Animation is my favorite storytelling medium, particularly when it takes design risks and leans all the way into adventurous storytelling. That’s Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. The series is created by Laurence Fishburne and Helen Sugland and has a stellar voice cast featuring Diamond White, Alfre Woodard, Sasheer Zamata, Gary Anthony Williams, and Laurence Fishburne, Libe Barer, Indya Moore, and Omid Abtahi.
In Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Lunella Lafayette is the smartest girl in the city. When her neighborhood, Manhattan’s Lower East Side, is being threatened by development, Lunella handles the situation the only way she knows how, by opening up a time portal and pulling a T-Rex into her world. After naming him Devil, Lunella decides to become a superhero, save her parent’s roller rink (and city in the process), and somehow manage to be a normal schoolgirl simultaneously.
While every bit of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur’s animation is perfect, I need to shout out the absolutely inspired work that the series’ background animators have created in every scene. A comic book truly brought to life, it’s clear how much care was put into every detail of a backpack hanging on a wall, a sticker on a secret closet panel, or the places on the Lower East Side street. While it’s easy to see how phenomenal the character designs and the animation in the foreground are, much of the series’ heart also comes from the way in which the background artists create the world around our characters.
The power of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is Lunella’s empathy. She feels deeply and takes on her family’s problems in a way that is all too relatable when you’re growing up in a family as an overachiever. I see myself in Lunella. When she fails, she is not only weighed down by actual expectations placed on her, but the imagined ones too. Lunella shoulders her family’s burdens even if her parents assure her it isn’t her fault or maybe aren’t always aware of how much it impacts her. Kids, of any age, aren’t ignorant of the problems their families are going through and here, that’s captured. Lunella has pride in the Lower East Side and a love for her family that is perfectly captured in a way that is seen through her navigating everyday problems and not just focusing on stopping a villain draining the neighborhood of its power.
At times, a series can sometimes hit its audience over the head in a way that doesn’t meet its audience where it is in larger discussions and themes. But that is not a problem Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur has. The writing team behind the series expertly handles serious topics like gentrification, respecting others, embracing the beauty of your natural hair, and more in a way that never feels one-note or forced. Instead, the series manages to tackle the big topics as deftly and authentically as they possibly can, and they do so while always using Lunella’s charisma and charm to pull the viewer in and get a conversation going.
Episode five, “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow” features heartfelt and intergenerational conversations about the beauty of Black hair and I can easily see it helping countless little girls who may feel the same way that Lunella does on picture day. Every time a lesson is taught in this series, it feels like it’s done so by a family member or friend, and through this intimacy, we see its empathy. “To love your hair is to love yourself” is a line that has an impact beyond this one episode, and it’s handled with care while also embracing the reality that many Black girls and women go through because of racist expectations of beauty.
But messaging isn’t the only flawless quality in the series. Additionally, Raphael Saadiq’s musical score and songs created for the series are fantastic. They bring Lunella’s neighborhood to life and manage to capture the action and emotion of the series in every moment. Specifically, “Moon Girl Magic,” sung by Lunella herself, Diamond White, is all kinds of effervescent and emotive—capturing the whimsy and joy of Moon Girl as a character.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is not only gorgeously animated but its unique and inventive style brings comic panels to life as I’ve never seen before. Wholesomeness, beauty, and joy radiate from every single scene, and every frame is crafted with a vibrancy unlike anything out now. Adapting source material can be a tall task, yes, even for the MCU, but Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is faithful to the heart of the original comic series and yet, stands in its own success. This is the kind of animation I’ve been waiting for, and it’s stellar to see something so stylized and original on one of the biggest platforms on television.
Intelligent, joyful, and dedicated to her community, Lunella is a character that kids need. Whimsy, fantasy, science fiction, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur has it all. Add in the humor for an all-ages audience that always lands; this animated series is lightning in a bottle.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur premieres on Disney Channel February 10th and will be streaming on Disney Plus February 15th.
Marvel's Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur
- Rating - 10/1010/10
Intelligent, joyful, and dedicated to her community, Lunella is a character kids need. Whimsy, fantasy, science fiction, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur have it all. Add in the humor for an all-ages audience that always lands, this animated series is lightning in a bottle.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.