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Moral Orel is an American adult stop-motion animated comedy-drama television series which originally aired on Adult Swim from December 13, 2005 to December 18, 2008. The series has been described as "Davey and Goliath meets South Park". However, Dino Stamatopoulos, the show's creator, is wary of the comparison with Davey and Goliath, telling the New York Times that Moral Orel grew out of a concept for a send-up of a Leave It to Beaver-style 1950s sitcom that would star Iggy Pop. The series is a satire of the archetypes of Middle American suburban life, modern-day WASP culture, alcoholism, and religious fundamentalism with weighty emotional undertones that increase dramatically as the series progresses. At the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con, Stamatopoulos announced that the show would not be renewed for a fourth season. The final season was aired interspersed with repeats from the first two seasons, as many of the episodes took place in parallel with events of past episodes. The event, which was called "44 Nights of Orel", was hosted by Stamatopoulos and others and started on October 6, 2008, running through December 18, when the series finale premiered. A special entitled "Beforel Orel" later aired on November 19, 2012.
Moral Orel takes place in the fictional capital city of Moralton in the fictional Bible Belt state of Statesota. According to the globe shown in the opening credits, Moralton is in the exact center of the United States, with the town's church at the exact center of the town. The globe also depicts the contiguous United States of America as being the only country and land mass on Earth. The protagonist is 12-year-old Orel Puppington, a student at Alfred G. Diorama Elementary School, who tries to live by the fundamentalist Protestant Christian moral code as articulated in church or by his father, Clay Puppington. Orel naïvely follows this code to disastrous extremes.
The first season of the show follows a standard formula, in which Orel hears a sermon given by Rev. Rod Putty in church on Sunday, and then proceeds to have a misadventure based on his attempts to live by his (usually warped) interpretation of the sermon and its lesson. At the end of each episode, his father would sternly put a halt to the situation and "correct" Orel, by means of corporal punishment, only to offer an even more warped interpretation (in the first season, typically one of Clay's "Lost Commandments") of the church sermon. A running gag of the show was that before the ending credits ran, Clay's pants would fall down when he stood from his chair, as he had earlier removed his belt to punish Orel. Throughout the season, the series' primary characters are introduced and various subplots are established, such as Orel's father being a closeted bisexual in love with Orel's gym teacher, and Orel's mother being an unhappily married housewife feeling trapped in her marriage.
The format of the second season of the show breaks that of the first season and begins to build upon subplots introduced in the first season, making them the primary focus of the show. While still the protagonist and primary character, Orel becomes less a catalyst for each episode's events than an unwitting bystander often left confused and dejected at the end, finding himself unable to reconcile his optimistic nature and faith with the corruption and cynicism of the adults around him, particularly his father. The season culminates in a two-part episode dealing with a camping trip during which Orel lost all faith and trust in his father. The season finale—"Nature (Part 1)" and "Nature (Part 2)"—marks a far darker turn in the series' tone, de-emphasizing the cynical parody of the previous episodes in favor of exploring more disturbing themes.
The third and final season of the show is structured as a interconnecting 13-part story dealing with the events leading up to and during the camping trip, and their far-reaching implications. It is revealed that during the trip, Clay gets drunk and shoots Orel in the leg, afterward showing a complete lack of remorse or sense of responsibility. The series culminates in the ultimate dissolution of Clay's relationship with Orel's coach, and the revelation that Orel will one day be able to put his traumatic childhood behind him to raise a better family than the one in which he grew up.
Originally, before being cut down to a 13-episode third season and later cancelled, the show was intended to have two more seasons and evolve into a show titled Moralton that would revolve around the life of the residents of Moralton as a whole.
The series was troubled throughout its run. Against the wishes of creator Stamatopoulos, the Christmas-themed first-season finale, "The Best Christmas Ever", was aired as the series premiere. Adult Swim wanted to debut the show in December as part of a holiday-themed programming block. The episode, which featured the culmination of numerous story arcs developed throughout the first season, and ended with a cliffhanger, confusing viewers and prompting questions on Adult Swim's message boards as to whether or not the episode was a one-off practical joke. When the series eventually premiered, three episodes of the first season were held back from airing because the network's Standards & Practices Department found them to be too dark and sexually explicit. All were eventually approved; two aired in May 2006 and the third aired on July 31, 2006. The series was ultimately canceled with seven scripts left unproduced, cutting the third season down from the intended twenty episodes to thirteen.
According to Dino Stamatopoulos in the commentary for the series finale, there were seven finished episode scripts that Adult Swim chose not to produce due to their decision to cancel the series/roll back the number of season-three episodes from 20 to 13. It was suggested that Adult Swim might be willing to make a "Moral Orel special" in the future, but Stamatopolous stated that he declined the offer to move on to other projects, resulting in the creation of "Honor" as a series finale for the character.
Had the show not been cancelled and cut down to 13 episodes, its second half would have played out quite differently: Orel's paternal grandfather would have joined the cast, appearing in an episode that happens after the events of "Sacrifice" while Clay goes to retrieve the body of the bear Orel shot. Most of the season's latter half would focus on Orel's relationship with his dying grandfather, who would help further Orel's emotional growth into adulthood and help him reconcile his faith with life's realities. Other aborted plotlines would involve Clay's affair with Miss Censordoll and Bloberta's affair with Officer Papermouth, culminating in Orel's grandfather's death and Orel's transformation into a goth-type figure in the wake of the loss of the only good parental figure in his life.
Some of the aborted episodes involve:
- Clay Puppington's father finding out he's terminally ill and moving in with the Puppingtons and sharing a room and bed with Orel.
- Bloberta and Officer Papermouth becoming lovers, and Bloberta finally achieving happiness through her relationship with the divorced police officer.
- A second episode involving Orel and Christina's relationship.
- Reverend Putty becoming cold towards women after the events of "Sunday"/"Sacrifice", which results in him finally getting dates with Moralton women; Florence slims down and Reverend Putty becomes attracted to her and ultimately wins her heart.
- Miss Sculptham's further attempts to find love, including a lesbian relationship and one with a prisoner, both of which end badly because Moralton society frowns on each relationship and refuses to let her marry either one (a denial that she compares to being raped). She also discovers that when she was raped she was pregnant with twins and her coathanger abortion only killed one of them.
- An episode focusing on Shapey and Block: the two unruly boys bond, with the result that each becomes less hellion-like.
There is also another lost episode,"Abstinence", animated entirely by David Tuber and Mick Ignis, two of MORAL OREL's production staff, that was finished after they learned the show had been canceled. The episode is rendered in a cruder-than-normal style using clay figures, since the animators lacked access to the puppets normally used to create each episode. The episode centers around Doughy instead of Orel, and was originally screened only once at a special live event, "Sunday with Moral Orel" in San Francisco on January 18, 2009. On May 26, 2015, series animator David Tuber uploaded the episode on his YouTube channel.
Why It Rocks
- Excellent Stop Motion Animation for 2005 Standards and it improves every season, especially the 2012 special.
- Great and Talented Voice Acting including Scott Adsit, Carolyn Lawrence, Jay Johnston and William Salyers.
- Likable characters like Orel, Reverend Putty, Stephanie, Doughy, Clay and Coach Stopframe.
- Tackles Mature Topics Such as Anxiety, Religious extremism, WASP, extreme fundamentalism, alcoholism, domestic negligence, Middle American Life, the thoughts of breaking Morale Codes, and the idea of generations of abuse.
- Tons of great/amazing episodes such as:
- The Nature Two Parter (the best episode of the series)
- Numb (which started Season 3 on a high note)
- Alone (the darkest episode despite causing the series cancelation)
- Honor (which ended the series on a high note)
- The Best Christmas Ever
- God's Chef
- Some episodes that don't even relate to Orel are still interesting and great to watch with some having happy or satisfying endings which is surprising considering how dark the show is.
- Although Season 1 is decent, the show became really good once Season 2 came as the plots are not formulaic and a story-line begins. The characters are given more depth and in some cases, character development.
- In the beginning, Orel was known for making a lot of mistakes throughout life and would always be scared when he his father would hit him with a belt, but after the Season 2 finale where Orel sees his father's true colors, Orel shows maturity by never being scared of his father's beatings and being more wise and intelligent as a character.
- Great Flashback episodes that can help contribute to the show's story in Season 3. The episodes, "Yearn" and "Passing" are the best example to adding more character to both Clay and Bloberta.
- The Finale, "Honor", was an excellent way to end the series as Orel is shown in the future to have married his childhood sweetheart and made a better life for himself as an adult.
- Season 1 was considered the weakest season as it was completely formulaic, Orel learns advice, causes trouble, Clay whips and tells him what he did wrong. This happens for the first nine episodes.
- Unlikable characters like Arthur Puppington, Bloberta Puppington, Shapey, Block, and Mr. Creepler.
- Shapey and Block are the annoying little brats archetype. They are mostly used for filler and are very annoying and unlikeable.
- As for Mr. Creepler, he has no redeeming qualities. In the season 2 episode 15 of Moral Orel, Courtship, Mr. Creepler tries to lure Doughy into his ice cream truck. Which implies he's a pedophile. He also goes way too far with it, buying Doughy expensive gifts to lure Doughy in the truck. SERIOUSLY DUDE? LEAVE DOUGHY ALONE! What's even worse is that he targeted three brunette woman and almost Doughy, who is a redhead. To make things even worse, in the episode, "Alone", Mr. Creepler raped Miss Sculptham, causing her to get an abortion and traumatizing her for the rest of her life. Thankfully, in the same episode, it is stated that he is killed in prison.
- The series was abruptly canceled in 2008. Originally, the series was supposed to have 5 seasons but was canceled because of the show becoming way too disturbing, even for Adult Swim standards. Sadly, this means that there will be no redemption of Clay.
- The season was not only aired out of order, it was even produced out of order. For example, the episode “Grounded” was both aired and produced before “Innocence,” but it is clearly established that the events of the former happened after the latter. This causes it to fail big time as a serialized show.
- Every single episode is extremely depressing with little to no payoff in the end; some instances include much more in-depth depictions of Clay and Bloberta’s loveless marriage and extramarital affairs, Orel’s mental breakdown after being grounded from church, Nurse Bendy’s stuffed animal “family” (this scene is pretty much what killed the series), Miss Censordoll being revealed to have been sterilized as a child, Doughy’s parental neglect, and most of all, flashbacks of Clay’s mother before she died of a heart attack thinking he had shot himself.
- It contains lots of shocking, gory, and disgusting material that goes way beyond the past two seasons, such as Bloberta mutilating her vagina trying to seek sexual pleasure from power tools, Orel and his friends having a bloodletting in his home bathroom for him to bathe in, and Miss Sculptham giving herself a coathanger abortion after being raped.
- Due to the shows cancellation, several episodes were removed and were never aired. For starters, episodes such as Orel and Christina's relationship would be more interesting. Bloberta finally finding her own happiness would be a good episode as well.
- The show is a parody of "Davey and Goliath", a 1961 stop motion show that taught christian morals to kids.
Moral Orel received numerous praise for its animation, voice acting and writing. It received a 7.9/10 on IMDb and is regarded as one of Adult Swim's most underrated shows.