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 183: Trolls World Tour 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!)

So, we live in a film industry where if your animated movie is a major hit, you, as a studio, will make a TV series, or, at the very least, a sequel. Normally, this sometimes comes off as short-sighted, because depending on how successful it is, you have to take in the context surrounding the film on release. Sometimes, the film was just that good, and sometimes, it was released during a time where there was a lack of competition. From films like The Nut Job 2 to The Secret Life of Pets 2, sometimes, the franchise isn’t strong enough to get people back into the theater to see the next film. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t get good sequels. We get plenty of sequels that are as good as the original or surpass them in a few ways. One of those examples is the sequel to Trolls, Trolls: World Tour.

Directed by Walt Dohrn, this sequel to the 2016 DreamWorks Animation surprise hit is mostly in the news right now for being the first major animated film of 2020 to go directly to digital and on-demand. Onward doesn’t count, since it got a theatrical release. So far, as of writing this, it is getting mostly positive reviews, and from what rental and digital purchase services are saying, it’s doing pretty well financially. So, what do I personally think about this musical sequel? Do I find it superior to the original, or is this another sequel that got greenlit too quickly?

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Our story revolves around our leads from the last film, Queen Poppy, voiced by Anna Kendrick, and Branch, voiced by Justin Timberlake. They find out from Poppy’s dad that there are different kinds of musical races of trolls. These include country, funk, techno, classical, and rock. Sadly, the rock troll, Queen Barb, voiced by Rachel Bloom, is trying to get the six magical strings and rule the world. Can Branch and Poppy find the queen of rock and roll and stop her ways?

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Now, on the surface, and to an extent, this film looks like a lot of the same brightly colored family entertainment, but just like the previous film, there is more under the felt-like look of the world. So, the first film tackled themes about happiness, what does World Tour tackle? Well, for something based on a bunch of rainbow-colored hairy troll dolls, this film deals with themes of colonialism, LGBT elements, cultural appropriation, and plenty of commentary about pop music as a whole. Yeah, for a film that looks so candy-coated sweet, you wouldn’t expect that there would be themes this mature, and yet, here they are. Much of the dialogue in the film gives off these vibes, and the twist in the film also reinforces these topics. It leads to the film running into the same situation as WB’s Smallfoot, where it’s a comedy to a degree, and they do keep a lot of the weird trippy visuals and jokes, but it’s more story-focused. They like focusing on the clashing ideals and what happened to the different races of musical trolls, and I highly commend DreamWorks and the team that made this film for wanting to go a creative and mature route with the story. This is why, even with all of their faults, people still support DreamWorks, because, sometimes, they find a way to take an idea that sounds dumb on face value and run with it. I love it when a studio decides to do this, because it shows that they have an idea about how to make the film work. I’m not going to say other films based on intellectual properties didn’t try, but DreamWorks Animation was able to go the distance to make a more memorable product.

Animation-wise, the film still does look good. It’s doing more of that felt-like fabric that comes right out of Kirby’s Epic Yarn or Yoshi’s Wooly World. It’s even adding in more faux stop-motion movements into certain characters and parts of the world. It’s not going as far as to say, Netflix’s The Willoughbys, but the DreamWorks Trolls series still has one of the more unique looks out of any animated film series. Casting-wise, I’m mixed. On one hand, Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake were fine, and they have decent lines and good chemistry, but I found myself enjoying the other actors more. Rachel Bloom, James Corden, Ron Funches, and Sam Rockwell left more impressions on me than the other major celebrities. I also won’t deny that the celebrity casting was distracting. I get that everyone is enjoying a Kelly Clarkson bonanza, and she probably got on here the same way Gwen Stefani did in the first film by being on The Voice, but I found her distracting as the leader of the Country Trolls. Even minor characters who were played by celebrities were distracting, like the K pop group Red Velvet, the McElroy Brothers popping up all over the place that are only in there because they made some internet campaign to be in the sequel, even if they added nothing to the film, and you get the idea. To be fair, I did like some of the celebrity castings with George Clinton and Mary J Blige as the king and queen Funk Trolls, and Anderson Paak probably gets the best scene in the entire film. It’s a mixed bag for me in terms of the voice cast. The music is mostly cover songs, but they do have more original songs in this film than the last one, and I think if we get a third film, they should do all original songs.

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So, let’s talk about the faults in order of the least problematic to the biggest issue the film has under its belt. First off, this film stuffs in a couple of multi-song sequences, and unless you are a kid, you will find these parts obnoxious. One of those points is meant to be obnoxious, but it doesn’t mean it gets a free pass. When you get past those two moments, everything else is pretty okay pacing-wise. Also, for a film about how our differences make us unique and we should join forces into harmony with those unique traits, they still bash a couple of music genres like smooth jazz and disco. I think that last one, while funny in a cute way, is unfortunate due to the real reason why disco burned out so quickly, which is way darker than I have time to get into with this review. Once again, DreamWorks’ obsession with side characters that don’t do anything or add anything to the story is obnoxious. They have a few trolls from the original that don’t return for some unknown reason, and yet they introduce a new one voiced by Ester Dean, and she does nothing. She doesn’t have a major point to the overall story, and many of the returning troll characters don’t offer substance either. They are there, because they have to be, and I don’t care if they have more personality in the show, because people shouldn’t have to add an eight-season show to their list of shows to watch before this film. While the gaggle of music industry cameos of famous singers and musicians is appropriate here, many of them could have been replaced by voice actors and nothing would be missed.

Now then, let’s get into the real meaty issue with this film, Branch, and Poppy, but mostly Branch. Branch is another male lead in an animated sequel that has absolutely nothing to do. His entire arc was finished by the first film, and what does he get? A flimsy “I gotta tell Poppy how much I love her and I don’t know how to” plot. Yeah, not only does he get the same treatment as Gnomeo in Sherlock Gnomes, Ralph in Ralph Breaks the Internet, and Kristoff in Frozen II, Branch is quite possibly the worst of them. They even regressed his character’s design to be more like how he was in the first film. I don’t get that decision. At least you can talk about some commentary or themes with Kristoff’s Lost in the Woods sequence. Poppy gets a slightly better story, but she teeters on being too unlikable and stubborn. I get it’s the parallel story to Queen Barb, but you have to balance out a story arc with this kind of stubborn character carefully, because she could come off as more unlikable and annoying than anything else.

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While it aims high and doesn’t make the landing, I still enjoyed watching Trolls: World Tour. It’s one of those films that I think people will talk more about as time goes on. Now, this is a unique situation for this film as to how I would recommend it. On one hand, if you have kids, or want to do a watch party, then, yeah, I highly recommend checking it out. It will be worth the $20 asking price for rentals. On the other hand, if you are hesitant to put that much down for a rental, I would wait to buy it or rent it at a lower price point. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and I stand by my criticisms, but I still enjoyed watching it. We will have to see if we come back to this world in the future outside of the new animated series going up on NBC’s service Peacock in the future. It’s kind of up to you if you want to support it. Now then, next time, we will be talking about Netflix’s first major animated film of 2020, The Willoughbys.