Tuca & Bertie Review (Spoiler-Free)

Netflix's new animated comedy from artist Lisa Hanawalt is a breezy, trippy delight. Read our review here!

Let’s get this out of the way: Tuca & Bertie, the new animated series from BoJack Horseman production designer and producer Lisa Hanawalt, is not a BoJack spinoff. Though the animation style is almost exactly the same, thanks to Hanawalt and her penchant for creating hilarious anthropomorphized animals, Tuca & Bertie allows Hanawalt to go even further with her whacky creations. There are anthropomorphized plants, for one, but also frequent changes to and experimentation with other animation styles, a surrealist bent that’s only been flirted with on BoJack, and dreamlike logic that’s missing from Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s “Hollywoo.”

Hanawalt’s vision for Tuca & Bertie is so vivid, bright, and engaging that oftentimes you can lose track of the dialogue and plot of an episode and stay transfixed on the trippy visuals. This sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it isn’t; the world of Tuca & Bertie, which at the drop of a hat can transform into 8-bit animation or present, completely unexplained or uncommented upon, a humanoid plant removing her top and exposing her leafy breasts, is a place that you don’t mind getting lost in.

Tuca & Bertie, featuring the voices of Tiffany Haddish as the confident, boisterous toucan Tuca and Ali Wong as the anxious, yet bubbly song thrush Bertie, centers on two 30-something friends that are beginning to enter different phases of their lives. Tuca is newly sober and starting to take responsibility for her own life for the first time, while Bertie is dealing with moving in with her square, but well-meaning boyfriend Speckle (voiced by Steven Yeun) while also trying to climb the corporate ladder at work. The loving, yet mismatched pair immediately play like animated versions of Broad City’s Ilana and Abbi, and their low-stakes adventures mirror that show as well. Tuca & Bertie isn’t interested in meditating on weighty issues like substance abuse and clinical depression like BoJack; it’s more comfortable in letting the animation do the heavy lifting while the writing stays comfortably in breezy sitcom mode.

That’s not to say that Tuca & Bertie has nothing to say. In particular, the show highlights the painful realities of the gig economy, workplace harassment, and navigating male-dominated spheres as a woman. A late-season episode especially feels timely in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The show is clearly made for everyone, but features a refreshing female perspective on a variety of topics, mainly friendships and womanhood itself. Few shows, especially animated shows, allow their female characters to be so multifaceted and idiosyncratic.

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Admittedly, the show takes a bit of time to hit its stride. Early episodes don’t quite have the right balance on quirky, engrossing visuals and genuinely compelling plotlines, but as the season progresses, the show’s stories get stronger. By season end, Tuca and Bertie become more realized characters than just “the fun one and the anxious one” and even Speckle’s inner life gets examined. The stakes may be lower than BoJack, but Tuca & Bertie is the rare hangout show that you’ll want to revisit not just to spend more time with the characters, but to comb over every frame for the choice sight gags that you may have missed.

All 10 episode of Tuca & Bertie premiere on Netflix Friday, May 3.

Nick Harley is a tortured Cleveland sports fan, thinks Douglas Sirk would have made a killer Batman movie, Spider-Man should be a big-budget HBO series, and Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson should direct a script written by one another. For more thoughts like these, read Nick’s work here at Den of Geek or follow him on Twitter.


3.5 out of 5