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Western Animation / Orion and the Dark

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Orion and the Dark is a 2024 animated fantasy comedy film from DreamWorks Animation based on a book by Emma Yarlett. It is directed by Sean Charmatz (Trolls: Holiday in Harmony), written by Charlie Kaufman, and stars the voices of Jacob Tremblay, Paul Walter Hauser, Werner Herzog, Angela Bassett, Ike Barinholtz, Natasia Demetriou, Golda Rosheuvel, Aparna Nancherla, Matt Dellapina, Jack Fisher, and Carla Gugino.

The film follows a young boy, Orion, who has a crippling fear of just about everything. One fateful night, he is approached by the anthropomorphic personification of his greatest fear, the Dark, who is dead set on teaching him the meaning of courage. The film released on Netflix February 2, 2024.

Previews: Trailer, Trailer 2

Orion and the Dark contains examples of the following:

  • The '90s: A Freeze-Frame Bonus on Orion's permission slip shows that the story takes place in 1995. Adding to that, school bully Richi Panichi sports a curtain haircut, the cell phones Orion thinks spread deadly radiation are the keypad-only type and one scene shows a desktop computer with a CRT monitor in the background.
  • Abstract Eater: Quiet does their job by sucking up all the sound out of the surrounding area, nullifying it within their body.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: In the book the Dark is depicted with having some blue and stars on him giving a night sky look while in the movie he is completely dark shaded.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The film is ironically faithful to the book up until the point where the daughter requests making changes to the story.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Dark is a dark being who is meant to represent all darkness. The other Night Entities represent Sleep, Insomnia, Quiet, Unexplained Noises and Sweet Dreams respectively.
  • Art Shift: Orion's drawings depicting his fears are drawn more simplistic and scribbly to contrast the CGI-animation.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: The Night Entities are annoyed by Orion's presence, especially since he's so disruptive to their work.
  • Catching Some Z's: Unlike the other Night Entities, Sleep fittingly leaves behind a trail of Z's whenever she flies.
  • Cessation of Existence: Discussed. Part of the reason for Orion’s fears is his belief that there is no afterlife and his inability to comprehend nothingness. However, over the course of the film, he learns to accept that just because you don’t know an ending, you don’t have to be afraid of the middle part, eventually coming to save Dark from a manifestation of this fear in his dream.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Hypatia is stated to have an interest in poetry. When she inserts herself into her father's story, she uses a new poem to rally the Night Entities to return.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: The final scene reveals that the adult Orion's wife, and Hypatia's mother, is actually Sally, the girl that the younger Orion had a crush on at school.
  • Clock Roaches: Orion's grandson Tycho came back in time because Hypatia's presence has summoned monsters in the timestream, so he needs to return her to her proper time period to fix everything.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: In fact, he’s a friendly, jovial fellow who just wants to teach Orion some courage.
  • Deus ex Machina: Used twice as part of the Framing Device.
    • When telling the story to Hypatia, the adult Orion realizes that he hasn't figured out what happens next after Dark is erased, and doesn't know how the story ends. Hypatia then takes over telling the story, where she somehow goes back in time to meet the younger version of her father, and helps him to bring Dark back.
    • When the main conflict is resolved, the younger Orion realizes that his daughter from the future has to somehow get back to her own time. A time travelling soldier - who is revealed to be Tycho, Hypatia's son from the even further future - suddenly appears, having come back in time to fight off an army of evil robots, and he gives his future mother a lift home in his time machine.
  • Dream Weaver: Dreams are delicate constructs that can easily go off the rails by someone like Orion speaking or even thinking things into existence.
  • Driven to Suicide: Once the other Night Entities quit and realizing how lonely and dreary his job is without them, Dark decides to quit and accepts being erased once Light catches up to him.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Hypatia's design gives away the fact that Orion succeeds in courting his childhood crush Sally.
  • From the Mouths of Babes: Non-vulgar example. Hypatia is a very perceptive and insightful little girl, something an adult Orion comments on more than once.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Sweet Dreams, a gentle female Night Entity who looks like she's wearing a long, flowing dress, is a pinkish-purple color.
  • Grass is Greener: After Orion unintentionally brings up how Day is so much better, the other Night Entities solemnly quit so they can work alongside Light. They immediately regret their decision as they're unable to live up to their professions like before mixed with being unsettled with the oversaturated world of light.
  • Hero of Another Story: When the adult Hypatia is telling the story to her young son, Tycho, he inserts himself into the ending as a soldier with a Time Machine who is fighting off evil robots in an apocalyptic future. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the story, having been thought up on the spot by a toddler, and only serves as a last minute solution to get the time-displaced Hypatia back to her own present.
  • In-Series Nickname:
    • Due to his habit of being afraid of everything, Orion has become infamous with the nighttime entities to the point of being referred to as "The Screamer".
    • Richi Panichi calls Orion "Cryin' Orion" for the same reason.
  • Instant Sedation: Sleep puts people to, well, sleep quickly by using magical items including a magical chloroform rag.
  • Ironic Name: Orion is afraid of the dark, but is named after a constellation that is only visible at night.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: Played for Laughs. Orion gets to see Quiet consume all the noises in a given area leaving it in total silence. This causes Orion to panic over how quiet everything is.
  • Karma Houdini: Richi Panichi, the school's resident bully, bullies Orion in the locker room at the beginning. After that, he completely disappears from the movie and is only seen again as a figment of Orion's imagination, leaving him to keep on with his bullying without getting in trouble.
  • Light Is Not Good: Light itself is a nice guy, but without Dark he oversaturates the world, causing the world to wither from overheating without meaning to. In Orion's adult life, the light pollution of Manhattan blocking out the starry night is given brief attention.
  • Logo Joke: The DreamWorks logo is a drawing on a notebook. Orion appears in the moon and draws a light switch on it, changing it from night to day. The letters also change into different colors.
  • Necessarily Evil: Insomnia is shown to be this as he targets people who should be awake so they can continue their job or work on their personal dilemmas.
  • Nervous Wreck: Orion is filled with anxiety and fears of unlikely events. His daughter Hypatia has some of this but toned down compared to Orion, mostly sharing a fear of the dark and anxiety expressing her feelings with others.
  • No Antagonist: Though Light is brought up as Dark's more popular and beloved rival, he isn't intentionally malicious and is just doing his job. Even after he erases Dark, he feels genuinely uncomfortable with the new world of light he's creating and is more than relieved when the heroes bring him back to life.
  • Plot Hole: How could Hypatia's son Tycho exist when she was trapped in the past? Justified, as much of the story is made up on the fly by children.
  • Secretly Selfish: Though Dark tries to act like his quest to help Orion overcome all of his fears, especially him, is a truly altruistic goal on his part, the rest of the nighttime entities accuse him of being this by trying to use it as a way to help boost his own fragile self-esteem— which is a pretty fair accusation since, in addition to keeping multiple lists of all of the numerous children and people that are afraid of him with him at all times and showing clear resentment and envy towards his much more beloved and popular counterpart, Light, kidnapping Orion for a 24-hour joy ride isn't even the first time that Dark has tried to make the rest of the world like him more through a crazy, hair-brained scheme.
  • Self-Deprecation: Hypatia makes a comment on how convinient of an ending would be making Orion no longer afraid of the Dark and then ending the story on a Dance Party Ending. Probably lampshading DreamWorks Animation's tendency of pulling these type of endings.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Dark does not have a high opinion of his counterpart Light, being annoyed at his appearance. It's not even just about jealousy though— if Light catches up to him and the rest of the other Nighttime Entities, he'll destroy Dark and the very concept of Darkness itself, forcing him and the others to constantly be on the run from Light as a result.
  • Spoonerism: One of Orion's many fears. He often refuses to speak in class when he knows the answer, or even say good morning, out of worry that he'll swap the letters by accident.
  • Tap on the Head: How Sleep does her job does not look pleasant, like using a pillow to smother someone unconscious or a chloroform soaked rag. Orion moves to stop her when she's about to use a (magical, spectral) hammer on a baby.
  • True Blue Femininity: Sleep is a blue female Night Entity with an unmistakably feminine voice and noticeable eyelashes.
  • Two Girls to a Team: The Night Entities are a gender-inverted version as Dark and Insomnia are the only males on the team.
  • The Unintelligible: Quiet talks in squeaks that the other Night Entities only pretend to understand. Barely audible beneath the squeaks is a whisper, which is more evident when they whisper in Orion's ear at the climax.
  • Wham Shot: As soon as Dark begins his crazy adventure with an anxious Orion, the story immediately stops because of a young girl questioning the story. It then cuts to the girl and her father, a much older Orion.
  • Wingding Eyes: Insomnia's pupils resemble a digital clock display. They're usually both zeroes but they shift through different numbers whenever he stresses out.
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: In-Universe. The film's main plot is actually a bedtime story that an adult Orion is telling to his young daughter, Hypatia, and they both work together to make it up as they go along. Plot elements are added at random and dropped just as quickly, Hypatia somehow inserts herself into the story near the end, and it isn't until a grown-up Hypatia has her own son and passes the story onto him that they finally figure out an ending to it.