The Liberator

TV review by
Marina Gordon, Common Sense Media
The Liberator TV Poster Image
Novel animation style enlivens diverse, violent WWII drama.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The Liberator is brimming with positive messages that are typical in American World War II depictions -- they include loyalty, dedication, grit, and sacrifice. The series also covers some of the moral ambiguities of war, such as in a scene where a soldier lines up unarmed, wounded German soldiers at Dachau and shoots them before Sparks intervenes. The American soldier is subsequently arrested. 

Positive Role Models

From all accounts, Felix Sparks was a true American hero whose story feels almost too inspiring to be true. During a time of unquestioned racism, he commanded a unit of mostly Native American and Mexican American soldiers. He was badly injured in battle and was supposed to return home, but he instead went AWOL to rejoin to his unit on the battlefield. He led his unit in more than 500 days of brutal battle, and at the liberation of Dachau he stopped a soldier who shot captured, unarmed, injured German soldiers. General George Patton called Sparks' unit "one of the best, if not the best division in the history of American arms." The diverse unit eventually comes together after some racial disharmony. Presumably to depict a more dramatic arc, the Native American and Mexican American characters we know by name came from the Fort Sill, Oklahoma, jail. A fuller picture of their origins would have more fully fleshed out those characters.

Violence

Even in "enhanced animation," World War II was extremely violent and bloody. The Liberator shows scores of dead U.S. and Nazi soldiers, and numerous characters are wounded or killed. One Nazi is hanged in front of his wife, and the horrors of a German concentration camp are depicted.

Sex
Language

"F--k" used liberally in its various forms, as well as "s--t." One Native American is called a "prairie-'N'-word."

Consumerism

Showcases a new animation technology. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some soldiers are seen smoking, and there are many references to drinking beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Liberator is a four-part animated World War II drama that has all the gore and language (expect "f--k," "s--t," and racial slurs including the "N" word) of a live action war movie. The show follows a racially mixed U.S. Army infantry unit, led by Felix Sparks (and based on his story), as they battle from Sicily to Germany for more than a year. The Liberator showcases a new technology called Trioscope that combines state-of-the-art CGI with live-action performance. Despite the rotoscope look, the visuals are immersive and visceral. Soldiers are shot, explosives go off, blood flows, and scores of men (both Americans and Nazis) are killed in battle.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCommonSensitive December 5, 2020
Written byAnonymous December 29, 2020
Teen, 16 years old Written byilhc December 10, 2020

Breaking Animation Cliches

I decided to leave a review to help address the style choices made in this series, namely the "filter" everyone is referring to. First off, the series... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE LIBERATOR, based on the true story of Felix Sparks (who later became a Brigadier General and served on the Colorado Supreme Court), follows a unit known as the Thunderbirds that was populated by jailed soldiers at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1941. Most of these men are Native American and Mexican American, and Sparks (Bradley James) is rare among the White military for treating them as worthy soldiers -- he encourages them to "prove everything every 'a--hole' said about you is wrong." The unit is deployed to Sicily, and over the next 500 days will see battle after brutal battle, losing many of their original members along the way as they fight toward the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.

Is it any good?

Though new insights into World War II are rare, this four-part miniseries widens our perspective, and the new animation technology delivers the story in a fresh new way. The Liberator feels familiar in so many ways -- Felix Sparks (Bradley James) is a handsome, brave U.S. Army officer who inspires fierce loyalty from his soldiers, bucks his superiors when his conscience requires it (instead of returning home after an injury, he goes AWOL to return to the battlefield), and writes insightful, expository letters to his wife, Mary, back home. New is the depiction of the 45th infantry division, nicknamed The Thunderbirds, a unit that was one of most integrated in the war and included a mix of Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and Southwestern cowboys. Sparks led them through 500-plus days of combat in less than two years, ending with the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. The stories of his soldiers are told primarily through two fictional characters, Sergeant Samuel Coldfoot (Martin Sensmeier) and Corporal Able Gomez (Jose Miguel Vasquez), two men who have felt the boot of racism all their lives yet embrace the chance to fight for their country.

Also new is the technology used to produce the animation. Called Trioscope Enhanced Hybrid Animation, it combines CGI with live-action performance and delivers impressive detail, particularly in wide shots. Enormous battlefields and European towns alike are rendered not realistic so much as immersive. Unlike the combination of live action and CGI, The Liberator relieves the viewer of the guessing game of what's real and what isn't. Once you get used to the look, you're in for the ride, even though you know where the story is going.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their reaction to The Liberator's emotionally difficult material. Do you believe the atrocities depicted here can happen again? Why or why not?

  • What other war shows, movies, and documentaries have you seen? Do they seem true to life? How about the coverage you see in the news? Is it balanced? How would you be able to tell?

  • What do you think about the Trioscope animation technique used here? Does it elevate the storytelling? Or do you think it detracts from it? What would be the benefits of using this kind of technology as opposed to traditional animation or live-action filming?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love WWII dramas

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