I’ve written about several Chinese animated programs in these articles, but DreamEast Pictures’ Valt The Wonder Deer stood out to me because it was largely made in the United States. The studio, founded in 2014 by SkyOcean Group, was dedicated to creating content for a worldwide audience and to help facilitate an understanding of Chinese culture. Through combining western animation techniques with Chinese myths and values, Valt The Wonder Deer stood out to me as something bold. The series, which premiered in China back in January, was picked by Jetpack Distribution and the English version has been airing on Propeller TV in the United Kingdom.
Valt The Wonder Deer tells the story of Valt, a mythical deer from the Land of Wood, who must master five elemental powers in order to gain the strength he needs to rescue his parents from the Land of Metal. He is joined on his quest by a quick-thinking monkey named Cobalt, a friendly taotie named Kem, a magical three-eyed cat named Trika, an ice-blowing yak named Yark and a teleporting fire bird named Alia. I really enjoyed this group of characters and they played off of one another very well; their personalities were distinct and they each brought something valuable to the team. It was nice seeing them grow as friends and learn to trust one another over the course of their journey.
That journey is why I found Valt The Wonder Deer so appealing. I love adventure cartoons, where a group of characters go on a quest across the world and one episode leads into the next. Those aren’t very common in western animation, but this series provides just that. As you watch the show, you get invested in Valt’s journey. You want to see where they go next and what they manage to accomplish. As they travel on the Five Lands Road, they pass through the home of each of Valt’s companions, where Valt tries to master the techniques that they teach them. All the while, Da-Ming, the King of the Land of Metal, keeps trying to capture Valt for his own nefarious purposes, with the “help” of his bumbling minion, Mungo, whom Da-Ming reluctantly tolerates.
I was immediately impressed by the production values of Valt The Wonder Deer, especially when it comes to the English voice cast. They put a lot of effort into the voice-work and the cast deserves a lot of credit. Ogie Banks did a solid job as Valt, capturing both his playful side and his determined side very well. Tara Sands was delightful as Trika and made her sass very enjoyable. Christopher Swindle voiced two of the primary villains, Da-Ming and Mungo, and likely had long conversations with himself in the recording booth, but he clearly had fun with the characters and he kept them interesting. Ben Diskin, Eden Riegel, Matthew Mercer – they and so many others deserve recognition as well.
At the time of this writing, I’ve only managed to watch roughly half of season one, but I’m going to keep watching it to see where it goes. I have very few things to complain about, but I did feel that certain plot points advanced a bit too quickly and I would like to see a larger variety of enemies for Valt and his friends to fight. Still, Valt The Wonder Deer has impressed me and I give it a high recommendation, and I hope that it will come to the United States at some point. I believe western animation would benefit from having more store-driven cartoons like this one.