If there was ever a show that epitomised an “underrated masterpiece” it is ‘All Hail King Julien’. Not only does the series mesmerize younger audiences, but the witty, satirical writing and multilayered characters make it a show to rival even the most popular primetime series. The fact that it has already earned a series of awards, including last year’s Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Animated Program after only airing five episodes is a testament to the quality of show.
So why is it then that ‘All Hail King Julien’ is not rolling off the tongues of every person asked to name their favourite TV show? The writing, voice acting, aesthetics, layout - every piece stands without fault and yet it remains a series largely unknown to the greater audience.
The only reason that can be supposed is its minimal promotion and, perhaps more importantly, a misconception that the series retains the faults of the ‘Madagascar’ film franchise from which it is derived. In reality, the two could not be more different. While the series does retain the energy and charm of the film, the quality to which they are now presented is unequivocal. Characters that may have been seen as one dimensional or simple gag roles for the film have been fleshed out with backstories, relationships, layering, and quirks that render them not only more relatable, but lovable and entertaining.
King Julien, the eccentric leader of this menagerie, is the greatest testament to the skill at which these characters have been transposed. Although his role in ‘Madagascar’ served the film well, the risk of his egotism become his dominant trait and thus making him far too annoying to head a series was high, but thankfully is an obstacle masterfully handled by the series’ writing staff. Rather than presenting him as self-obsessed, Julien is instead shown as a character who easily becomes consumed by a single goal, unable to readily divert this course. Layered on top of this is his capacity for emotion, intellect, and genuine care for his people - traits that are creatively explored throughout the series.
Similar treatment is given to all characters derived from the film, but the real fun comes in the exploration of secondary characters who’s B stories underpin the show’s hilarity. From a overbearing stage mom to an emotional crocodile, a train-wreck twin sister and a bodybuilding lemur who encompasses the personality of Matthew McConaughey in ‘True Detective’ - the series has no limits to its creativity. The supporting cast alone could easily carry the show, but when compiled like chess pieces around the central players they create an unbeatable force of amusement.
The addition of the main female, Clover, is a clear example of how the show distinguishes itself from peers. While many shows would fall to the cliche of a nagging or ditzy lead female, Clover instead stands as the head of the royal guard and dominant fighting force of the kingdom. She is intellectual, driven, and highly skilled, but also demonstrates compassion and a series of flaws to round out her character.
Backing this strong design is a voice cast of true masters, including Kevin Michael Richardson, Andy Richter, India de Beafort, and Danny Jacobs who’s role as King Julien has twice earned him the Emmy for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program.
Now you may be thinking that characters, no matter how well crafted, can not solely carry a series to the peak of entertainment. This may be true, but what makes ‘All Hail King Julien’ stand head and shoulders above other series (beyond its outstanding cast) is the show’s expert writing.
The ability to sculpt a show that will appeal to absolutely all age groups is a feat achieved by few, with many series falling into the trap of boring adult viewers, or losing the interest of younger ages with plots beyond their level of understanding. ‘All Hail King Julien’, however, has found that rare place that so perfectly appeals to all ages that you would be pressed to lose interest no matter if you are six or sixty years old.
The show’s satirical take on topics such as politics, caffeine addiction, plastic surgery, internet scams, and the monopoly of wealth are treated with such mastery and raw humour that it rivals even the most popular adult comedies. Do not be fooled, however, into thinking this would make it inappropriate for younger audiences - far from it! It is a true testament to the talent of the writers in the way in which these topics have been approached with a sense of innocence, and further enhanced with gags, dialogue, aesthetics, and music to appeal to even the youngest viewer. The quality of the 3D animation, which could easily pass for a feature film, ensures that no aspect of the show could be pointed to as needing improvement.
There is nothing worse than sitting down to share the experience of television with your child only to be met by a mind-numbingly dull children’s program that makes each second feel like an hour. ‘All Hail King Julien’ is one of the rare shows where both adult and child will be absorbed for hours, refusing to turn it off.
Whether you are a six year old eating cereal on a Saturday morning, a twenty-five year old uni student, or a fifty year old walking in the door after work - ‘All Hail King Julien’ has something for everyone.
With the first 26 episodes already on Netflix, and many more in the pipeline, you have no excuse to not do yourself a favour and binge watch a few episodes right now.
I assure you it will be an experience you will be elated to have had.