Plot: The adventures of super-genius Lunella Lafayette and her 10-ton T-Rex, Devil Dinosaur. After Lunella accidentally brings Devil Dinosaur into present-day New York City, the duo works together to protect the city’s Lower East Side from danger.
Review: Since Marvel Studios rose to power in Hollywood, comic book animated series have varied wildly in quality. While DC and other companies have successfully adapted their titles, Marvel Comics-inspired animated projects have been all over the place. In recent years, we have gotten projects like M.O.D.O.K. and Hit-Monkey, as well as the MCU series What If?… All of these shows have grappled with mature storytelling, while the Disney feature film Big Hero 6 serves as the only big-screen project to take advantage of Marvel superheroes. Now, Disney Animation and Marvel have combined their powers for a new, kid-friendly animated series that harnesses the wholesome brand that the House of Mouse is known for with the creative comic book adventures the House of Ideas is known for. Together, they present Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, a technicolor blast of beautiful animation and well-written storylines for viewers of all ages.
While not directly a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur takes advantage of the credibility that Disney’s comic book studio carries. In name recognition alone, this series boasts a deep voice cast as well as the guidance of executive producer Laurence Fishburne, who has appeared in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer as the voice of the Herald of Galactus as well as most recently in Ant-Man and the Wasp as Bill Foster. After years of development, Fishburne has helped bring this unique duo to the screen thanks to a talented group of animators and writers invested in telling an authentic tale from the vantage of a multi-generational African-American family while also including a heavy dose of action and humor. Fishburne also voices The Beyonder, a new take on the classic villain from the iconic Marvel Comics storyline, Secret Wars
This series, which debuts with a double-length episode before settling into half-hour installments, begins with the origin of Moon Girl’s powers. At the start, Moon Girl is just Lunella Lafayette, a brilliant thirteen-year-old with Tony Stark’s smarts and Miles Morales’s swagger. Voiced by Diamond White, Lunella struggles with her intellect and making friends at school. She spends a great deal of time with her close-knit family, including mother Andria (Sasheer Zamata), father James (Jermaine Fowler), grandmother Mimi (Alfre Woodard in her third Marvel role), and grandfather Pops (Gary Anthony Williams). When Lunella builds a portal that opens into another universe, she transports a powerful T Rex she names Devil (voiced by Fred Tatasciore) to our world and befriends him. Adopting the alter ego of Moon Girl, Lunella becomes friends with the bubbly Casey (Libe Barer), one of the only people who know Lunella’s secret identity.
In the premiere, Lunella and Devil team up to fight Aftershock, voiced by Alison Brie. Harnessing the same powers as her father, Electro, this update to the comic book villain is hip and funny and reminded me a lot of Brie’s voice work in The Lego Movie. In the other two episodes made available for this review, Lunella goes up against living hair named Sheba (voiced by Jennifer Hudson) and The Beyonder himself. Music plays a significant role in all the episodes, including a performance from Laurence Fishburne himself. The key to every episode is also a moral lesson that will resonate with younger viewers, including stories about Black hair, creativity versus book smarts, and more. Before you worry that these stories have lessons learned at the end, rest assured that they also come with heavy doses of stylized action sequences, which are better than I have seen in most contemporary cartoons. The action is not quite the same as you would expect in Spider-man, X-Men, and other Marvel animated series, but it is perfectly aimed at the tween and teen crowd.
While Fishburne shares a creator credit alongside Helen Sugland, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is written by a staff entirely of women of color. Each episode is treated like a mini-movie and crams a solid story arc into a half-hour running time. The series also benefits from a massive cast of guest actors, including Craig Robinson, Indya Moore, Michael Cimino, Pamela Adlon, Daveed Diggs, Maya Hawke, Luis Guzman, Method Man, Paul Scheer, and Marvel veterans Cobie Smulders and Wesley Snipes. With an incredible score by Raphael Saadiq, the soundtrack to this series is far stronger than I have ever heard in a show aimed at kids with a predominantly hip-hop vibe. This soundtrack will rival the great tracks in Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse. This series also owes a considerable debt to that film and its upcoming sequel. The shifting animation styles in Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur complement the Sony film’s groundbreaking style, complete with on-screen graphics showing sound effects, fourth-wall-breaking editing, and bright colors that grab your attention.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is the best-looking animated series that Marvel has produced and should be a huge hit for Disney. With appeal to both comic book fans and young kids, this series has something for everyone. With stunning animation that eclipses any other series aimed at this age level, a fantastic soundtrack and stories that will appeal to kids of all ages as well as adults, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur will hopefully pave the way for a lot more Marvel animation that takes bold risks like this. If you or your kids are unfamiliar with these characters, get ready for to have some new favorite Marvel superheroes. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is a pitch-perfect superhero series that is the most fun I have had with an animated series in a long time.
Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur premieres on Disney Channel on February 10th and Disney+ on February 15th.