Ollie (voiced by Jonathan Groff) wakes up in a box at a thrift store, disoriented and confused. With little to no recollection of his past outside his owner’s name, Billy (Kesler Talbot), this country-twanged stuffed bunny is determined to make it back to his kid. In the store, he meets an old jacket-wearing toy clown named Zozo (Tim Blake Nelson), whom he convinces to help him on his quest home. Along with Zozo’s right hand, a pink hard-boiled sword-wielding teddy bear named Rosy (Mary J. Blige), they embark on making it back to Billy. Meanwhile, young Billy (Kesler Talbot) searches for Ollie amid imminent family tragedy with his Momma (Gina Rodriguez) and Daddy (Jake Johnson).
Considering that the miniseries is from two people who have delivered some of the best narratives in animation during the 2010s, the two pour a hefty amount of heart and soul into making sure Ollie’s story stands out. The story format bears a nonlinear approach as both a means for Ollie to piece together his lost memories, and to achieve duality with his and Billy’s sagas.
When it comes to discussing difficult subjects with resounding maturity, the tone evokes an early ‘90s energy in its fearlessness. Though it contains ample beats of whimsy, “Lost Ollie” takes surprisingly dark thematic turns while managing a deft balance throughout; it thoroughly maintains a down-to-earth atmosphere that explores the dangers of the real world. Similar to related projects like “Kubo” or “Stranger Things” (Shawn Levy executive produced both), Ollie’s appeal works best in a family setting that can lead to discussions afterward.
Most of the heart of the story lies within the lead’s earnest and lovable personality. Groff’s compassionate delivery mixed with a soft country twang is as endearing as Ollie’s pure design. His determination and passion have the Paddington effect—one can’t help but love him. Surprisingly, the same goes for Billy.
If Andy was always too one-dimensional of a character to care about in those “Toy Story” movies, Billy doesn’t have the same problem. Apart from the titular lead’s journey, the narrative offers enough screen time to Billy and gives him as much agency, and the same somber tone, as with his stuffed BFF. Newcomer Kesler Talbot’s passionate debut performance captures the crashing wave of emotions of fear and sadness that many face during childhood. While Billy does get to become a character for viewers to root for and sympathize with as much as his companion, the adults don’t make out as well. Jake Johnson, who previously worked with Ramsey as Peter B. Parker, barely has any lines of dialogue, too little to really land the earnest moments with Talbot.