Netflix’s Lost Ollie review: If Toy Story spoiled you, get ready
“Real isn’t the way you’re made…It’s a thing that happens to you.” When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real,” says the Skin Horse, Margery Williams’ oldest and wisest toy. The Velvet Rabbita children’s book that turned 100 this year.
Stories about real and feeling toys are a staple of children’s media, and for good reason. There is a special bond between a child and their favorite toy, and stories like The Velvet Rabbittoy story, Calvin and Hobbes, Winnie the Poohand The miraculous journey of Edward Tulane all illustrate this connection in different ways.
by Netflix ollie lost is the latest take on this genre. From creator Shannon Tindle, character designer on Kubo and the two ropes and Foster’s Home for Imaginary FriendsLost Ollie is a free adaptation of the children’s book by William Joyce Ollie’s Odyssey. Whereas ollie lost tackles familiar rhythms of toy-centric stories, it also delves deeper into some of the darker implications of a world where toys are alive and fleshes out the child’s point of view. By doing this, ollie lost reminds us how evocative this well-worn story can be when given enough neatness and detail.
[Ed. note: This review contains setup spoilers for Lost Ollie.]
ollie lost follows the titular stuffed bunny (voiced by Jonathan Groff), who wakes up in a thrift store with no memory of how he got there. All Ollie knows is that he needs to find Billy (Kesler Talbot), the boy he belongs to. Ollie remembers little about Billy and how he got lost, but he teams up with Zozo (voiced by Tim Blake Nelson), a toy clown who is also looking for someone he lost . After escaping from the store, they find the small pink teddy bear Rosy (voiced by Mary J. Blige), who was Zozo’s traveling companion. The trio embark on their quest, as Ollie slowly begins to piece together what happened to Billy.
The biggest difference between ollie lost and other toy-centric films and books is that Billy’s story is also a big part of the narrative. From Ollie’s memories and the scenes that simultaneously unfold from Billy’s perspective, we learn that Billy’s mother (played by Gina Rodriguez, with a slightly sore Southern accent) has cancer. Sometimes these scenes end up being a bit awkward, if only because a starry-eyed dying mother paired with a gruff, serious father (played by Jake Johnson) who can’t emotionally handle the impending grief is a bit a cliche at this point.
While the flashback scenes with Billy and his parents go exactly where you think they’re going — especially after learning they don’t have health insurance to cover mom’s hospital visits — this preview of Billy’s story adds more emotion to the whole show. Ollie needs Billy, the same way Woody and Buzz need Andy, because Ollie is a toy and his child gives him purpose. But Billy too needs Ollie, because he’s a little boy who needs a comforting friend at this difficult time in his life.
One of the loveliest parts of ollie lost is that toys can not only communicate with each other, but also with children. It’s never really explained, but it’s not necessary. Children share a special bond with their most beloved toys and the bond between Ollie and Billy is clearly strong. While the idea of talking toys is great, the idea of kids talking to their toys isn’t, which makes ollie lost the impression that he could actually sit next to our own world. The toys are animated but rendered in a more realistic style, which makes them incredibly tangible, and their movements resemble that of a stuffed animal. Juxtaposed with live action elements, ollie lost becomes a fantastic story that could be real – and certainly, as a small child, one wants to imagine their lost toys searching high and low for a way home. The flashbacks could do more to explore Ollie and Billy’s connection, especially since the current timeline scenes mostly deal with Ollie and his two companions on their quest. The scenes where toys are just toys are of another evocative kind – especially the third episode, which delves deeper into Zozo’s past and what he seeks.
In this episode, ollie lost goes where Toy Story only hints: what happens when a toy is truly destroyed beyond repair and there’s no child to fix it? At the end of the fourth Toy Story movie, Woody and Bo Peep have given up on the kids and go galloping on their own; it’s right there ollie lost departures. Sure, Ollie, Zozo, and Rosy are looking for someone in particular, but Zozo and Rosy have been on their own for quite some time, living the rough and tough toy life. They don’t have children to love them, nor do they talk about children from their past. That’s what happens to toys in the bins of antique stores, those that collect dust on shelves, forgotten in lost and found boxes.
Zozo and Rosy’s backstory gets pretty dark, taking this sweet, whimsical story into haunting territory. Likewise, Billy’s story moves from some rosy memories of his family to how they deal with tragedy. By integrating these heavier themes and moments, ollie lost equally dark reminiscent velvet bunny. There’s always something inherently poignant about toy-driven stories; children grow up, toys get lost, life goes on. ollie lost does not cushion the blows – and boy, there are devastating blows. While the first two episodes are sweet and lovely, a fun exploration of the world through a toy’s perspective, the last two don’t hold back from delving into the heavier aspects of that setting.
All the while, however, Ollie is looking for his boy Billy, because he loves Billy and he knows Billy loves him. Ollie’s quest is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. The show may tread familiar territory in the setup, but in the end, it’s so evocative that all of the over-the-top tropes feel fresh, like they’ve just struck for the first time. ollie lost captures the feeling of confiding in a favorite toy, through the ups and downs of childhood. And just like the Skin Horse told the Velveteen Rabbit, sometimes it hurts – to get real, to grow, to be loved. But it’s worth it, and ollie lost manages to show that there is joy and sorrow in everything.
ollie lost is now available on Netflix.