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Camp Cretaceous Season 1 Review

This is the MO for these kids, like all of the time.

This is the MO for these kids, like all of the time.
image:: Netflix

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Netflix Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous opens up to a child who is running for his life. He watches his handler being eaten by velociraptors before being swallowed by a T-Rex himself. It turned out to be just a VR video game, but this type represents the whole series: Children are “sure” traumatized.

It’s hard to figure out the deal Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous. Even after watching the entire eight-episode season, I’m still at a loss – because honestly, I can’t say if this is for kids. It’s so violent! I don’t remember any other family show where unarmed and unsupervised children regularly compete against fleets of man-eating predators. It’s kind of wild. However, it’s rare to find a modern kids’ show that trusts audiences to be dealing with more intense material. In that sense, it’s something to admire – even if it’s unsettling at times.

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous is an animated spin-off series from Netflix and DreamWorks, produced by Steven Spielberg and Colin Trevorrow. Held at the same time as the events of Jurassic WorldIt’s about six teenagers, all of whom were invited to Camp Cretaceous’ opening week. The central teenager is Darius (Paul-Mikél Williams) who plays the VR game during the opening scene. He’s a fun, relatable character, obsessed with dinosaurs and full of facts about them – he’s also recovering from the trauma of losing his father. The series shows their relationship respectfully, which I really appreciate.

Darius is the Charlie of this chocolate factory. He had to win a seemingly impossible competition to enter Jurassic World – while all the other kids received VIP invites to be rich, connected, or influential. However, this dynamic is never addressed. I think that makes sense for a kids show, but it’s off-putting.

Cue the Jurassic Park theme song, damn it, I'm crying again.

Cue the Jurassic Park Theme song, damn it, I’m crying again.
image:: Netflix

The six children were invited to an exclusive preview of Camp Cretaceous, a summer camp in the middle of the park. You will be overseen by two advisors, the capable Roxie (The good place Jameela Jamil) and the incompetent border crosser Dave (Scream Queens’ Glen Powell). This was one of the things that made me pull my hair out. InGen, the company behind Jurassic World, is responsible for the welfare of some of the most privileged children on the planet – including a living streamer with millions of followers, the daughter of the island’s beef supplier, and the son of an investor with his own suite in the park – and yet you only have two advisors who are responsible for you? It is inappropriate, although it goes without saying when it comes to this company.

Everything seems fine for a couple of days. The kids explore the island, ziplining while surrounded by brachiosaurs. and drive those hamster ball things off Jurassic World. Through their adventures, we get some nod to the original film, including a cameo by Blue and an appearance by Dr. Henry Wu (unfortunately not voiced by BD Wong). The luscious one Jurassic Park Score crescendos while the kids look at the dinosaurs in amazement, and damn it if you don’t get caught every time. But no episode goes by without at least one child’s life in danger, and that includes before the park goes to Hell. Because by the time we’re in the middle of the season, the horrors are gone Jurassic World (the movie) show up and the kids spend the remainder of the season running for their lives without adult supervision or the convenience of the plot.

Oh hey, it's you again.

Oh hey it’s you again
image:: Netflix

Let me warn you: if you are uncomfortable with your kids watching Jurassic World, don’t let them watch Camp Cretaceous Period. I’m not saying this to stop people from even watching because I think there is a lot to enjoy. I just want people to go in with the right information. It’s one thing to see superheroes fight villains and Penny Dr. Claw escapes Inspector gadgetor the dogs of Paw Patrol to save someone from a fire. These provide children with some kind of power, gadget, or adult to help them. This is a show where six children live in danger, afraid and alone, barely escaping the jaws of death again and again when attacked and maimed. And yes, they watch people die too. Thank goodness you never see the bodies, but you can see and hear the carnivores during their murders. It’s a show that polls a lot of viewers, especially the younger ones. Hence, it is best to know what to expect.

Working to find their way out of Jurassic World, the kids come together to face the Unknown (and even the Indominus Rex) while some of them hide dangerous secrets from the others. It was great to see them work as a team, but the show runs in a unique way and continues to remind the audience that these kids have been huddled together and if they had a choice they probably would have gone their separate ways. It’s a mature angle that kids’ shows don’t often take as they usually have characters that are in “go team go!” Mode pretty fast. I found all of the children pleasant, though some more than others. Surprisingly, one of my favorites was influencer Brooklynn (Jenna Ortega) who had some great scenes that showed off her depth. And while the animation on this show isn’t stellar, the overall voice acting was solid.

Season one ends with a cliffhanger that, to be honest, blew me away. I couldn’t stop talking about it for days (just ask my unhappy colleagues). It sets the stage for Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous to continue on its way to being probably the most (bloodlessly) violent kids show on television. It’s a fascinating watch, but not always a fun one. Children can enjoy when their peers are always in danger. But as an adult I always thought, “Why is this happening and who can I sue?”

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous debuts on Netflix this Friday.

Don't let that smile fool you.  Take care of this child

Don’t let that smile fool you. Take care of this child
image:: Netflix

Random considerations:

  • One cool detail: in the VR game we see the first person character falling down and the floor being pixelated. I thought it was just a nice touch.
  • One of the characters to watch out for is Ben (Sean Giambrone), the “nerdy kid” who lives in constant fear of insects, sun and dinosaurs. He seems like a stereotypical geek trope, but there’s something else beneath the surface that I can’t figure out. In my notes, I called it a “riddle”. I think future seasons may show that there is more to his story than we know.
  • I can’t think of any current children’s animated shows that are as violent and full of danger as this one. The closest comparisons I could think of could be The witches, goosebumps, or the Jumanji Cartoon, but this show might be in a league of its own these days.
  • There are plenty of Stupid Adult Moments ™ on this show, but the biggest has to be when the camp counselors decide to punish Darius and rich boy Kenji (Ryan Potter) by making them shovel dinosaur feces while all of the other kids go on a science lab excursion . They left two children unattended in a jungle where dinosaurs wandered around long enough to leave their shit behind. Surprise no surprise they are almost eaten.
  • If for no other reason, this park should be closed because of the risk to children.

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