Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous Season One Review
Is it a good idea to build a children's camp on an island inhabited by dinosaurs that have escaped and killed people several times already? Anybody even remotely familiar with the Jurassic Park franchise already knows the answer to this, and also what the likely outcome is going to be when they go ahead and do it anyway. Luckily for us, what happens next makes for an engrossing and exciting thrill-ride of a show. Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous is the new animated series from Dreamworks and Netflix that shows us yet again that people and dinosaurs really just don't mix.
This time around, six teenagers are invited to stay at the not yet open Camp Cretaceous: a sort of adventure experience for children and flesh-eating dinosaurs alike. Whatever Jurassic World employee thought this one up should probably be sacked but, health and safety concerns aside, our adventurous group of kids arrive on Isla Nublar and get far more excitement than they could have possibly imagined.
The group is made up of all the different personalities you'd expect in a kids cartoon, exhibiting the many traits and issues that they all just might have to overcome in order to save the day. Darius is the dinosaur nerd who is the only kid who really wants to be at the camp. Ben is the neurotic one who hates the outdoors, while Yaz is the loner who is only there because Jurassic World sponsor her athletics career. Kenji is the spoiled rich kid who's been to the park numerous times already and Sammy is a tough talking girl who's been raised on a ranch. Social media influencer Brooklyn rounds out the group, permanently attached to her phone and only concerned with being popular. The friendships and relationships that are formed and then subsequently strained provide the backbone to the show.
The young voice cast are all quite excellent, most of them having lent their voices to numerous shows before. Darius is voiced by Paul-Mikel Williams who will be familiar to viewers of Westworld; Sean Giambrone's distinctive tones as Ben are easily recognisable as he's also the lead in The Goldbergs. Jenna Ortega and Raini Rodriguez as Brooklyn and Sammy respectively are both alumni from stints on the Disney Channel. Fresh off of her fantastic turn on The Good Place, Jameela Jamil rounds out the cast as head camp counsellor Roxie. It has to be said that Roxie and her colleague Dave may just be the worst people ever to have been put in charge of keeping children safe. Several of the campers almost get eaten on numerous occasions during the first couple of days on the island. Then when things get complicated, they literally abandon their charges to go and find out what's happening, just leaving them a note to say they'll be back later! I can't help but think some disciplinary action should be in their near future.
It takes a few episodes for Camp Cretaceous to find its footing. With running times of only twenty minutes it takes several episodes to introduce everyone and set the scene. The show then really picks up when there is a familiar announcement over the tannoy system "There is an asset out of containment!". It's at this point that you realise the show has just caught up to the Jurassic World movie and we are treated to several moments from that film seen from the viewpoint of our young campers. It's a nice touch and allows us to witness the action as it unfolds running concurrently with the original film.
Now obviously a show such as Camp Cretaceous lives or dies by its dinosaurs. I'm happy to report that they are very well executed and delivered in spades, exactly as you'd expect from a show based on the film that first gave us photo realistic computer generated dinos. They are superbly animated and match their feature film counterparts almost exactly. The animation on the rest of the show varies in quality. The human characters fair worst. It's not that they're bad, just that the designs are a bit bland. The standard is higher than you'd normally expect from a television production, but obviously isn't up to cinema release standards. In some close-ups wrinkles and skin textures are visible and nicely rendered. The backgrounds also vary in quality, at times looking almost photo-realistic and at others they look a bit like a video game. All in all though everything looks pretty good and certainly a cut above normal kids animation.
Audio wise Camp Cretaceous is a delight. All the familiar sound effects are present from the shrieks of the velociraptors to the mighty roar of the T-Rex. It also doesn't hurt when you can rely on one of John Williams' most iconic film scores of all time. All the action is liberally backed by the Jurassic Park theme blasting away and elevating the visuals as a classic score should. The only gripe I do have, and it's a minor one, is that the series is presented in standard HD with a 5.1 soundtrack. Whilst this is perfectly adequate, I can't help but feel that 4K and a Dolby Atmos soundtrack should be pretty much standard for new Netflix releases. It could be said that's overkill for what is essentially a kids cartoon but I'd argue that bright colourful CGI is the perfect way to show off HDR and its colour enhancing properties.
For parents it's definitely worth noting that Camp Cretaceous may be a bit too intense for very small kids. Netflix has rated it as Parental Guidance with 'animal hunting' and 'threat'. You don't actually see anyone killed on screen but it is heavily implied. Several park employees are eaten by the rampaging dinosaurs, always with some jungle scenery obscuring the deed. Also, the episodes tend to end on cliffhangers with the kids in jeopardy. One episode actually has you believing that one of the main kids has been killed for almost its entire running time. It's certainly something to think about if you have particularly young or sensitive children. Obviously if they've seen the actual movies then there is nothing to worry about (and kudos on your parenting skills).
Camp Cretaceous reaches its conclusion with the perfect setup for the next season. Not everything is resolved and it definitely left me wanting to see what happens next. Dreamworks and Netflix have created a pleasing addition to the Jurassic Park franchise, one which would have happily fit into my Saturday morning cartoon watching habits as a child. I then obviously would have pestered my parents to buy me all the subsequent toy dinosaurs. Children who are not scared easily will have a ball with it, as will childish adults like myself. Camp Cretaceous is good family viewing and highly recommended.