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Netflix’s The Cuphead Show! first look brings the devilish, old-cartoon energy

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StudioMDHR’s game jumps to Netflix

A video game based on fake cartoons now has its own real cartoon series. Netflix debuted a first look for the The Cuphead Show! on Friday during its Geeked Week presentation, promising more of the 1950s style that made the video game so great.

As veteran Cuphead players might expect, The Cuphead Show! will follow the adventures of Cuphead and his sidekick Mugman. The two get up to all kinds of wild antics including crossing paths with the fiendish gambler and the villain of the original game, The Devil himself. The tease gives fans their first look at how director Cosmo Segurson (Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling) and his animation team translated StudioMDHR’s retro gameplay for the small screen, and (re)introduces King Dice, voiced by Wayne Brady.

Netflix first teased The Cuphead Show! at the 2020 Annecy Animation Festival, where Segurson, producer Dave Wasson (Mickey Mouse Shorts), and art director Andrea Fernandez explained how they found their way into adapting the game.

“The IP of the game is unbelievable and it did set up some relationships,” Wesson explained at the time, “but we’ve taken it into another place that is really about the two brothers. They actually talk and they interact with people and they don’t just shoot people, we promise!”

According to Segurson, the show will mix familiar characters and locations with brand new elements created just for the story, which his team conceived as something of a prequel to the game. “All the bosses in the game, we’ve tried to integrate into our project,” he said. “Not to give away any spoilers, but figuring out that relationship between Cup and Mugman and the characters that everyone’s familiar with in the game, and giving them a voice and giving them a backstory. That’s been a really fun challenge for the team.”

As for their own animation inspirations, Fernandez noted that the team specifically looked at the 1935 Disney Silly Symphonies short “Music Land,” the colorized Popeye cartoons, and Fleischer Studios’ Superman shorts. “Everything, not just the paintings, but the color palette, the effects, the way we handle props, the linework, everything is looked at from a lens of like, could they have done this in the 30s? Could they have pulled this off? If it feels like it’s too modern or not possible for them to have done then we kind of pull back and reassess,” she said.

The Cuphead Show! is expected to premiere later this year on Netflix.