Some theatrical animation fans may question what DreamWorks Animation has been doing since their theatrical output has slowed to a trickle from what felt like a flood. While the feature film side of the company has been a lot less prolific DreamWorks Television Animation has been incredibly busy. The television subdivision has essentially turned into a content farm for Netflix producing mid to low budget animated series based on their feature IP as well as other franchises specific to the television division. Based on trailers and marketing material it looks to be a firm case of “what you see is what you get.” Cheaply produced kids entertainment that can comfortably produce 26 episodes a year and then distribute these in such a way that half seasons of 13 episodes come out at 6-month intervals. Given that Dreamworks is now in the hands of Universal this gives the creatives a whole library of potential franchises to make inexpensive animated series out of. What’s a Universal franchise with a strong appeal to both kids and adults? Jurassic Park. Thus we have Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous
The first season of eight episodes got a bigger marketing push than is typical for these Dreamworks Shows. It is established as taking place within the Jurassic Park canon and does reference events, characters, and creatures counting Spielberg and Colin Trevorrow among its producers. The plot is exactly what you would expect given the title. A group of various kids gets invited to what is essentially the holiday camp version of Jurassic Park. This was designed to appeal to kids in 2020 so one of them has to be a vlogger/influence but other than that if viewers have seen any piece of Jurassic Park media before Camp Castrations hits all the plot beats expected. The question is does access to one of Universal’s most valuable properties result in a better show?
Honestly no. Before this project was announced if a watcher was pictured a cheaply produced Jurassic Park animated series they might have got something very much like the final product. Things might get a little better when the narrative takes a back seat in favor of dinosaur action but this season can’t get past animation that has the visual style of a PS3 cutscene from 2007. Irritating characters and writing that is exclusively a pile of cliches certainly don’t help. The voice acting is mostly fine (some exceptions aside. A few recognizable names turn up in the cast (Jameela Jamil seems far too famous for this sort of show) That said a certain amount of what makes both the wimp character and the vlogger so annoying is tied to the vocal delivery. The season does get a little bit better when it focuses on action over the plot but even the better elements aren’t strong enough to win back an adult audience. It’s far from the worst Netflix original ever and is generally an easy enough watch but considering conceptually what this season could have brought to the table it’s a massive disappointment. It has been renewed for another season. Given the visual aesthetic and quality of this season, there’s no reason to it suspect Dreamworks Television Animation will give future seasons a bigger budget when a series like this will bring in an audience on franchise appeal alone.
Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous is a massive missed opportunity. It’s far from unwatchable but considering the broad appeal and potential of Jurassic Park as a franchise when transitioning to animation it could have been so much more.