New Ways of Seeing: Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts

From Amy Dotson, NWFC Director, and PAM Curator, Film & New Media

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts
Created by Radford Sechrist, adapted from his 2015 webcomic Kipo.
Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is screening on Netflix

Empathy is a powerful emotion, one that sometimes makes you feel like a mutant jaguar in tune with the universe and other times, oh so very human and lost in the messed-up world surrounding you. It may sound strange to say that I’ve been deeply moved of late by a thirteen-year-old pink haired cartoon girl, but it’s true. Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is an all-ages limited series on Netflix, following Kipo Oak as she goes on a quest to find her missing father when the world is turned upside down and otherness, discord, and fear take hold. Her rebellion against the powerful forces of hate that surround is radical empathy, befriending all who come across her path (including the flamboyant Scarlemange, gruff Molly Yarnchopper the timbercat and the astronomer wolves Good and Bad Billions). 

Along the way, she teams up with human pals Wolf and Benson to figure out where evil comes from, how hate manifests, and how accepting people and mutant creatures for who they are and meeting them where they are at is the superpower that can ultimately save us all.  All these weighty messages….and it never feels cheesy, nor like purely kids stuff. With nods to everything from Wizard of Oz to The Warriors, it showcases one young woman’s journey in a multi-media way that appeals to young folks but also savvy adults who get caught up in the amazing mosaic of over 115 artists and musicians (including Wu-Tang founding member GZA) contributing to the binge-worthy series. 

I’ve watched quite a few media projects with strong female-identifying protagonists over the years, but this groundbreaking tale hiding underneath the guise of family fun seems both totally of the moment and timeless in its message. Whether we ultimately see this story as the stuff of fantasy or reality, viewers could all take a cue from the Kipo crew that we can’t just go back to normal when the world shifts and hate takes hold.