With common titles like She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts completed, Netflix is going through a little bit of a void in the case of fantasy-tinged, plot-focused, all-ages animated exhibits. But the streaming service’s latest animated collection, Centaurworld, may fill that spot, if viewers can abdomen the oddly disturbing horror components that land alongside all of the cartoon whimsy.
From former DreamWorks animator and Pinky Malinky director Megan Nicole Dong, Centaurworld is an animal-centered twist on the acquainted portal fantasy, the place a personality in a secular world finds their approach right into a magical one. In its 10-episode first season, the present tries to mesh foolish content material and critical concepts, with various outcomes. But the intelligent use of stylistic animation variations, in addition to the distinctive method to music for an animated present, makes it value a watch — a minimum of for viewers with a excessive tolerance for fart jokes.
[Ed. be aware: This overview incorporates slight spoilers for Centaurworld.]
Centaurworld follows a horse named Horse (Kimiko Glen), who falls via a magical rift that brings her to the brightly coloured Centaurworld, a land stuffed with half-human, half-animal hybrid creatures who steadily burst into tune. The centaurs aren’t simply conventional half-horse, half-human creatures — they arrive in all types of animal varieties, just like the tiny-eyed mole-taurs and lumbering bear-taurs. Horse finds a herd of quirky creatures, led by pink llama-taur Wammawink (Megan Hilty), who decides to assist her get house. In order to return to her war-torn medieval fantasy world, the place people battle towards monsters, Horse wants to seek out completely different items of a magical key by touring to completely different areas of Centaurworld and retrieving them from magical centaur leaders generally known as Shamans.
The animation is attractive, with an attractive, delicate distinction between the sharp traces and extra “serious” model of the human world Horse is from, vs. the softer curves and brighter colours of Centaurworld. (Not to convey up an outdated debate, however assume the unique Teen Titans cartoon vs. Teen Titans Go!) It’s a intelligent distinction, making Horse, together with her angles and extra lifelike model, look sharply misplaced within the bubbly Centaurworld. But the cuter design of Centaurworld doesn’t imply life there may be all sunshine and rainbows. The overly saccharine visuals — every little thing is sparkly and big-eyed and foolish! — thinly masks the customarily darkish and generally gross nature of the land.
Using whimsical magic to cowl up a heavier storyline provides a definite eeriness, in the identical approach that the golden-autumn-swathed Over the Garden Wall and the zany, brightly coloured Adventure Time initially lull viewers right into a false sense of style and safety, earlier than revealing the beautiful rattling devastating backstory behind their respective settings. (Some kind of purgatory limbo and a post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland, respectively.) The heavier plot components and reveal tying the desolate human world to the magical Centaurworld don’t totally emerge till late within the season, with little or no leadup, which makes their sudden look jarring. With all of the goofy hijinks and sometimes gross rest room humor, the sudden, sharp climax feels imbalanced. But the massive reveals are thrilling and do promise a extra thrilling second season, ought to the present proceed.
Image: Netflix and Image: Netflix
While the bubbly visuals masking the deeper plot is a neat technique to subvert expectations, the total storyline doesn’t get the throughline it deserves. The character designs are distinctive and generally grotesque: The centaurs’ unusual magic nearly brushes the road of body-horror. For one factor, they will shoot tiny variations of themselves from their hooves, however these tiny variations instantly develop into horrified at their very own existence, and destroy themselves. One centaur can shove issues right into a glowing portal in her abdomen that seemingly stretches into infinity, and because of this, she steals something and every little thing she will be able to get her hooves on, to feed that gap. Another can painfully contort his facial options into “handsome mode.” It’s completely meant to be zany, however watching a giraffe-centaur hug his personal butt and consult with his clouds of flatulence as his personal father is a tad overwhelming.
It doesn’t assist that lots of the centaurs are gratingly annoying. After 10 episodes, they develop into acquainted in a approach that may be charming. It’s like babysitting a gaggle of preschoolers who frequently make the identical errors, regardless of what number of occasions you inform them “No, we don’t eat the paste!” If you will get previous their grubby little palms and see cute little smiles beneath their glue-covered faces, the childishness may be endearing. That dynamic is regrettable, although, as a result of Horse and Wammawink are compelling characters, every with their very own evident faults to beat. Horse is a hardened warrior who doesn’t enable herself to be emotional or get near different individuals, whereas Wammawink thinks she is aware of finest for her herd and due to this fact smothers them with recommendation and steerage, to masks her extreme abandonment points. They every develop as characters — with fairly banging tune numbers to showcase their improvement.
The collection’ music, by composer Toby Chu (who did the music for Pixar’s Bao), follows a distinct format than, say, the one-song-per-episode format of exhibits like Steven Universe. The pacing finally ends up being extra akin to musical theater. The conversations typically evolve into songs, which transfer the plot alongside. Characters have emotional revelations whereas bursting out in solos, they consolation one another whereas singing, and so they use the musical numbers to form their climatic story moments. It’s very completely different from different musical animated exhibits — in reality, the closest equal may be Apple TV Plus’s Central Park, which additionally feels extra like a stage musical turned animated present, than an animated present with some musical components.
Centaurworld is an bold try to mix wild fantasy-animal antics with a critical fantasy story. The first season feels off-balance, too light-hearted at first and center to be taken severely in the long run. But with attention-grabbing characters, deliberate and attention-grabbing makes use of of animation model, and interesting music, it’s intriguing sufficient to depart audiences hoping for extra. Now that the larger plot components have come ahead, a possible second season will have the ability to actually play with juxtaposing the entire present’s warring tones, with out hiding any playing cards.
The first season of Centaurworld is streaming on Netflix.