The Daily Stream: Kipo And The Age Of Wonderbeasts Provides The Serotonin Boost We All Need

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Series: Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: Set in a ruined future where the Earth has become a global wilderness littered with the remnants of civilization, the surface world in "Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts" has become a haven to a dangerous assortment of mutant, anthropomorphic creatures — many of them super-sized, talkative, and sprouting extra appendages and eyeballs, referred to as "mutes" — that have caused wary bands of surviving humans to retreat into massive underground burrows. One day, a hapless "burrow girl" named Kipo (Karen Fukuhara) finds herself lost on the surface, all alone and with no idea how to get back home. The plucky hero has only her wits, her love of science and astronomy, and a close-knit group of newfound friends and allies (and pig sidekicks!) to help her on her sprawling trek into the unknown reaches of the surface — which she's never actually seen with own eyes before. But, unbeknownst even to herself, she may be harboring a secret or two of her own...

Why It's Essential Viewing

Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary — hello, Pixar, Laika Animation, and "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," to name only the most obvious ones – animation these days still comes with a stigma among some circles, as if the ideas of "providing entertainment for kids" while also being "actually good" are somehow mutually exclusive. In the midst of this tired narrative, "Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts" practically charms skeptical viewers into submission with its wholly original story that borrows liberally (and cleverly) from all sorts of recognizable pop culture sources.

The Netflix series, created by Radford Sechrist and developed by Bill Wolkoff, eases audiences into a wholesome, hilarious, and meaningful world where the greatest challenge, episode in and episode out, remains being true to yourself and never allowing even the bleakest circumstances to tempt you into lowering your own standards or expectations for yourself. This core moral struggle, typified most dramatically by Kipo but extended impressively to every one of the supporting cast in turn, easily puts "Kipo" on another level. Where other shows may have prioritized all the silly and "Mad Max"-esque antics that a post-apocalyptic world affords (and, believe me, there's plenty here, too), the consistently strong writing and deceptively simple ambitions always keeps this series and its characters on the right track. Kipo (brought to life with magnificent voice work from Karen Fukuhara) and her friends — the ragtag and slow-to-trust Wolf (Sydney Mikayla), happy-go-lucky Benson (Coy Stewart), his loyal but strong-willed Mute friend Dave (Deon Cole), and the adorable mutant pig Mandu (Dee Bradley Baker) — all get their moments to shine over the course of the series, having likely entrenched themselves as the favorite fictional characters for an entire generation of kids.

While searching for her human family and friends, Kipo encounters memorable and delightfully creative characters and locales, like the impeccably fashionable froglike Mute Jamak (Jake Green), a society of dubstep-emitting bees, guitar-shredding snakes, snobby and sophisticated wolves, destructive and mind-controlled "mega mutes," and the dastardly, villainous mandrill, Scarlemagne (Dan Stevens). Redemption arcs, "Macbeth" allusions, and the power of friendship and family remain firmly at the center of the action, giving viewers reason for optimism when real life continues to let us down so profoundly.

Kipo tends to solve problems with empathy, selflessness, and usually a song. "Kipo" dares all of us to be more like her.