By Katlynn Rossignol
The town of Dirt, Arizona, is the home of lab experiments turned loose, including James the bubble-boy, his talking crocodile friend Max, and a girl from the future named Echo. With so many unexplained things in life, the three of them cause chaos as they question the wacky world around them.
One of the fascinating things about “Oddballs” is its connection to “TheOdd1sOut” YouTube channel, a storytime animation channel created by James Rallison. Storytime animation is a popular genre on YouTube, where the animated persona of the creator tells a story from their life. These tend to be comedic stories told with a limited budget, so characters are limited to simplistic reusable models with a small amount of animation.
As the genre’s popularity has grown, many of these YouTubers have expanded into merchandising, with “TheOdd1sOut” producing board games, plushies, T-shirts, backpacks, books, and much more. “Oddballs” is James’ latest experiment outside of YouTube, and it will be interesting to see if other storytime animators follow suit.
The connection between “Oddballs” and “TheOdd1sOut” is unclear in terms of its impact on either. The YouTube channel functions as a storytime animation platform, where James Rallison speaks through his persona to the audience about his thoughts or ideas. The Netflix show features James’ bubble-person persona but puts him in an established setting as a child. The two forms of media are meant to be separate things, but the use of “TheOdd1sOut” character, name, and voice blurs the line to a confusing degree.
Art and Storytelling
“Oddballs” has fluid, rigg-based animation with occasional moments of stylized animation for jokes. The art style is built on the style of the “TheOdd1sOut” YouTube channel, with a few tweaks to give it a more professional look. While the animation and art style isn’t anything ground-breaking, it is clean, energetic and generally appealing.
Although the character of James in “Oddballs” is a separate entity from James Rallison’s YouTube persona, the character model is the same and is still voiced by Rallison. At the start of the series, Rallison’s voice acting is a tad underwhelming, as he seems uncommitted to what his character is saying. This unconvincing voice acting often clashes with Julian Gant’s energized voice for Max the crocodile. Rallison’s voice acting improves throughout the show but still sounds relatively flat compared to Gant’s.
Echo, voiced by Kimberly Brooks, isn’t introduced until episode four and sometimes feels like an unnecessary addition. Her character is either used as the episode’s plot solution, with her futuristic tech solving the problem, or is haphazardly excluded for the story’s sake.
The adventures in “Oddballs” are told episodically, with no particular plot line carried throughout. James and Max remember events and characters that are introduced in previous episodes, and some are set up as a potential plot of season two. Other than the slow build-up toward the next season, there isn’t a lot of connection between episode plots. Continuity between episodes is kept, but the town of Dirt primarily lives one day at a time, and an overarching story isn’t the main objective.
Comedy and Tone
“Oddballs” encourages its viewers to enjoy their childhood and live life in the moment. It’s a simple theme that is evident throughout the show’s 12-episode lineup. With childhood as the focus of the series, the tone offers a happy-go-lucky world. The colors are bright and the character models are cheerful and bouncy.
Random humor is the main form of comedy in “Oddballs,” in which something is funny because it’s spontaneous and weird. This is a common form of humor used in modern kids’ cartoons and “Oddballs” maintains the average standard. There are occasional fourth-wall breaks as well. Whether the jokes land or not depends on the viewer’s sense of humor. Fans of “TheOdd1sOut” may especially enjoy the show’s humor and references to the YouTube channel.
It’s exciting to see YouTube creators branch into professional projects, and there’s no doubt that a lot of heart is put into “Oddballs.” At the end of the day, though, the show doesn’t offer anything truly unique. Character designs, while generally appealing, are generic and standard. The only unique aspect of “Oddballs” is its connection to YouTube. This will either be the show’s saving grace or its downfall. If James Rallison’s audience from YouTube watches and enjoys “Oddballs,” then the show is likely to be successful. If his audience isn’t interested in “Oddballs,” then the future of the show is uncertain.
I see the show as harmless fun. The humor is hit-or-miss throughout, and James Rallison’s voice acting is a bit lackluster, but both improve as the show goes on. “Oddballs” doesn’t provide anything deep or insightful but instead offers old-school cartoon gimmicks and a good time.
I would recommend “Oddballs” to those who enjoy quirky characters, fun cartoons, and “TheOdd1sOut.”
“Oddballs” is available to watch on Netflix
Katlynn Rossignol is a Freshman Communications Major and A&E writer for Cedars. She loves 2D animation, superhero movies, and the color pink.
Images courtesy of Netflix