Season One of The Wingfeather Saga is in the books. Is it a total success, a total failure, or somewhere in between? In the next few paragraphs, I will do my best to answer those questions. To set the stage, I am a massive fan of The Wingfeather Saga book series. In fact, most of us at Rambling Ever On are huge Andrew Peterson fans – his music and books. He creates art from a place of truth and deep conviction.
My expectations were all over the map as I waited for the release of the series. Yes, I loved the book series and knew there was a great television series in there but the short film, while not completely disappointing me, had its share of limitations. Before watching the series, every interview or article with the creative team behind the show bolstered my confidence that this special story was in good, well-meaning hands. Would those hands have the requisite skills to do it justice, though? That was the real question.
A few things stood in the way of greatness. First, the budget for The Wingfeather Saga is miniscule compared to most animated shows. Second, as much as I love the books, the first book doesn’t fully capture the epic scope of the series as seen in books 2 through 4. My fear was that the first season would feel somewhat frivolous or lacking in narrative tension and drama, which might cause some newcomers to lose interest.
Where The Wingfeather Saga Excels.
For the purposes of this review, I am operating on the assumption you have some familiarity with the story. If you are not familiar, there are plenty of summaries available online.
I’ll start with a few things I think the show absolutely nails. First, Tink (Griffin Faulkner) and Leeli (Romy Fay) are perfect. Perfect doesn’t even seem good enough to describe how I feel about their characters. The voice actors, the character designs, the writing – all of it is perfect for those two. And, to make it even better, they give Leeli more to do early in the story, as opposed to the backseat she takes for most of the first book. She is as much a part of this huge story as anyone else in Igiby family and Season One shines a giant spotlight on that fact.
I can’t say enough about how perfectly realized these two characters are in the show. Tink’s energetic mischievousness. Leeli’s heart-melting purity coupled with her iron-hard strength of character. I cannot wait to see their characters grow and evolve over the rest of the series.
Other standout elements of Season One include Podo (Kevin McNally), the music by Kurt Heinecke, The Arcadian Wild, and Ben Shive, Peet the Sock Man (Henry Ian Cusick), and the entire game of Zibzy. Seriously, that entire sequence is hilarious. Leeli’s dragon song moment is spectacular, and chill-inducing just like in the book. To me, it was important that the TV series get those big moments right, and thankfully, it does.
Where The Wingfeather Saga grew on me.
The animation style might be a deal breaker for some of you. It has been to a few members of my family. I think that is a shame, but I can’t argue with their subjective likes and dislikes. To be fair to them, the animation style – the movements, the fluidity of motion, the painterly effect – all take time to get used to.
Further complicating this is the limited budget to effectively pull off this more unique and artistic animation technique. Personally, I think it works, particularly as I became accustomed to it as well as to what I believe was a gradual improvement in the show itself. I could be wrong, but I feel confident in saying the animators learned on the fly and the show looks better and better as it goes along.
Another aspect I had to adjust to were two of the lead characters – Janner (Alkaio Thiele) and Nia (Jodi Benson). This is not a complaint about either voice actor. I think they both do fine jobs. They just didn’t fit my mental image; how I read the characters. It’s a personal taste thing, and over the course of Season One, Janner and Nia felt right to me for how the show is developing them.
Where The Wingfeather Saga needs improvement.
I hesitate to even add this point as I don’t want anyone to misunderstand what I’m saying. I truly enjoyed Season One of The Wingfeather Saga. I am eagerly looking forward to future seasons. But if the show is going to fulfill the promises made in Season One as well as those promises the books have made before, then the production quality will need to grow at an exponential rate.
If you are familiar with the book series, you know the size and scope of things to come. And based on what we have seen in Season One, the makers of the show are simply not to the point where they can fully realize those moments. Yet I have faith they will get there. Based on the growth shown in only one season of this series, I have very little doubt they will rise to the challenge. And if they do, look out! It will be spectacular.
To answer my questions at the beginning of this review, Season One of The Wingfeather Saga is a success. Perhaps not a complete, overwhelming success, but a success, nonetheless. It is fun, witty, emotional, and engaging. There are a few rough edges but those barely register once the story gets rolling. I would suggest you give the show more than one episode to win you over. Give it time to work its charms on you. I am confident that if you do, you will find something to enjoy. Here’s to many more seasons!