I have to admit, when I watched the first episode of Amazing the Lion, the new original animated series on Independent Comedy Network, I just didn’t get it. The WTF factor was overwhelming. I thought it was being weird for the sake of being weird, as if creator Dan McNamara saw David Firth’s Salad Fingers and thought all it took to make a cult hit was just being odd and random. Nevertheless I decided to stick it out and watch the remaining episodes. And boy am I glad that I did. This show is friggin’ brilliant.
Amazing the Lion came to us through our tips line with the following description: “Amazing the Lion is an animated series about a stuffed lion who lives in the forest on the side of the long island expressway. Amazing the Lion goes on adventures with his forest friends, Possum and Barry the Panda, and learns valuable lessons about the world we live in.”
Hmm. A cartoon on ICN? Life lessons on the Long Island Expressway? Sounds like another kids-show parody. We just did a piece on Sesame Street as the only safe place for kids on the internet—this sounds like exactly what parents are trying to keep their youngsters away from: a kid-friendly looking site that ends up being Happy Tree Friends.
The series’ pilot, “Barry’s Birthday,” confirmed all my suspicions. The show has all the clichéd trappings of a kids-show parody: overly happy characters and campy music juxtaposed with a dystopic reality where, among other things, a depressed stuffed animal shoots himself in the head with a flaregun before hanging himself. Imagine Barney wandering into a slum. Not exactly Saturday morning stuff. And the show is just plain weird.
There is some great production value, however, and the attention to detail is apparent from the get go. But it all seems hesitant and held back in the pilot. It’s in episodes two and three where the true genius of the show is unleashed. In these episodes, creative fearlessness abounds, especially in the details—if you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss all the brilliant subtleties that separate Amazing the Lion from your run-of-the-mill cartoon on the internet. If you can keep up with the visual references in “Wishing Well,” in the World of Wishes you’ll find a spaceship with a tethered astronaut, a stack of pennies, world peace, and trees of plaid. The trio meet a sassy pink-crowned ferret named Fabulous who explains, “That’s right, everything has been wished by someone. I was wished by a flamboyant 15 year-old in Kansas who wanted to see his ferret ride a Segway, so here I am.”
Macnamara, who produces the series with Jeff Roos, was invited to develop the show for Channel 101: NY after being named a finalist in Comedy Central’s Test Pilots Competition with Redeeming Rainbow. After the pilot premiered, the duo pitched the show to ICN through the People’s Improv Theater and signed on for a 5 episode deal. “It was a great oppurtunity to work with friends that I respect in the NYC comedy scene,” Macnamara tells us. And although they are shopping Amazing the Lion out to network television, Macnamara promises “there will also be some fun extra games posted after all the episodes have premiered on ICN.”
Until then, we’re looking forward to the “millions more adventures to come.”