It is finally time for the Lost Ollie review! This is a new show on Netflix, a miniseries to be precise, that mixes both live-action footage and the art of stop-motion. Once upon a time, stop-motion was the definitive way to create amazing new creatures and fantastical worlds and put them on the screen. Films like Jason and the Argonauts, and, of course, Clash of the Titans, were only possible thanks to the talents of the fantastic stop-motion artists working at the time.
However, with the advancement in visual effects, stop-motion was rapidly substituted by animatronics, and then, later, by computer-generated images, or CGI. Since then, stop-motion has become a sort of lost art. Only studios like Laika, and other independent, more niche filmmakers still choose to use it as the primary technique to bring these creatures to life. This is what makes Lost Ollie quite a special project, and one that must be watched by every fan of filmmaking.
Lost Ollie is created by Shannon Tindle, and all episodes are directed by Peter Ramsey. All of them have experience when it comes to live-action and animated projects, so this isn’t unknown territory for these talented people. However, as the show moves on, it becomes clear that what is being done here is very fresh and exciting on a technical level. The miniseries does as much as it can to fuse live-action and stop-motion in a seamless way.
Lost Ollie consists of only four episodes, but once you understand the amount of work that goes behind a project such as this, it is very easy to see why there are only four episodes and not more. The work done by the visual effects team is really spectacular. The way the shadows move and our fantastic characters work around the world, for example, can only be the result of real lighting, and the results are just so much better than anything done via a computer.
The show is very melancholic. The premise of the story calls back to that first Toy Story movie, where the toys go on an adventure to find their lost owner. On that plane, the show feels very familiar, but things quickly turn in a different direction when it comes to tone and darkness. Lost Ollie is very dark in comparison to the Toy Story movies, and it becomes apparent that this is as much a story for adults as it is a story for kids, especially when the ending reveals itself.
The fantastic animation department is also accompanied by a number of actors, who make each of the characters on screen come to life. On the live-action side of things, we have Gina Rodriguez, Jake Johnson, and Kesler Talbot as our main protagonists. Talbot is a great find. There aren’t many great child actors, so every time one with obvious talent appears on-screen, it is very noticeable. Rodriguez and Johnson have smaller roles, but they all have their moment to shine. They are not treated as background.
On the animation side, the characters of Ollie, Zozo, and Rosy, have amazing voices behind them. For example, Ollie is played by the always talented Jonathan Groff. Groff manages to give only the kind of voice you would imagine a lost toy would have. There is desperation and hope in equal parts in his performance. Tim Blake Nelson also does an incredible job as Zozo, a rich and complex character. Mary J. Blige cannot stop being cool and smooth, even in the form of a pink teddy bear with plastic swords and an eye patch.
If there is something that hurts the series, it is that you definitely need to be in the mood to watch it. The quality of the production cannot be put into doubt, but the series can be very heavy in its tone for some. The moments of happiness are always contrasted by moments of extreme sadness and emotion. If what you really want is to cry a lot, then this is the show for you. If you don’t want to cry and want to see something more joyful, then you better just wait to watch this at some other time.
Besides the heavy-handed tone in some of the most critical moments of the story, the show is quite amazing. You won’t be seeing many shows doing what Lost Ollie does in the future. It is just easier to do everything using CGI and call it a day. So if you really appreciate animation in general or good filmmaking, you need to put this on your watch list. Shows like this don’t come very often, and they need to be supported by the audience as much as they can.
Lost Ollie is a unique and fantastic show, full of amazing characters and an impressive emotional core. The show’s heavy melancholic tone might be too much for some, but those that thrive on watching stories that make us cry will enjoy this series to its fullest. Lost Ollie is proof that Netflix still has some stunning things in its pipeline. We will not be surprised if there are more to come.