To Netflix’s credit, “One Piece” Season 1 features solid, campy CGI that sells Eiichiro Oda’s wild story. Remember, there are already rubber and psychic pirates, so a reindeer pirate isn’t exactly going to stand out as odd. That being said, Tony Tony Chopper comes with a different challenge than making Buggy the Star Clown (Jeff Ward) detach his limbs because the latter is a layer of CGI sprinkled over an onscreen human being, while the former is probably going to be wholly computer generated. And that’s fine! Movies throw CGI characters into live-action spaces all the time. For instance, “The Guardians of the Galaxy” nailed its iteration of Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper).
The specific concern with Tony Tony Chopper is that he is supposed to be cute in a whimsical world and Hollywood tends to distort cute designs with an unsettling attempt at realism. Remember Paramount’s first take on Sonic the Hedgehog (Ben Schwartz)? Yeah, it wasn’t pretty. Fortunately, the studio listened to the fans and gave the Blue Blur another pass before releasing the film. In that vein, we know that Netflix can offer decent CGI characters, too. Its adaptation of Gerard Way’s “The Umbrella Academy” featured a believable — if that’s even the right word for it — version of Pogo (Adam Godley) the monkey butler.
Chopper also offers the challenge of being a character with multiple different recognizable forms. He might choose to exist predominantly as a Funko Pop doll but he can also grow to the size of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, or even become a quadruped again. It’s a lot to nail down and it won’t be easy but, as long as Oda sticks around to guide Netflix, “One Piece” fans should breathe easily.