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WondLa is a recent animated series released on Apple TV+, an adaptation of the book trilogy by author Tony DiTerlizzi (if this name sounds familiar, he also worked on The Spiderwick Chronicles series). In this story, it’s a singular human (or hoo-man as pronounced in the show) Eva who’s come up from a bunker after an attack forces her to the surface. Yes, this story appears similar to Fallout but WondLa is a family and children-appropriate take on exploring a changed world. In 7 short episodes, it explores the story detailed in the first book, The Search for WondLa, and is already primed for a second season.

WondLa is a visual overload

At times, it’s almost impossible to keep up with all the details, with so many tiny moving parts that gave off the allure of the James Cameron Avatar movies. On a planet teeming with various interesting creatures, above and below, different landscapes accommodate each of these fascinating lifeforms. Rich jungles, tree-formed bridges, waterfalls, and deserts, just to name a few. The variety in locations throughout the season was a true highlight, providing color and changes in every episode.

The creatures themselves are so varied and wonderfully recreated from the book illustrations. While they all appear beautiful, there was something slightly off with the animation, trying to recreate the Pixar standard. The attempt is well-intended, but it was missing a little bit of “magic” to get it over the threshold to make it truly special. Even so, the sheer number of creatures and effects kept things fresh.

Rovender, Eva, Muthr, Otto (L-R: Gary Anthony Williams, Jeanine Mason, Teri Hatcher, Brad Garrett) in Wondla
Rovender, Eva, Muthr, Otto (L-R: Gary Anthony Williams, Jeanine Mason, Teri Hatcher, Brad Garrett) (Apple TV+)

The story isn’t too unique, but it’s fitting for a younger audience

As mentioned above, it’s reminiscent of other tales where someone who was prepared to resettle the surface is thrown into the mix early by training standards. Then there’s the element of nature vs humanity and how humans can greatly affect our planet. Of course, some of the staples of these other stories have been removed to keep them accessible to the demographic of children and families. But does it work? Not entirely. Our protagonist Eva (Jeanine Mason) finds herself “more than ready” to take on her assignment, but is obliquely naive to the world she’s introduced to. 

The companions are carbon copies of others, starting with a reluctant native named Rovender (Gary Anthony Williams) who has no desire to help her until she offers him something of value. An oversized tardigrade, Otto (basically Appa from Avatar: The Last Airbender) is the furry animal friend transport, another stereotypical addition in these sci-fi stories. Lastly, the robot Muthr (Teri Hatcher who also narrated the audiobooks!), has a “protocol” to keep Eva safe from harm. Having raised her from infancy, Muthr is the only thing to a family that Eva has had growing up in the bunker.

Then there’s the other repeatable characters, a bounty hunter named Besteel (Chiké Okonkwo) who wants a human to add to his impressive catalog of captures. The queen, Ojo (Sarah Hollis), has wool over her eyes thanks to her adviser’s deception that humans are set to attack them. This whole sequence makes for an uninspired revelation and connection between Ojo and Eva that shows humans aren’t ALL evil! Although, the quick and simple friendship between the two ladies did hold some charm and even featured a small Luck Easter egg (another Skydance animation production). 

Besteel (Chiké Okonkwo) and Eva (Jeanine Mason) Wondla
Besteel (Chiké Okonkwo) and Eva (Jeanine Mason) (Apple TV+)

WondLa wants to excite but misses the mark

There’s a lot of good purpose in WondLa but it’s just a watered-down version of so many other things. This compounds the disappointment as it even rips off a famous Toy Story scene with some of the words moved around. If that wasn’t enough, the style and artwork is meant to inspire the awe provided by the Disney-owned studio but without any of the grace that has kept Pixar as a legendary studio. Yes, John Lasseter is involved to some degree, but it seems none of the good carried over when he became Head of Animation for Skydance. 

WondLa was produced as safely as possible, without any risks or opportunities to inject interest in what could have been an exciting adaptation of the book trilogy. The world-building was an afterthought that deserved a lot more attention, instead of borrowing the quirkiness of The Little Mermaid’s scene with the “dinglehopper” (forks). Although the revelation of the meaning behind the title of “WondLa” is neat, it is still brief and lacks any emotional punch behind it.

Even though the ending of the first season is concluded, similar to the novels, the ending throws a small twist to open up a few more tales. Another human arrives to pick up Eva in New York City on a ship and welcomes her aboard to take her “back home”. The major change is the human who arrives is Cadmus Pryde (Alan Tudyk), the man behind the Sanctuary bunkers and the project to repopulate the surface. As revealed by Queen Ojo, her home planet had been destroyed, and they arrived on Earth and reawakened the planet with a seed that transformed it into “Orbona”. This means all these creatures are aliens to the planet Earth, instead of Eva’s assumption that she was on the wrong planet.

The sum of WondLa’s parts deconstructed and otherwise left an overall dissatisfaction by its end. It’s too afraid to do anything different, boldly borrowing from other animated features, and barely has anything new to offer. However, it is meant for children, but even that is not enough of a saving grace and perhaps would not excite or keep a kid focused enough for the brief season. Still, the potential to improve seems promising as the deal was set for two seasons.

WondLa is now streaming all 7 episodes on Apple TV+! Have you read the DiTerlizzi novels? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or join our Official Discord server to chat about this and so much more!

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Anthony Flagg

Howdy! I cover a variety of topics for The Cosmic Circus. My favorite topics to write about are video games, Pokemon and music. Drop me a line on Twitter! @redovah_

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