The Sea Beast proves Netflix was wrong to doubt animation

Jacob Holland looks down at a smiling Maisie in the duo's small boat in Netflix's The Sea Beast film
The Sea Beast is one of Netflix's most critically-acclaimed original movies. (Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix has a new hit movie on its hands – and the streamer should learn a valuable lesson from the fact that it's an animated flick.

The Sea Beast, a swashbuckling CGI adventure film from the mind of Chris Williams – whose credits include Frozen II (story artist), Moana (writer), and Big Hero 6 (director) – has been met with critical acclaim ahead of its July 8 launch. 

The Netflix movie stars The Boys' Karl Urban as Jacob Holland, a legendary hunter who leads his motley crew on numerous missions to kill the ocean's deadliest sea monsters. However, when a child stowaway called Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator) ends up befriending the most dangerous sea creature of all, Jacob and his fellow hunters begin to realize there's more to these supposedly life-threatening beasts than meets the eye. And, with the villainous Captain Crow (Foundation's Jared Harris) on the hunt for the monster Maisie befriends, it's up to Jacob and company to keep it safe from harm.

Netflix's latest family friendly flick doesn't sound like it reinvents things from a story or archetypal character perspective. However, that hasn't stopped critics from lavishing praise on the movie.

Ahead of The Sea Beast's public release, the film holds a 92% certified fresh critical rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. It's a impressively significant score to achieve pre-release – one that'll thrust The Sea Beast onto Rotten Tomatoes' Top 100 movies on Netflix list (based on their critical ratings). At the time of writing, The Sea Beast hasn't made its way onto that list. Once it does, though, it'll nestle alongside other fan favorite movies available on Netflix including Full Metal Jacket, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, Da 5 Bloods, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Uncut Gems. Not bad going for an animated film, eh?

Over on, The Sea Beast's 7.9 out of 10 score (among critics, that is) would see it tie for second place on IMDb's best-rated Netflix original films list. Only 2019's Klaus, a fantastic Christmas-themed film, outranks The Sea Beast with its 8.1 out of 10 rating. Meanwhile, The Sea Beast's current score would sit it alongside live-action drama Marriage Story, which stars former Black Widow actress Scarlett Johansson and ex-Star Wars actor Adam Driver.

The Brickleback attacks The Inevitable pirate ship in Netflix's The Sea Beast movie

Netflix should learn a valuable lesson from The Sea Beast's critical success. (Image credit: Netflix)

Of course, The Seas Beast's ratings are sure to change once Netflix subscribers get the chance to stream it. There's no denying, though, that it's resonated with critics, plus it's a rare occurrence for a Netflix film – an animated one, no less – to earn a rating higher than 90% among those who comment on the entertainment industry. You only have to look at the mixed to poor reception that big-budget Netflix films, such as The Adam Project or Red Notice, have received from critics to see how impressive The Sea Beast's score truly is.

And that's a big deal, especially when you consider the fact that Netflix significantly reduced staff numbers and cancelled numerous projects at its in-house animation department earlier this year. 

The streaming giant has suffered unprecedented losses in 2022 so far, losing 200,000 subscribers at the beginning of the year and enduring its slowest quarterly growth period in over 12 months. Unsurprisingly, Netflix's financial woes caused the company to lay off employees and cancel numerous shows, with the bulk of those cancellations and staff lay-offs affecting Netflix's animation department. The company's in-house fan website Tudum was also affected, but not to the degree that its animation team was.

The critical success of The Sea Beast, though, proves that Netflix was wrong to primarily cut back on its animation department. The streamer continues to push ahead with developing movies starring A-list actors. Meanwhile, Netflix is still trying to successfully turn iconic anime and manga series, such as Death Note and One Piece, into live-action properties.

Netflix subscribers, though, have shown they aren't solely interested in these kinds of productions. Netflix's live-action Cowboy Bebop TV show was panned upon release last year; the series subsequently being canceled by Netflix after a solitary season. As mentioned earlier, too, Netflix's original movie offerings don't always stick the landing with fans and critics alike.

The Sea Beast shows that there's still an audience for animated films and shows – and a potentially big one at that. Arcane, Castlevania, The Mitchells Vs. the Machines, Klaus, and Love, Death & Robots have all shown that Netflix subscribers enjoy animated fare as much as their live-action counterparts. With the critical success The Sea Beast and its contemporaries have earned, Netflix shouldn't be cutting back on its animation department – it should be pumping more money into it instead.

For more Netflix-based content, check out our picks of the 10 best original films on Netflix.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

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