Kyle Chandler, Weruche Opia and Chris O’Dowd discuss Slumberland on Netflix

by Netflix fantastic new family movie, Slumberland, takes viewers on an adventure through mystical lands and wondrous dreamscapes. The film is a reimagining of early 20th century comics, Little Nemo in Slumberland. The comic strip, which debuted in the New York Herald in 1905, was created by cartoonist and animation pioneer Winsor McCay as a spin-off from his earlier comic strip, Dream of the Demon Rarebit.


The full-page weekly comic featured the titular Nemo falling asleep and having dreams that took him on adventures in the fantasy world of Slumberland, with each strip ending when he awoke. Little Nemo in Slumberland is considered a comic book masterpiece and has been praised for its experimental forms of the comic book page, its use of color and perspective, the size and shape of its panels, its timing and its rhythm, and its architectural design. It was a groundbreaking comic that influenced those that followed, its style still having an impact on modern comics. Needless to say, this made it ripe for a modern narrative.

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Netflix’s Slumberland follows Nemo (Marlow Barkley, Single parents, fiery), a young girl who lives with her loving, down-to-earth father, played by (Kyle Chandler, Mayor of Kingstown, Friday Night Lights ) in a lighthouse in the Pacific Northwest. After the loss of her father at sea, she moves in with her stuffy uncle, Philip (Chris O’Dowd, Bridesmaids, Thor: Dark World) in the city. To escape his new mundane life, Nemo transports himself to the magical world of Slumberland while he sleeps with a half-man, half-beast “outlaw” named Flip (Jason Momoa, Aquaman, Game of Thrones) and his sidekick Pig, in an attempt to find his father. In doing so, the duo must navigate dreams and nightmares, while trying to avoid being caught by Agent Green (Weruche Opia, I can destroy you, in slices), which will lock them up in Slumberland for eternity.

Related: Little Nemo in Slumberland: Exploring the Comic Before Jason Momoa’s Netflix Movie


Character development in Slumberland

Kyle Chandler and Marlow Barkley in Slumberland
netflix

For O’Dowd, the joy of portraying Philip was in being confronted with a situation that challenges his very nature of being. “There’s an old adage that the safest place for a ship is in a port,” O’Dowd said. “But that’s not where the ships are built to go. I feel like there’s a lot of that in Phillip. He decided he was going to protect himself from the vagaries of socializing with people. He’s not necessarily up to it, so he invested himself in his work and hobbies, not his people. And then one of his men shows up, and he has to deal with it. I felt pretty funny doing that.

Opia was able to find self-reflection in the character of Agent Green. “I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s a really enlightening and awkward moment where she gives [Nemo] a life lesson that I took from myself,” Opia said. “I had to remind myself of something so general yet so important, which is that you have to be brave in life and keep going. For me, that was a big moment.”

Chandler appreciated the feelings presented in the film, especially for those watching who have experienced similar grief. “It’s a moment when a father, saying goodbye to his daughter, is able to give one last piece of advice,” Chandler said. “He sends his daughter out into the world, and she has to start over. It’s her resilience through this movie, and she’s trying to figure out what her grief is and how to deal with it through this dream world. It’s so wonderful for all of us who understand that we have to go through this, especially the young people who have been through it and don’t understand it. We’ve talked to people, and we’ve heard parents cry and kids ask questions, and that creates a conversation. It’s all wrapped up in a little piece of film here, and I have a feeling it’s going to last a long time. It’s exciting to hear people talk about it.

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Dream a little dream

Slumberland is not the first adaptation of the soundtrack. Little Nemo has appeared in plays, operas, comics, short films, and video games. An animated feature titled Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland was released in 1989, and despite positive reviews and contributions from Ray Bradbury, Chris Columbus and famed French artist Mœbius, the film was a commercial failure.

Although each incarnation of the story has been slightly different (tweaks have included the removal of overtly racially stereotypical characters found in the original comic and Flip’s transformation from a clown to Momoa’s Beastman in Slumberland), one thing they all have in common is the notion of existing in the world of your dreams.

The dreams O’Dowd had growing up weren’t nearly as fantastic as those found in Slumberland. “A lot of my dreams were based on sports,” he said. “I was kind of a sporty kid growing up, so I would have reinvented sporting events, replaying them in my dreams. I used to use it as a kind of emotional comfort blanket when I wasn’t couldn’t sleep at night. I was thinking about that memory of me hitting a point and Gaelic football, which was my sport. And then years later I played Gaelic football after playing for maybe 15 years, and i played it so bad that this fucking dream flew away. It was my version of counting sheep, and then finally someone came along and shot the sheep.

Slumberland streaming on Netflix on November 18.

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