“The Katz Motel” is the wonderful pilot episode of horror comedy for kids, Courage The Cowardly Dog.
If you’re anything like me you can’t stand anything on the Cartoon Network for too long. A lot of those shows seem like ill-conceived, overly chatty, highly-polished but vapid productions designed to sell toys. Courage The Cowardly Dog is an exception. My daughter saw this on Netflix and persuaded me to watch it ‘because I know you’d love it!’ and she was right. Courage is now a family favourite. Courage is a product of Cartoon Network Studios, also responsible for Cow and Chicken, Johnny Bravo and more recently — also a hit with my daughter — Adventure Time, which is a high rating on IMDb so much also be popular with adult men.
Four series of Courage were made between the years of 1999 and 2002. I’m guessing Courage was influenced by Ren and Stimpy, which ran between 1991 and 1996.
Courage The Cowardly Dog was created/written/directed by John R. Dilworth, who previously wrote for Sesame Street. We first see Courage in the short cartoon The Chicken From Outer Space.
This chicken makes a cameo in the pilot of the spin-off series, floating in Muriel’s bath.
GENRE BLEND OF COURAGE THE COWARDLY DOG
Done well, this is a highly successful blend. Horror and comedy have a lot in common when you look closely at story structure. The line between the two is also very fine, and the advantage of writing a horror comedy is that you don’t need to worry about accidentally tipping over into comedy territory — you can indulge fully in the ridiculousness of horror and have fun with it.
Horror is a highly symbolic genre with a vast library of tropes and established storylines. Each of the Courage stories explores one of the main horror tropes. This affords the show a dual audience, as adult viewers will recognise a lot of them from well-known horror films and novels.
In this pilot episode the writer makes use of the trope of the Hotel California. (You can never leave…) At TV Tropes it’s referred to as The Inn Of No Return.
In horror, the spooky hotel has a long history. For example:
- Joseph Conrad‘s story “The Inn of the Two Witches”
- William Hope Hodgson wrote a story titled “The Inn of the Black Crow”
- Stanley Ellin’s short story “The Specialty of the House”
- “Rattle of Bones”, one of the Solomon Kane short stories
- Roald Dahl‘s story “The Landlady”
- the H.P. Lovecraft short story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth“
Short stories which rely on the reader’s familiarity with this trope, so , indirectly: