Full disclosure, I wasn’t fully aware of the incredibly popular comic book series for Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. I knew she appeared in some of the games, but didn’t know about her powers and I certainly didn’t understand why a dinosaur was involved. Cut to San Diego Comicon in 2022 and one of the feature panels for the new Disney+ animated series.
I saw the cast was full of Black and Brown talent, and I became interested in learning more. For those who don’t know, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur tells the story of Lunella Lafayette (Diamond White). She lives in New York City’s Lower East Side with her family. Lunella is a 13-year-old super-genius who, while trying to figure out what a machine does, inadvertently causes a portal to open to the past. Lunella has powers, and with them she can understand the dinosaur whom she brands Devil Dinosaur (Fred Tatasciore). With the help of Devil and her classmate manager Casey (Libe Barer), Lunella becomes Moon Girl and vows to care for those she loves in her community.
The cast is filled with surprising voices. Sasheer Zamata, Jermaine Fowler, Alfre Woodard, and Gary Anthony Williams all serve as Lunella’s family. Laurence Fishburne plays the Beyonder, a mischievous trickster who helps Lunella, but also kind of doesn’t. Recurring roles are filled by Utkarsh Ambudkar and Craig Robinson. The guest spots are packed with stars: Jennifer Hudson, Daveed Diggs, Allison Brie, Wilson Cruz, Method Man — and the list goes on.
There’s a lot to love about the series. Lunella is rumored to have intelligence on par with Shuri from Black Panther and RiRi Williams from Ironheart. Yet, as a 13-year-old-girl she can’t get past the truth of puberty and hormones and friends (or lack of them). Lunella is confident, but also has some missing knowledge, which is exploited weekly as she learns how to not just protect her community but to also be a part of it.
It’s interesting to note that the series is extremely Black. The main family is Black and the school is filled with Black and Brown people. Casey is Latine, and we see bits of her culture come out naturally during her daily life. These kids are who they are, and the way they explore issues is surprisingly grounded given that this is a cartoon based on a comic superhero.
In one stand-out episode, “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow,” we see Lunella preparing for class photos. A classmate calls her hair “messy” (code for “nappy”), and Lunella tries to create a natural hair relaxer. It causes her hair to fall out and turn into a super villain voiced by Jennifer Hudson. Throughout the episode we see Lunella come to understand and love her hair. It points to another important thing that sets this show apart.
Sometimes multicultural shows are tasked with educating the masses. They have to make the situations relatable so that kids in every demographic understand and relate. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur doesn’t do that. It’s not made to educate white audiences, but to teach Black and Brown audiences to love themselves. The idea of assimilation isn’t encouraged, but rather staying true to yourself and your own idiosyncrasies.
Another episode has Lunella paired with a classmate who she thinks is just a goof. But she learns that his mind works in different ways, and there is an intersection between art, music and science. Each episode Lunella grows in confidence and self-awareness, and you’ll be cheering her on the entire way.
As someone who is not overly familiar with the comics, I felt Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur did a great job of setting the scene. I was able to follow who the characters were and the villains. It’s a naturally accessible show. The only points off are because the animation can be a bit frenetic and jumpy. It’s hard to concentrate because every scene is kinetic and packed. Also, even though Devil has a great range of vocal expression, his size seems to change constantly and it’s hard to believe he would be accepted so easily, even in the Marvel Universe.
However, those are small things that are easy to overlook. The story is engaging, and the characters and themes are heartfelt and genuinely sweet. The side characters find a way to dig into your heart, and you’ll be rooting for them as much as Lunella.
I highly recommend this cartoon not just for kids, but for people who want to see a faithful and loving adaptation of their favorite comic. Diamond White is a real gem and she sings the theme song, Moon Girl Magic. Raphael Saadiq is the composer and the music has a mix of the modern and a ‘90s chill vibe that mesh so well. The show really has something for everyone. For Disney fans, Moon Girl will soon appear in Hollywood Land in Disney’s California Adventure.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur will premiere on Disney Channel and Disney+ on February 10, 2023.
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Stacey Yvonne is an entertainment journalist who is often found in some corner of the internet pontificating about pop culture and its effect on women, Blackfolk and the LGBT+ community. You can see more of her work at https://syvonnecreative.com