There have certainly been enough trailers for TV shows about a mysterious group of ragtag young people with special powers who band together to defeat evil over the past few years, but the one for Netflix’s upcoming The Umbrella Academy is unique in the fact that it’s the first to made us think, “Wait, is this kind of like The Royal Tenenbaums, except with superpowers?” in the middle of watching it. The similarities are unmistakable.
The trailer begins with a novelesque narration in a voice belonging to a man who sounds distinguished. The set design, too, has a sort of Wes Anderson–style retro-ness to it. Like Tenenbaums, the series is about a set of siblings (at least one of whom has a taste for tracksuits) who were raised together in a charming but decidedly outdated mansion and have since drifted apart in their young adulthoods. Also like the Tenenbaums, they’re brought back together by a development in the life of a father whom they have all grown to hate (in Umbrella, that event is his actual death, while in Tenenbaums it’s the father’s announcement of his impending death).
There are other similarities to find. Aidan Gallagher’s character, “the boy,” seems to have a beyond-his-age seriousness that draws from young Chas Tenenbaum, even if his preferred outfit of a schoolboy blazer is more similar to that of another Andersonian hero, Rushmore’s Max Fischer. Sadly, though, there’s no equivalent to Anjelica Huston’s Etheline Tenenbaum.
Mind you, we’re not dragging the show for its similarities to the Wes Anderson film. There’s a difference between inspiration and rip-off (Tenenbaums, after all, wouldn’t exist without the work of J.D. Salinger and Orson Welles’ film The Magnificent Ambersons). Indeed, the Wes Anderson inspiration was basically built right into the show’s creation, and no one is trying to hide that.
You see, The Umbrella Academy is based on a comic-book series created by Gerard Way (yes, the lead singer of the TRL era’s favorite emo band, My Chemical Romance). The series premiered back in 2007, and Way was freely talking about his Anderson inspiration shortly thereafter.
“I think [Wes Anderson directing]—it’s too close to home,” Way told Spin back in 2008, when talk of a movie adaptation first surfaced. “It’s too much to the source, unfortunately. I think he would read it and think, ‘I’ve covered this ground already.’”
In a 2007 interview with Comics International, Way also admitted that Tenenbaums, alongside Grant Morrison’s work on the comic book Doom Patrol, had indeed been one of the biggest inspirations for his own comic book. In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, the Umbrella Academy star Ellen Page also listed Anderson’s work as a visual inspiration for the series.
Way has also talked about the inspiration on Twitter before.
So, turns out we weren’t imagining it.
However, that 2001 film is decidedly just a stylistic jumping-off point for the upcoming Netflix series, and the finished project is sure to have its own unique delights up its sleeves.
For example, we’ve certainly never seen Mary J. Blige as a psychopathic hit woman in any of Anderson’s work.
The Umbrella Academy premieres February 15, on Netflix.