Netflix has for a good while now been releasing a lot of different animated films and series. Their newest release was The Family Mitchells Against the Robots that is a joint Netflix and Sony production. A couple of weeks ago there was another animated feature that went a bit under the radar, Arlo The Alligator Boy, directed by Ryan Crego.
A gator under the radar
Being a film more serving as a pilot for its upcoming series I <3 Arlo, I still think it’s unfair that it feels like this little charming story has gone unnoticed. Especially considering the hard work of all the people involved actually managing to finish it during a global pandemic. I learned about Arlo, not from Netflix’s promotion, but from people on Twitter that had been working on the film and in seeing the art, I became directly interested.
Arlo the Alligator Boy is a 2D-animated film about a little boy who is both human and alligator, who wants to find his place in the world while looking for his father in New York. Not only is it a really visually stunning watch, but it is also a musical with songs not overly long that drives the emotional narrative forward. We start our story in the swamp of southern parts of the US, with little alligator boy Arlo seemingly wanting to explore the world out there, but knowing his differences may scare people away. The plot itself isn’t too complicated, with a band of misfits as his chosen family, the magic of a big city (especially the city being New York), and typical hillbilly villain types after our little green-scaled hero.
These days you are getting used to musical numbers in animated features, but Arlo stands out with one of the character traits of Arlo being that he literally sings what he is thinking and feeling. The music at first can feel like a mesh of typical musical-infused pop, but further on in the film, some of the songs really pinpoint the heartfeltness of the whole film. Especially Follow Me Home, with Mary Lambert’s character Bertie expressing how she has felt like an outsider her whole life but when she looks at the ocean, she feels like home. Another stand out is Wash The Hurt away, after Arlo meets the man he assumes to be his father, but the expectations are too high and he has to rethink all of his priorities. These musical performances really push the art style to the next level, with abstract images seemingly showing the character’s emotions, and even with intricate dancing as well. Like a mixture of Disney’s Princess and the Frog and playful anime influences.
The voice performances all and all are great, with the newcomer Michael J Woodard (previously from American Idol) doing a great job with his boyish voice while at the same time sounding so powerful while singing. Singer Mary Lambert (famous for Macklemore’s Same Love and her own version of it), is the giantess Bertie but with a timid personality. Then we have the gang of colorful misfits, with familiar voices like Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness as a pink hairball, and Tony Hale as a little mouselike Italian creature.
Underdeveloped but intriguing
The flimsy character designs of all these characters, not excluding Alia the tiger girl and Marcellus who’s upper-body is fish lower half-human, are refreshing and fun to say at least. You want to know more of them all, considering you don’t really learn anything about them being misfits and out-of-place creatures. I truly wish they all get their own backstory episode in the upcoming show.
Despite its immense charm in its animation, music, and characters, there are vital story elements in the film that are lacking. It is obvious that it will indeed be followed up by a show. Especially with glaring plot holes like where Arlo’s mom is and characters like Bertie who the writers try to give some space for development, but not nuanced enough. This is a smart move in a way, to keep the viewers wanting more and maybe tuning in to the show when it comes out on Netflix. But with only 11 mins per episode, it will possibly just be lighthearted stories that will come up, and then it will feel like the feature lost a lot of opportunities with its message. I’ll have to wait and see.
What did you think of Arlo and The Alligator Boy’s cute set of characters? Are you as interested in the upcoming show? Please tell us in the comments!
Arlo the Alligator Boy was released on Netflix on April 16, 2o21, and I <3 Arlo will be released later this year.
Watch Arlo the Alligator Boy
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