Making an animated TV show about characters from a video game that was inspired wholly from classic animation seems feels like a bit of an ouroboros, or a snake eating its own tail. But is that really a problem when Netflix’s upcoming The Cuphead Show looks so good and fun? I think not.
It’s not really shocking (because why wouldn’t Netflix have chosen to licence the property otherwise), but The Cuphead Show holds true to the classic American animation of the early 1930s, which is sometimes called the “rubber hose” style for the characters’ constant movements and noodle-like limbs. The character designs, like in the game, could have come straight out of an early Max Fleischer or Walt Disney cartoon. Frankly, the show looks like a hoot:
It doesn’t, however, look like the show is going to hew too closely to the story of the original game in which Cuphead and his brother Mugman lose their souls to the Devil at his casino, and are charged with tracking down other debtors in hopes of not getting dragged to hell (which play out in the game as some incredibly difficult boss fights). Instead, The Cuphead Show looks like it’s going to play out as a dozen 12-minute, standalone episodes, which is far more accurate to the game’s inspiration. This also explains why Netflix’s official synopsis is so generic:
“The Cuphead Show! is a character-driven comedy series following the unique misadventures of loveable, impulsive scamp Cuphead and his cautious but easily swayed brother Mugman. As the two scour their surreal homeworld of the Inkwell Isles in search of fun and adventure, they always have each other’s back. Unless there’s only one cookie left, in which case it’s every cup for himself. The Cuphead Show! combines nostalgic delights, side-splitting gags, and a healthy dose of the heebie jeebies — especially when a ridiculously weird nemesis, The Devil himself, arrives on the scene to toy with our heroes.”
Featuring the voices of Tru Valentino (Cuphead), Frank Todaro (Mugman), Joe Hanna (Elder Kettle), Luke Millington-Drake (Devil), Grey Griffin (Ms. Chalice), and Wayne Brady (King Dice), Netflix’s The Cuphead Show premieres on February 18.