Under the Sea

For most, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken will come and go, forgotten as a perfectly fine, even typical slice of modern studio animation. And yes, that’s what it is. Even for the target audience (tweens), Ruby Gillman rides standard tropes that even at their age are obvious.

Yet Ruby Gillman is historically interesting to a degree. The title recalls a sub-genre from the deep-Red Scare 1950s where high school kids became monsters in a cheap, exploitation genre. I Was a Teenage Werewolf fed into childhood fears, made for the generation who were seeing Universal monsters in second run (or maybe even on early television). Those movies were flush with contemporary paranoia, much of it started by Hollywood itself.

Ruby Gillman is all about niceness, a dramatic social change

Then came the ‘80s where that concept turned into Teen Wolf, a more passive, awkward take on puberty. Enter the 2020s and Ruby Gillman, a unique cultural piece that takes the teen monster genre and layers it with contemporary subtleties. Again, it’s a standard, utterly forgettable film as a whole, just one peppered with moments that focus less on fear than making right, understanding, and positivity.

Credit to the animation, which since this is dealing with squid-like creatures, is able to evoke a ‘30s era stretch-and-squash style. That lets the message stick a bit since it’s fascinating to watch in motion, but the interesting stuff is more background. Ruby (Lana Condor) deals with prom invites on the surface, and her goal – eventually – is to bring peace to warring undersea groups. When she transforms, she’s scared, but not of going on a murderous rampage like a werewolf, rather because she disobeyed a strict mother.

Ruby Gillman never veers into horror. There are no bullies. In a wild throwaway line after Ruby inadvertently grows and breaks through a library, another student bemoans they need to learn math even in this world of monsters. That’s reflecting a generational student body growing up doing active shooter drills, but the representation is from the view of a girl-turned-kraken, not a gunman.

Eventually there’s a predictable fight, a family reunited, and even a boat captain turned away from his conspiracy theories. Ruby Gillman is all about niceness, a dramatic social change from the seemingly deranged view that kids might become flesh-eating beasts in an anti-communist allegory. That’s worth considering, even if Ruby Gillman isn’t offering much else.


Nothing to complain about, short of this not seeing a 4K release; there’s plentiful HDR potential in this animation from bio-luminescence. Regardless, the Blu-ray looks stellar, showing intense color saturation and infinite variety. Ruby Gillman’s world keeps primaries coming, from the character variety (even humans, with wildly vibrant hair) to the world, there’s hardly a scene with anything less than a full palette.

Brilliant contrast gives the world fantastic depth and visual energy. Even underwater, the scenery pushes brightness to the format’s limits. Black levels? Just as firm.

Ruby Gillman’s source animation sports texture on top of texture, sharpness near perfect with the exception of some aliasing in spots, usually in a depth of field background. Encoding handles numerous complex challenges, including a confetti launch that just barely shows any blocking, and only then to the most eagle-eyed viewers. The rest is marvelously pure, with clothing and hair luxurious in definition.


A now rare TrueHD 7.1 track rather than Atmos is an odd choice. Any apprehension quickly disappears when Ruby Gillman pumps up the low-end, the range superb and thick whether that’s from the music or underwater/wave power.

Precision surround use keeps the rear soundstage active and wide. Moments where Ruby begins having anxiety sends voices all over the available space and with excellent precision. Stereos have fun too, the split notable as needed. It’s fun, especially given the depth coming from the subwoofer, rare to for a kid’s movie.


An absolutely packed commentary features five people from the creative team, led by director Kirk DeMicco. Deleted scenes, a basic look at voice recording, a piece on kraken lore, the cast, the characters, and some stuff for kids fill a fluff-filled menu. The only fun one for adults is still kitschy, but has the cast recalling their own prom stories.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken
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Harmless, fast, and made with a purpose, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken has fun with its concept even if it’s aimed only at its target audience.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 30 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:

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