It’s getting to the point where we have to use two hands to count the number of “kids banding together in a post-apocalyptic world” shows on two hands. Netflix alone has The Last Kids On Earth, Daybreak and The Society, to name a few. Now comes DreamWorks Animation’s contribution to the genre, and it might be one of the best. Read on for more…
Opening Shot: A shot of gleaming skyscrapers in a cityscape. Then the view changes to hundreds of years later, where those same skyscrapers have collapsed and nature has taken over.
The Gist: All of a sudden water bursts through a drain pipe and a girl blasts out with the water. Her name is Kipo Oak (Karen Fukuhara) and she recoils when she sees the sun. Why? Because she has lived her entire life underground with her father Lio (Sterling K. Brown); since The Great Mutant Outbreak of 2017, most humans have lived underground, because that was the only place to escape the gigantic, intelligent mutant animals that have developed and evolved over the past two centuries.
As she tries to figure out where she is and how to get back to her home in Terrarium, she encounters a bunch of animals she’s never seen before… and they’re huge! She sees, for instance, a pig with four eyes and six legs. She thinks he’s cute, so she chases it around and calls it Mandu (Dee Bradley Baker). When Mandu gets caught in a trap, she discovers that there are other humans on the surface; her name is Wolf (Sydney Mikayla), who has survived on the surface alone her entire young life, and she thinks that underground people are soft and coddled.
But when they encounter a mega-bunny who is trying to protect her pups, Wolf saves Kipo from getting crushed. When they hide out, though, they encounter a group of suit-wearing frogs that have half-mile-long tongues and a grub baby who won’t stop crying.
Our Take: There have been plenty of post-apocalyptic shows on Netflix, animated and otherwise, and they all involve the same thing: A person banding together with unlikely new friends to help each other survive. In that respect, Kipo And The Age Of Wonderbeasts is no different. But creator Radford Sechrist has made a strong case that his show is the best of that lot. In the first episode, he’s done a great job of setting up Kipo’s situation and the skills she’s going to need to survive above ground. We will also be introduced to a world where these wonderbeasts don’t just roar and grunt, but will have actual intelligence and communicate in English (among the celebrity animal voices: Deon Cole, John Hodgman, Joan Jett, and Lea DeLaria).
Sechrist also made the right decision to animate Kipo in anime style, despite the American origins of the show. Much of the action is smoother than traditional anime, but the slight judder in action, paired with the expressiveness of the characters’ faces, are a great match for the voices. Fukuhara is especially good at Kipo, who doesn’t pretend to know how to survive in this world and needs people like Wolf (and later, Benson, played by Coy Stewart) to teach her about all of these wonderbeasts. At the same time, we’re going to see Kipo’s memories of being with her father and her life underground, opening up yet another world to explore.
We definitely want some more backstory, especially about how this mutant invasion happened. When Kipo sees milk that had a “best by” date in 2020, Wolf says “It’s expired, by about 200 years,” it perked up our ears. So we hope to find out just what happened, even if it’s coming from books and storytellers instead of flashbacks.
What Age Group Is This For?: The show is rated TV-Y7-FV, for “fantasy violence”. That, the continuing storyline and the scary weird animals suggest the audience should be 9 and up.
Parting Shot: Wolf tells Kipo to leave the grub, but Kipo says, “It’s still a baby!” As they run from the invading frog gang, Kipo asks, “Does anyone now some nursery rhymes?”
Sleeper Star: Whoever came up with the neon bees who play EDM, you get our highest kudos.
Most Pilot-y Line: None, really.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Of all the post-apocalyptic kids’ shows on streaming, Kipo And The Age Of Wonderbeasts is the best of the bunch.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, , , Fast , , Billboard and elsewhere.
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