The children’s show, with an almost all POC and LGTBQ+ cast, rises to the top deserving
~Ashley McMillan, Arts and Entertainment Editor~
Netflix is known to have television shows that either are huge hits, or rather big losses. For Kipo and The Age Of Wonderbeasts, the DreamWorks, post-apocalyptic show definitely hit the mark on everything we need in a children’s show. One after another, after being introduced in January, three seasons of the show hit the Netflix platform over the course of 2020. And sincerely, the success behind the show is no surprise.
Initially begun as a web comic written and drawn by Radford Sechrist (How to Train Your Dragon 2), the illustrator turned executive producer has created a whirlwind journey for any child to binge-watch. The show starts off with a stranded thirteen year old Burrow girl named Kipo (voice acted by Karen Fukuhara), who had just recently escaped an attack on her Burrow. Kipo finds herself among the surface, where mutated animals that were either the size of a pumpkin or a building, walk upon. The mutated animals have taken over the above-ground for over 200 years, therefore Kipo’s alternating emotions of being on the surface, while sad yet exciting, brings about an interesting journey full of challenges taken on by the strong young girl. From the very beginning, she begins to create a friend group of likewise misfits, other children and mutants that are trying to get by in the world. A lonesome and fierce Wolf (voiced by Sydney Mikayla), a comical yet intuitive duo named Benson and Dave (voiced by Coy Stewart and Deon Cole), and an adorable mutant pig named Mandu (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker). Kipo does this all while trying to find a path back home to her Burrow underground – where her hopeful father awaits her return.
While the Netflix series was initially made for binge-watching, considering all of the episodes were introduced to the platform at once, one could not dare miss the beauty behind each episode. With contrasting neon and pastel colors that fill the screen, the world that we all have grown to forget, as a place still of mystery, is showcased as an incredible adventure that hasn’t been travelled in centuries. With Kipo as our unlikely heroine, she takes on this independent journey in an interesting and comical way that still keeps one on their toes (yes, even for the adults). Having a powerful heroine in charge of a show is nothing short of incredible; throughout the show, Kipo challenges her inner demons when it comes to disrupting thoughts like “am I good enough?” and “am I strong enough?” Regardless, she perseveres and we see our character of feminist nature become her own role model in her new environment full of uncertainty.
Not only is the plot beautiful, but there is another aspect of the show that children wouldn’t typically point out right away that I truly appreciate: the representation. Diversity in media is difficult to come by, and yet in Kipo the show represents communities that are often left out in mainstream media and Hollywood. For starters, as kids start to begin their journey of new relationships and crushes, this show is a great visual for introducing the spectrum that is sexuality. One of the characters (and I won’t say who, you must find that out) is flattered by another character’s desire for them, but replies sincerely that they’re gay and only like men. The other character with the crush replies back with the utmost understanding, a showcase of how conversations need to be held, at any age, rather than the opposite. A young person’s journey of discovering one’s sexuality is truly one of the most essential aspects of growing up, therefore how Kipo presented this typically under-represented aspect of childhood is incredibly modern and revolutionary for children’s television.
Additionally, the show’s diversity doesn’t fall short, but continues with having people of color as the majority of the character cast. It’s tremendously discriminatory not seeing representation from our Black and Asian-American communities in the realm of television, especially for constantly available platforms such as streaming services like Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Though the show is mostly-Black cast, the premise of the story rarely has anything to do with the representation, but a show that extends beyond the bare-minimum when it comes to backstories and personality traits, rather than stereotypical traits promoted usually by mainstream Hollywood. If you’re searching for a powerful cartoon that includes diversity in media and feminist values, I highly recommend watching Netflix’s Kipo and The Age Of Wonderbeasts. The show is purely a show for those nostalgic of childhood, and holding out for a series that can bring out their young year’s fears and yet cherished moments.