Stoopid Buddy Stoodios has produced several of the biggest stop-motion shows on TV in recent years, including Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken and Hulu’s M.O.D.O.K. (The studio was also behind Hulu’s ridiculously profane Crossing Swords series, but that show didn’t catch on the way M.O.D.O.K. has.) We should be used to the way the studio—sorry, stoodio–animates various dolls and action figures, turning them into absurd stand-ins for all the big-name actors who generally make up the stacked voice casts. But there’s something about Ultra City Smiths, a new series from Steve Conrad (Patriot, Perpetual Grace LTD), that’s just stopped us in our tracks.
Last week, we got our first peek at the “repurposed baby dolls” who make up the world of Ultra City Smiths, a noir-ish series set in the fictional Ultra City, whose most prominent citizen (voiced by Kurtwood Smith) has disappeared. Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Jimmi Simpson play the two detectives who risk everything in their search for the magnate, coming up against roadblocks from their corrupt city government. Now, that all sounds pretty interesting, and relatively normal. But whenever we imagine Kurtwood Smith’s and Kristen Bell’s voices coming out of a bunch of smooth, dead-eyed (but with moving eyelids) faces, we just kind of short-circuit. We wondered if it would help to see what Simpson’s character looks like, as well as whatever outlandish character John C. Reilly’s playing, so we got an exclusive first look at Detective David Mills (Simpson) and Donovan Smith (Reilly), a guy we know nothing about other than he seems to like to be swaddled in brocade.
You can see how the animators tried to bring some of the actors’ characteristics to their baby doll alter egos, like Simpson’s stubble and Alia Shawkat’s curls, though it looks like they decided to just make Congressman Chris Pecker a waxy double for Dax Shepard. It remains to be seen in what ways Reilly informed Donovan Smith, but the remarkable hair is a good start.
Ultra City Smiths premieres July 22 at 3:01 a.m. ET on AMC+ with two episodes, and is part of the streamer’s original programming.