In many animated films, it’s common for a duo to arise that captures the heart of the entire audience. Whether it’s Boo and Sully from “Monsters, Inc,” Mowgli and Baloo from “The Jungle Book” or Christopher Robin and Pooh from “The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh,” these relationships often reflect emotions in our own lives, with an added touch of pixie dust and fantasy. The Netflix film “Sea Beast” continues this trend by displaying the depth and beauty of real-life relationships via the medium of animation.
The animated film, released on July 8, follows legendary sea monster hunter, Jacob Holland (voiced by Kari Urban), whose world is turned upside down when a young girl stows away on his ship. The child, named Maisie (voiced by Zaris-Angel Hator), quickly displays to Jacob that just because people appear to be heroes or monster slayers, that doesn’t mean they can never be wrong in their intentions.
Even though their relationship starts off a bit rocky, mainly since larger-than-life sea creatures eat up most of their time together, the dynamic between the two shines brighter than anything else in the movie. Sure, it is pretty astonishing that Maisie is able to teach Jacob how to befriend a sea monster bigger than the Loch Ness Monster, but what is even more breathtaking is her ability for her to show him what it is to have true empathy and love toward another human being. The connection between the child and adult allows for the latter to discover new pockets of light in their lives and question rules dictated by society. You could even say these relationships are comparable to the animated version of “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” — showing how wisdom can come from the mouths of kids.
Along with the heartwarming bond between Jacob and Maisie, “Sea Beast” also includes stunning animation. The film captures life as a seaman perfectly through animation. Anything from a red sea monster hovering underneath the crystal blue ocean, the strands of hair blowing in the misty wind or zooming in on the glossiness of a giant conch shell, provides a majestic visual backdrop for the viewer to absorb. The film almost makes the audience do a double-take to confirm it is animation and not live action. With undertones similar to “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “How to Train Your Dragon,” the animation alone gives the film potential for an Oscar nominee.
Although the script for the film incorporates ideas of protesting for the rights of others and ending decade-long battles, the overall tone is simple and lighthearted. This is due to children serving as the film’s main audience demographic. But that’s not to say that “Sea Beast” is only geared towards kids. The pain that parents go through when hearing “Let It Go” played for the thousandth time or suffering through one more fart joke is not a factor in this film. The film has something for adults and children, while also blowing the minds of future animators and artists.
The combination of an impactful script and wonderful animation is normally only possible in the realm of Disney or Pixar. A typical animation released through any other medium never really hits the mark. But, the director of the film, Chris Williams, is a Disney veteran and co-directed “Big Hero 6” and “Moana.” Due to his experience working with the top dog of animation, Williams was able to bring his Mickey Mouse knowledge to “Sea Beast” and create both a beautiful landscape and entertaining dialogue.
Overall, “Sea Beast” is a surprisingly well-rounded film that is spearheaded by the tie between Maisie and Jacob. Growing up, I aspired to have a relationship like Boo and Sully from “Monsters, Inc” — so much so that I only wore the color pink and my stuffed animal of Sully never left my side. Now over 20 years later, that type of relationship is shown again on-screen and brings me right back to my childhood. Animation is much more powerful than we think and can inspire the world to accomplish tasks we never thought were possible. Just because we don’t live in a world with sea monsters doesn’t mean we can’t share the same values as the people in the film — which is why “Sea Beast” is a nautical tale everyone will admire.
“Sea Beast” is available to stream on Netflix.
By Megan Forrester