(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)
As you can tell with The Other Side of Animation, we don’t really talk about live-action films that cross over into the world of animation. The closest we have talked about it is with Cool World, and the only other contender to talk about in this category is Who Framed Roger Rabbit. We don’t get many of these projects because making them work is a challenge and a half. Not only do you need to worry about how the animation looks, but you have to make it match up and feel composited on the live-action footage. That takes way too much time and money that you know studios will want to not invest into that much time and effort unless it’s a well-known director. Not that it never happens anymore, but it’s very rare. When it does happen, it’s worth checking out, and when they are able to deliver on both the impressive technology with a good story, then you know you are in for something truly special. This is where this new limited series by Shannon Tindle comes into play with Lost Ollie on Netflix.
Created by Shannon Tindle and each of the four episodes directed by the incredible Peter Ramsey, this is based on the book called Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce. We follow a small stitched-together bunny doll named Ollie, voiced by Johnathon Groff. He was the toy that belonged to a small boy named Billy, played by Kesler Talbot. He winds up inside a small vintage antique store. He is curious as to why he is no longer with his kid, and plans to escape. While there, he meets an old clown toy named Zozo, voiced by Tim Blake Nelson. The two of them decide to leave the store together and also meet up with a teddy bear that knows Zozo named Rosy, voiced by Mary J Blige. Along the journey they will discover more about what has happened with Ollie and his past with his human owner, and discover what exactly happened with the humans that Ollie knew.
So, what kind of level of interaction are we looking at here between the toys and the live-action humans? Shockingly, both humans and toys are kept separate for the majority of the time. You see some interactions with Ollie and Billy’s family, but most of the time it’s either the toys on their adventure to find Billy, or dealing with what the humans are going through. There are a few times where it focuses on Billy, his family, and Ollie, but outside of a few areas where the three toys are with humans, like at the hospital, it’s two parallel stories. The human side is more about a very terrible thing Billy and his parents are dealing with, while Ollie is doing his best to remember the locations on the map he stitched together from memories with Billy and his family. It’s a very interesting approach because it lets the toys be their own living characters, while also slowly weaving the story’s emotional beats into the narrative as they intertwine with one another. At the end of the day, the story tackles themes of family, dealing with loss, and how grief can affect you. The story does a fairly solid job showing how people deal with loss, and how it can shape people for better and for worse. The limited series tend to weave in small details on where you can pick up on the intentions and mindset of the characters as you traverse your way through the four episodes. Things take a real sudden shift in tone by the end of the second episode, but by that point, the third episode explains the dynamic between certain characters and what drives them. It can get dark, but if you have seen films like A Monster Calls, then you will feel right at home with how the story unfolds. There is a real humanity to everything, and it makes for a somber, but powerful experience as we follow the journey of both the toys and the humans.
Now, animation-wise, the toys look great. They follow the rules of their own design of how they maneuver around the world. Sometimes studios aren’t allowed the time or the talent to take the extra step to make the characters all move distinct and different from one another, and it results in everyone feeling the same. Ollie feels different from Zozo, and Zozo feels different from Rosy. Not once was it ever distracting or I felt pulled out of their world or watching their story unfold from their perspective. There is a great sequence on a train that really brings the best out of the voice actors and the animation. It doesn’t hurt that the actors attached to the toys are also great. Tim Blake Nelson is fantastic as Zozo, Jonathan Groff brings a southern innocence to Ollie, and Mary J Blige has this stoic but vulnerable side to Rosy. The humans are also strong with Kesler Talbot being a good child actor and able to bring the somber and anger to certain points. Gina Rodriguez and Jake Johnson are great as the parents to Billy. Now, the southern accent can almost teeter on being a touch much, but it never got to the point where it sounded like a parody of a joke of what a southern accent sounds like. The other actors are fine, and the only real individual I was distracted by was the bully who is just a bit too cartoonishly mean. I wish there was some kind of hint of why he was like that to Billy, but sometimes, we don’t get those answers and some people just have a heart full of hate.
While it maybe could have used one more episode to help pace out the story a bit and expand a little more on the characters, and how sometimes the southern accent could almost veer into being a little corny sounding, Lost Ollie is a powerhouse journey of the themes of love, grief, dealing with loss, and how you use said emotional baggage to shape your own person. Some may say this limited series is corny, but there is a lot of passion and love put into the character beats, and if you all love stuff like A Monster Calls, then this is an ideal limited series to check out. I can’t wait to see what Shannon Tindle, Peter Ramsey, and this talented crew of writers do next, and you should absolutely check this show out. Hopefully, they can also put this on a nice Blu-ray with some behind-the-scenes features of how they made the animation work as well as it does. Now then, we must journey to Japan for this next review, but you will see what the review is next time!
Rating: Go see it!