Lost Ollie is an animated limited series available on Netflix, created by Shannon Tindle. The series is based on the book Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce. Directed by Peter Ramsey and stars Jonathan Groff, Gina Rodriquez, Jake Johnson, Mary J Blige, and Tim Blake Nelson. A small toy, Ollie, is separated from his friend Billie. With the help of fellow toys, Ollie remembers the tragedy that befell his family as he tries to find his way home.
The tone of the limited series is dark, and that is hinted at from the beginning. The notion of loss is prevalent as a mystery starts. Finding himself in a dusty thrift shop, the little rabbit is determined to make his way home. The dangers come from big things, the shrinking of the world changing the perspective of what could be a threat. Getting chased by animals is fun, so it masks quite how dark and genuinely scary Lost Ollie can get. Once the flashback starts and the family situation is revealed we are pushed off a cliff into a ravine of sadness. There are moments that are haunting in their presentation. Loss and grief are the most prominent themes of the show and it is devastating in how it is unleashed. The first glimmers of what is wrong inside that family can be picked up quickly, and it is such a likable unit from the start. Perhaps some of it could be seen coming but nothing prepares you for the gutwrenching execution of it.
Then there is the present-day journey that has many adorable moments. Because that is another core feature of the series; pure love. There are beacons of hope and endearing periods where the sense of adventure takes over. But then the emotional gut punches hit with a force like a heavyweight boxer. This is not to say that the story is bad, because it is phenomenal. There are some brilliant connections between the past and the present, and the pacing of the series is excellent at revealing them. And the villain turn of the series is this slow yet genius spin that derails Ollie’s plans. It takes this story from being sweet to black, with an alarming amount of violence and menace. Whilst so much of the story is built on sadness and grief and defeat, the ending is absolutely worth it and brings that hope back, and after so much has happened it is so much sweeter.
The characters and the performances are excellent from a voice acting and an acting perspective. The three main characters of Lost Ollie are toys and they are perfect. The plot is centered around Ollie, and Ollie is simply wonderful. He is adorable and energetic and full of personality. He is devoted to finding his Billy which gives the story a constant forward movement. But being so small and vulnerable makes what happens to him throughout the limited series seem all the more horrifying.
Groff’s voice is endearing. All of the characters have the same Ohio accent which creates a synergy and a location for all of them. The other toys are rife with their own personality, with arcs that were absolutely unexpected from their first appearance. Zozo is another tragic toy, but one that picks Ollie up and helps him with his quest. It is his journey that is the most surprising, filled with acres of depth. Then there is the warrior, Rosy, a pink teddy bear made out of patchwork who wields swords. There isn’t an abundance of cast members, allowing those available to flourish.
In my opinion, the most powerful of the humans inside this series is Rodriguez, credited only as Momma. She brings so much love into the role, radiating gentility. That warmth is lovely but there is also such devastating despair that comes with it. These extremes elevate the other.
The production of this series makes it truly stand out on its own. The filming is intelligent as is an animation within a live-action world. This creates a more personable feel to the show as everything around them is real, including the emotions of the humans. The toys are incredibly realistic and there are cases of real incarnations of them being used, with seamless transitions between them both. The lighting affects the tone dramatically. Many of the locations are dingy and in low light, increasing the negative feeling and instilling a creepy vibe around the toys. The design of Ollie and how he is animated is a huge part of what makes him so lovable. He is a floppy rabbit with marble eyes and the greatest ears. The way he runs and the movement of his ears are so affectionate and cute. The music is gorgeous and integral to many of the plot revelations.
Lost Ollie is a deeply emotional adventure that made me sob. A lost toy trying to find his way home is also an open door to a stunning exploration of loss and bereavement. Incredible performances and perfect animation make it impossible to not get sucked into a tale that is dark and upsetting. The levels of despair that it reaches are so profound that it is hard to get through at times. This is not a children’s story, I personally think it is way too bleak at moments. But it is a journey that you will remember if you make it through. I have never had a series affect me so unexpectedly as this one.
Lost Ollie is available on Netflix.
Lost Ollie is a deeply emotional adventure that made me sob. A lost toy trying to find his way home is also an open door to a stunning exploration of loss and bereavement. Incredible performances and perfect animation make it impossible to not get sucked into a tale that is dark and upsetting.