In the wake of the pandemic, shows have gotten inventive, many eschewing actors entirely in favor of finding unique ways to tell stories with animated methods. Case in point: the upcoming AMC+ series “Ultra City Smiths,” which released its first trailer below and looks to be a fun / bizarre, murder-mystery told with stop-motion animation and baby dolls.
The plot synopsis per AMC:
From AMC Studios and created by Steve Conrad (“Patriot,” “Perpetual Grace”) and Stoopid Buddy Stoodios (“Robot Chicken,” “Crossing Swords”) “Ultra City Smiths” unfolds via the stop-motion animation of baby dolls repurposed as a grown-up cast of characters. The series hinges on an investigation into the mysterious disappearance of fictional metropolis Ultra City’s most famous magnate (Smith).
Two intrepid detectives (Jimmi Simpson and Da’Vine Joy Randolph) follow the case, rallying to fight against their city’s dangerous corruption, at a high cost to themselves and their families, all in pursuit of a gentler place to call home.
The trailer looks to be a throwback to the film noir genre, centering on a murder-mystery plot with Simpson’s Detective David Mills, a classic gumshoe, on the case. The locations look like an amazing recreation of the landscape of the 1940s, drawing plenty of inspiration from the films of that era. And yet the series’ association with the studio responsible for “Robot Chicken” helps explain the dance sequences and other wild moments that enhance the surreal feeling of the show.
Stoopid Buddy Stoodios’ Seth Green, John Harvatine IV, Matthew Senreich, Eric Towner, and Chris Waters serve as executive producers along with Jennifer Scher. Jeff Dieter and Thomas J. Glynn are producers.
The trailer also emphasizes the stacked voice cast working on the project. Da’Vine Joy Randolph plays Mills’ partner, Detective Gail Johnson. Other cast members include Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, Bebe Neuwirth, Alia Shawkat, and Jason Mantzoukas, to name but a few.
Ordered to series in September 2020, “Ultra City Smiths” is the latest in a series of inspired programming made without large, in-person casts, which were made difficult to produce because of safety restrictions. Last year, both “One Day At a Time” and “Black-ish” crafted completely animated episodes. The Paramount+ original comedy “No Activity” pivoted from live-action improv to an entire season told with animation. Earlier this year, creator Jeff Baena utilized old Hollywood stock footage for the Showtime anthology series “Cinema Toast.”
Watch the “Ultra City Smiths” trailer below.
“Ultra City Smiths” premieres Thursday, July 22 on AMC+. The first season will air on AMC this fall.