An original take on adult animation by Lisa Hanawalt, ‘Tuca and Bertie’ defies expectations in a fashion similar to children’s series such as Adventure Time – providing a kooky and the crazy world that can go above and beyond the lines of the surreal and real – all for the sake of comedy. This series breaks rules and is unapologetic in flipping the literal bird toward the modern patriarchy. Showcasing that women, too, can be as gross-out-funny in adult animation and can feature characters written with greater depth – beyond one-dimensional objects.
For a detailed analysis featuring spoilers, TV Talk Episode 10 discusses the first three episodes of ‘Tuca and Bertie’ on TheWorkprint podcast. Available here, iTunes and GooglePlay.
The story is about the best friendship of two 30-year-old birdwomen: Tuca (Tiffany Haddish), a cocky, care-free toucan, and Bertie, an anxious, daydreaming songbird (Ali Wong). This show deals with the struggles of maintaining adult relationships in your 30s. However, it’s different by design and deals with adulthood it in a way no other series has ever before. Providing vignettes of information, not through diatribe and dialogues, but by zany animation. The comedy is designed to shock and awe you. Yet, it’s also meant to make you think about the people in your life right now.
Atop of this, the show features an almost entirely all-female cast and consistently excels on presenting the audience with original styles of comedy and animation. It’s hard for me to say when a series provides something original, especially in an era of streaming where almost every tried-and-true cliché is aired somewhere – if not in live TV, then via streaming.
Which is why ‘Tuca and Bertie’ is refreshing because there really is nothing else like it.
Last fall, I examined ‘Bojack Horseman’ regarding the #MeToo movement right here. Whereas ‘Bojack’ is one of my all-time favorites because of its take on self-loathing and celebrity, ‘Tuca and Bertie’ chooses to differentiate itself by steering away from self-destruction and looking more at the pitfalls of self-creation and reinvention. A great theme in your 30s.
The main characters the show are Bertie (voiced by Ali Wong), an anxious little song thrush struggling between her boring data analysis job and dreams of becoming a professional baker. She wants to live an exciting life; Yet, while she is stable, she desires more than her basic routine she is living but is also incredibly scared of rejection. Her daydreams being safer than the reality of having to pursue them. She lives with her over-supportive boyfriend Speckle (voiced by Steven Yeun), who’s trying really hard to make their relationship work, but is nothing shy of a pushover, bending to Bertie’s every need.
Bringing the noise and fun into their world, is Tuca (voiced by Tiffany Haddish), a loud and in-your-face Toucan with no job or responsibilities, who is Bertie’s best friend. Tuca provides a vibrant energy into Bertie’s life, providing emotional and inspirational support; yet Tuca also comes with her own degree of irresponsible baggage. Especially as she navigates her recent sobriety.
If I haven’t stressed enough, you should see this series for the animation style, alone. It plays around with different formulas and isn’t afraid to try new things. This includes utilizing stop motion, playing with hand puppets, and even deconstructing things made of felt string.
Its palate is colorful and reminiscent of a fun children’s series in that it utilizes many bright tones. It gives the series a surprising depth and feeling where almost anything is possible. While at the same time, making us mourn over the sins of the past and the restrictions of adulthood. Playfully acknowledging heavy topics such as career choices, getting older, growing apart, and having to decide what to do with the rest of one’s life.
Still, for the most part, the animation is lively rather than melodramatic. It’s also very cognizant of female bodies and empowerment. Featuring a surprising amount of physical comedy but also, an incredible number of butts and boobs. And not necessarily, in a sexualized fashion, as even buildings can have boobs in this world. Why? I don’t know, but maybe ask ‘Rick and Morty’ why everything looks phallic.
Also, if you enjoy food, this season heavily features Bertie baking many different goods. Often, in exaggerated and exciting fashion (think Anime). Plus, Tuca loves to eat, and there are many visual sight gags involving foodie living in the big city.
What’s great about ‘Tuca and Bertie’ is that it’s consistently breaking walls and established world rules. Taking basic concepts like gravity, or even night/day, and then breaking them almost immediately – in strange, yet hilarious fashion. There are a lot of set-up gags and Easter Eggs to catch. It’s hard not to pay attention every second of this series because, if you do, you’ll miss one of the many visual gags and jokes.
To add to the hilarity, the show goes beyond anthropomorphic animals like in ‘Bojack Horseman’. In this series, ANYTHING CAN BE A PERSON, which is in my opinion, is truly funny. It’s jarring but also unbelievably hilarious, as the show consistently breaks lines of possibility. This includes physical plant people, equipment people, and STDs that can become a jam/funk band. There’s even a moment early on in the series, about a titty (yes, I’m talking about a woman’s breast) getting pissed off because of workplace harassment, to the point where they call it quits for the day, physically leave, and go for a drink at the bar.
It’s insane! But at the same time, fantastic. Yet it only balances because with every ridiculous moment, comes an equally dramatic relationship, and problems that feel all too real within your 30s.
You Can Watch ‘Tuca and Bertie’ streaming on Netflix
FINAL SCORE: 9.6/10
Fear The Bogeyman
Finally, if you listen to the podcast, you’ll hear me, and my Illustrator talk about a comic series I’m currently writing called: Fear The Bogeyman. It’s an action-horror series about a character who has to face his fears quite literally, in a world where anxieties and insecurities manifest themselves into actual physical monsters. I’ll be throwing the occasional updates about the series on Monomythic and my soon to be developed portfolio website, where you can see some of my writing works available for free.