Disney+’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Review
While the MCU attempts to figure out its kinks with its cinematic universe on the big and small screen, Marvel fans are in desperate need of some Marvel programming outside the MCU. The new Disney+ animated series Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is that perfect treat for Marvel fans looking for the ambition, relatability, and fun that the MCU has been sorely lacking lately.
The series follows Lunella Lafayette (voiced by Diamond White), the smartest girl living in Manhattan’s Lower East Side who loves to tear it up at her family’s roller-skating rink. While working in her underground lab one night, Lunella accidently transports a gigantic T-Rex to present-day. After forming a good bond with the T-Rex, who she lovingly names Devil Dinosaur (voiced by Fred Tatasciore), Lunella decides to take inspiration from a scientist she admires and become her superhero persona Moon Girl. With Lunella’s intelligence allowing her to create some superb crime-fighting tech and Devil’s immense brawn, they work together to defeat villains that terrorize the Lowest East Side…and beyond.
Right from watching the first few minutes of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, the animation instantly impresses with how it turns a simple Saturday morning cartoon into a living comic book. The color palette absolutely pops with vibrant colors that match the exuberant energy of its titular pair of heroes and the community feel of the Lower East Side setting. The inclusion of expanding comic panels and dialogue bubbles creates engaging elements within the action, dialogue, and humor. Plus, the great cutaways for a mysterious narrator to dish out villain backstories and for Lunella’s creative ideas to be visually expressed greatly add to the storytelling.
Nothing compares to when Lunella and Devil are gearing up to face their villains in a big final fight though as the series showcases some impressive technical feats. The shift in color makes these fights stand out well and are genuinely eye-dazzling when they’re paired with the simple, but swift action. Even better is that big fights are given some great music to back it up. It’s awesome how the songs shift genres in each episode so no two usually feel the same and the original songs for the series honestly sound great. The use of songs really elevates big finale fights and it’s a smart way for White’s singing background to come into the series.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur’s animation improves every aspect of the show, especially the charm and humor of its characters. The way characters can expand comic panels or interact with each other through thought bubbles creates some engaging dialogue and really adds to the personalities of characters. Lunella’s quick thinking and sense of creativity are greatly shown through some fun visuals that make for stellar comedic moments. Plus, when Lunella and her bestie Casey (Libe Barer) are together, they stretch the animation to its limits through their wildly entertaining and heartfelt bond.
Casey, in general, is a blast and her infectious sense of positivity and social media prowess make her a great friend/hero aide for Lunella. Their scenes together are so much fun and the voice work from White and Barer gives their dynamic such an excellent chemistry. Also, Devil Dinosaur is instantly adorable with how he’s animated as a loveable goofball. Frankly, there isn’t a bad character in this show and the villains that get introduced touch on a variety of Marvel lore.
Although Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur never run into other Marvel heroes, they face a wide variety of villains that connect to different areas of Marvel’s vast rouge’s gallery. From a group of bottom of the barrel villains to a strange symbiote, Moon Girl’s growing rouge’s gallery has it all. Even the appearance of a big-time villain like The Beyonder (voiced by Laurence Fishburne) is awesome and the episode focused on him is fantastic. The Beyonder’s trickster personality and incredible design is brought out perfectly through the animation and it’s fun to watch him mess with Moon Girl. Also, his secret role throughout the series makes his eventual appearance much more fulfilling.
The series also shines through its small self-contained stories told each episode as they see Lunella deal with new threats and issues in her personal life. The series structure, overall, isn’t anything special as each episode, aside from the premiere episode’s origin story, goes through the same motions. It sees Lunella be confronted with a personal problem until a villain arises, and then her and Devil defeat the villain while learning a good lesson. It’s some standard storytelling that has its bar raised by how the series treats Lunella and the kinds of stories that are told.
Lunella, as a character, is never shown to be perfect and deals with issues that are personal to her, but that are still relatable to wider audiences. Things like taking on new responsibilities and dealing with online trolls are great storylines for modern kids and their parents. There’s even an episode that highlights the impact and power of hair in black culture in an organic and meaningful way. It’s also great how the series sticks to its guns in keeping Lunella as a neighborhood hero since it’s one of the best things about her superhero journey.
Lunella staying within her Lower East Side community allows for smaller characters and their stories to shine and makes Lunella a much more relatable and grounded character. In some ways, the series is everything that the MCU’s Ms. Marvel series struggled to maintain – a charming neighborhood hero who just wants to keep her community safe. The series also doesn’t always take expected routes with Lunella’s character arcs either and presents some really great moments of her owning up to her faults or trying to solve things a different way. It’s not always about Lunella winning by beating up some baddie and it makes the stories told more than just traditional superhero antics.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is the best MCU counter-programming Marvel has produced in quite some time and really shows the humble roots the MCU needs to go back to. It presents a sense of ambition and genuine fun that Marvel fans always want and also tells some strong stories backed by loveable characters and great voice performances. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is a must-watch for all Marvel fans and the series will have them shouting for the titular pair of heroes to make their way to the MCU.
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