The Other Side of Animation 229: Centaurworld Review

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(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 keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


Heads up: I was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.

I previously talked about this in my Snotty Boy review, but animation is such a beautiful medium of storytelling. With passion, talent, time, and the right team at hand, one can make a unique and distinct experience that you can’t find with something in live-action. There’s always something to be said when a usually cartoony property is given the live-action treatment, and how much more critical fans and critics are of said live-action adaptations. Why would you limit yourself with live-action when you can do pretty much everything within the world of animation? Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that I’m reviewing a new show that would be nigh impossible to translate into live-action. The new series on Netflix, Centaurworld. 


Created by Megan Nichole Dong, Centaurworld is yet another creative and unusual animated series for the notorious streaming service that you probably wouldn’t have seen on TV. So, what do I think about this fairly offbeat adventure with a bunch of quirky centaurs that is filled to the brim with musical numbers and a slew of my favorite character actors? Read on to find out! 

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Our story revolves around Horse, voiced by Kimiko Glenn. In her world, she is with her human companion, Rider, voiced by Jessie Mueller riding across the war-torn wasteland with a magical object that could help them out. Unfortunately, Horse and Rider get separated, and Horse ends up getting warped to a brand new world with the magical item. Horse has now found herself in the most magical place of all, Centaurworld! While there, she encounters a delightful cast of characters including a giraffetaur named Durpleton, voiced by Josh Radnor, Zulius a Zebrataur voiced by Parvesh Cheena, a kleptomaniac gerenuk-like taur named Glendale, voiced by Megan Nicole Dong, a birdtaur named Ched voiced by Chris Diamontopoulos, and a llamataur named Wammawink voiced by Megan Hilty. Can Horse and her new herd of friends find the rest of the pieces of the artifact and get her home and avoid someone called The Nowhere King? 

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So, we are about a good decade or so past the premiere of shows like Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, and Steven Universe. These types of shows have brought into the animation and TV world adorable worlds with a very offbeat tone and edge that will spill out into something that kids can still enjoy, but are there for the adults as well. It might be made for “kids”, but you catch more fish with bait, if you know what I mean. So, since on the outside, it looks like a lot of other shows, how does this show differentiate itself from other ones? Well, let’s start with its visual look. It’s a gorgeous show with a cartoony look, with fun and expressive designs that take advantage of its setting and the creatures you encounter in this quirky world of half-man and half-animal creatures. One of my favorite little details is the centaur bird character played by Chris Diamantopoulos, who’s human half is the upper torso so he has to keep flapping with his human arms. The designs are all very creative and aren’t just straight-up half human half horse individuals. Like, if the basic definition is half human half animal, then why not go all out with how they look? That’s the beauty of animation, because with all of the different designs, they all mesh well together. If they tried to do these in realistic CGI, they would not work at all. Even our main character Horse has a bunch of fun little animation tricks on her that give her so much character despite how she was probably tough to animate. Yeah, I know some people have talked about the weird design contrast with Horse being wildly different than the other characters, but when you see the story unfold, it’s this brilliant bit of commentary and storytelling about Horse herself, and at the end of the day, the design difference never bothered me. I’m being vague because I find Horse’s arc to be fascinating, and creative with how her arc unfolds. I have also heard some people argue that the show’s visuals are aiming for more of a “let’s make meme-worthy looks” approach, but while that may be the case, it’s not as distracting as some other shows and films like Space Jam: A New Legacy and Powerpuff Girls 2016. 

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Speaking of arcs and story stuff, the story itself seems like it’s going to be a goofier take on what would almost sound like a cartoon from the 80s. Like HBO Max/Cartoon Network’s The Fungies, it almost has a vibe of those shows. However, once you start binging the series, Centaurworld does reveal that it has a lot of baggage with its characters. This is a show that anyone can watch, but the topics and themes are very much adult. You can look at me and not believe me, but the show does tackle themes of abandonment, dealing with trauma, depression, self-esteem, love, trust, loss, and while the show will get goofy at one point or another through a lot of the episodes, the story beats themselves will ease you into the obvious baggage these characters have. It’s a clever way to approach these topics, and you can see how they weave it through the episodes. It might look and feel like a more polished 80s show, but it’s got the edge of a more modern cartoon that you just love to see. It’s able to be story-driven, but still takes its time with getting to the destination. This is why I love modern animation. Could you imagine people pitching this show back in the 70s and 80s? You would never get this far without some very heavy amounts of studio interference. Netflix might not be perfect, and I have plenty of issues with them as a company, but the fact they are letting creators do any kind of show they want is impressive. It’s not based on some pre-existing property or a spin-off of a popular show. Plus, the voice cast is amazing. On top of having a bucket list of guest stars, the main cast is one of my favorites of the season. You have Kimiko Glenn, Megan Hilty, Parvesh Cheena, Josh Radnor, Jessie Mueller, and Chris Diamantopoulos. Now I will say that it is a bit weird to see a POC character voiced by a white actress, and while she does a great job as Rider, I would be lying if I didn’t find the casting a tiny bit distracting since we had the constant recasting controversies last year. Everyone is distinct and they bring in a lot of fantastic energy to their performances. For me, while the comedy in the show might be hit and miss with some viewers, they mostly landed at a rate of 95%, and the song sequences are a delight at every point. Seriously, this show is so much fun to watch if you are a fan of musicals. 

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Centaurworld is another slam dunk TV series for 2021 and Netflix. It’s everything I look for in a show, and I was grabbed by the premise alone. I think it was creative and smart that Netflix got a bunch of super talented individuals and asked them to make their dream projects that you would have a hard time pitching in more traditional settings like on a TV channel. I hope they keep this up because this is how we get more great shows and stories. It might be goofy, but it mixes its darker elements and musical moments so well. The show might be a bit much at first, but keep watching it, and I’ll be patiently waiting for a second and third season if that happens. Seriously Netflix, make sure Megan Nicole Dong gets to complete this show! Next time, I will be talking about the third Sony Pictures Animation film this year with Vivo

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!





Rating: Essential!

The Other Side of Animation 197: Over the Moon Review

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(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 keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Heads up!: I was able to watch this film before it’s release due to obtaining an advance screener from Netflix.

As I get closer and closer to reviewing 200 animated films, I hope it’s clear that, as many of these are non-Pixar/Disney, I do not hate Disney or Pixar animated films. Honestly, they can be some of my favorite films from the years they are released. I don’t have some deep-seated grudge against them. Now, I don’t like a lot of the business side of things with Disney as a whole, but in terms of what we are talking about right now, I enjoy and even love the animated films they make. However, taking out the Pixar gems, I do think something changed right around the time after Moana was released. I like Ralph Breaks the Internet and to a degree, Frozen II, but they were missing something that I think is filled by the foreign/indie scene of animation. They missed a very genuine heart, and while their last two films do have some great elements, would you consider them the best of their 2010s output? I wouldn’t. Even with the Pixar gems like Inside OutCoco, and so on, my attention and love for animation has gone into supporting what everyone else is doing. Making money and making art is a balancing act, so if you want to make it in the industry, you have to do both. I’ve seen the worst of both the money and art side, and it makes me more thankful when I get to see films like Over the Moon.

Directed by Glen Keane in his first feature film gig as a director, co-directed by John Kahrs, written by the late great Audrey Wells, and animated by Pearl Studios and Sony Pictures Imageworks, this is the newest film in the push for the streaming service Netflix to have exclusive animated features. Last year, we saw that come through with Klaus, and this year, we have The Willoughbys, Animal Crackers, and now Over the Moon. Not going to lie, if this is the level of quality a streaming service is going to be putting out in top-shelf animated features, then everyone else needs to step up after this and Wolfwalkers

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Our story revolves around Fei Fei, voiced by Cathy Ang. She lives with her mother, voiced by Ruthie Ann Miles, and her father aka Ba Ba, voiced by John Cho. Unfortunately, in animated film fashion from an ex-Disney veteran, the mom passes away while Fei Fei is young. After a few years pass, she finds out that her dad is seeing someone else, and meets a young boy who may or may not end up being her brother-in-law. His name is Chin, voiced by Robert G. Chiu. After a blow-up one night when the entire family is over, Fei Fei decides to make a rocket and head to the moon to meet the Moon Goddess that her mom told her stories about! The only catch is that her stepbrother, her rabbit, and her stepbrother’s frog get roped in, and they crash on the moon. Luckily, they are safe, but are then taken to the Goddess of the Moon named Chang’e, voiced by Phillipa Soo. Fei Fei wants to get proof that she exists, and the Goddess is willing to give her that proof. However, the catch is that Fei Fei needs to get a gift for her, and she needs to get it before the entire moon is dark. Can Fei Fei get this supposed gift and bring back proof that the Goddess is a real entity? 

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So, for Glen Keane’s first directorial feature, I think he overall did a great job with his team in crafting this film’s story. If I had to say what the film is about, in terms of story and themes, I think the film is about family, love, dealing with loss, loneliness, and pushing forward. I think one of my favorite aspects of the writing is that there are fun little symbolic elements thrown into the mix, but they have layers to them. The more you invest your time into paying attention to the story, there are satisfying payoffs. For example, Chen says he can go through walls, and anytime that he does try to, he yells “No Barriers!” Well, sure there is a payoff to that aspect of his character, but you can also see it as a way of saying ‘there are no barriers between us as brother, sister, and family”. Even during the big family dinner sequence, the grandfather will throw out a line that may be about his obsessions with hairy crabs, but it matches with what is thematically going on with Fei Fei’s character at that moment. Even Fei Fei’s hair has little story elements to it, and I adore this much detail that Glen and Audrey Wells put into the story beats. I bring up these story beats because I think the trailer undersells the actual maturity and depth that the film offers. It’s very much a Smallfoot and Abominable situation, if you catch my drift with how the marketing made the films look sillier than they are. Don’t get me wrong, this film can be silly, and not all of its jokes land, but it’s still pretty funny with a fairly universal style of humor. Still, a lot of Over the Moon reminds me of how Moana and Studio Ghibli have handled antagonistic forces in films. Chang’e might be a goddess on the moon, but she isn’t evil or wants to wreck the world or the universe. She’s alone, and bitter about what happened in her past. There is more nuance to Chang’e and Fei Fei’s connection as characters, and it reminds me of films like Song of the Sea, where it plays around with the themes of emotion, love, and connection. Even if I think some characters could have had better connections or maybe a little more plot or scenes together, I can’t think of a character that was truly superficial to what was going on in the story. I know some people cringed when they saw Ken Jeong as Gobi, and they were dreading him being the comedic side character, but I found him pretty tolerable, and his scenes with Fei Fei are cute and earnest. He even gets some lines that help the story move forward. 

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Everything feels cohesive in this film, and that includes the animation. With Pearl Studios doing the previous year’s Abominable in 2019, and Sony Pictures Imageworks helping out, the animation in this film is high quality. The humans look great, their animation is expressive, and when we get to the kingdom of the moon, it’s a rainbow of colors. Seriously, when I saw the teaser back in June, and the new trailer recently, I loved the colors. It’s very unique compared to much that has come out this year. The simplistic designs and vibrant colors remind me of Yayoi Kusama or something Science Saru would do. It even has a little bit of the online world Summer Wars has. Now, since this is directed by an ex-Disney animation legend, of course, the movie is a musical. The music has a little bit of the magic that The Little Mermaid had, and that shouldn’t be a shock, since Keane was also an animator in that movie. The songs themselves are quite good. I might like some more than others, but I couldn’t find one that was pure filler or felt out of place. The team of Steven Price, Christopher Curtis, Marjorie Duffield, and Helen Park deserves a major shoutout for making some amazing music that captured that old Disney spirit that I think was missing from many of their recent output. It’s funny how ex-Disney animators have been able to be more Disney on top of their own identity than Disney themselves. The voice cast is also pretty strong, with a cast including Cathy Ang, Robert G Chiu, Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, John Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles, Margaret Cho, Sandra Oh, Kimiko Glenn, and Artt Butler. It’s a great cast, and I felt their genuine chemistry between the characters. I think my favorite moments are the scenes with the family. It reminds me of a time where we could get together for a big family meal around the holidays. 

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Now, while I think this is a very cohesive film, I do have a few complaints. I think I would have liked at least one more scene of Fei Fei and Chun bonding, because they are separated for the majority of the film, and I think it would have helped make their bond at the end stronger. I know this film was more about Fei Fei’s personal growth as an individual, but still. While I am probably more on the side of loving Ken Jeong’s character than hating him, I wanted a stronger outcome for his character. He came back after being exiled, so wouldn’t the goddess have some kind of comment about that or something? I don’t think he was added for the sake of having another animal sidekick, since the film already had two with Bungie and the frog, and even then, the frog is barely in the film. My point is, I wish there was a little more of a satisfying ending to Gobi’s arc.

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Outside of some of the secondary and minor characters getting criticized, I love Over the Moon. It’s a touching film about love and family. It’s easily one of the best animated films of the year, and in a year where animation has taken front seat even though most of the big players have delayed their releases to next year, Over the Moon would still be in my top five animated films of the year. Once it hits Netflix later this month on the 23rd, I highly recommend everyone check it out. If you need a pick-me-up for what has been going on throughout this year, Over The Moon will be that pick-me-up. So, let’s move on from our trip to the moon, and back down to the world of Lupin the 3rd. Since his newest film is coming out in the states (better have some virtual screenings of it), I think it would be fair for us to check out the last special in the trilogy of specials from The Woman Called Fujiko Mine with Lupin the 3rd: Fujiko’s Lie

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time! 

Rating: Go See It!