The Other Side of Animation 282: My Father’s Dragon Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Since 2009, Cartoon Saloon has been in the major conversation of being one of the greatest animation studios around. With five films under their belt with a multitude of award nominations and critical acclaim, they have become one of the landmark heads of animation. The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, The Breadwinner, and Wolfwalkers have shown what they can do with their stories that are aimed at all ages, telling compelling stories of family and showing off some of the last decade’s best 2D animation. Tom Moore and Nora Twomey have both put out some incredible works, and that won’t stop anytime soon, especially with the acclaim of Nora’s newest film, My Father’s Dragon, which took home one of the main three prizes at Animation is Film a few weeks ago. 

Directed by Nora Twomey, written by Meg Lefauve, and produced by Cartoon Saloon and Mockingbird Pictures, we follow the story of a boy named Elmer, voiced by Jacob Trembly, who moves from a vibrant village to a cold and imposing new city due to his hometown falling under economic despair. After an argument with his mother, he runs away to the docks to scream his frustration with the world and how his mother and he are unfortunately given a bad hand. With all that said, Elmer encounters a talking cat voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, and she tells Elmer how he can change his luck around by going to an island that’s far off into the ocean blue to find a real-life dragon to bring back. As he journeys to this island with the help of a whale, he finds that the dragon is being held hostage by a large gorilla named Saiwa, voiced by Ian McShane. After freeing the dragon, he catches a ride and ends up crashing into a different part of the island with said dragon. As he awakens, he meets the dragon in the flesh whose name is Boris, voiced by Gaten Matarazzo. The two go on a journey to assist Elmer to get off the island to help his mother, and for Boris to be a stronger dragon. Can they do all of this while the island is slowly sinking and tensions are rising between the island’s inhabitants? 

One of the first things you will notice is how this film has a more western film vibe to it. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it definitely stands out from the rest of Cartoon Saloon’s catalog. From the writing to the more celebrity-studded cast, it has more American film ideologies. The cast is great, and it’s not like Cartoon Saloon hasn’t used celebrities before, but not to this unusual degree. Still, if your agent told you there was an opening for a film from this prestigious studio, I wouldn’t say no to that possible casting gig. Some of the jokes and humor come off as slightly modern, but it’s all pretty universal humor, so don’t expect me to say that it has more western sensibilities than something on the level of old DreamWorks. With the writing and how the story unfolds, it’s probably the most approachable film from the studio. The other films are also approachable by any film and animation fan of all ages, but this one is more family-friendly, and that isn’t a bad thing. Not every film needs to be aimed at hardcore film fans. Animation has no age limit. 

With all that said, what does that mean for the overall story? From Animation is Film, Nora and her team talked about how they needed to expand upon the story as the book wasn’t very long. The story itself added on the struggling mother and son storybeat to give a reason for Elmer to arrive at the island, and how we see the animals on Wild Island are reliant on a temporary solution to stop a long-term problem. The fun thing about how the story unfolds is while there are some antagonistic forces like Kwan, everyone is driven by fear of change and uncertainty. There are no real overarching villains, as Saiwa wants to save the island and protect everyone by using Boris to solve the problem. It’s a coming-of-age story as we take a journey to Elmer becoming brave for him and his mother, and Boris becoming a better dragon. Much of the time, the characters are told that being afraid is a bad thing, but it’s okay. Fear is a natural part of living. Like a Sam Elliot-voiced T-rex from Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur once said “You can’t get rid of fear. It’s like mother nature. Can’t beat her or outrun her, but you can get through it.” I know we are quoting a Pixar film to describe one of the major storybeats of My Father’s Dragon. Suit up. Now, granted, how the story gets from point A to point B can be a tad predictable, which is a shame due to how many Cartoon Saloon films tend to have solutions and outcomes that are not the easiest things to obtain. The story also touches upon how greed/selfishness can force us to make bad decisions, and how working together to help one another can make fixing the solution better. It might be aimed at an overall audience, but the beauty of this film’s story can still be seen through its visuals and writing. 

The animation is jaw-dropping and gorgeous. It’s Cartoon Saloon and its iconic visual style, so what do you expect? Sure, they didn’t use the distinct felt-like visuals of the original, but they were able to adapt the designs from the book to this film and they pulled it off. The world they create feels like it’s right out of a children’s book with how they craft the locations from the original story of Elmer and his mom, the gloomy and soulless look of the city they move into, to the patchwork and vibrant locales of Wild Island. Even the smaller locations have so much life to them, and, of course, seeing them all on the big screen made those visuals pop even more. The music by brother duo Jeff and Mychael Danna brings a fanciful approach to the world this film throws you into, and the two are extremely talented individuals. Mychael Danna was the same composer behind The Life of Pi, whereas Jeff Danna was behind films like Silent Hill, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and Pixar’s Onward. He composed the latter two films alongside his brother. While the English voice cast is definitely more star-studded than in previous endeavors, they still chose some pretty good actors. Of course, Jacob Trembly does a fabulous job as Elmer, Ian McShane and Chris O’Dowd are imposing as the antagonistic force of the Saiwa and Kwan. The one that was the biggest surprise to me is Gaten Matarazzo as Boris the titular dragon. Most would know Gaten from the hugely successful Stranger Things franchise and the recently released Honor Society. It was good to see him in a different realm outside of the hit Netflix series to see where he could go, and he brings a delightfully goofy, but layered performance to the character. The rest of the cast that also perform their roles well include Golshifteh Farahani, Jackie Earl Haley, Dianne West, Alan Cumming, Judy Greer, Rita Moreno, Leighton Meester, and Spence Moore II. Some leave a stronger impression than others, but the cast definitely vibes well with the overall adventure rather than becoming distracting.  

While a touch clunky at times, My Father’s Dragon is a whimsical journey for our young hero to overcome the fear of the unknown and hurdles that life may throw at you. It’s a shame that many people weren’t able to see this on a big screen. Pandemic or not, this deserved to have had a wider big-screen release than it got. Sure, I might rank it a touch lower than other Cartoon Saloon films, but considering how they don’t have a bad film in their lineup, then that doesn’t really mean much. It’s a good movie that deserves to be checked out by everyone. We need to make sure films by studios and teams like Cartoon Saloon do well, because they show a different side to animation that most US audiences won’t get. Now then, next time, we will be talking about one of the most critically acclaimed animated films of the year. You will just have to see what it is next time. 

Rating: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 280: Aurora’s Sunrise Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Content Warning: There will be scenes of real life dead bodies, graphic violence, and assault

Do you know what has been a cool thing to happen with animation recently? How it was able to help bring back what was lost media and give it new life, or how it’s able to tell a different kind of story, like following the life of someone with a very rich history. If animation “fans” want to say they support new and distinct ways of telling stories through the medium, then that means you need to support and watch stuff like today’s review of Aurora’s Sunrise, which has been making its festival runs through some major places like Annecy and Animation is Film, where it took home the audience award over films like Titina, My Father’s Dragon, Little Nicholas, and Wendell & Wild. Seeing audiences for this festival choosing something so different was definitely a surprise. Then again, it was one of the few sold-out screenings at the festival. So, what is the film all about? 

Directed by Inna Sahakyan, this documentary animated feature follows the story of Arshaluys Mardiganian aka Aurora Mardiganian, her experience of surviving a multitude of horrors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and her journey to America to tell her story, only to have to deal with a different kind of horror of dealing with Hollywood execs. It’s a combination of live-action footage of people interviewing Arshaluys, some actual found footage of the Auction of Souls film that was said to be lost to time, and animation that looks like it uses something akin to puppet or motion tween rigs to tell the majority of the story. It won’t be an easy sit, as the story of Arshaluys is a tragic one of losing her entire family, being sold into slavery, and escaping the horrors for a small moment in time, but only to find herself with another set of challenges. That’s even before arriving in America and dealing with an entirely different set of abuse and challenges. It’s a tough watch, but it’s fascinating to observe how she strived and survived, even when she was in Hollywood, where they censored or changed what actually happened to her. She wanted to help tell the story of what was going on, but they weren’t willing to share all of the details and so changed them for an American audience to consume. There was even one point where I don’t even know how it wouldn’t make your blood boil. Even if it ended on a positive note of change making the world better for individuals affected by genocide and horrible events, what happened to her by people she trusted will make you despise the darkness in some people’s heart. It’s all interesting and eye-opening stuff to what was going on during that point in history, but you can definitely tell this was directed by someone who has mostly worked on documentaries. The story and plot play out in a very narrative-driven way of telling the details, and while they do have actors who portray young Arshaluys and so on, if you have seen any documentaries, you know how they don’t really follow a 3-act structure or a traditional film narrative. They mostly use the runtime to fill up the details of what exactly was going on. It can be a bit tough to sit through all of the details and history notes, but it’s really more so in the pacing due to how this film is 90 minutes long. It wants to be very atmospheric to let you soak up the mood of the sequences and the quiet moments, but it can feel a bit slow. Still, it’s more the fact this is such a harrowing and depressing story of Arhslauys’ history and the genocide that was happening. It just has trouble at times working as both a documentary and as a film. 




The animation does look good. The only times where it was a touch distracting was any time they used motion blurs to mimic fast movements. It looked a bit clunky, but the visuals themselves look fantastic. The painted look of everything gives the film a distinct visual flair that matches the tone of the story, and while they are definitely using plenty of tricks and work-arounds to make it look good to keep you captivated by the story being told, they definitely help show you the horrors that unfold. They show the beauty and darkness of history and the journey one person took to tell her story. The acting was a mixed bag, though to be honest, it’s mostly in terms of when anyone speaks English in the film. When they have American individuals, the acting sounds flat. At least, that is what it sounds like. You can tell the focus was more on telling the story than having compelling performances. 



While maybe not a recurring rewatchable kind of animated feature that some are, Aurora’s Sunrise is one of those animated features that focuses more on the documentary side of things rather than telling a story in a more filmlike way. Seeing more mature stories being told in animation means getting films like this. It’s important to see stories like this one told because it’s our world’s history, and to see a piece of filmmaking history get partly restored and preserved is something to treasure. You can not deny or ignore when such world-changing events and stories happen. It’s a shame that there are already some stories and films that are lost to time. Hopefully, Aurora’s Sunrise gets some proper US release/distribution, because films that are interesting to talk about are worthy of being remembered. We all need to remember the history of our world, whether it’s the darkest of times or the sunrise that shows us the beauty of our world. Definitely give this one a watch if you find it at a festival (it’s playing at the Asian World Film Festival nov 10th and 14th, IDFA, and Tallinn Black Nights) or when it becomes available to rent or own via a physical release or a digital one. Now then, next time, we will talk about something a bit lighter in tone, but remember, animation is a medium of storytelling and art. Animation is film, and animation can tell stories like Aurora’s Sunrise.

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 249: Flee Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me from Neon. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you Neon for this opportunity.

When you watch the film festival scene, there are always going to be films that take up the spotlight. It doesn’t matter if the end product is actually well received outside of film festival circles, once they catch the hype bug, the hype doesn’t stop, no matter what films they compete against in any other festivals in which they are played. It’s a shame, because it does seem like film festival reactions tend to skew the reactions of the film, and once it shows up in one festival and wins the main prize, it’s going to do so over and over again until it gets its full non-festival release. It even happens if a lot of the films were better received outside the festival circuit. Anyway, this isn’t an editorial talking about the dread and nauseous issues with film festival reactions, but instead about one of the films that have swept awards left and right as it journeys across state and country lines to become one of the biggest films of 2021, Flee

Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, this story follows Amin Nawabi, who tells his recently untold history of fleeing Afghanistan to Denmark as a refugee. The documentary and interview follow the challenges, the scares, the life-changing moments, and the journey of who he is throughout the voyage. 

Let’s talk about the film’s animation first. This has been a real contingent point for viewers and critics about how the animation is not up to par with other animated films. Yes, the film’s animated visuals are mostly higher quality animatics for the movements with fewer frames and some are very much just storyboard stills. If you had to compare it to another film’s animation style, it’s similar to how Josep executed its visuals.That’s why many prefer it as a documentary rather than an animated film. Honestly, the animation has such an atmosphere and is drenched in such emotional vibes that it works more in its favor than if it had something akin or similar to a more traditional 2D animated feature. People seem to forget that many of these projects from overseas don’t always get the biggest budgets. Plus, if the visuals still give you the intended mood, then who cares if it doesn’t have super crisp Akira-style animation. The acting is pretty solid, but the best parts are where Amin is talking with the interviewer or his boyfriend about the story, and it has a lot of shades of the Story Corp discussions since those are all animated shorts and stories about people with a story that is important to them. 

Plus, this is a dark story. The fact that all of this stuff about people just struggling to survive from war and violence is still going on today. It’s a film that really gives you a reset about what you are dealing with as you watch our lead’s journey and the hoops they had to jump through, the horrors that they have seen, the violence, and you get the idea. The story even follows the aftermath of his journey and the psychological and emotional turmoil that has affected his relationships and his current mindset. It’s a documentary that has a more human side to the overall story, and it reminds you that the people who are dealing with these horrific incidents and their journey for safety are human. It’s a story that hits hard, due to everything that is going on these past few years. 

While the hype for this film is mostly worth it, the film itself would have been great even without the hype from its many wins during the festival circuit. It’s a powerful and intimate journey through one person’s survival and the experience that led him to become the person he is now. It’s an extremely touching film that whenever Neon decides to expand its wide release, everyone should go watch it. It’s not the flashiest animation-wise, and you will definitely feel uneasy about the world and how some of these horrific events happen, but sometimes, you just need a good dose of reality and to remember that this is going on in the real world and beyond your TV screens. Now then, next time, we are going to talk about the Netflix mini-series, The House

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 238: Fortune Favors Lady Nikkuko Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


2021 seems to have brought up a debate about directors and studios, and the quandary about how they go from grand-scale philosophical struggles about life and being human, and then go to making an experience that’s smaller in scale. That’s not really fair to expect directors or studios to keep one-upping their latest projects. The animation industry is already a really taxing career even if it can be fun and produce amazing films and shows. It does seem a touch silly to say a film is a downgrade from the last one because it’s a different type of story. As long as the film is good and the context of the production is relevant, it shouldn’t matter what came before or after a certain film release. Plus, when you are a director like Ayumu Watanabe, who has a ton of great work behind him, it should be no surprise that his newest film, Fortune Favors Nikuko, is quite good. 


Directed by Ayumu Watanabe, the story follows a young girl named Kikuko, voiced by Cocomi. She lives with her mom, a woman of size and full of positive energy and spirit named Nikuko, voiced by Shinobu Otoke. They go about their lives in a small town while living in a boat house by the shore and grill where NIkuko works. There has always been this tension between Kikuko and Nikuko, but Kikuko hasn’t really been able to figure it out. Will she be able to find happiness with her life in the town and with her mother? 



So, this sounds like another slice-of-life film that focuses on small vignettes rather than having an actual three or five act structure. Normally that would make a plot feel aimless, but there is a throughline with the small story beats shown throughout the film. If you had to find an arc that keeps the experience together, it’s Kikuko’s journey of who she is, and what she is looking for in life and her relationship with her mother. It’s a story that focuses on themes of family and connection. The film delves into the connections between our leads with the other townsfolk and teenagers. It’s a very laid back movie, as it’s more focused on the smaller character moments and the comedy sprinkled throughout the film. While there are some unfortunate fat jokes at the beginning of the film due to how they make a point to focus on Nikuko’s weight, they back down from them and what is nice is that Nikuko is a fantastic character. While life has been rough for her, she has an extremely upbeat vibe and is probably the most expressive and the speediest individual in the entire town. Everyone loves her, and she’s a real bright spot to many of the people in town. It’s a film that takes its time with its story and the way it builds its bonds with the characters. 




Animation-wise, this is Ayumu Watanabe and Studio 4C, so the animation is topnotch. They take the same approach with Children of the Sea with lucious backgrounds, color usage, and smooth movements. The character designs come from Kenichi Konishi who did character designs for Tokyo Godfathers, Tale of Princess Kaguya, My Neighbors The Yamadas, and Bokurano. The music was composed by Takatsugu Muramatsu who also composed the music for Masaaki Yuasa’s Lu Over the Wall. The acting is great with Cocomi, Shinobu Otake, HIro Shimono, Ikuji Nakamura, Izumi Ishii, Matsuko Deluxe, Natsuki Hanae, and Riho Yoshioka. 





The one downside to this film is that, like most episodic stories, the third act conflict comes up fairly abruptly. Yes, it’s a way for the story to wrap up, but it always seems like the tone suddenly changes and then everything is in trouble at this point. It works some of the time, but you can always tell when a film is about to start wrapping itself up. It’s a shame, because the rest of the third act is so delightful and heartwarming with a real emotional gut punch at the end that really solidifies the film’s theme of motherhood and family. 

It’s a surprise that this film hasn’t been picked up by anyone, which is impressive, because Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko should have some fortune for it. GKIDS will probably pick this film up for a 2022 release, and when you can find a theater to play it or when it hits on demand, give it a watch. Animation is a beautiful medium of storytelling, because you can tell any kind of story, and space it however you want. If we limit how stories and arcs are told, then we are only limiting the art of filmmaking. For now, we shall move on to another Japanese film that was at Animation is Film that Elevenarts is releasing with Poupelle of Chimney Town

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 173: I Lost My Body Review

imageedit_9_7671630733.jpg

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

We seem to have a peculiar relationship with films that go through the festival circuit. Unless you get to be a critic, and fly out to Sundance, Cannes, Annecy, and all of the big and small film festivals, audiences and most critics don’t get to see much from these festivals until they are released in theaters. Then, when more people can lay their eyeballs onto the film, the reaction tends to be different than the festival reactions. Is there a certain kind of air to festivals that changes your perspective on film? Should people trust quick impressions or reviews from said festivals? Either way, I find it interesting when a big festival winner makes it to wide release, and the reaction is different across the board than what the critics say during the festivals. This was my experience with I Lost My Body.

Directed by Jeremy Clapin with a screenplay by Guillaume Laurant, this French animated film was the big cheese of the festival circuit. It was winning left and right, showered with critical acclaim, and was the Grand Prize winner at the 3rd Animation is Film Festival. Now then, despite getting all the acclaim in the world, did it fall victim to the festival crowd, or does it deserve the huge amount of acclaim under its belt? Well, let’s see how attached I feel to this unique film.

imageedit_3_8501630848.jpg

Our story follows a severed hand, as it ventures across an entire city to try and get back together with the body it was attached to. Well, that’s only half of the story. The other half is following a young man named Naofel, dubbed by Dev Patel, as we follow his life from childhood to being a young adult, and his relationship with a woman named Gabrielle, dubbed by Alia Shawkat.

So, where do I stand with this film? Outside of the glowing festival-time reviews, there are two different camps for this film. You are either on the side of loving both sides of the film. Or, you are on the side of loving the severed hand’s adventure, but not the human side of the story. Granted, you need both sides for the story to make sense, but I get it. On one hand (heh), you have a story about a young man who feels confined to a narrow-minded way of living, and feels like he can’t be free. It’s a film with a lot more of an emotional/philosophical logic behind the incidents in the story. It’s a film about connection and freedom. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t get why the hand segments are more loved than the human segments. There is something way more fascinating about watching this hand traverse its way around a city, and try to get back with the body it belongs to. The way the animators have the hand movement is so animalistic and real. It’s like a twisted fairy tale as you see the encounters this hand goes through from fending off rats to ending up in a baby’s crib. Due to the power of animation, there is something magical and entertaining to watching the hand sequences. You get so much emotion and life out of the hand when you compare those moments with the human.

imageedit_5_7179394432.jpg

I’m not saying the human parts are bad, because there are some emotional moments in the film as well. Again, you can’t have just one part, because you need both sides of the film to make sense. If you wanted to make it just about the hand, then you would need to rework half of the story. Unfortunately, there are areas where the human love story has some questionable elements around it. Now, the film is aware of this, and it has a better conclusion than you would think. The film is aware that the male lead encountering the female lead and what happens between them can be considered a touch stalkerish, and it’s not like you can’t make an interesting romance with an iffy set up. The problem is that you have to make it so you forget about the ickier parts, and I don’t really forget that this guy does go around stalking this woman. I know this film is working on more magical/dream logic, but there still needs to be this consistency within the story and tone, and it’s not really there through a majority of the human side of the story. The ending was also underwhelming to me. To be fair, I get what the ending was doing, but it felt a little too open arthouse for me. I get it, but it’s not for me.

imageedit_7_6746409731.jpg

Still, there is a lot to love about this film. The mix of 2D designs with CGI bodies is wonderful, and while the humans are obviously animated with more limitation to them than the dismembered hand, you can tell what the characters are feeling, and the designs are delightful to look at. I had a hard time wondering how they pulled off this look, because you don’t get to see a lot of CGI features that get to branch out, and not look like a third-rate Disney or Pixar film. I highly recommend finding the behind-the-scenes videos about how the director got the look of the film down. I can’t stress again how much I adore the hand sequences. There is a reason this film picked up a lot of traction just for this part of the story alone. The music by Dan Levy is also gorgeous, giving off an ethereal and atmospheric vibe to the overall experience

imageedit_1_7118346139.jpg

Yeah, by the wording of this review, you can probably tell that I’m not fully on board with the immense amount of festival hype, and if I had to be honest, I’m really happy I saw White Snake instead of I Lost My Body at Animation is Film Festival. However, with all that said, I still did enjoy I Lost My Body. Even if I’m not fully on board with arthouse films, I’m glad they exist. I guess you can say I have a complicated relationship with them. I don’t think it fully accomplished its goal, but I also like having something this ambitious and creative around. It’s widely available on Netflix right now, so if you are looking for an animated film to wash out the taste of Arctic Dogs and Playmobil: The Movie, then I would highly recommend I Lost My Body. Speaking of Playmobil: The Movie, why don’t we look at that film next?

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 169: Zombillenium Review

imageedit_1_7252316517.jpg

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

One of the best aspects of animated features which go the distance is that they are more than willing to talk about a problem that we have to deal with in real life. Maybe it’s something relating to family, maybe it’s related to society as a whole, and they felt like it was important to talk about it. The best-animated films either made in the US or overseas usually have something to say underneath the main story. Sadly, not all studios have that freedom, and either can’t go too deep with the commentary or have to stay within the parameters of a film aimed at a family audience. I think that is what happened with Zombillenium.

Directed and written by Arthur de Pins and Alexis Ducord, and based on the comic series of the same name and by the same duo, Zombillenium was released back in May 2017 in France, and from what I could gather, bombed, only making a little over $1 mil of its $15 mil budget. It then appeared at the Annecy Film festival in 2017 where it competed against films like Tehran TabooEthel and ErnestBig Fish & BegoniaA Silent VoiceAnimal CrackersLu Over the WallLoving Vincent, and In This Corner of the World. It was even one of the first films chosen for the first annual Animation is Film Festival in LA that same year. After that, the film’s release went silent, until recently, when fans or unknowing animation-goers saw that it was brought over quietly by Universal and went straight-to-DVD. Even the few reviews I have found for this film were mixed to negative. So, was it worth the wait? Or did this film get buried for a reason? Let’s zombie shuffle our way through the park and find out!

imageedit_3_5014930433.jpg

The main story revolves around a man named Hector, a compliance officer who essentially makes sure things are running well. You can say he’s a health inspector for companies. After he drops his daughter off at school, he then arrives at the famous amusement park, Zombillenium. He finds the park not staying up to code, but Hector pushes on, as the manager of the park, a vampire named Francis tries to stall the inspector as many times as he can. Hector then stumbles onto something he shouldn’t see, and Francis decides to take care of it personally. He turns Hector into a monster who can’t leave the park. Maybe another monster in the park can help raise attendance because the park is losing customers fast. It’s being threatened by Satan himself to be shut down, and all the monsters there will be sent to hell. Can Hector find a way to help revitalize the park? Can he ever become human again? Will he be able to see his daughter?

imageedit_9_6881824823.jpg

So, what is the overall point of this film? I have finally seen it, and to me, it’s juggling a “we have to save the park, because we are all a family” storyline and, to me, the film’s main appeal, a commentary about the workforce. Having the film set in a theme park, where most of the workers are zombies and other monsters add a fun creative spin to the commentary about how employees are treated at places like this, and in general. The film is full of symbolic context that gives the film much more substance under the skin than you might think. However, that’s also the biggest problem. The film wants to show off that commentary, and it does bring it up in the dialogue, but it’s not the focus. The focus is more on the family-friendly storyline of saving the park. Granted, the stakes are high, since if they don’t save the park, they all go to literal hell, but still. The more family-friendly side of things isn’t even all that interesting. The dialogue feels clunky, a lot of the jokes do not land, and the pop culture references are sadly dated. It’s the problem when it takes so long to make indie animation that the jokes may not land, or the references are dated. Expect a lot of Twilight-related jabs.

So, the overall story is flawed, but what about the characters and the dubbing? Sadly, I did not like the English dub for this film. Some dialogue moves fast, sometimes they don’t match the lip movements, and I found most of the voices grating. It’s one of those times where I prefer the subtitles over the English casting. It’s not that everyone is bad, it’s the execution and the voice choice for some of the characters. Speaking of the characters, I found many of them to look cool, but lack dimension within their personality. I don’t know if it’s because they had to cram an entire story into 80 or so minutes, but it suffers for it. I found myself only rooting for a few of the monsters like Francis, the cool skeleton guy, adoring the witch, and a day of the dead-looking zombie woman. Hector isn’t a bad leading male, but his redemption arc happens abruptly at times, and it never felt natural. I’m going to assume that the characters are way more fleshed out in the comics, because some of this screams that it maybe should have been a TV series and not a movie.

imageedit_5_2541108202.jpg

So, what do I like about it? Well, the animation, while showing some clunky movements here and there, is very unique compared to what usually comes out of CGI from overseas. They translated the look of the comic perfectly, and despite not having the biggest budget, they made the characters stand out. Everyone has a different look and movement. It’s a unique looking movie that looks like it was made with 2D designs wrapped around CGI bodies. Despite not caring for many of the jokes due to how they don’t land or are outdated, when the jokes work, they are really funny. I think the best jokes revolve around the skeleton, and they take advantage of him a lot. Once again, I also adored the commentary when they focused on it.

imageedit_11_2480744809.jpg

I can see Zombillenium growing a fanbase over the years to come, but I can also see why no one knows about it, and why Universal quietly threw it on DVD. It feels incomplete and fighting against itself to be both a family film and a slightly more creative young teen/older adult film. It has a bit too much edge for younger kids, but it’s too childish for adults. If you want to see it. I would recommend renting it, but the DVD itself is only $10 on Amazon if you want to buy it. Maybe if they can make a sequel, they can improve upon the writing and story, but seeing how it bombed, and not fully knowing if they are not hurt by all of this, I don’t think we will be returning to Zombillenium anytime soon. Still, I would rather go back to the zombie-filled amusement park than where we will be going next time. I won’t even say where we are going, and you will have to find out.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 164: Okko’s Inn Review

imageedit_1_8401082742.jpg

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

If we are going to have a healthier theatrical animation scene in Japan, studios and animation enthusiasts alike need to be supportive of newer voices. We can’t let already-well-known names be the only ones that get the spotlight. While the Japanese animation scene is going through some major obstacles with keeping people who want to work in animation in the animation industry, that means when a new or unfamiliar voice makes a film, we should go out and support it.

Whether you love the end product or not, it’s more important that someone new or not as well known gets the attention. This is why I wanted to support Okko’s Inn. Directed by Kitaro Kosaka, and based on the manga and anime of the same name, Okko’s Inn is a film that I find to get overshadowed by other 2019 US-animation releases, like Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You and Studio Trigger’s Promare. I think Okko’s Inn deserves more support, and I’m going to tell you why!

imageedit_3_7023791391.jpg

Our story follows a young girl named Okko, dubbed by Madigan Kacmar. She ends up in an unfortunate situation where her parents are killed in a car accident. She goes to live with her grandmother at her inn. Okko then encounters some friendly spirits around the building, including a young boy named Uribo, dubbed by KJ Aikens, a young girl named Miyo, dubbed by Tessa Frascogna, and a small demon named Suzuki, dubbed by Colleen O’Shaughnessey. Okko will encounter different inn guests and even a girl who helps run a rival inn named Matsuki, dubbed by Carly Williams. Can Okko learn to be an innkeeper and learn how to help people? Can she learn about forgiveness and selflessness in helping others?

imageedit_5_2572218697.jpg

So, something to note about the director Kitaro Kosaka is that he worked on multiple Studio Ghibli projects that include Castle in the Sky, Ponyo, Spirited Away, and even Mamoru Hosoda’s The Boy and the Beast. If you feel like Okko’s Inn has the same vibe as a lower-key Ghibli film, you wouldn’t be wrong. This movie focuses on Okko’s coming of age as she helps different tenants in the inn who have their hang-ups in their life. It shows how acts of kindness of any kind can help improve the lives of others. It’s a laid back film in the same spirit as Kiki’s Delivery Service or My Neighbor Totoro. You get some fun shenanigans with the spirits, but the film’s strongest moments are with Okko figuring out how to help out everyone who comes to the inn. It’s noticeable that this film, through its designs and tone, is an experience aimed at a younger audience, and even for a film aimed at that demographic, it doesn’t talk down to them. The film does tackle themes of death, and it’s not afraid to talk about it. Luckily, the characters feel like they were right out of a Ghibli film, likable, endearing, complex, and fun.

imageedit_7_8113877609.jpg

Okko’s Inn was produced by Studio Madhouse and Dream Link Entertainment, which shows in the animation. It’s a gorgeous movie with charming designs, and fluid animation. There are some wonderful scenes, including the koi fish kite sequence and when Okko meets the fortune teller. The dub for the film is handled well. You can tell the kids in the film are voiced by kids, and the adults are voiced by adults. I have seen both the sub and dub versions of this film, and you really can’t go wrong with either. The music by Keiichi Suzuki is beautiful, and has that Japanese flair you would want with a film taking place in a mountain-side inn. If his name sounds familiar, he is the same composer behind Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers and the famous RPG Earthbound.

imageedit_9_9678614843.jpg

If I had to complain, I could, but a lot of the issues I have are nitpicky. The designs took a bit for me to get used to. They are more family-friendly, and it was jarring to me for some reason. They remind me of something like Hamtaro. I did look it up, and the person in charge of the art direction is Yoichi Watanabe, who worked on the Star Ocean EX series. The only major issue I have is that a lot of the major drama is shoved into the third act, and it’s abrupt when it transitions into it. However, I do like the ending, so I guess you can say that it’s also a nitpick.

imageedit_11_6358537383.jpg

Okko’s Inn is a delightful little film about kindness, growing up, forgiveness, and helping others. It might be getting overshadowed by other high-quality anime films, but Okko’s Inn shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s available right now on Blu-ray and DVD, and I think everyone should get a copy. Now then, it’s been four years since I have been reviewing animated films, and I think it’s time to celebrate with something flashy. Next time, we will take a look at Studio Trigger’s first original film, Promare!

Thank you for reading my review! If you like my writing and would like to throw some support my way, you can become a patron at patreon.com/camseyeview. I hope you all have a good day, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 161: Funan Review

imageedit_1_7897621143.png

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Warning/Parental Heads up!: This film is absolutely not aimed at a children’s audience. This is an extremely adult film that focuses on a true historical genocide that happened in Cambodia. Younger viewers should avoid this flick, and go see The Angry Birds Movie 2. Viewer’s discretion is advised.

Animation unfortunately gets pigeonholed into being aimed at a children and family audience. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, because sometimes, a film or show aimed at a family audience, given the right writers and the right execution, can tackle tough subject matter.  Sadly, something that the entertainment industry sadly seems to limit is animation for more teen and older adult audiences. Just because it’s animated, it doesn’t mean you can’t tackle something aimed at an older audience. We get plenty of adult animated shows like Bojack Horseman and Big Mouth, but feature films are, for some reason, kept off the production line. Yeah, we got 2016’s Sausage Party, but that film’s controversy of how the animators were treated unfortunately killed the theatrical chance of seeing more on the big screen. This is why the foreign animation scene is so incredible, because it knows that you can tackle different genres, themes, and have all kinds of audiences. Plus, when will the live-action Hollywood scene tackle something like Dennis Do’s Funan? Directed by, well, Dennis Do, and distributed in the states by GKIDS, this French-animated feature ruled the film festival scene in 2018 by taking home major accolades from Annecy, second place-Jury Prize from the 20th Bucheon International Animation Festival, and the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the 2nd Animation is Film Festival. As far as I can tell, this is 2019’s best animated feature. Why? Well, let’s dive in, shall we?

imageedit_3_6873092565.png

The story follows a Cambodian woman named Chou, her husband Khuon, Sovanh, their son, Khuon’s brother Meng, Chou’s mother, grandmother, and their other children Hout, Tuch, and Lili. They are living peacefully in Cambodia, but are unfortunately caught up in the notoriously destructive Khmer Rouge, as they are separated from each other and try to survive and reunite. Can they try to avoid being killed, and become stronger by making it through this violent time?

imageedit_5_9958594527.png

So, you think with this film being animated and such, they would pull back on the punches and darkness of the events shown. I mean, that’s what Sgt. Stubby did. Well, Dennis Do did not pull back on any punches. The film is unapologetic about showing the darker moments of this incident, and that includes scenes of murder, innocents stepping on hidden landmines, suicide, and so on. It’s definitely a film that is, to no surprise, aimed at a much older audience. However, it’s not really all about the terror of this incident. It really does focus on the family, and how they try to make sense out of what is going on, as they try to survive and not end up in front of an extremist’s rifle. You get the closeness of the family as they attempt to play along until they are able to reconnect or find a way to escape the hell in which they are put. You get a sense of everyone in the family, although the real main characters are the father, mother, and son. It’s a fairly quiet film as the emotions are told through the visuals. You feel for the family, and you want them to survive. Dennis Do knew how to balance it all out as every intense moment constantly hits hard. It’s a powerful emotional experience.

imageedit_7_5728117648.png

The animation is incredible. It has a beautiful lush watercolor art direction that has smooth animation and great character designs. You can feel the emotion coming off of the characters’ faces. Gorgeous backgrounds and scenery is found among the regime-riddled camps that the film is usually set in for a chunk of the story. What also helps bring the emotions to a perfect level is the music by composer Thibault Kientz Agyenman. A lot of the soundtrack is full of tunes that set a somber, but optimistic tone that really envelopes you into the situation. This also includes powerful performances from Berenice Nejo and Louis Garrel.

imageedit_9_9868361745.png

I knew I was in for something special when I saw the trailer, the news that it was doing well on the festival circuit, and how it was one of the first films selected for the Animation is Film Festival, and I was happy to be one of the first US film fans to see this breathtaking experience. Sure, some critics, for one reason or another, think it should have been about the genocide, but that wasn’t the point of the film. Just because it’s set during an intense period of time, doesn’t mean that has to be the entire focus. The entire film was inspired by the stories that Do would ask his mother about that time period, and it was crafted into this beautiful story. To me, that comment comes off like they wanted the film to be something different than what they got. Funan is a powerful film, and when it comes out on Blu-ray, or if you are lucky to find a theater playing it, buy the Blu-ray or see the film! Seriously, if you want more original films that help animation’s image in the US, please see this film. Unfortunately, since these types of films don’t get much screentime, how about we move on to a delightful surprise with The Angry Birds Movie 2? I think that would be pretty nice! Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 157: Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles Review

imageedit_12_3132604092.jpg

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

I haven’t made it subtle that I have found a real lack of enjoyment with talking about bad movies. I don’t know what has gotten me into this funk, but it then made me think about why I love talking about films I want to love and talk about. It’s because it takes no effort to talk about them. Words flow easily. I don’t have to think about how to structure them, and who doesn’t want to talk about stuff they love? The problem with talking about movies that you don’t like ends up with you having to structure everything, because every bad film usually has their own unique problems. It’s why I don’t really pick a bad movie just for the sake of it. If I choose a movie I love or do not like, it’s because I want to talk about it. For right now, I want to talk about a movie that I could go on about for a few good hours, Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles. Directed by Salvador Simo, this was a film from Spain, and made the festival circuits last year with an official wide/limited release this year. It was a critical darling in the festival circuit, and was one of the winners of the three major awards at 2018’s Animation is Film Festival. I was lucky enough to see the film last year, and was not surprised at all that GKids wanted to distribute this film in the west. It was easily one of my favorite films at a festival that had nothing, but strong films to show. Now then, let’s get started!

imageedit_1_3595179140.jpg

We follow the life of Luis Bunuel, voiced by Jorge Uson, a surrealist filmmaker that has made films in the same style and spirit of Salvador Dali. Unfortunately for him, people want to compare his work to Dali, when he wants to be seen as his own genius. Even worse for him, is that the country where he lives, has decided to blacklist him, which results in him not being able to get money to make movies. One night, he is drinking with his friend Ramon Acin, voiced by Fernando Ramos. Ramon decides to enter the local lottery and promises to Luis that if he wins, he will fund his next venture, which is a documentary that Luis was looking at doing. Months pass, and out of the blue, Ramon calls Bunuel to tell him that he won the money! They then get Bunuel’s two cohorts Pierre Unik, voiced by Luis Enrique de Tomas, and Eli Lotar, voiced by Cyril Corral, and head down through different villages in Spain to base the documentary around Las Hurdes and in the poorest area known as Las Hurdes Atlas. Can Bunuel regain his filmmaking credentials, and maybe absolve him of some of his issues from his past?

imageedit_3_6841200936.jpg

I have to admit, ever since I saw this film back in October last year, I have had an unhealthy obsession with it. I have been patiently waiting to see it again. Normally, I would have waited to see it again in theaters, but I can’t wait any longer to review it. This film’s story of Bunuel redeeming himself as a human being and a filmmaker kept me constantly invested with what was going on. You can see the struggle every time Bunuel wants to do something drastic and shocking to the world about Las Hurdes Atlas, when really, that isn’t the way it should be shot. You see how he struggles to make this documentary work as he conflicts with the real life struggles and lives of the people that live in this village and wanting to show his vision, which is more harmful to him, the crew, and the people there. All of the struggle of making this documentary comes crashing around him and his friends as memories of his relationship with his father start popping up, and you see how Bunuel acts like he does. I just love seeing all of the small scenes of the leads interacting off of one another, and with the townsfolk they encounter on this journey. However, while a lot of this film is mature and serious, I was laughing probably the loudest I have ever laughed in a movie theater at this screening. This was some of the wittiest writing and the most well-timed jokes that I have seen in an animated film from overseas. It was able to balance out both the laughs when needed, and focus on the dire situation in which the people in the village live, and the importance for this documentary to succeed for Bunuel.

imageedit_10_2178293727.jpg

In terms of the animation, I know some will talk about how limited it is, and maybe call it a bit stiff, but I think it’s great considering this film cost about $2 million to make. Characters move well, the designs are very appealing in a more serious Disney way, and they are still very emotive. They knew they didn’t have the biggest budget, but they made some breathtaking visuals and sequences with that budget. Since it’s about a surrealist filmmaker, they do take advantage of crafting some delightfully dream-like sequences. Another smart move is that since this was based on a real life documentary, they took footage from said documentary, and added it into the movie. It’s not all that distracting either, because the writing is so good, and it helps that this was based on a real life person and a real life documentary. The music by composer Arturo Cardelus, who also did the music for the acclaimed animated short, In a Heartbeat, is outstanding in this film. I find myself humming the tunes a couple of times. It reminds me of the music from Loving Vincent, which is elegant and dramatic.

imageedit_5_8425527550.jpg

Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles is a film I would call a unique experience. So many elements of this film clicked for me like not many have, and I hugely adore it. It’s one of my favorites, and I really hope people can find a way to watch this in a theater or, at the very least, catch it when it gets on Blu-ray and DVD. Could I complain about some nitpicky elements about the script? Sure, but in the end, my love for this film, and how incredible the experience of watching it drowns out any minor issue I have with this movie. Again, if you can, please do watch this movie. Sadly, we must take a break from the positivity to talk about Illumination Entertainment’s next….I don’t think I would consider it a hit, but we will see. Next time, we will talk about The Secret Life of Pets 2. Thanks for checking out my review, I hope you all enjoyed it, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 143: Ruben Brandt Collector Review

canva-photo-editor (70).png

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

(Warning/Parental Heads up: this film is absolutely not meant for children. It’s incredibly adult. This film includes intense scares, violence, and nudity. Enjoy the review!)

As I mentioned recently, I went to the second annual Animation is Film Festival in L.A., California. While I still wish it wasn’t in such an expensive part of the US, it was worth the price, because I saw 11 diverse and incredible movies. However, while Mamoru Hosoda’s Mirai was my favorite animated feature of the festival and of 2018, I want to review one of my favorite films of the year, Ruben Brandt Collector. Directed by Milorad Krstic, and being distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, Ruben Brandt was the final film in the recent Animation is Film Festival lineup, and was easily one of the most visually stunning films of the festival. It also happens to be one of the best animated features of the year. I know, big shock, that Sony Pictures Classics found an incredible animated feature. How about we get started then, and diagnose what this movie is about?

canva-photo-editor (71).png

We follow a psychologist named Ruben Brandt. He’s famous around the world for his unique ways of treating patients. Lately, he has been getting nightmares that famous paintings are trying to kill him. With the help of his patients, who happen to be thieves, they go around the world stealing the paintings that haunt him, while avoiding the police and gangsters.

canva-photo-editor (72).png

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, which is the incredible visual style. While it is a mix of 2D and CGI animation, the art direction is where this film truly stands out. Everything looks like a mix of Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and maybe a small hint of Yellow Submarine. While everyone has mostly human shapes and designs, every human also has long faces, two noses, three eyes, maybe two mouths, and you get the idea. Even certain animals have fairly cool designs to them, like a mosquito you see looks like it’s wearing a mask from Eyes Wide Shut. It brings a visual identity all of its own to the table, and you can’t deny that no other film on the market right now looks like Ruben Brandt. They even give certain characters quirks that take advantage of the incredible visual style and that it’s an animated film.

Outside of the great visuals, the story itself is rather fascinating. As it shows in the trailer, Ruben is haunted by specific famous paintings, and you get to explore his childhood and his relationship with his father and how that affected him. Even the police officer that chases down Ruben and his crew has a captivating story arc about the mystery behind who his father is, and his connection with Ruben. The heist group is full of likable characters, from the quirky two-dimensional bank robber, to an egocentric three-eyed hacker.

canva-photo-editor (73).png

Easily one of the best parts about this movie is its action. Wait, you mean we have an honest true-blooded action movie? Yes! Finally, we have an animated film with a major emphasis on action that isn’t a DC film! In terms of the action, it truly feels like a Mission Impossible film, with how it has chase sequences on foot, car chases, up-close combat, and really intense moments via one-on-one fights.  You will easily be hooked and entertained by the beautiful animation and fight sequences.

If I had to criticize something about Ruben Brandt, it is that the story arc for the police officer ends a bit abruptly. Now, the twist during his story is shocking, and it just adds layers to the overall story, but after he finds out about the twist, it just ends. The overall ending also feels a little clunky. It’s not bad, but it wraps up too quickly. There is also some nudity near the end that the film lingers on a bit too long. It’s not that it’s distasteful, but you wonder if we really needed to see it, or if they could have made some more tasteful angles. However, that is just minor nitpicking.

canva-photo-editor (75).png

Ruben Brandt Collector is one of the best animated films of 2018. It has great visuals, highly-entertaining action, and a story that was compelling from beginning to end. While it is not available on DVD yet, Sony Pictures Classics is going to be distributing it in theaters, and I hope it’s soon. If you want to see something truly different this year, then definitely put this movie on your radar. Well, that was great to talk about. Next time, before we dive into MFKZ, Smallfoot, and Next Gen, we are going dive early into the Christmas season, just like the rest of the US, with Ilumination’s Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch. Thanks for reading! I hope you like the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials