Cartoon Network’s Victor and Valentino—from creator Diego Molano, is a testament to the idea that the more culturally specific a story is, the more universal it tends to end up being. Because “universality” is really just a polite way of describing something as lacking in emotional substance, and when narratives are crafted to appeal to the broadest audience possible, they often end up feeling unrelatable to everyone.
Editor’s note: Victor and Valentino currently only airs in the United States and Latin America. Stay tuned for any news on an Australian premiere.
Even if you’ve never alebrije, a small figure constructed out of paper mache.
The boys are equal parts thrilled and mortified when they realise what kind of chaos they’ve unleashed on their unsuspecting neighbours, and by the time they’ve managed to recapture HueHue it’s clear to both of them that the more time they spend in Monte Macabre, the more things like that are going to happen to them.
While it’s notable that Victor and Valentino is Cartoon Network’s first series starring a predominantly Hispanic cast and one of the few television shows to center indigenous, Mesoamerican culture, what’s wonderful about the show is the matter of fact, yet casual, way it presents its subject matter.
Though Victor and Valentino occasionally pauses for a quick beat to illustrate the particular mythos associated with its magical beings, it also frames them as everyday parts of life that don’t really need much explanation, which allows audiences to simply get wrapped up in the story and gain a better understanding of its characters.
As great as films like Coco and The Book of Life are, the fact that they were movies necessitated a kind of narrow, vertical focus on a specific stories about the Day of the Dead that, while interesting, felt familiar.
The Day of the Dead is a concept that’s been explored in a number of other mainstream projects in varying capacities. But because it’s a series, Victor and Valentino has the space to flesh out its world horizontally, letting its supernatural elements sometimes take the backseat to stories more firmly grounded in the world of the living.
After learning that they can create massive shifts in the weather by making either Chata laugh or enraging her, the boys cook up a harebrained scheme to capitalise on their discovery and turn a nearby lake into an epic wave pool as a way to make some easy cash. No one bats an eye at the strangeness of it all because, again, this is just the kind of thing that happens in Monte Macabre, and Victor and Valentino wants you to understand that.
With its characters being bilingual and a number of different shades of brown, you can see that Victor and Valentino is going for a very distinct kind of representation. It avoids the pitfalls of ‘very special episodes’ of other television shows that treat non-white characters’ lives as curiosities that exist outside of what would be considered ‘normal’ to the audience. This is who they are. Kids like this exist everywhere.
While all of that is very important, it’s also icing on the cake because Victor and Valentino is just the kind of clever, good-hearted show that’s fun to sit down and tune into, regardless of how familiar you are with its premise.
Its plots are varied and wild enough that whatever your sense of humour may be, there’s something there that’ll make you chuckle and want to see more of. It’s the kind of rich, multidimensional cartoon that’ll speak to you whether you’re a kid or an adult.
Victor and Valentino airs on Cartoon Network in the US and Latin America, with select highlights available on YouTube.