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New Ways of Seeing: Tuca and Bertie

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

Tuca and Bertie, Lisa Hanawalt’s VERY adult animated series was just resurrected this week from digital purgatory, returning blessedly for a second season next year. Watching the first 10 episodes, I marveled at the deep empathy that the creator had for the complexity and subversiveness of women—no matter what the species—and this raunchy, real and imaginative take on what it takes to balance life’s ups and downs is pure joy at a time when we all need a little positivity and inspiration.

In pitch parlance, it’s Working Girl meets Broad City with a touch of Girls Trip and Roger Torrey Peterson’s Birders’ Guide thrown in for good measure. Voiced by comedy dynamos Tiffany Haddish & Ali Wong, the two titular characters are birdy besties (literally—they are a free-spirited toucan and a self-doubting song thrush navigating the big city). Despite the trappings, these thoroughly drawn female protagonists navigate relationships, family woes, jobs, and hardships and big and small in a way that is universal and yet, wholly unique.

It’s also a veritable who’s who of the comedy scene of the now—for those of you who fancy Nailed It!, Netflix’s subversive cooking show, there’s a bit where grandmother Gamby is reincarnated as a talking cake as voiced by Nicole Byer that has had me giggling a week later. Or for the purists amongst us, Isabella Rossellini and Richard E Grant show up too, as Pat the Owl and Bertie’s blue jay boss at Conde Nest, respectively. 

Check out this twisted, delicious, surreal piece of feminist-leaning art on Netflix before it transfers to Adult Swim in early 2021 to see what all the fuss is about (and bonus, you’ll be supporting local artists as the series animation will be done by Portland’s own ShadowMachine to boot)!