Lately, animation has become a really wonderful place to explore ideas and create worlds that could not be explored in live action. Unlike live action, the amount of budget dedicated to the creation of these wonderful worlds is a lot smaller, and the flexibility that the creators can enjoy when building these worlds is a lot greater. Netflix has played a big part in making animation, adult animation being accepted in the west, just like it has been accepted in the East for decades.
However, animation has been a medium that more often than not has been associated with children. Saturday morning cartoons and countless other animation projects have been aimed at kids with the intention of entertaining them, teaching them, and even making them buy lots of toys. Or making their parents buy a bunch of toys, to be more specific. And so, animation can be the first time kids get the chance to explore those new ideas, through the hands and eyes of animated characters.
Show like Steven Universe and Gravity Falls have paved the road for Dead End: Paranormal Park, the new animated series on Netflix that aims to become a place that can teach kids tolerance and inclusion while making them live a spooky adventure well worth the watch. Dead End: Paranormal Park is created by Hamish Steele, and the show is based on Steele’s own graphic novels and webtoons. The show tells the story of a group of friends working at a spooky theme park during the summer, and their adventures in it.
The main selling point of Dead End: Paranormal Park is that for the first time in the medium, the role of the protagonist is filled by a transgender character. A boy called Barney, in this case, works at the before mentioned Dead End: Paranormal Park, a theme park with very serious issues of being plagued more often than now with countless ghosts, spirits, demons, and more. It is a very wacky premise, and it makes the show follow the trend of other insane cartoons like Adventure Time or Gravity Falls.
When it comes to the writing of the show, the effort made give good results but sadly, the stories and the set pieces sometimes feel a bit too familiar. This will only be a problem for adult audiences who have experienced several other spooky animated TV shows in their lives, and will not find anything precisely new here. For younger audiences, this might be their first animated series of its kind, thus the generic nature of the episodes might not be a problem at all.
The show follows its overarching arc that develops in the background until it travels to the foreground as the season ends. The first season of the show runs for 10 episodes of about 30 minutes each, which makes the show a perfect binge-watch. This also works like a pro and a con, as the show becomes a very small-time commitment, but for kids, ten episodes might not be enough to make it memorable.
In fact, it is very possible that it will be adults or teenagers who become the main audience of the show, not because of this writing, but because of the social issues that the show is tackling in each episode. Having Barney being the main character is a big deal, and the show presents him as a very thoughtful and warm kid overall, it is hard to dislike him. The show also presents Norma, another worker at the park, who is clearly written to be an autistic character.
The level of representation found on the show is quite big. The main characters are basically minorities, and if the show manages to catch children’s attention it will definitely serve as a good introduction to these kinds of people, who exist in our society and should be accepted as they are. If no one is hurting anyone, everybody should be free to live their lives in whatever way they like. Maybe our current generation cannot change, but future generations will absolutely be able to.
In terms of animation, the show is quite basic, as we said before the show reminds us strongly of shows like Gravity Falls, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, and of course, Steve Universe. As such, the visuals of the show are very much in line with these other shows, making use of huge vector models, that don’t allow for a lot of fluidity but certainly make it up for consistency. This animation style makes the characters feel substantial and have a presence.
It might be that the show will not be remembered for being very scary, either. The spooky elements are very present, but they are executed in a very light manner, no a kid will find this scary at all. This could be a disappointment, and it actually is, but when thinking about the sort of audience this show is aimed at, it feels like the right move.
Dead End: Paranormal Park is trapped in two places, being a kids’ show, but also trying to make big social justice statements to the adults. One aspect might end up diluting the other, but in an overall fashion, the show is entertaining enough to warrant a watch, and Barney’s achievement as the first trans protagonist in an animated show should not be underestimated.