DreamWorks and Netflix's "Orion and the Dark" excels at capturing the essence of the Pixar style more effectively than many recent Pixar films.

It heavily borrows from the playbook of humanizing the fantastical, a hallmark of Pixar's films such as "Inside Out" and "Toy Story." In fact, it directly alludes to the latter in its prologue.

The positive aspect is that it expands upon a familiar framework instead of merely imitating it superficially like many other films aspiring to be like Pixar.

While this film certainly strikes familiar notes, its success lies in the fusion of writer Charlie Kaufman's distinctive storytelling style with a heartfelt narrative about a boy's quest for security in the world.

Featuring crisp character design, engaging dialogue, and uplifting themes, "Orion and the Dark" proves to be a delightful surprise as an early-year Netflix original.

Even without prior knowledge that "Orion and the Dark" was penned by the writer of "Adaptation" and "Being John Malkovich," one can still discern that the script has a slightly unconventional edge for a family-oriented film.

It's unusual to encounter a David Foster Wallace or Saul Bass reference in an animated feature.

In the clever opening sequence, which is almost like a short film in itself, Kaufman and director Sean Charmatz, in his directorial debut, acquaint viewers with Orion (Jacob Tremblay), a young elementary school student who harbors fears of almost everything. Whether it's bullies, bees, or falling from skyscrapers, he has contemplated the terrifying aspects of each.

His greatest fear is the ordinary yet primal concept known as darkness.

One evening, despite reassurances from his caring parents (Carla Gugino & Matt Dellapina), Orion encounters the personified Darkness, brilliantly voiced by the talented Paul Walter Hauser. Hauser delivers a vocal performance that seamlessly transitions from outgoing to vulnerable throughout the film.