‘Orion and the Dark’ Trailer: Charlie Kaufman Writes an Animated Existential Crisis

Charlie Kaufman is bringing more neuroses to Netflix, this time with an animated twist.

The “Adaptation” screenwriter penned the adaptation of YA novel “Orion and the Dark” for the streaming platform. Jacob Tremblay voices the title character Orion, who is an anxiety-ridden elementary schooler trying to get over his fear of the dark. Turns out, the Dark is actually a physical entity (Paul Walter Hauser) who brings Orion on an adventure to confront his fears, ranging from clowns, fireworks, and ghouls.

“Orion, I’m going to get you to overcome your fears if it kills me,” the Dark says in the trailer.

Angela Bassett, Colin Hanks, Natasia Demetriou, Golda Rosheuvel, Nat Faxon, Aparna Nancherla, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gugino, Matt Dellapina, Nick Kishiyama, Mia Akemi Brown, Shannon Chan-Kent, and Jack Fisher also star. Werner Herzog narrates the film.

Animator Sean Charmatz marks his feature directorial debut with the DreamWorks and Netflix film. Peter McCown produces, with Walt Dohrn and Bonnie Arnold serving as executive producers.

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The official synopsis reads: “Orion seems a lot like your average elementary school kid: shy, unassuming, harboring a secret crush. But underneath his seemingly normal exterior, Orion is a ball of adolescent anxiety, completely consumed by irrational fears of bees, dogs, the ocean, cell phone waves, murderous gutter clowns, even falling off a cliff. But of all his fears, the thing he’s the most afraid of is what he confronts on a nightly basis: the dark. So when the literal embodiment of his worst fear pays a visit, Dark whisks Orion away on a roller coaster ride around the world to prove there is nothing to be afraid of in the night. As the unlikely pair grow closer, Orion must decide if he can learn to accept the unknown, to stop letting fear control his life and finally embrace the joy of living.”

“Orion and the Dark” is Kaufman’s latest collaboration with Netflix after helming “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” for the platform. Kaufman previously spoke out about collaborating with Netflix, saying, “The reason something like Netflix attracts filmmakers is because there’s nowhere else to make those things. It’s infuriating to me when people say Netflix is ruining movies because — no, movies ruined movies, studios ruined movies, and that’s the truth.”

Kaufman added amid the WGA strike of AI scripts, “Once you give that up and allow the studios to use AI to write their screenplay, there’s no going back. Then there’s no hope because A.I. can’t create a moment of humanity. As long as people are doing it and there’s that struggle, then there’s always a chance that something will come out of it that will be worth something to human beings. At this point, the only thing that makes money is garbage. It’s just fascinating. It makes a fortune, and that’s the bottom line. It’s very seductive to the studios but also to the people who engage and become the makers of that garbage, especially if they’re lauded for the garbage because they don’t have to look inward or think long about what they’re doing.”

Next, Kaufman announced in 2020 that he was adapting “The Memory Police” for Amazon Studios with “The Handmaid’s Tale” Emmy winner Reed Morano directing. The writer-director also teased to IndieWire’s Kate Erbland that he might be collaborating with Ryan Gosling on an upcoming project.

“Orion and the Dark” premieres February 2 on Netflix. Check out the new trailer below.

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