Jurassic Chocolate Factory

There’s no earthly way of knowing
which direction we are going –
there’s no knowing where we’re rowing
or which way the river’s flowing –
not a speck of light is showing
so the danger must be growing
for the rowers keep on rowing
and they’re certainly not showing
any signs that they are slowing ….

I just finished watching Camp Cretaceous, an excellent animated spinoff series “for kids,” from Netflix, of the Jurassic Park/World franchise. (And yeah, I know, the Jurassic and Cretaceous are completely different eras, but whatever.) This trailer –

– makes the show seem more kiddified and comedic than it is. In fact, apart from some slight kiddification (mostly in the early episodes), it’s just as serious and intense, on the whole, as the live-action movies; despite the “for kids” branding, any kid who finds the movies too scary will likely find this too scary as well – and I suspect that no one (of whatever age) who enjoys the movies will find this series too tame, or not dark enough. I mean, it’s willing to go pretty dark. I would show a clip to make my point, but spoilers.

MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW:

The basic premise of the series is essentially a mash-up of Jurassic Park/World with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. (I say Willy Wonka rather than Charlie because there’s a subplot about kids being bribed to perform industrial espionage that resembles a similar subplot in the first Wonka movie [Willy Wonka] that’s absent from the original book [Charlie].)

The similarities to the Wonka storyline are straightforward: six kids from different backgrounds win a worldwide contest for a behind-the-scenes trip to Jurassic World. But when they get there, they immediately start doing dumb things that would put them at risk even if the park itself were operating normally. (Plus there’s a scary boat ride through a tunnel that’s reminiscent of the Wonka one – and which seems likely to get incorporated into a real-life theme park ride at some point.)

But of course the park isn’t operating normally, as this series takes place simultaneously with the sanguinary events of the fourth theatrical movie, Jurassic World; and there’s no all-powerful Willy Wonka to help them out. Instead there are a couple of well-meaning camp counselors; but once the events of Jurassic World begin to unfold offscreen, the Cretaceous kids get separated from the counselors pretty quickly, and end up trying to make their way across the dinosaur-infested island alone. (They do adopt a cute baby dinosaur along the way – one of the few bits of kiddification to make it into the later episodes.)

While the Cretaceous kids don’t systematically map on to their Wonka counterparts (they hardly could, since there are six Cretaceous kids [at least to begin with] and only five Wonka kids), the earnest main protagonist Darius, the wealthy and arrogant Kenji, and the social media celebrity Brooklynn are somewhat reminiscent of Charlie Bucket, Veruca Salt, and Mike Teavee respectively. None of the Cretaceous kids, however, is as one-dimensional or as unsympathetic as the spoiled brats in the Wonka tale; despite their various imperfections, each one has a solid core of decency that makes their perils especially riveting and suspenseful for the viewer. (One might think “how suspenseful can it be? it’s not like they’re going to kill the kids off.” Well, while watching it I felt pretty confident that they weren’t going to kill all the kids off, but I felt increasingly less confident that they weren’t going to kill any of them. How things turn out I’ll decline to say. However, the series has been picked up for a second season – from which you may be inclined to infer that the first season doesn’t end with either everyone dead or everyone rescued. I’m not telling, though. After all, the second season might involve all new characters. Don’t watch the teaser for season 2 until you’ve finished season 1.)

The idiocy of the “these ones are herbivores, so not dangerous” line from the original movie (written by someone evidently unfamiliar with bulls, moose, rhinos, etc.) also gets lampshaded here, so that was nice.

Anyway, I recommend.

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