Dexter's Laboratory (commonly abbreviated as Dexter's Lab) is an American animated television series created by Genndy Tartakovsky for Cartoon Network. The series is comic science fiction about a boy-genius named Dexter who has a secret laboratory filled with an endless collection of his inventions. He constantly battles his annoying sister Dee Dee, who always gains access to his lab despite his efforts to keep her out, as well as his archrival and neighbor, Mandark. The series was produced by Cartoon Network Studios, then a division of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons.

Tartakovsky first pitched the series for Hanna-Barbera's shorts showcase World Premiere Toons, basing it on student films he produced at CalArts. Three shorts were created and broadcast in 1995 and 1996 until viewer approval ratings convinced the network to order a 13-episode first season, which premiered on April 27, 1996. By 1999, 52 episodes and a television movie were produced, and in 2001 the network revived the series under different production team. After 26 more episodes, the series ended on November 20, 2003.

Dexter's Laboratory became the Cartoon Network's most popular and successful original animated series, and led to a change in direction for Cartoon Network. The show achieved high ratings and had a positive reception. During its run, the series was nominated for four Emmy Awards and garnered several other accolades. The series is also notable for helping launch the careers of several cartoonists, such as Craig McCracken, Seth MacFarlane, Butch Hartman, Bob Boyle, Scott Fellows, and Rob Renzetti.

Series overview

The series revolves around Dexter, a young boy-genius with a secret laboratory filled with highly advanced equipment hidden behind a bookcase in his bedroom. Access to the lab is achieved by speaking various passwords or by activating hidden switches on his bookshelf (e.g. pulling out a specific book). Dexter is normally in conflict with his ditzy older sister, Dee Dee, who always mysteriously gains access to his lab no matter what he does to try to keep her out. Dee Dee eludes all manner of security and, once inside, delights in playing in the lab, often destroying all of his creations (by pushing the wrong button on an invention, for example). This is often preceded by Dee Dee asking "Oooooh, what does this button do?", without waiting for an answer.

Despite her hyperactive personality, Dee Dee sometimes makes more logical decisions than Dexter, or even gives him helpful advice. Dexter, though highly intelligent, often fails at what he has set out to do when he becomes overexcited and makes careless choices. He manages to keep the lab a secret from his clueless, cheerful parents, who amusingly never notice any evidence of the laboratory. Despite coming from a typical all-American family, Dexter speaks with an accent, a reference to Tartakovsky's own accent that he spoke with during childhood.[1]

Dexter's arch-nemesis is a boy from his school named Susan AKA Mandark who lives down the block from Dexter and has a secret laboratory of his own. Mandark's schemes are generally evil and are designed to gain power for himself while downplaying or destroying Dexter's accomplishments. Dexter often makes better inventions than Mandark, but Mandark tries to make up for this by stealing Dexter's plans. Mandark is also in love with Dee Dee, though she ignores him and never returns his affections. As the series progressed, Mandark's schemes became significantly more evil, his laboratory darker-looking, industrial and angular, in contrast to his original brightly-lit lab which had more rounded features.

Continuity is not generally an aspect of the show, and many episodes are self-contained or leave characters in predicaments that are unresolved and never referenced afterward (e.g. the entire lab is completely destroyed, Dexter is turned into a sandwich, etc.). Most episodes end in disaster because of a flaw in Dexter's logic or in his inventions.


Dexter's Laboratory was inspired by one of Genndy Tartakovsky's drawings of a ballerina.[2][3] After drawing Dee Dee's tall, thin shape, he decided to pair her with a short and blocky opposite, Dexter (inspired by Tartakovsky's older brother Alex).[4] After enrolling at CalArts in 1990 to study animation, Tartakovsky wrote, directed, animated, and produced two cartoon shorts that would become the basis for the series.[5] Dexter's Laboratory was then made into a short film as a part of Cartoon Network's What A Cartoon! project, promoted as a World Premiere Toons on February 26, 1995.[6] Viewers worldwide voted on what series should be given a full-time slot; the first to earn that vote of approval was Dexter's Laboratory. The series was picked up for a season of 13 episodes in August 1995.[7] The show debuted as a half-hour series on April 27, 1996, with further promotion by its broadcast on both TNT and TBS as well as the Cartoon Network. Mike Lazzo, then-head of programming for the network, said that the short was his favorite of the 48 shorts, commenting "We all loved the humor in brother-versus-sister relationship".[8] Directors and writers on the series included Genndy Tartakovsky,[9] Rumen Petkov,[10] Craig McCracken,[9] Seth MacFarlane,[11] Butch Hartman,[12] Rob Renzetti,[13] Paul Rudish,[9] John McIntyre,[14] and Chris Savino.[15]

Dexter's Laboratory was responsible for Cartoon Network's change in direction because of the way the show was designed and directed. It was animated in a stylized way the Tartakovsky says was influenced by the cartoon The Dover Boys at Pimento University (unlike United Productions of America's (UPA's) product, however, Dexter's Laboratory was staged in a cinematic way, rather than flat and close to the screen, to leave space and depth for the action and gags in the lab, for instance). The show was also notable in its sense of design and space and for the sharp timing. Genndy said the character design for Dexter was made to be more of an icon. His body was short and squat and his design was simple, with a black outline and relatively little detail. Genndy was influenced by Hanna-Barbera, Japanese animation, Warner Bros. cartoons, and the UPA shorts. Since he knew that he was designing the show for television, he purposely limited the design to a certain degree (designing the nose and mouth, for instance, in a Hanna-Barbera style to animate easily).[16]

Dexter's Laboratory ended its initial run in 1998 after two seasons (with the second season lasting 39 episodes, a notable record for a single TV production season on Cartoon Network).[17] The initial series finale was "Last But Not Beast", which differed from the format of the other episodes in that it was not a collection of cartoon shorts, but was a single 25-minute episode. It features Dexter's family, alongside many of the recurring characters from the Dexter universe, in a battle against a monster that Dexter accidentally released from a volcano as an exchange student in Japan. In this episode Dexter was forced to reveal the lab to his parents, though it ended with their memories being wiped clear of the experience.

In 1999, Tartakovsky returned to direct "Dexter's Laboratory: Ego Trip", an hour-long television movie. This was the last Dexter's Laboratory production that Tartakovsky was involved with and was originally intended to be the final conclusion to the series. The special was hand-animated, though the character and setting designs were subtly altered. The plot follows Dexter on a quest through time as he finds out his future triumphs. Christine Cavanaugh won an Annie Award for her voice performance as Dexter in "Ego Trip" for "Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting By a Female Performer in an Animated Television Production".[18]

The series re-entered production in 2001.[19] The new episodes, which ran for two more seasons, had a different production team than the originals since Genndy Tartakovsky was busy working on Samurai Jack[20] and Star Wars: Clone Wars[21] (MacFarlane and Hartman had left Time Warner altogether at this point, focusing on Family Guy[11] and The Fairly OddParents,[12] respectively). Beginning with season three, Chris Savino took over as the creative director for the show in the absence of Tartakovsky. Later in season four, Savino was also promoted to producer giving him further control over the show (such as the budget).[22] This second line of episodes featured noticeably different visual designs, minor inconsistencies with the original episodes both in storyline and in visuals, different sound effects, and Christine Cavanaugh was replaced by Candi Milo as the voice of Dexter for the majority of these new episodes (as Cavanaugh had retired from voice acting in 2001 for personal reasons, though she still voiced Dexter for the first few episodes of the third season).


Dexter's Laboratory broadcast 78 half-hour episodes over four seasons during its seven-year run. Three pilot shorts were produced for World Premiere Toons that aired in 1995 and 1996 and were subsequently fused into the series' first season. 52 episodes were produced over the original run from 1996 to 1998, which was followed by the television movie "Ego Trip" in 1999. An additional 26 episodes were produced and broadcast from 2001 to 2003. The short "Chicken Scratch" debuted theatrically with The Powerpuff Girls Movie in 2002 and was later broadcast as a segment in the series' fourth and final season.

The segment "Dial M for Monkey: Barbequor", aired during the first season, was banned by Cartoon Network shortly after its first broadcast in the United States, because it featured a character called the Silver Spooner (a parody of the Silver Surfer) that stereotyped gay men. It was replaced in subsequent airings and the DVD release with the second season segment "Dexter's Lab: A Story".

In addition, a segment was produced titled "Dexter's Rude Removal", which involves Dexter creating a "rude removal system" to diminish Dee Dee's rudeness (it instead creates highly rude clones of both siblings). The short contains excessive use of profane language (albeit censored) and was played at animation festivals in the late 1990s, but has never been officially released. Tartakovsky commented that "standards didn't like it." Linda Simensky, then-vice president of original programming for Cartoon Network, said "I still think it's very funny. It probably would air better late at night."[23] Fred Seibert, president of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons from 1992 to 1996, has attested to the existence of the short.

Recurring segments

In season one of Dexter's Laboratory (and a few episodes of season two), the middle segment centered around characters from the Dexter's Laboratory universe other than Dexter's family. Two of these segments were shown, primarily during the first season: Dial M for Monkey and The Justice Friends. Dial M for Monkey appeared in the first half of the first season, while The Justice Friends appeared in the second half of the first season. Monkey often appeared in the Justice Friends segments and vice versa, having teamed with his fellow superheroes while Dexter and Dee Dee sometimes appeared in the Monkey segments.

Dial M for Monkey [1][2]Dial M for Monkey intro card.The Dial M for Monkey shorts feature Dexter's pet lab monkey, Monkey (vocal effects by Frank Welker), who, unknown to Dexter, has superpowers and fights evil with his lovely partner Agent Honeydew and a team of assembled superheros. Villains range from a cranky and irritable lava monster that just wants silence because it needs to sleep, a woman obsessed with making fur coats from endangered species across the universe, to a bounty hunter who wants to kill Monkey for use as a hunting trophy. "Macho Man" Randy Savage made a guest appearance as a villain named "Rasslor", a being who strived to be the greatest wrestler in the universe.[25] Monkey's true identity is revealed to Dexter in the episode "Last But Not Beast", although Dexter's memories are erased shortly afterward.

The Justice Friends [3][4]The Justice Friends intro card.The Justice Friends consists of Major Glory, The Infraggable Krunk, and Valhallen, a team of superheroes who are all roommates living in an apartment complex called Muscular Arms. Most of the adventures of The Justice Friends deal less with their lives as superheroes and more with their inability to get along as roommates. Most of these adventures play out like a sitcom along with a laugh track. The segment's title likely derives from the DC Comics superhero organization The Justice League and its sanitized animated cartoon version, Super Friends, though the team itself was clearly a parody of Marvel's Avengers as the three main characters were loosely based on Marvel Comics characters. Major Glory, an uptight, by-the-book hero, resembled Captain America, though his powers roughly mirrored those of Superman. Krunk, characterized as imbecilic but loveable, resembled the Hulk. The more laid back Valhallen resembled Thor, and his name was a portmanteau of Valhalla, the spiritual plane of Norse mythology, and Van Halen, an American rock band. Valhallen frequently referred to himself as the "Viking God of Rock", and wielded a wing-shaped electric guitar (referred to as the "axe") instead of a war mallet.

These segments crossed over into episodes of Dial M For Monkey. In addition to Agent Honeydew and Monkey, the three superheroes were seen in action along with other superheroes, similar to the large number of Justice League members having appeared in Challenge of the Super Friends and Justice League Unlimited. These additional superheroes were still based on Marvel superheroes. Justice Friends Major Glory and Valhallen also appeared on The Powerpuff Girls episode "Members Only". Genndy Tartakovsky stated in an interview with IGN that he was somewhat disappointed with how The Justice Friends turned out, saying, "it could have been funnier and the characters could have been fleshed out more."

Mini Segments

Mini-segments were usually played between cartoons, such as "the Puppet Pals" a fake TV show that was seen in "The Justice Friends" segment and in one episode of "The Powerpuff Girls". In it were two live-action puppets called "Puppet Pal Mitch" (voiced by Rob Paulsen) and "Puppet Pal Clem" (voiced by Tom Kenny) in which usually had Puppet Pal Mitch bonk Puppet Pal Clem on the head. Another mini-segment was mainly focusing on Major Glory, but only had one short.


Since its debut Dexter's Laboratory has been one of Cartoon Network's most successful original series being the network's highest-rated series in both 1996 and 1997.[42] By 1998 the character Dexter was popular enough to be featured for the first time along side many other iconic characters in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (along with the movie piglet Babe who Christine Cavanaugh also voiced)[43] The show was also part of the reason for Cartoon Network's rating's surge over the summer of 1999 (increased by 20%).[44] Dexter's Laboratory continued to be popular throughout the 2000's, and with it, on July 31, it scored the highest household rating (2.9) and delivery (2,166,000 homes) of any Cartoon Network telecast in 2001.[45] Dexter's Laboratory (along with The Powerpuff Girls) was also the network's highest-rated original series of 2002.[46]

In 2009 Dexter's Laboratory was named the 72nd best animated series by IGN, stating "While aimed at and immediately accessible to children, Dexter's Laboratory was part of a new generation of animated series that played on two levels, simultaneously fun for both kids and adults."[47] One of Cartoon Network president Betty Cohen's favorite animated shows was Dexter's Laboratory.[44] Rapper Cooliohas also said that he is a fan of the show and was happy to do a song for the show's soundtrack at Cartoon Network's request stating "I watch a lot of cartoons because I have kids. I actually watch more cartoons than movies." Copyright:
Dexter's Laboratory Theme Song

Dexter's Laboratory Theme Song

Shows Intro

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