Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: We’re looking at favorite episodes from web and streaming series.
Dreamworks Animation’s film division is not doing well, but its TV arm is still strong, at least on paper. While both Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network all but dropped Dreamworks’ shows from their lineups—likely in response to this deal between the studio and Netflix—there’s still a lot of potential in what Netflix’s animated programs can offer, with Turbo FAST being by far the most ambitious.
Dropping the 3D visuals in favor of a vintage, two-dimensional look, Turbo FAST is a slick, entertaining, and patently absurd take on its source material. Titmouse Animation creates striking visuals and set-pieces as the writers and producers essentially re-create Turbo from scratch, taking the premise of high-speed racing snails to its ridiculous-yet-logical conclusion: sillier storytelling, more complete characters, and higher stakes. Imagine Chip ’N Dale Rescue Rangers by way of Phineas And Ferb, and you’ll have some sort of conception of where things are going.
Turbo FAST’s visual acumen and dedication to its concept gives the show a jolt of vitality not often seen in contemporary animation. The Mario Kart-inspired episode “Mall Is Well” thrives on co-opting specific cues from its video game source, like pop-up indicators of items and position, and graphical “EEEEE’s” when characters drift. “Hard Luck Hardcase” places the show’s primary villain in a direct homage to Roadrunner-and-Coyote cartoons. Yet “The Great Shell Robbery” is the show’s strongest episode–showcasing each character within a send-up of a typical heist film. Titmouse commits to the aesthetics, with stylized edits between the heist-planning and the actual caper itself, interspersed with detailed onscreen graphics displaying the various aspects of the plan. The music, Turbo FAST’s most underrated feature, adds to the light-hearted tension as the team figures out their next move. The episode is both brilliant and hilarious, subverting heist film tropes when every single part of the plan goes wrong. Teamwork and camaraderie is at the heart of Turbo FAST’s appeal, but it’s not just limited to great successes; even failures are accomplished as a unit.
What makes “The Great Shell Robbery” work is how well it builds off the show’s established characterizations and expectations. Turbo, as the show’s good-natured, goofball lead, initially comes up with a terrible plan, yet the so-called real plan falls apart in ridiculous ways, while also showing the rest of the cast at their best—and their worst. Heist movies are inherently absurd, with perfect executions of intricate precision that defy logistics and physics, so watching an “ingenious” plan collapse in gut-busting fashion is almost cathartic.
Availability: The first season of Turbo FAST is available for streaming on Netflix.