Animated movies compete for the same audience, which means some of them fall through the cracks. Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken had the misfortune of hitting theaters right after Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and Elemental. They sucked up all the attention, leaving this little gem left in the dust. It deserves to be discovered by families on home video because it’s charming, funny, and stylishly animated. The new Blu-ray release marks a perfect opportunity to discover its pleasures.
Ruby (Lana Condor) is, as the title suggests, an adolescent kraken. She and her family disguise themselves as humans to hide in plain sight. (“We’re Canadian!” they often lie.) Life at Oceanside High is difficult. Ruby has a couple close friends, yet she’s awkward around crush Connor (Jaboukie Young-White) and lacks the popularity of pretty new student Chelsea (Annie Murphy). Her mom Agatha (Toni Collette) keeps Ruby on a short leash, continually worried their cover will be blown. For sympathy, Ruby dives into the ocean depths to see her grandmother, the Kraken Queen (Jane Fonda).
Trouble arises when her true nature is accidentally revealed. Forget acne, braces, glasses, or being seen in public with your parents. For this teen, nothing is more embarrassing than having peers see her as she really is. Ruby also must deal with a common enemy of kraken - a mermaid. The movie follows her as she’s forced to come to terms with herself and embrace what makes her special.
Ruby Gillman has a theme about self-love that kids will strongly respond to. Tied in with that is a secondary theme related to the struggle of teens to separate from their parents. Agatha is overprotective, Ruby resents it, and the two have trouble finding common ground. An especially compelling angle is the one between Ruby and her grandmother, who encourages her independence, to Agatha’s dismay. Here’s an example of an animated film that uses fantastical elements to portray very identifiable human truths.
The animation is colorful and bright throughout, with the underwater world beautifully designed. All the voice actors are perfectly cast, and the finale – set at the school prom – is a blast. Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken is terrific family entertainment, with plenty of laughs to match the meaningful story.
out of four
Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken is rated PG for some action, rude humor, and thematic elements. The running time is 1 hour and 31 minutes.
Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken comes to DVD and Blu-ray on September 26. The Collector’s Edition Blu-ray is loaded with first-class supplementary material, including audio commentary from the filmmaking team. Here’s a full breakdown:
Deleted Scenes - Three deleted scenes, including an alternate prologue, are presented in pre-vis format. Co-director Faryn Pearl introduces each one, providing valuable context about what the scenes were meant to accomplish and why they were ultimately excised.
Squad Solidarity: Adventures in ADR is a montage of the actors delivering their lines in a recording studio. What’s cool here is that they aren’t merely reciting dialogue in front of a microphone. Each of them physically acts out the part while speaking. That shows the commitment to performance.
The Kraken: Myth or Monster - Lana Condor and Annie Murphy host this gorgeously animated explanation of how the myth of the kraken began and evolved.
Meet the Gillman Cast - An up-close look at the actors, who talk about their approach to the characters and being part of this special movie.
The Kraken Crew: Meet the Humans Behind the Gillmans features interview clips with the stars and filmmakers. They discuss working on the film, developing their characters, and more.
Prom Stories - As befitting the movie’s finale, cast and filmmakers share fun stories about their own proms. They additionally dive into the bizarre fascination with “promposals.”
Super Sea Girl Besties - For many years, animation was dominated by males. This segment celebrates the women who made Ruby Gillman. You get a good sense of how they put their shared sensibilities into the story to give it extra resonance.
Also included on the Blu-ray are a segment on how to make your own aquarium that kids will be clamoring to do, along with a drawing guide to help viewers learn how to draw the movie’s characters.
All in all, the Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken Blu-ray is a strong package that’s worth adding to your library. To purchase a copy at Amazon, click here.