It might leave new viewers a bit out of their depth, but Kulipari: Dream Walker is full of charm and energy and should satisfy fans of family animation.
I must admit I’m not ideally-suited to be writing about Kulipari: Dream Walker. Released on Netflix today, the original animated series is the follow-up to Kulipari: An Army of Frogs, which somewhat predictably I had no idea existed. Then again nobody else on the team did either, so what can you do?
Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that Kulipari: Dream Walker is actually pretty good. Not being marketed as a direct sequel will hurt it, as it’ll attract newcomers who’ll be baffled by the setting, especially with the rather heavily-marketed presence of Mark Hamill. (Anyone who finds his role here unusual presumably isn’t familiar with his legendary voice-acting work, but I digress. His character also sounds a lot like his Joker, coincidentally or not.) But there’s always some detective work to be done when starting a new fantasy series, animated or otherwise, especially when that series includes giant frogs, lizards, spiders and scorpions.
The series is adapted from novels by Trevor Pryce and is directed by Chuck Patton, who worked on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – and blimey, that’s obvious. Kulipari: Dream Walker contains a bunch of stuff that’s strongly reminiscent of that iconic property; anthropomorphised animals, a martial arts undercurrent, a gruff mentor figure, an uncanny ability to instantly differentiate between what are essentially palette-swapped sprites, so on and so forth. But that’s the show’s biggest advantage, really. It’s rich in charm and distinctive design, and its more fantastical setting gives it a level of visual and mythological appeal.
Plot-wise you could guess most of it – the usual unconventional hero narrative, spliced with your standard stuff about teamwork and unity and befriending all kinds. There are vague notions of inherited destiny and learning to embrace one’s potential, dark lords and thuggish henchman, the whole shebang. Alongside the well-known Hamill, Josh Keaton, Wendi Malick, Phil LaMarr, and Jess Harnell provide likable, enthusiastic voiceovers, and the animation, while hardly the best I’ve ever seen, provides clean and clear action and a bright setting.
Maybe I’m just in a good mood, but I liked Kulipari: Dream Walker. The ten-episode season is breezy and easy to consume, with enough energy and imagination to keep things engaging throughout. More stringent fans of the genre will find things to dislike, I’m sure, but as far as laidback family-friendly programming goes, this fits the bill.