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Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur

Entry updated 24 April 2023. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (2023-current). Cinema Gypsy Productions, Disney Television Animation (see Disney on Television), Marvel Animation. Based on the Marvel Comics characters created by Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder and Natacha Bustos (Moon Girl) and Jack Kirby (Devil Dinosaur). Developed by Jeffrey M. Howard, Kate Kondell and Steve Loter. Directors include Trey Buongiorno and Christine Liu. Writers include Liz Hara, Jeffrey M. Howard, Kate Kondell, Taylor Vaughn Lasey and Halima Lucas. Voice cast includes Libe Barer, Laurence Fishburne, Wesley Snipes, Fred Tatasciore, Diamond White and Alfre Woodard. Sixteen episodes (one 45 minutes, otherwise 23 minutes). Colour.

When the Lower East Side of New York is hit by regular power blackouts that might force her parents' roller-skate rink out of business, 13-year-old genius Lunella Lafayette (White) decides to help by building a power generator based on partial blueprints she found on the internet. They belonged to Moon Girl, the nickname of a Scientist she idolizes, who had vanished mysteriously. Lunella has an underground laboratory in the deserted subway station beneath her oblivious parents' house: here she completes the power generator ... only to discover it is a portal generator that links to other Dimensions, out of which steps a red Tyrannosaurus (see Dinosaurs). Fortunately he is reasonably intelligent, has a doglike-temperament and she can understand what he says, so they bond. Lunella discovers a Supervillain is responsible for draining the area's electricity and decides that what is needed is a pair of Superheroes – "us!". Naming herself Moon Girl after her hero, she designs both a uniform and useful Technology to arm herself with: the Tyrannosaurus is named Devil Dinosaur (Tatasciore), whilst her schoolfriend Casey Calderon (Barer) insists on handling the public relations. After a rocky start, they defeat the supervillain.

Further adventures follow, often used to illustrate a lesson, whether through dealing with an internet troll who is a symbiote (see Parasitism and Symbiosis) feeding off the attention; or – following a classmate's casual comment about her Afro-textured hair which results in Lunella devising a hair-straightening formula (that causes hers to fall out and become sentient) – having her mother and grandmother share stories of the social pressure they faced as youngsters about their hair. When Lunella plays Chess with an AI Computer it brings out the worst in both their personalities. She also invents a mind-swapping device (see Identity Exchange), a shrinking potion (see Miniaturization) and a tool that limits her brain's functions during boring tasks (a sort of Memory Edit), meaning that her consciousness skips life's mundanities; she learns that these experiences have their importance too. A scientist couple move into the Lower East Side and offer to "improve the community": this turns out to be gentrification, the stripping away of the area's multicultural richness – with murals covered, public music banned and street vendors replaced with vending machine Robots.

A narrator who occasionally provides backstory is eventually revealed to be The Beyonder (Fishburne), an Alien from beyond time and space who has been told to find out whether humanity is worthy of existence. He decides not to wipe us out but wants to continue his studies and becomes a recurring character: The Beyonder is more a prankster than actually evil, and also breaks the fourth wall.

In the two-part season one finale we discover that Lunella's grandmother, Mimi (Woodard), was the original Moon Girl (and is aware of Lunella's secret identity). She and fellow scientist Maris Morlak (Snipes) had worked for a group called the Enclave, creating the Portal Generator; then found themselves sidelined, which both resent, Maris intensely so. He takes control of the Enclave, but Mimi – concerned about Maris's behaviour and the ramifications of the portal linking not to elsewhere in space but other dimensions – sabotaged it and went into hiding; Maris cannot build a new one without her. Finally locating Mimi and learning of Lunella's portal, he tries to steal it: the season finishes with Mimi and Lunella successfully destroying the portal; though only after it swallows Maris, whilst Lunella has sacrificed herself doing so, ending up trapped in another dimension.

With excellent, at times surreal, animation that conveys a Comic book coming to life and with strong songs, this is an exciting, entertaining and Humour-filled show, but which also covers serious topics (see Politics; Race in SF; Sociology). The target audience means these might sometimes be a little on the nose for adults, but it is done well nonetheless. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is one of the best recent animation series: happily, a second season has been commissioned. [SP]


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