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Apple TV+ Adds Another Charming Kids' Series to Its Lineup With WondLa

School is out. Let the summer TV programming begin.
  • WondLa (Image: Apple TV+)
    WondLa (Image: Apple TV+)

    Based on the books by Tony DiTerlizzi, the new Apple TV+ series WondLa follows the trilogy’s first book, The Search for WondLa. Set in the future, Eva (voiced by Jeanine Mason) has spent her entire life in an underground bunker known as the Sanctuary, far beneath the earth’s surface. Like many Disney movies, the series kicks off with Eva’s early years, racing through her life until she turns 16. 

    The charming series, developed by veteran House of Mouse producer Bobs Gannaway, follows another Disney tradition by centering on a parent-less teen. Eva was raised by Muthr, a Multi-Utility Task Help Robot (Teri Hatcher, who also narrates The Search for WondLa audiobook). On her sixth birthday, she’s promised that once she passes her “final test,” she will get to walk through the big door in her bunker to the Earth’s surface, where she will meet her family.

    Obviously things don’t go that smoothly (do they ever?) and Eva’s journey begins. Her only clue to guide her is a torn piece of paper that reads “Eva find me” on one side and “WondLa” on the other. She soon learns that Earth is now called Orbona, all of humanity has been destroyed, and aliens of all shapes and sizes live on the planet. She’s been told that “the Earth was very sick and it needed time to get better without us. But that was a long long time ago and now the Earth is feeling much better.”  But nothing is how it is supposed to be or how she was promised it would be. 

    Joining Eva on her quest for answers are her Omnipod (D.C. Douglas), a Siri-like device which can answer her questions and help her solve problems and her futuristic stuffed animal Meego (Christopher Swindle). They meet Otto (Brad Garrett), a friendly giant water bear who offers the series comic relief and Rovender (Gary Anthony Williams), a cranky alien who guides Eva, sometimes against his better judgment. The whole time she is tracked by Besteel (Chiké Okonkwo), a nefarious bounty hunter who provides the show’s scariest sequences.

    A joint venture between Apple TV+ and Skydance Animation, WondLa is bright and colorful, and the characters, although they look different from the book illustrations, are vibrant and engaging. With her oversized eyes, Eva recalls Frozen’s Anna and Elsa. 

    The big change from book to the small screen is that Eva has been aged up, from 12 to 16. That makes her a teenager experiencing many of the typical adolescent growing pains, including rebelling against your parents and chafing at their efforts to guide you. “I don’t need your help,” Eva tells Muthr at one point, a very relatable comment, whether you are a teen seeking independence in a world overtaken by scary alien creatures or just navigating middle school. Sometimes Eva just needs some space. “We talked about this. Don’t check my stats without asking,” she tells Muther. Eva is a plucky and brave heroine who makes plenty of mistakes but also deftly handles the adversity that comes her way. 

    Eva discovers what “WondLa” stands for in the season finale, and the reveal is poignant, if not all that surprising. Her journey also has a familiar ring to it — DiTerlizzi is one of the show’s executive producers, which likely helped ensure the spirit of the book came through on the screen. 

    In addition to Garrett and Hatcher, the series is full of familiar voices. John Ratzenberger, who has long been the lucky charm of Pixar films (heard most recently reprising his role of Fritz in Inside Out 2), lends his voice to Caruncle, a not exactly trustworthy alien who makes his living trading information and artifacts. Sci-fi fan favorite Alan Tudyk voices Cadmus Pryde, the mysterious founder of Dynastes Corporation, which came up with the whole bunker situation.

    With shows including Frog and Toad, Snoopy in Space, and Puppy Place, Apple TV+ has a robust children’s TV lineup. WondLa is a rich addition to its programming. The seven episodes all clock in at 25 minutes or less, making for a breezy watch that viewers, including those out of school for the summer, might consume in one sitting.

    Despite the aging up of Eva and some darker themes, the series is very family friendly and will most likely be most appealing to those in elementary school. So, unfortunately, WondLa doesn’t necessarily fill the void of programming available for middle schoolers, which is too bad because they are definitely an underserved demographic.

    WondLa’s journey to the small screen mirrors Eva’s; the first book was published in 2010, and the adaptation had long been gestating. Gannaway’s series marks Apple’s second collaboration with Skydance Animation after the 2022 movie Luck. Although the two companies parted ways last October, WondLa is planned as a trilogy. Season 1 ends on a heckuva cliffhanger, so let’s hope that plan comes to pass.  

    WondLa premieres June 28 on AppleTV+. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Amy Amatangelo is a writer and editor. In addition to Primetimer, her work can be found in Paste Magazine, Emmy Magazine and the LA Times. She also is the Treasurer of the Television Critics Association. 

    TOPICS: WondLa, Apple TV+, Bobs Gannaway, Jeanine Mason, Teri Hatcher