Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous is out today on Netflix! This brand new chapter in the Jurassic Park saga is an animated adventure geared towards younger fans of the Jurassic franchise, but how much does this project feel like something actually set in the Jurassic Park universe? And, maybe more importantly, how much does it feel like an oddly kid-focused spin-off that doesn’t need to exist? Let’s talk about that.
When I saw the first teaser for Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, I was actually kind of impressed! The animation looked more than decent, kind of great in fact, and I thought it had a lot of potential!
But then the trailer hit, and I began to have a few doubts. There was a lot of kid-focused humor, the animation didn’t look quite as polished as in the teaser, and aside from the dinosaurs, it really didn’t feel like something set in the Jurassic Park universe.
But I was willing to give it a chance. I am a huge Jurassic Park fan, and I don’t hate the Jurassic World films, even if the most recent one had some MAJOR issues. I still love me some dinos. Above everything else, I’m just hungry for some awesome new dinosaur media, so any perceived cheesiness couldn’t dampen my excitement too much.
And then I started watching it. And I’m not going to lie, the first few episodes were a bit of a chore.
On its surface, this show has a great premise, and the idea for the show should have been a slam-dunk. Basically the titular Camp Cretaceous is a new camp on the opposite side of Isla Nublar from the main Jurassic World theme park. The show follows the campers involved in the test run of this new program as they explore Jurassic World in the days leading up to the events that took place in the first Jurassic World film.
This is a SOLID idea for a series. It fits perfectly in with the events of the film and is set far enough away from the main action that it’s completely plausible that the events in this series could have coincided with the events of the film.
Where the show struggles though, and at times completely fails, is the writing. These kids do not behave like normal kids. They talk like adults; some of them are kind of annoying, some at times are downright obnoxious, and overall, most of them are just kind of unlikable. And in a show where lives are at stake, you kind of need to care about your characters if you want to get at all invested in the story.
Now, having said all that, at some point, about halfway through the series, I did find my attitude changing. While the first half of the series was a bit of a struggle to get through (I definitely did not binge it), I did watch the final four episodes all in one go. Some time after all heck broke loose, I found myself caring about the characters a little more. They were slowly growing on me, and I was more invested in their back stories. It was by no means perfect, but the show slowly improves over the course of the eight episodes that by the end I was invested, and I didn’t want it to be over.
Now as for the animation, it is definitely not what we got in that first teaser. I’m going to assume that they had a tight budget, because the animation can be anywhere from “pretty decent” to “a bit rough.” It’s never bad, but for people like me who pay attention to the quality of the rendering, there are some noticeable issues at times.
But, despite everything, as a fan of Jurassic Park and as a lover of dinosaurs, I actually did enjoy this show. When I wasn’t too busy groaning at the dialogue, I had a good time trying to figure out where in the Jurassic World timeline these events were taking place. And of course, I loved the dinosaur action. There were so many great dinosaur set pieces and even some new dinosaurs that we haven’t seen in the films yet.
And for those of you wondering, the dinosaur violence was relatively bloodless as this is a show aimed at kids, but they didn’t hold back on character casualties like I thought they would. Most of the deaths happen to non-main characters to minimize trauma, but they definitely do happen. While there’s nothing overly traumatizing, I will say that this was a lot more violent than your average kids’ show.
I don’t want to give away anything that happens in the series, because I want you to go in blind, but I think I can safely say that there are some twists that I didn’t see coming. And the show ends in such a way that I have to assume they’re planning for a second season. It definitely didn’t end like I thought it would, and if they do order a season two, I’ll definitely be there for it.
This show is far from perfect. While a kid-focused Jurassic Park series probably feels like something that shouldn’t exist (and I personally prefer to think of it as set in an alternate universe from the main films), it is fun to see how it ties into the larger universe. Plus, I love the dinosaurs, so I’m willing to forgive a lot of its faults.
If you’re a fan of the Jurassic franchise, I think I can confidently recommend it, with the caveat that you make it past the first half before it starts to get really good. And since it’s only eight episodes, hopefully that’s not too big a time commitment.
Either way, despite its many flaws, I had a good time, and I am looking forward to a season 2.
Have you seen Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous yet? What are your thoughts on the series so far?
Jonathan North is writer, photographer, video editor, and animation fan from Iowa. He studied advertising and design at Iowa State University, and also has degrees in multimedia and art. His favorite movie is Fantasia, and his favorite cartoon is Gravity Falls. Or maybe Steven Universe. He can’t decide. You can find more of his work on his blog, as well as his Podcast and YouTube channel, where he reviews animation, movies, TV, or whatever else his guests feel like talking about. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, @jonjnorth.