The striking animated series aims for a younger set and mostly connects.
Lunella Lafayette, aka Moon Girl (Diamond White), is a middle schooler with an intellect off the charts. Devil Dinosaur (Fred Tatasciore) is an interdimensional red T. Rex with a deep, abiding love for dirty water dogs. As odd couples go, they seem shoo-ins for the Hall of Fame.
One may wonder if the new animated series Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is the usual MCU fare. While the show makes reference to certain characters or events from that sprawling multi-platform story delivery system, this cartoon feels distinctly different. Think of it like living in the Village while there’s a party at Central Park West. Sure, they’re technically part of the same place, but those 100 city blocks mean they more or less exist in different worlds.
More to the point, it’s aimed at a very different audience. There are certainly aspects that MCU hardcore followers or even casual fans will enjoy in Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, but this project feels aimed directly at the kid set. This isn’t a What If…? style companion to Marvel Studios’ live-action endeavors. Think less the 13 to 55 demographic and more 8 to 13. As a result, the series focuses heavily on jokes and lessons over explosives and complex mythology. Of course, lessons about loving yourself and placing community over individual glory have rarely looked or sounded this good.
The usual animation style has a great sense of DIY energy. Moon Girl and her supporting characters, like best friend/social media obsessive Casey (Libe Barer), cavort against detailed but frequently static backgrounds. As a result, it gives off the impression akin to live-action footage unfolding against matte paintings. However, the show really cooks during the action sequences, upping the color saturation and speed of movement to create some wonderfully arresting imagery.
On the musical side of things, Raphael Saadiq (of Tony! Toni! Toné! to us oldheads) provides both the score and songs for the show. The results give Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur an undeniable sense of energy without feeling too telegraphic about the action it’s playing against. It is a remarkable mix of influences and eras. Consequently, it feels current without seeming 30 seconds away from its expiration date.
[L]essons about loving yourself and placing community over individual glory have rarely looked or sounded this good.
That’s especially important when the audience hears some of the dialogue. Undeniably, the show boasts excellent voicework from the likes of Alfre Woodard, Sasheer Zamata, Jermaine Fowler, and a delightfully game Laurence Fishburne (who is a co-creator alongside Black-ish’s Helen Sugland). On the other hand, some lines carry the unmistakable whiff of trying too hard to relate to the kids. Invoking slang of recent yore like “fierce” and “lit” left this reviewer groaning a bit, which is saying something considering my obvious lack of cool. 30 Rock made jokes about “fierce” being out of date and new episodes of that show haven’t been on the air in about a decade.
However, if a show aimed at kids’ greatest sin is some tin-eared dialogue, it is still ahead of the game. It is easy to overlook because Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur meets that shortcoming with excellent voice talent, incredible music, and superb animation. Additionally, the show’s energy, relatability, and thoughtfulness push it even higher in this reviewer’s eyes. It’s not perfect, but it is so much fun the intended audience will happily get on board for the ride.
Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur enters a dimension called “fun” on Disney+ beginning February 10.
Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Trailer: