‘Slumberland’ is a visually spectacular and heartwarming fantasy adventure film from Netflix. The plot follows Nemo (Marlow Barkley), an 11-year-old girl who discovers after her father’s death that the stories he told her just might be true. In the first dream she has after the passing of her father, Peter (Kyle Chandler), Nemo encounters Flip (Jason Momoa), who is supposed to be Peter’s partner in all his adventures. After learning about the magical pearls that can grant any wish, Nemo sets out to find them along with Flip, hoping to see her father again.
As a character, everything about Flip is loud, flashy, and meant to draw attention. His ridiculously colorful clothes only complement his horns, floppy ears, and sharp teeth. If Flip’s appearance has made you wonder what kind of fantastical creature he is, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.
What Kind of Creature Is Flip?
At first glance, Flip seems to have the appearance of a satyr or a faun, the mythical Greek and Roman species of male spirits that were said to have a half-human, half-goat appearance. Indeed, Flip’s horns are curved backward and inward like those of a ram, and as previously mentioned, he has floppy ears. But the similarities end there. Flip, for instance, doesn’t have the lower body of a sheep or a goat-like satyrs and fauns do in the myth, though his feet do look unorthodox.
As we learn later in the movie, Flip is a part of Philip (Chris O’Dowd), the uncle that Nemo comes to stay with after her father’s death. When they were younger, Philip and Peter were very close. But then, Nemo’s mother walked into Peter’s life, and everything suddenly changed. While Peter grew up and had adventures with his wife before her passing, Philip lost a part of himself in Slumberland. He stopped having dreams, became a recluse, and led a largely joyless life. It isn’t until the end of the film that Nemo helps Flip leave Slumberland and makes her uncle whole again.
In Flip’s mind. he is an outlaw. Philip also states that Flip was his outlaw name. As a child, Philip followed his brother around wearing a wooly hat with horns and large woolen socks. And that is how Flip was created — from a child’s mind. We can speculate about what type of creature Flip is all we want, but he is ultimately the product of a child’s fertile imagination.
As a film, ‘Slumberland’ is based on the comic strip ‘Little Nemo in Slumberland’ by Winsor McCay. There, Flip is an intelligent, troublemaking clown initially bent on disturbing Nemo’s sleep. Later, he becomes one of Nemo’s companions. Obviously, much has been changed about the character during the adaptation process, but Flip still maintains that inherent comedic element in the movie.
‘Slumberland’ can be viewed as an allegory for both adulting and stages of grief. An argument can be made stipulating that all the fantastical stuff that we see in the film doesn’t really happen. It’s simply how a daughter and a brother find solace in their shared grief and eventually understand, accept, and grow. Another film that attempts something similar is ‘Life of Pi,’ where two contradictory explanations are offered by the protagonist about what happened to him. One is fantastical and beautiful and the other is grim and full of horrors. Through the protagonist, the filmmaker asks the viewers to choose the story they prefer. It’s the same in ‘Slumberland’ as well.
Director Francis Lawrence previously worked with Momoa on the Apple TV+ series ‘See.’ “I was at that time, developing the script for this, and thinking about Flip. I was like, ‘Jason in person is a lot like Flip,’” he recalled during an interview with Screen Rant. “There’s a lot of his personality that’s in this. So, he and I spoke, he read the script, and he really liked it, and we kind of built the character out from there. But a lot of the physicality of it came out when he started to get into the wardrobe. When we started to fit him for the horns, and he got into the wardrobe and saw his shoes and all this kind of stuff. I remember one day on set before he started, he started walking around kind of like the band leader, and he got into this strange walk. So, he developed a lot of the physical aspects to it.”