Netflix’s Tuca & Bertie is a joyfully messy anthropomorphic animation

Funny, absurd and pleasingly vulgar – this is a visionary show.

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Tuca & Bertie opens with an ending. After six years, loud, sporadically employed, “short-short-wearing connoisseur of snacks” Tuca (an anthropomorphic toucan voiced by Tiffany Haddish) is moving out of the flat she shared with anxious, people-pleasing amateur baker and diligent Conde Nest employee Bertie (an anthropomorphic song thrush voiced by Ali Wong). The pair are just turning 30, and Bertie is moving in with her straight-laced “tender-shinned” boyfriend Speckle (Steven Yeun). Tuca is only moving down the hall and they are still best friends, but the premise involves a tension: as Bertie attempts to settle down with her “normie” life, impulsive Tuca seeks “fun adventures”.

Netflix’s Tuca & Bertie comes from the visionary mind of Lisa Hanawalt, the illustrator behind the distinctive look of the critically acclaimed animated series BoJack Horseman (which began life with the title “BoJack the Depressed Talking Horse”). Inevitably comparisons will abound. But Tuca & Bertie is simultaneously more fun, more real and far more absurd (aptly, it’s been called Broad City with birds). A mundane instance of sexual harassment at work sees Bertie grapple with feelings of futility and humiliation. Her left boob, however, decides it’s had enough, and marches right off her body in protest, muttering: “I need a drink!”

Meta gags abound: when a character gets naked, a black censor box appears, then clatters to the ground. Refreshingly, both Tuca and Bertie possess a routine vulgarity. “I know, I’m so nasty!” Tuca shrugs. “I bring a lot of zest to my environment.” Hanawalt’s joyful, messy world is grounded by weird but unmistakably human performances from Haddish and Wong. This is a bright, squawking delight.

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 03 May 2019 issue of the New Statesman, A very British scandal

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