Deliciously bouncy boss-rush shooter Cuphead might just have sparked a retro cartoon revival. Today, Netflix Animation have announced The Cuphead Show, an official tie-in series based on Studio MDHR’s debut hit. It seems that they’ve got the right people behind it too – they’ve tapped Dave Wasson as director (from Disney’s similarly-styled Mickey Shorts series) as executive producer. They’ll probably cut out the dozens of deaths per scene, for watchability’s sake, but I’m still holding out for the occasional bit of finger-gun action in between the gags.
There’s no trailers and not many details right now, but Netflix say this will be a “character-driven comedy” aimed at kids and silly grown-ups alike. It’ll follow the happy-go-lucky duo of Cuphead and his brother Mugman in their new, less shooty adventures. Original game developers Jared and Chad Moldenhauer will act as producers here, but they’ll be understandably leaving the animation duties to Netflix’s crew. They’ve probably got their own projects in the works.
Coming to you in full color and cine-sound, it’s…The Cuphead Show! Witness the wondrous Inkwell Isles as you’ve never seen them before in an original series inspired by classic animation styles of the 1930s. Now in production by the talented team at @Netflix Animation! pic.twitter.com/4xA59eVLra
— Studio MDHR (@StudioMDHR) July 9, 2019
Of course, anything tapping into Fleischer-inspired art has to walk the same tightrope as Studio MDHR. Yussef Cole’s excellent and frequently misread critique over on Unwinnable is well worth another read. It highlights that while some have the luxury of being able to pick and choose what parts of historical art to use and what leave in the past, those still wrestling with present-day bigotry are hard pressed not to see the broader context. He calls it a beautiful and fun game, just one with roots all-too-carefully trimmed to avoiding linking it to the era that spawned the style.
It seems unlikely that a cartoon series on Netflix will engage with the troubled history of Fleischer-era animation, either. I’m not even sure how an all-ages cartoon could engage with it elegantly. But that’s the rub; being able to not engage and not have to think about this stuff is a privilege that not all have access to. It’s food for thought, rather than a call to action.
This leads us to an interesting situation where Cuphead’s delayed DLC — The Delicious Last Course — might launch after this TV show. Now, I know what Cuphead has taught us about gambling, but now seems like a good time to place your bets on which launches first. Just don’t bet your soul on it.