The school play is over and Maya is joining Anna and her dad Curtis for spring break in Florida. The 7th episode of Pen15’s second season ended with the girls getting in Curtis’ car, but if you thought we wouldn’t get to see what happened in Florida, you’ve got another thing coming. The Pen15 Animated Special picks up right where the second season left off, even starting with the last frames of “Opening Night” before transitioning into animation.
It’s April, 2000 and 13-year-olds Anna and Maya are living it up on spring break at the Tropicana Now motel. When Curtis gives the girls some money to spend, they decide to have caricatures drawn on the boardwalk after seeing a pretty woman look glamorous. But when the results overemphasize features they’re both self-conscious about, both girls find themselves feeling more insecure than ever.
With the same pacing as the live-action series, this 40-minute special takes advantage of the animated format by transforming Anna and Maya’s animated counterparts into the caricatures they feel like. Anna’s nose becomes larger and more angular, while Maya’s face becomes perfectly round. It’s a brilliant way to highlight each character’s own body dysmorphia, although I was hoping the animated special would lean more into this new medium.
In terms of the animation style, Pen15 feels like it's reaching for the esthetic of King of the Hill. Colors are never oversaturated and characters aren’t stylized like most animated shows. Being a one-off, the animation quality lacks refinement, with jerky movements and looped animation whenever possible. But the most important thing is the story and fans of Pen15 will find it to be not only funny, but also very relatable and heartwarming.
Essentially an eighth episode of season two called “Jacuzzi,” the Pen15 Animated Special uses the cartoon medium to convey feelings of self consciousness for both Anna and Maya. While this theme isn’t foreign to the show itself, it’s handled in a new way here. Not at all fluff, this is possibly one of the series’ most impactful moments for viewers.
The Pen15 Animated Special premieres Friday, August 27th on Hulu.
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).