Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, also called Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur or Moon Girl, is an animated superhero adventure series created by Laurence Fishburne and Helen Sugland. It is based on the 2010s Marvel Comics series, Moon Girl, by Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder, and Natacha Bustos.
Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the thirtieth article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on April 24, 2023.
The plot of Moon Girl centers on a young girl named Lunella Lafeyette (voiced by Diamond White). She is secretly a superhero named Moon Girl, named after her favorite scientist, and a student by day. She uses a dimensional portal to bring a T-Rex named Devil Dinosaur (voiced by Fred Tatasciore), to the streets of New York City. Her best friend, Casey (voiced by Libe Barer) helps her, while she fights against villains like The Beyonder, a mischievous and curious trickster voiced by Fishburne.
Lunella’s family have an important role in this series. Her grandmother Mimi, mother Andria, father James Jr., and grandfather “Pops” are protagonists. They are voiced by acclaimed actors such as Alfre Woodward, Sasheer Zamata, Jermaine Fowler, and Gary Anthony Williams. I personally remembered Williams for voicing characters in Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars Resistance, Velma, The Cuphead Show!, and The Owl House, or when Zamata voiced Jade in the subpar film, The Mitchells vs. the Machines.
From the get-go, I knew that Moon Girl would have a superb animation quality because the show’s production companies include the animation arm of Disney (Disney Television Animation), a Marvel Studios subsidiary (Marvel Animation), and two animation studios: Titmouse and Flying Bark Productions. The latter two are known for Star Trek: Lower Decks, Fairfax, The Legend of Vox Machina, Glitch Techs, What If…? and Pantheon.
Fishburne’s own production company, Cinema Gypsy Productions, is helping produce Moon Girl. This could be part of the reason the series got a favorable reception from executives, resulting in renewal of a second season before the first season had premiered. The animation style is said to be inspired by Spider-Verse, pop art such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and Keith Haring, along with comic book and graffiti style, and other influences.
Moon Girl has an impressive cast including well-recognized names like Indya Moore, Craig Robinson, Pamela Adlon, Jennifer Hudson, Anna Akana, and Asia Kate Dillon. It includes actors of Indian, Iranian, Puerto Rican, Vietnamese, and Palestinian descent.
This is reinforced by executive producer Steve Loter, composer Raphael Saadiq, and producers Pilar Flynn and Rafael Chaidez. Loter is an executive producer of The Ghost and Molly McGee and has been recognized as a former Kim Possible producer. Saddiq previously did the discography for Lovecraft Country Season 1. Flynn was co-producer of Elena of Avalor.
Show director Trey Buongiorno previously been a storyboarder on Glitch Techs and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Samantha Suyi Lee storyboarded on Cleopatra in Space, Christine Liu on Steven Universe, Rodney Clouden on Futurama, and Ben Juwono on Big Hero 6. Show writers Jeffrey M. Howard, Kate Kondell, Halima Lucas, Liz Hara, Taylor Vaughn Lasley, Maggie Rose, and Lisa Muse Bryant have written for Elena of Avalor, Rugrats, Sesame Street, Broad City, and Kenan.
The cast and crew of Moon Girl support the series’ aim to be something for “everyone” and have tones of “heart…comedy, incredible action and great music” as Loter put it. What he is saying has validity since the series is clearly smart, punchy, dynamic, dazzling, and enchanting, with a unique personality.
Representation in Moon Girl is central to the show’s storyline. In an interview with the show’s producers in February 2023, Loter noted that the show started with Laurence Fishburne loving the Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur comic series because he had read the original late 1970s Devil Dinosaur comic. Supervising producer Rodney Clouden said that it “means a lot” for the series to have the first Black female protagonist in a superhero series by Marvel.
Later in the interview, Clouden added that Lunella is more than young Black girl into science and math, but is about helping her community and family. This is because her brains are her superpowers, not any other special abilities. She is a 13-year-old who has teen problems that are relatable, and universal. This is done with the intention of making the series inspirational and creating “sophisticated and elevated children’s program”, to summarize Clouden’s words.
There is more beyond the interview with Loter and Clouden. Like The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, Craig of the Creek, or My Dad the Bounty Hunter, the series has a Black-majority main cast. Moon Girl is different than those two series, in that it is centered on superheroes. There are very few other Black superhero animated series, apart from three prominent series, either Vixen in the 2010s, Static Shock in the 2000s, or Todd McFarlane’s Spawn in the 1990s. Various additional Black cartoons aired since the 1970s, but few are in the superhero genre.
Moon Girl has outward LGBTQ representation. This includes Lunella’s classmate, Tai, and living/A.I. supercomputer named LOS-307, which are both non-binary, and Brooklyn, an openly trans character. Furthermore, Casey has two dads: Isaac and Antonio.
The voice actors for Tai and LOS-307, Ian Alexander and Asia Kate Dillon, are non-binary in real life, while Indya Moore, the voice of Brooklyn, is trans and non-binary. In addition, Wilson Cruz and Andy Cohen, who voice Casey’s dads, are both gay actors. It remains to be seen if any of the main cast will be shown as LGBTQ or not. Some fans have seen hints of romantic attraction between Casey and Lunella, shipping them either as “Lucasey” or “Mediamoon”, but ship this has not been confirmed presently. Furthermore, it is possible that since Michael Cimino, who voices Lunella’s loud friend, Eduardo, has seemed to say his sexual identity is fluid, this may be reflected in his character.
In watching Moon Girl, I was reminded by the fact that Moore previously voiced a trans character in animation (Shep in Steven Universe Future). Recently, Dillon provided the voice for the genderfluid and pansexual Val/entina Romanyszyn in the ever-controversial and problematic gen:LOCK. This series appears to be the first voice role for Cohen, but not for Alexander or Cruz.
This is not unique to Moore and Dillion. Diamond White has provided her voice for characters in Phineas and Ferb and Sofia the First. Tatasciore has voiced characters in animated series since the 1990s. Fowler prominently did voices for Tuca & Bertie and BoJack Horseman. Others have voiced characters in wide-ranging series including We Bare Bears, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Mira, Royal Detective, The Simpsons, and Hamster & Gretel.
The show’s first episode began with a bang and pulled me in almost immediately. I’ve been lamenting the reality that few present series have roller-skating protagonists. This could be because wearing such shoes seem almost retro these days. It is part of Lunella’s shtick, as she skates around fighting villains with the help of her dinosaur (Devil), using her gadgets for good.
Having a protagonist move around in roller skates puts in her good company alongside protagonists such as Sakura Kinomoto in Cardcaptor Sakura and Candace Flynn in Phineas and Ferb. Occasionally Kim Possible of Kim Possible and Milo Murphy in Milo Murphy’s Law wear them. The same is the case for characters in the Steven Future Universe episode “Bismuth”, possibly Jenny /XJ-9 in My Life as a Teenage Robot, and more directly, Neon Katt as shown in some RWBY volumes.
What further endeared me to Moon Girl was the setting, in New York’s Lower East Side, and character’s relatability. In the 44-minute first episode, Lunella almost abandons being a superhero, after Devil is seriously injured by Aftershock. She is reassured on her path by her wise grandmother, Mimi (voiced by Alfre Woodard). The latter makes even more sense after the revelation in the season one finale that Mimi knew that Lunella was Moon Girl the entire time!
I can see how Moon Girl is like the musical coming-of-age comedy, Karma’s World, created by rapper Ludacris. Both series emphasize the importance of community, family, and history. The latter is manifested within Moon Girl with blending of the old with the new. Moon Girl uses a cassette player as a device. The show’s fight scenes featured music which fits perfectly with the story and action, while in-keeping with the series style. As a person who enjoys interacting with “analog” technology, or possibly soon-to-be analog (CDs and DVDs), I liked this part of the story.
The series has similarities with Karma’s World and The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder when it comes to episodes about the dangers of fighting online trolls, and themes of cooperation (rather than competition), friendship, self-acceptance, patience, and Black girl’s hair. One episode even echoes the “Sugar Rush” episode of Elena of Avalor. Lunella speeds up tasks because they are taking “too long”, reminding me of Elena using her powers to speed up the making of chocolate desserts. Another episode slightly mirrors Steven Universe finale “Change Your Mind” where Steven fuses with himself (Pink Steven), when Lunella comes back together with her hair, Mane (voiced by Jennifer Hudson), promising to take care of it.
Moon Girl has recurring villain-of-sorts, as noted earlier. He is one of the most playful I’ve seen in animation and is named the Beyonder. He is not conniving like Cece Dupree in Karma’s World or downright evil such as Salem in RWBY. He can be playful and fun, but can do a lot from the snap of a finger. In fact, he even threatens to destroy all of humanity in the show’s seventh episode, unless Lu “proves” to him that humanity is worth saving.
In another, he kidnaps Lunella’s mother and Casey, threatening to send them to another dimension, where she will never see them again. He never considers how his actions will cause trauma, only claiming that what he is doing is “helping” her, which is questionable. Hopefully, Lunella doesn’t have a meltdown like Ruby Rose in Volume 9 of RWBY, who takes her own life, or Steven Universe in Steven Universe Future who becomes a monster.
The ninth episode of Moon Girl mirrored some plot points in the classic Futurama episode “Time Keeps Slippin'” and the more-recent Cleopatra in Space episode “Do-Over“. In all three cases, skipping forward in time goes horribly wrong, but with completely different results. In the case of Moon Girl, the episode points to the dangers of A.I., as shown by the Skipster App, and hints at possible future scenes in the show’s second season.
The value of a work-life balance is emphasized through Lunella faking a sickness to get out of a photoshoot. This reminds me of the Cleopatra in Space episode “Cleopatra Needs Space”. The difference is that Lunella lies to her friend Casey, claiming she cannot get of bed so she can have a break, while Cleo wants to get away from her two friends who are flirting with one another. However, Moon Girl doesn’t as directly counter the issues with overwork, making it different, in that regard, from the isekai anime, I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, which emphasizes this theme repeatedly.
I further enjoyed the episode in which Lu rallies her community against the Muzzlers, two White home inventors, who are trying to gentrify the Lower East Side. The episode examines gentrification as much the Season 2 finale or three-part Season 4 finale of Karma’s World, both of which approach the topic in their own ways. Moon Girl is more poignant on this topic than the construction by the golf-addicted Mafia in Birdie Wing, in which the protagonist’s family are evicted, or that shown in City of Ghosts.
The last few Moon Girl episodes, which focus on value of chosen family, facing your fears, and being perfect the way you are, strongly end the first season. These episodes also center plotlines about Jewish traditions (since Casey is part Jewish) and the issues with clout-chasing. The latter is somewhat reflected in certain episodes of The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.
The two-part season one finale of Moon Girl is unique. The villain, Maris Morlak (voiced by Wesley Snipes), wants to construct a dimensional portal so he can gain recognition for his contributions from White leaders, which are those with authority.
Maris reveals that his work, and that of Lu’s grandmother, Mimi, were ignored by their White bosses, with White scientists taking all the credit when speaking to the U.S. military generals. This story of casual and institutional racism is more relevant than ever, with White supremacy currently running rampant across society. I liked how even though Mimi disagrees with his method (opening the portal), she agrees with his concerns, but says he doesn’t need others to validate him.
The actions of Maris go beyond the actions taken by other series villains, such as the Rat King, Abyss, and Gravitas, and Odessa Drake. He has an army of followers to support him, called the Enclave, and is willing to do anything to achieve his goals. In fact, he is probably the most ruthless villain of the series, destroying Lunella’s underground lab, even when Devil is trapped inside, causing Lunella to drop to her knees and think Devil died. Although this is not the case, it undoubtedly deepens Lunella’s growing trauma, which may be addressed more in season 2.
The first season of Moon Girl ends on a cliffhanger, with Mimi and Lu turning off the dimensional portal from each side. It could possible provide fuel for crossover fan fictions to be written by dedicated fans. The second season of Moon Girl may feature more of S.H.I.E.L.D. and its Agent, Maria Hill (voiced by Cobie Smulders), tying the series more into the Marvel Universe.
The growing friendship between Lunella and Casey will likely be an important part of the next season. By the end of the season, Casey becomes almost becoming the equivalent of Tomoyo Daidouji in Cardcaptor Sakura, who made all of Sakura Kinomoto‘s Cardcaptor outfits. This is because Casey made the outfits that Lunella used as a superhero. In addition, it is possible that the Beyonder will have a bigger role in the next season, and there be more fourth-wall breaks. The series might even have a storyline akin to the OK K.O. episode “Your World Is an Illusion”, in which K.O. realizes that his whole world is an illusion.
Moon Girl fills the void left by the season 2 finales of The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder on February 1 and Star Wars: The Bad Batch on March 29, and the series finales of The Owl House (on April 8) and Amphibia in May 2022. Unfortunately, with the last episode of Moon Girl airing on the Disney Channel on May 6, it may be some time before any other series with as strong plot, characters, animation, and writing airs on Disney+ or other Disney-related platforms.
Although Kiff and Hamster & Gretel have their merits, as do any of the other animated series on Disney+ or Disney Channel, none of them measures up to Moon Girl, or the quality of The Bad Batch, Amphibia, and The Owl House. The same may be the case for upcoming series such as Hailey’s On It!, Primos, Iwaju, Cookies & Milk, Tiana, or Moana: The Series, something which can only be proven or disproven after said series begin airing.
Although the episode-dumps on Disney+, the equivalent of Stevenbombs, undoubtedly reduced the possible audience, Moon Girl remains a shining example of a recent animated series. It can be enjoyed by all, even though it is primarily aimed at children. It is for that, and reasons I have previously stated, I recommend this series and look forward to the second season.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is currently airing on Disney+.