US animated online series (2019). Netflix. Distantly based on the book by Dr Seuss. Created by Jared Stern. Directed by Lawrence Gong and Piero Piluso. Written by Vanessa McGee, Mark Rizzo, Jared Stern and John Whittington. Voice cast includes Dee Bradley Baker, Jillian Bell, Adam DeVine, Michael Douglas, Ilana Glazer, Eddie Izzard, Keegan-Michael Key, Diane Keaton and Jeffrey Wright. Thirteen 26-minute episodes. Colour.
Owing to a mix-up involving suitcases, dour failed inventor Guy-Am-I (Douglas) – "failed" not so much because his Inventions don't work but because they all, at some point, explode – finds himself holding a rare Chickeraffe (Baker) freed from a Zoo by remorselessly upbeat Sam-I-Am (DeVine), who explains he is returning it to its family; against his better judgement Guy finds himself caught up in Sam's escapade. The pair regularly cross paths with over-protective parent Michellee (Keaton) and her free-spirited daughter, E.B. (Glazer). As Michellee is a professional bean counter and Guy's new job is watching paint dry, romance slowly blossoms; meanwhile E.B. adores the Chickeraffe, naming it Mr Jenkins. However, millionaire animal collector Snerz (Izzard) has hired a third party to steal the creature. As Guy and Sam are being pursued by The BAD GUYS (Wright and Bell) the viewer puts two and two together and makes five: a shocking twist towards the end reveals the true state of affairs, but a change of heart means all ends happily save for Snerz.
The setting recalls fifties America, but with outbreaks of sixties popular music; aside from the occasional Monster, Guy and Sam's adventures, though often frenetic, are affably surrealistic in mood. Their experiences with exotic animals or mechanical and other constructions are frequently odd and sometimes a little unsettling: a train's carriage contains a model railway on which runs a miniature version of the train itself, carrying tiny, living versions of the passengers (see Great and Small). Eccentric Technology abounds, clearly advanced but wholly whimsical and retro in nature and design.
This is a satisfying series, being amusing and pleasantly inventive, with enjoyable characters and having a real emotional core: relationships and trust are important themes, as is the vilification of cantaloupes. It is only loosely based on its source material: mainly the artistic style, some of its characters and having the narrator (Key) speak in rhyme. For a contemporary children's show it is fairly unusual in having adult leads. [SP]