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Animation is such a diverse medium of storytelling, whether you are making shorts, films, TV series, or something in-between. So, it makes absolute sense to make sure that we get a multitude of different stories and representation of people in said stories. Representation in animation is important because we live in a diverse world and it’s full of different cultures and backstories. Why not let more audience goers be able to see themselves on screen? These two months so far have been great at it, including season 2 of Daniel Spellbound and The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, and now Netflix’s newest series, My Father the Bounty Hunter by Everett Downing Jr. and Patrick Harpin.
My Dad the Bounty Hunter offers an interstellar adventure about a dad who hides his secret profession as a bounty hunter, who traverses the galaxy finding the worst of the worst. He ends up having to go on his next bounty with his two kids resulting in some rather complicated relationships as the show dives into not only the lives pre-space adventure, but during their time together now, trying to capture this supposed convict the dad is assigned to find. This is what is fun about animated shows that are getting made these days. If this was made in the 80s, it would probably be this corny, barely-animated sci-fi fling that was meant to sell some kind of toy. It may have DNA in trying to tell a deeper story, but wasn’t able to go deep into those themes. They would have made the dad the killjoy, or made the kids the lead and the father a buffoon, or just some other mix of trope-riddled 80s cartoon trends. Nowadays, while you can make shows to sell some kind of merchandise, writers are usually given much more leeway in actually building up their stories, characters, relationships, themes, and actually not being afraid to show some flawed characters. The show is very much telling you that the dad’s relationship with his children and wife are not perfect. He means well with his bounty hunting job to make cash for the house, his kids, and for a living. He just doesn’t quite have the capacity to truly feel invested in their lives, and be there for them or his wife.
Most shows aimed at kids or families seem to at times be worried about how to tackle these kinds of topics of families that are not in the best familial situation. It just takes a good hand and a talented team of writers and creators to crack the code in order to be respectful and not fumble the ball. With all that said, the show does a good job of balancing out its more serious moments of family interactions and fun space-faring adventures, character growth, and the ongoing mystery of why the dad’s benefactor wants him to capture this specific person. It’s a show all about dealing with fear, and commentary on how there are a ton of shady individuals and shady-as-heck companies that will use your labor and efforts for their own needs at the end of the day. And all of this is about two kids who go on space adventures with their dad. What’s also fun is that the kids are also fully dimensional individuals. I don’t blame anyone who has to be in charge of writing kid characters since they can be obnoxious, dull, or tedious. Here, though, both kids have their own arcs as they grow while also dealing with what the universe may throw at them, whether it’s morally ambiguous bounties or pill bugs with big alien dogs.
Animation-wise, the CGI looks very good here. Whether it was a good production pipeline or a slightly bigger budget and time to craft said show, TV CGI can be hit-or-miss, but this is a case where the CGI hits. The designs are charming, there is a lot of dynamic lighting and shadows, and its planets feel very lived-in and bustling when they are in more crowded locations. They even talked about how they wanted the tech used in the show to have a worn look to everything to help represent the not quite solid foundation of the family’s relationship, which is such a fascinating touch to the overall visual look. Oh, and the flashback sequences are probably one of my favorite pieces of animation so far in 2023. It’s really cool how they went about this show’s visual presentation. The voice cast is fantastic with Laz Alonso, who voices the titular bounty hunter Sabo Brok, and brings to life this conflicted and unprepared dad who has to not only deal with aliens like Glorlox who is voiced by Rob Riggle but also his two kids Sean and Lisa, voiced by Jecobi Swain and Priah Ferguson respectively as well. Yvette Nicole Brown voices our bounty hunter’s computer system KRS. The extremely creepy exec that gives Sabo his jobs is played without skipping a beat with an unnerving edge with Jim Rash. While we sadly don’t get to see her a whole lot in the show itself, Yvonne Orji is great as the mother Tess. The other cast members include Jamie Chung who most people would recognize as GoGo from the Big Hero 6 franchise, Maddie Taylor, Kari Wahlgren, and Leslie Uggams as another great grandma character. What’s fun about this show is that even with some getting more time under the sun than others, no characters feel wasted and are to be seen on screen whenever they show up or who we follow in the episode.
Now then, are you ready to head to the stars for a literal out-of-this-world ‘take your children to work day’ adventure? Because My Dad the Bounty Hunter is the show for you! It’s a galaxy-trotting adventure full of action and a family reconnecting through a rather unorthodox way. With fun action, creative alien world/inhabitants, and witty writing, you will want to catch the nearest warp orb or spaceship to check this series out when it hits Netflix on February 9th. You will definitely want to check out this enterprising sci-fi experience.