The eminently quotable (“I caught you a delicious bass.”) 2004 comedy film Napoleon Dynamite gets a small-screen animated adaptation beginning Sunday, Jan. 15, at 8:30pm ET, on FOX. Napoleon Dynamite creators Jared and Jerusha Hess, as well as Mike Scully, serve as writers and executive producers. The cast from the film, including Jon Heder, Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez, Diedrich Bader, Jon Gries, Tina Majorino and Sandy Martin, are all back to voice their respective characters in the series. (Sorry, no Lafawnduh for now. But more on that later.)
“For me, you know, the movie was kind of a live-action cartoon anyway, and the transition into animation just kind of made a lot of sense to us,” says Jared Hess on translating these characters to an animated TV series. “And it just kind of opened up, you know, what we were able to do with the character and the stories. You know, Napoleon in the movie talks about ligers. We wouldn’t be able to really work with those creatures in real life, but in animated form …”
“It was like having the animated world, we can do anything,” Heder adds. “We can introduce new characters. And it was weird to think about it because it’s like the animated world couldn’t have seemed more opposite than the film, but when you really think about it, they are like walking two-dimensional characters.”
“It also allowed us to really expand the whole world of the town of Preston, Idaho, too, to add more characters to it, to populate it, and to do things that you can do in animation, you know, flashbacks and dream sequences and thought bubbles and fantasies and that kind of stuff,” Scully says. “But we’re really trying to also keep the tone of the film and the small‑town life in Preston, Idaho, intact also.”
“Where we left the film, I think the main difference is at the end of the film, Kip gets married to Lafawnduh, and that’s the one character that’s not in the show,” Jared Hess says. “We wanted to have fun in this first season exploring Kip’s online dating life and his failed relationships, but we definitely plan to bring Lafawnduh in later on.”
Unfortunately, much of the charm of the original film doesn’t translate to the series. The fast pace of the dialog and action in the series stands in sharp contrast to the slower pace of the film, where long, weird silences and slowly delivered lines really enhanced the comedy of this backward world of rural Idahoans. Napoleon Dynamite was such a unique comedy; it’s been turned into a cookie-cutter type of cartoon here. It just feels like Family Guy with a llama. It’s not a terrible show, and there are a few laughs to be found, but just don’t expect this series to have the large talons of the original film.