PLATFORM: NETFLIX | RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 18TH
When news came down the pike that an animated Jurassic Park series was heading our way, the expectation was for a bright, breezy and frivolous series of 20-minute escapology adventures - kids running from T-Rex’s and dodging the toothy bite of doom while flinging out snappy quips. And while Camp Cretaceous certainly has its fair share of zippy one-liners, there’s far more meat on the bone than you might expect for a show of this kind.
Spread across eight 24-minute episodes, Camp Cretaceous follows the adventures of six kids spending a fortnight at Camp Cretaceous, the children’s area of Jurassic World on Isla Nublar. Our lead character is Darius, a young, creature-crazy kid who, like so many kids of his age, delves deep into the history of the dinosaurs, soaking up as much knowledge as he can while playing a Jurassic Park VR video game, the completion of which wins him his ticket to Camp (announced by no less a luminary than the real star of the Jurassic series, Mr DNA).
The Camp is impressive, a treehouse high above the ground, giving them an incredible view of the park, but that’s not enough for these inquisitive kids, and so the adventure begins as they sneak out at night to check on the ‘compys’ (encountering angry raptors instead), sneak around the tunnels below the island to get up close and personal with a Carnosaur they nickname Toro, and get caught up in a stampede in some familiar-looking gyrospheres. It’s here that the penny drops; the story we’re watching takes place at the same time as Jurassic World as our snooping kids learn about the Indominus Rex and get embroiled in a series of adventures that see them chased across the island, desperately trying to get to the ferry and safety while avoiding the monstrous Mosasaurus, the Indominus, and the Carnosaur, who is a constant, ever-present threat.
There’s a lot to admire about the series, and plenty of surprises too. Camp Cretaceous has an emotional weight that frequently catches you off guard, with some genuine moments of peril and thoughtful themes behind a soundtrack by Leo Birenberg that takes the scores of John Williams and Michael Giacchino and expands upon them beautifully (this show absolutely deserves a soundtrack release). Indeed, the only disappointment is the character animation which is passable at best (if Lucasfilm delivered animation of this quality in a Star Wars series there’d be riots), a surprise given the franchise we’re talking about. However, don’t let that distract from a story that compliments Jurassic World very well and ends in an unexpected way that absolutely leaves the door open for further adventures. With a much-needed step up in animation quality and the time to bridge the gap between Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom, you could be looking at a real hit for Netflix and a worthy addition to the Jurassic story.