: Pelswick's response to Kate's lethal cooking is that it tastes like a bathtub plug, which was later verified by Mr. Jimmy.
  • Jerkass: Boyd goes out of his way to pick on Pelswick for his disability, while simultaneously showing him the same level of condescension he hates from most others by refusing to attack him physically. He also likes to torment other students.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Something bad usually happens to Boyd by the end of the episode after his general Jerkassery. The episode "Oh, Bully, Where Art Thou?" stands out for having Boyd temporarily in need of a wheelchair, which most of the students thought would be Pelswick's perfect chance for payback... But Pelswick can't bring himself to hit Boyd when he's down.
  • Lethal Chef:
    • Pelswick's little sister, Kate. Justified though, because she's eight.
    • Gram Gram counts, too. In one episode, she made chili so hot that Pelswick used it to make a wet cell battery for a science project, since he wasn't able to get sulfuric acid.
  • Lighter and Softer: The series is notably much lighter compared to John Callahan's other work.
  • Made in Country X: Pelswick remarks that his dad's radio equipment is so old that it was made in America.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: N*Talented are actually just lip-syncing to an old band.
  • Meaningful Name: Goon The Ditz and Ace to a lesser extent. While Ace isn't The Ace, he's the smartest of the Power Trio.
  • Missing Mom: Quentin is a single dad raising three kids.
  • My Beloved Smother: Technically a grandmother, but Agnes is this to Boyd, much to his dismay.
  • Nice Guy: Ace and Goon are both very genial; they don't even laugh at Pelswick's misery when Julie does, and have trouble insulting him even when he tells them to.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: N*Talented's name is based on *NSYNC and they have Milli Vanilli's controversy.
  • Noodle Incident: How Pelswick became a paraplegic is never revealed.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Inverted. When Pelswick goes on a date with a girl he meets online and finds out she loves to dance, he gets robotic legs in order to pretend to be able to walk (and dance.) Hilarity Ensues. His sister Kate plays it straight in another episode where she pretends to be a blind blues singer.
  • Only Sane Man: Pelswick is the only sane person in his family (with the possible exception of baby brother Bobby who barely talks,) but he doesn't play this role at school — Ace and/or Julie often have to be the voice of reason for him, then.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: According to Ace's statistics, Goon's Dumbass DJ show dominates the market of people who are obsessed with sidewalks.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Pelswick puts on a raincoat and a fake beard when he delivers newspapers out of embarrassment. Ace sees through it immediately; Goon does not.
  • Parent with New Paramour: "Hear No Evil, P.C. No Evil" involves Quentin getting a girlfriend named Spagna. Kate is horrified at first, with Pelswick optimistic. When they actually meet her, Kate loves her and Pelswick hates her. Later on, Kate hates her too. After she proves to be too PC for even him to handle, Quentin breaks up with her by the end of the episode.
  • Playing a Tree: In "Blink and You're at 182," Kate winds up playing "Non-speaking Radish #3" in her school play due to her sudden unpopularity.
  • Political Overcorrectness: Played for laughs, usually, often through Pelswick's father Quentin, who always insists on being politically correct, even correcting Gram-Gram when she said "stewardess" and "flight attendant" were the same thing, because the latter was the "correct gender-sensitive term." Taken further in the episode "Hear No Evil, P.C. No Evil" with Quentin's girlfriend Spagna, who at the same time constantly patronizes and babies Pelswick for his disability, finally culminating in her referring to Pelswick as a "poor defenseless crippled child," at which point Quentin asks her to leave.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Boyd and his cronies pick on Pelswick for his disability.
  • Power Trio: Pelswick the ego, Goon the id, and Ace the superego.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Quirky Household: Gram-Gram, Quentin, Pelswick, Kate, and Bobby might all have their own types of oddness, but they're very loving and supportive of each other. The household gets quirkier when we include Pelswick's Guardian Angel, Mr. Jimmy.
  • Revolving Door Band: N*Talented constantly changes their lineup, with Mitch being the only one still remaining by the episode's end, with progressively weirder justifications for each of them leaving. Of course, none of the girls are bothered by this and swoon over each new guy just by hearing his name.
  • Rock is Authentic, Pop is Shallow: Subverted, in which Pelswick trashes N'Talented, a boy band Julie is into. Julie rightfully calls Pelswick out on him judging the music without listening to it and challenges him to actually hear their album. And in a twist - he likes it. Later revealed that the boy band is actually musically backed by an old metal band Megadirt that Pelswick likes.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: Goon can't tell when Pelswick is being sarcastic. He also has trouble seeing through his Blatant Lies.
  • Self-Deprecation: Pelswick has been known to do this on occasion. One memorable self-deprecating joke he made was "Thanks for saving me a seat, but I brought my own!" Cue Sandra punching the chair over.
  • Shout-Out: One of Boyd's nicknames for Pelswick is "Chairizard," a play on the Pokémon Charizard.
  • Sleepwalking: One episode features the dean at the university where Quentin works sleepwalking, sleep-driving, and sleep-pilfering important documents from work and hiding them in his shed. Not knowing where the files went, he fires Quentin because he was suspicious he'd stolen them, until Pelswick catches him.
  • The Smart Guy: Ace is the brains of most operations.
  • Spirit Advisor: Only Pelswick can see Mr. Jimmy but he comes around to give him clues about the lessons he's supposed to learn.
  • Stuffy Old Songs About the Buttocks: "Yo Butt," a Piss-Take Rap originally performed by two Austrian men wearing lederhosen and eventually sung by most of the main characters over the course of the third episode.
  • Sue Donym: In one episode, Sandra uses the pseudonym "Mandra Mottle" and surprisingly fools everyone. When Julie discovers Sandra's secret identity, she herself uses the pseudonym "Mulie Mockford."
  • That Poor Car: Gram Gram was said to snore so loud that it set off all the car alarms on the street.
  • Trap-Door Fail: The head of the radio station tries to drop Pelswick into a trap door, but because the trap door wasn't wheelchair-accessible, it ends up opening in the space underneath his seat between the wheels.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Pelswick is this to Julie.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Pelswick's reaction to Mr. Jimmy most of the time, at least in part because he usually has no idea what Jimmy is talking about.invoked
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Julie and Sandra, both best friends and archrivals. Half the time they're having fun together and the other half they're screaming at each other.
  • Vocal Evolution: Goon's voice started as a tough, frat-boy sounding, then later on sounded more oafish, whinier, and having a slight lisp.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: It's hard to tell where Bayview is, with varying clues placing it anywhere from near Portland, Oregon (where creator John Callahan hails from) to near San Francisco, California.
  • You Were Trying Too Hard: In one episode, Mr. Jimmy advises Pelswick to "ask to see Dr. Stevens' puppet." Pelswick, so used to Cryptic Conversations, assumes that he has to solve a riddle. It's not until Kate mentions his puppet that Pelswick realizes that is literally what he was supposed to do. Apparently Mr. Jimmy did it out of kindness for Pelswick because he doesn't like the riddles, but it backfired because Mr. Jimmy neglected to tell him he was doing it.