Netflix’s Nimona will be released on the platform worldwide tomorrow, so we’ve decided to look at what critics are saying about the feature adaptation of ND Stevenson’s fan-favorite graphic novel.
Nimona’s production story is as dramatic as any of the plot points in the film itself. We’ve documented it over the years and recently spoke with the film’s directors about its dramatic history. Summed up briefly, Nimona was well into production at Blue Sky Studios when Disney bought the studio’s parent company Fox Entertainment and shut Blue Sky down, canceling production of the film. Eventually, Nimona’s higher-ups, including directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane, got in touch with Annapurna Pictures who picked up the film’s pieces and teamed with Netflix to revive the project, recruiting DNEG to animate.
It’s worth pointing out here that Nimona’ final credits clock in at a massive 14 minutes to ensure that all of the Blue Sky employees who worked on the original version, but whose work doesn’t appear in the finished film, still get credit for their contributions.
Based on ND Stevenson’s eponymous graphic novel, the film tells the story of a knight named Ballister who is framed for a tragic crime and teams up with the shape-shifting teenager Nimona to prove his innocence, although his new sidekick is more comfortable playing the role of a villain.
Nimona was a hit when it world premiered at Annecy last month, and initial reactions from the press and audiences who have caught the film there or at one of its limited theatrical screenings since have been overwhelmingly positive. Critics are digging the film’s medieval/sci-fi aesthetic and adventurous 2d/3d animation style, and reviews are typically enthusiastic about Nimona’s humor and action-packed pacing.
Here’s what critics are saying about Nimona, available on Netflix from June 30.
After recapping the film’s troubled production history, Linda Codega at i09 concluded that:
[H]oly fuck, was all that bullshit worth it. Nimona is hilariously funny, tightly scripted, well animated, beautifully voiced, and resonates with a vulnerable, emotional message about loving what makes us outsiders, about loving who we are, even when it hurts. Despite the light-hearted jokes, the fast-paced plot, and the whip-fast dialogue, Nimona doesn’t shy away from heavier moments.
Variety’s Peter Debruge counted Nimona’s unique animation style as the greatest of its many virtues:
Easily the most appealing thing about Nimona is the outside-the-box animation style. How often have you flipped through the “art of” book for some big-budget animated feature and wondered why the movie didn’t match the brilliant concept art that went into its making? Well, Nimona won’t leave you feeling that way, as it belongs to a new trend of bending computer animation to look more like human drawings. The characters are computer-rendered in 3d, but gone are the lines and photoreal surfaces, rendered like dynamic comic book panels instead. The “camera” work and editing have loosened up, too, combining with Christophe Beck’s thrash-metal score to yield a distinctly teen-friendly toon.
In his review for Slashfilm, Rafael Motamayor compared the film’s visual styling to other groundbreaking cg films of the past several years:
Nimona has stylized 3d animation with some 2d effect work in the same way that Blue Sky was experimenting with The Peanuts Movie even before Into the Spider-Verse came out, with depth of field and lighting being key elements that give the movie a unique look. Directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane and their team create a world that looks both simplistic and familiar, yet entirely fresh. That being said, there are times when the character animation looks overly polished and clean, and the marriage of 2d and 3d doesn’t always merge seamlessly. Still, the sheer punk rock attitude of the story and visuals more than make up for it.
Lauren LeMagna at Next Best Picture placed Nimona among the year’s top animated films:
This year seems to be a stellar animation achievement, and Nimona is no exception. The world is full of bright colors and designs that represent the jagged and rebellious nature of the titular character. There is an element of chaos, rock-and-roll, and insanity in every frame. Everything is a little outside the lines, and it works, especially considering that Nimona and Ballister are exposing the corruption of their world. Nimona would consider herself a villain, but she is a villain that has fun and takes pleasure and joy in wreaking havoc. Therefore, it is lovely to see the animation reflect that, making the action pieces leap off the screen. From the art design alone, audiences of all ages will be entertained by this film. It is extremely fun and beautiful to look at. There is a fun element in the disobedience that is visually appealing.
Samantha Puc at The Marry Sue praised the film’s message and technical execution in equal parts:
Nimona is a major accomplishment for family-oriented animated media. Debuting on the final day of Pride Month in a year when U.S.-based LGBTQIA+ people are seeing lawmakers work harder and harder to take their rights away (but not without a fight), Nimona provides an hour and 42 minutes of queer power and joy in the face of extreme adversity. It’s escapist in the best way, and its dynamic animation style and energetic soundtrack—including an original score by Christophe Beck—make it stand out aesthetically, as well.
Co-producer: ND Stevenson
Directors: Nick Bruno, Troy Quane
Producers: Karen Ryan, Julie Zachary, Roy Lee
Executive producers: Megan Ellison, Robert L. Baird, Andrew Millstein, John Powers Middleton
Screenplay: Robert L. Baird, Lloyd Taylor
Story: Robert L. Baird, Lloyd Taylor, Pamela Ribon, Marc Haimes, Nick Bruno, Troy Quane, Keith Bunin
Based upon the graphic novel by> ND Stevenson
Editors: Randy Trager, Erin Crackel
Music: Christophe Beck
Animation director: Theodore A. Ty
Voice Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Riz Ahmed, Eugene Lee Yang, Frances Conroy, Lorraine Toussaint, Beck Bennett, Indya Moore, RuPaul Charles, Julio Torres, Sarah Sherman