Today’s cartoon review is “Dead End: Paranormal Park.” The series debuted on Netflix in 2022, and ran for two seasons (totaling 20 episodes). The TV show is based on a series of graphic novels, “DeadEndia”; both were created by Hamish Steele. A web short titled “Dead End” also precedes the Netflix series. (SPOILERS below.)
The series is about two teenagers, Barney and Norma, who get jobs at a local amusement park, “Phoenix Parks,” a Disneyland-meets-Dollywood style theme park. The two, plus Barney’s pet dog Pugsley, soon discover the theme park’s hiding (and not very well) numerous supernatural secrets.
The main cast includes:
- Barney Guttman: A gay transgender boy, Barney (after getting hired) decides to move into an empty house at the park to avoid going home to his family (and a transphobic grandmother). Barney’s interests include wrestling and hanging out with his dog, Pugsley. A “Christmas in July” episode reveals Barney’s Jewish.
- Norma Khan: A bisexual Pakistani American teenage girl, Norma is a huge Phoenix Parks fanatic, and gets excited about anything to do with the park or its founder. However, she’s also introverted and methodical, to the point she initially only calls most of her coworkers made-up nicknames (versus bothering to learn their actual names).
- Pugsley: Barney’s pet pug. Initially an ordinary dog, Pugsley gets exposed to a powerful entity, leaving him with the ability to talk and wield magic.
- Courtney: A cynical 1000-year-old demon who’s been banished to live at the park. She often joins in on Barney, Norma, and Pugsley’s adventures.
The supporting cast includes:
- Logan “Logs” Nguyen: Barney and Norma’s coworker, and eventually Barney’s boyfriend. Logs is an excellent bowler.
- Badyah Hassan: Another park employee, Badyah is a cheerful girl who enjoys hanging out with Norma. Popcorn seems to be Badyah’s favorite food; she’s seen on multiple occasions with a popcorn bucket or eating popcorn.
- Pauline Phoenix: The founder of Phoenix Parks. Pauline is basically a shady/evil version of Dolly Parton. She also has a string of ex-husbands, enough to fill a “Hall of Ex-Husbands” park attraction.
- Josh: Another park employee; he’s rarely seen without his smartphone.
- The Guttman family: Barney’s mother, father, and younger brother Patrick.
- As far as I know, this is the first Western animated TV cartoon with a transgender lead star. The show also has other LGBTQ characters.
- Norma’s creative nicknames for her coworkers in the episode “Trust Me.”
- “The Nightmare Before Christmas in July”’s deadly (and ridiculous) demon game show.
- Norma and Badyah’s podcast.
- “The Trials of Barney”: Barney decides to pursue his dream of being a wrestler, and does so… in a demon wrestling league. Hijinks, and Pugsley worrying about Barney getting injured, ensue.
- “Night of the Living Kids”: Courtney keeps trying to get Pugsley to let her gouge out one of his eyes (as part of her ill-conceived scheme to return home). Meanwhile, Barney dresses up for a kids’ party as a dinosaur.
- In 2023, the series won a GLAAD Media Award (Outstanding Kids and Family Programming).
Here’s the opening credits for “Dead End: Paranormal Park.”
“Dead End: Paranormal Park” is a fun show, and reminds me of “Gravity Falls.” Unfortunately, the show fell victim to Netflix’s round of animation-related budget cuts last year, as well as Netflix’s bad habit of cancelling shows after a few seasons. Still, the show’s creator states they have plans to publish a third and final “DeadEndia” graphic novel.
Image from “Dead End: Paranormal Park.” (Netflix)