A cartoon has never mixed reality and fantasy so seamlessly. Hilda, a Netflix original cartoon, is a prime example of the innocent, childish wonder we often miss and something that is scarce in many modern children’s shows. It trades fancy graphics for masterful storytelling, 3D showmanship for characterization that is a refreshing departure from the random and crazy comedy that has plagued children’s programs for the past five-plus years.
Hilda is a young girl living in a small cottage in countryside based off of Scandinavian wilderness. Living alongside her is her mother and a pet deerfox named Twig, who serves as her partner on various adventures through the forest. The forest is filled with fantastical creatures: trolls, giants, and tiny invisible elves, among others. Hilda has an affinity for befriending these creatures and prefers their company to that of other humans. A prime example of that is in Chapter 3: “The Bird Parade.”
“The Bird Parade” surrounds Hilda touring the nearby city of Trolberg for the first time – her mother is wanting to move out of the woods and into the city, much to Hilda’s chagrin. She realizes she doesn’t get along with the first group of city kids she meets – they’re trouble-makers, and they quickly send her on a quest to save the Bird Parade, an ages-old Trolberg tradition.
One of the first things to note is the animation style. Many of the popular kids shows nowadays are reliant on 3D animation, which has taken away from their whimsical charm. I’m a child who grew up on classic Disney movies, and when their complete switch to CGI solidified the switch of the industry, I was devastated at the loss of the visual style of my youth. I don’t directly dislike CGI, but I do enjoy a modern show that goes back to 2D. It is an extra way to show the love that went into the creation of a cartoon.
Hilda is a show aimed at children, but it can be enjoyed by anyone of any age. I greatly enjoyed the fact that the show wasn’t your typical, formulaic kids show. It wasn’t the gross, immature joke mixed in with too-bright colors and hints at adult humor for the parents, all of which somehow culminate into a character-building life lesson. There’s rarely any kind of “lesson,” and any that are presented are so subtle that they’re essentially negligible. “The Bird Parade” has no type of lesson at all. The colors are cool and soothing, with the touches of bright color to help guide the eye and the story. The humor isn’t particularly set for any age, because there isn’t much humor in the first place. Hilda prioritizes curiosity and exploration over easy gags.
Like many cartoons, each episode can mostly stand on its own with bits of plot sprinkled in, and “The Bird Parade” is Hilda’s transition from country life to the big city. She’s terrified of her new environment – she’s never been to school, she doesn’t hang around people very much, and she doesn’t find traditional children’s games entertaining in the slightest. She even imagines a school bell as a terrifying overlord that controls students. It’s a big transition that is used well to let the audience get closer to Hilda, realize she’s not an infallible, unbeatable heroine, but a kid, just like many of the people watching.
This episode is great in showing Hilda’s character transitioning from her starting point to the main setting of the remainder of the show. It also allows her mother to speak more, which gives us great information about the family dynamic. It also solidifies that these otherworldly creatures are in fact not otherworldly at all. Hilda’s mom fears trolls just like her daughter.
The creatures, a talking sparrow in this particular episode, are so well-integrated into the greater universe that the show’s creators could make a terrifying chimera and slap it in an episode, and no one would be the wiser. The creatures are imaginative enough to be enthralling, but close enough to real-world animals and objects that they aren’t entirely alienating. It gives that important sense of normalcy that allows audiences to better relate to characters and create a tighter bond with the show overall.
Hilda’s third episode is a great example of everything that makes the entire show worth watching. The simplistic animation style is charming, the characters are weird but relatable enough to maintain a viewership. “The Bird Parade” doesn’t preach a life lesson, maybe except “don’t be mean to birds.” But I figure that’s kind of a given. The focus on adventure over humor makes it accessible to everyone to follow Hilda’s adventures, which are most certainly not “wacky” (if I hear another show be described as “John and Paul are best friend who go on wacky adventures” I may finally lose it).
So throw yourself into Hilda and join “The Bird Parade” for an abundance of fun and discovery of an entirely new, but maybe not so unfamiliar, world.