My Journey Through Annecy 2021

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(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 Editorial!)

What can I say about the Annecy 2021 Online experience? Well, it was a mixed bag. While I can overall say I had a good time, their move to being both an online and in-person event is what dragged it down for the online customers. Sorry, I don’t have the time or money to spend on going to France during a pandemic. It was a real botched attempt to satisfy the people who could go in person and the people from around the world who wanted to attend. It had some great elements to it, but I would also argue it didn’t do enough for people who wanted to experience it online. Here are my pros and cons of what I took away from the festival 



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Pro: WIP section was fruitful and interesting! 

As with last year, my favorite part of the festival was watching the work-in-progress panels. I loved seeing what films were getting made and how they were tackling the animation process. It’s so cool to get these behind-the-scenes looks at animation production because otherwise, not many people get to see this side of animation. Granted, some of them were in French, so it was a disappointment to watch and not understand parts. A few of them also didn’t seem to have a whole lot done. It made me wonder if these are part “Here is what we are making” and part “We are showing off what we have made so far to look for funding”. That’s not a bad thing, but I think I always want to see films that I can check out sooner than later, but that’s just me. I wish the ones in French all had subtitles or a different making-of video for online viewers so they don’t have to wait to watch them when they are finally dubbed or subbed. 

Favorite Panels: The House, Maya & The Three, Princess Dragon, Little Nicholas, Unicorn Wars, The Peasant, Fena: Pirate Princess, Robin Robin, Perlimps, Nayola.


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Con: None of the feature films were watchable online! 

I think this was the biggest issue, as while it was an issue last year, at least last year’s Online experience let you watch some films that were competing. I know and I get that there is a lot of legal and copyright stuff that kept some of these films out of the online portion of last year’s event, but since some of the films in competition waltzed right in with distributors, like Deer King got picked up by GKIDS and Viva Kids picked up Ape Star, why wouldn’t they be a part of the online part of the festival? I know last year’s batch of watchable films were mostly films with no real widespread value or appeal, but they decided this year that none of them were going to be watchable! I’m sure ya had to be there to see films like Snotty Boy or Mount Fuji Seen From a Train, which didn’t look like an animated film at all! The worst part is that they promised three films were going to be watchable online, but they just never showed up. You could watch the shorts and two old films from 1979 and 1981, but that was it. What is the point of having an online form of the festival when the online viewers can’t watch the features?! It doesn’t help either that Animation is Film 2021 was announced during Annecy, and will (for now) have an in-person and virtual experience with none of the hiccups that Annecy keeps having. Also, Animation First and the NYICFF had films that were fully watchable online! I don’t understand why they are so stingy outside of the obvious legal stuff, but if they aren’t going to have some feature films watchable online in an online version of the festival, then I would rather not participate at all. I was lucky to get a screener for one film, but that was it. Please, Annecy, I beg of you to make the films watchable online for online viewers next time! 

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Pro: Bubble Bath is a trippy film! 

Well, of the two older animated features they had to offer to the online viewers, I was excited to see Bubble Bath. This was a 1979 Hungarian film that had one of the wildest character designs and animation style out of any animated film from back then and even now. It was a film that said, “going off-model is the entire point.” It was also a musical, and while I don’t remember the songs, I thought it was charming! The story was decent enough, but I think the wild visuals and the story got lost within said visuals. Still, it was an experience I rather enjoyed, and once I see it become available in the US, I will buy a copy of the film. 

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Con: A majority of the French Annecy panels did not have subtitles on them! 

Listen, I would love to have all of the time in the world to learn other languages, and I know there are plenty of ways to learn said languages, but when a good chunk of the online viewers are from the US, well, I would just assume not everyone can speak or knows French. They have said the panels will get translated subtitles or dubs, but it makes me wish they did subtitle videos like they did last year. I could generally get what they were talking about, but fully getting it would have made some of them better experiences. 

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Pro: The Inu-Oh Preview. 

One of the highlights was seeing the first five minutes of Masaaki Yuasa’s new film, and boy, was it a ride. With the beautiful animation, the different tone, and the character designs, it’s always exciting to see what Yuasa and his team have come up with next. I’m sad this will be his last film for a while since he’s going to be on break, but if the rest of the film was as good as these first five minutes, then I can’t wait to see how the rest of the film unfolds.

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Con: Should have had more previews! 

I loved the Inu-Oh preview and admired the unknown horrors we will be stepping into with Space Jam: A New Legacy, but those were the only two? You couldn’t do previews of the films that were being shown off or upcoming films? What about the ones that were premiering there as screenings like Luck Favors Nikuko? I don’t know, it reeks of the online consumers not having a proper experience, while the in-person stuff got all of the love and support. 

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Pro: The Panels were a lifesaver

Seeing the Netflix, Ron’s Gone Wrong, and other informational animation panels were a nice addition to the Work-in-Progress panels. Being able to see new shows and upcoming films for services like Netflix was fun! 

Favorite Panels: The Netflix ones and Ron’s Gone Wrong

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Con: There needed to be more for the online attendees than just the shorts

Let’s be really frank here, the online viewers got the short end of the stick. The shorts were great! The panels were great! However, that was it. Again, I get that they wanted to focus on the in-person event, but if you aren’t going to offer an equal experience to the online filmgoers, then maybe don’t do an online experience. I still enjoyed my time at Annecy, but I want Annecy to do better. I want to talk about more of these films that everyone might want to know about, but when you don’t give me access to them, well, I don’t know if I can get the word out and maybe drum up some attention.

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!

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Part 1

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(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!)

So, 2020 was a stressful and soul-sucking year, wasn’t it? On top of, well, everything else that matters more than what I’m about to write about, the animation scene was a mess in the feature film department. Delays upon delays, and changing release strategies shook everything up. Luckily, animation was a bright spot despite other elements getting in the way, and not only did we get a lot of great movies, but also a lot of incredible shows. Sure, the major studios bowed out of the release windows, but that left room for multiple smaller indie films and streaming features to enter the scene, and overall, it turned out to be a solid year. Maybe not the strongest, but still entertaining enough. Plus, unlike some animation critics, I watched all of the major releases that mattered. Anyway, the rules still apply. They must have had some kind of US release, I tend to stick to if they were released in some way during 2020, and while I am still following the Oscar Submission List, I am moving some of the films to my 2021 list due to the fact they didn’t get proper 2020 releases. Let’s get started. 

38 Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Water Rebus

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Honestly, I didn’t want to add this to the list because it almost doesn’t count as animation. It mostly feels like a bunch of live-action footage with multiple filters with the bare minimum of rotoscoping the footage. It doesn’t feel like an animated film, but even if it was more traditionally animated, the plot was hard to follow, and trying to find out what the plot exactly was made my blood boil. Maybe it was a subtitle thing when I saw this at Annecy, but it’s no real shock this film had no chance at the Oscars or most award shows. It’s the exact kind of film that I would categorize as unpleasant to watch and is what I think of when people say they want something as far away from the big studio projects as possible. Well, this is what ya get, a film with such little interest in making sure you know what’s going on that it resulted in an experience I never want to have again. Sadly I do get that kind of experience, but we will get there on this list. 

37 Pets United

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I know it’s a cliche to bash Illumination, but you would realize how much talent and work goes into their films if you see a film like Pets United. It’s a weird mishmash of tones, ideas, and it doesn’t work at all. Say what you will about the Secret Life of Pets films, but they were at least fun to watch and kept your interest in some way to make you not forget them. Moments after I watched Pets United, I was forgetting details about the story, the themes, the characters, and so on. Its animation is fine, and some weird aspects stand out for how out-of-place they are, but that’s not enough to call it anything good. It’s one of the films that Netflix picked up because it didn’t cost much to purchase and translate. 




36 Fe@rless 

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Shockingly, a Vanguard Animation film wasn’t on the bottom of the list. Honestly, it does deserve it, because while it’s “better” than the previous two films, I wouldn’t call it good. It’s got all of the hallmarks of the studio’s work with a bad story, bland characters, and some decent ideas that are never expanded on or fleshed out. It all feels like a film that only had enough money in the budget for a rough draft and then got dumped onto Netflix with no fanfare. A few amusing lines do not make a good film. Otherwise, it’s just more straight-to-video/straight-to-streaming schlock. 



35 Pokemon Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution

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Who knew we would get our very own version of 2019’s Lion King, but instead of a bad remake of a good movie, we got a bad remake of a mediocre movie! Yeah, I am not a fan of the original film, and I know many love it due to how every kid saw it back in the day. Still, it’s an ugly CGI remake of a 2D animated film that does the bare minimum of improving the story, and while it might be closer to the original Japanese version of the film, that doesn’t change much due to how it’s already a mediocre story. The CGI Pokemon looked fine, and the voice cast was solid, but there was no real reason for this film to be made. 



34 Latte and the Magic Waterstone

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Oh, look, another foreign feature Netflix bought on the cheap and gave no other support for it. Honestly, out of the worst films on the list, it’s harmless. Its most offensive element is that it’s boring and forgettable. It has a few cool moments like this one sequence where a character’s shadow is hand-animated, and some of the moments with certain characters were amusing enough. The biggest offender of this film is that it feels like a feature that was dated in terms of storytelling, themes, and characters. 




33 Henchmen 

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It’s a real bummer the lead actor for this film is a garbage bin. I probably shouldn’t have it on there because of the recent news about Thomas Middleditch (on top of the other creepy and awful stories about him), but honestly, no one in this film is good. It’s a situation where the film’s production history is more interesting than the film itself. I mean, an animated superhero comedy written and produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell sounds incredible, right? Well, that is not what we got due to them leaving the project early on. Instead, we got a middling superhero parody that has a decent hook, but like most bad parodies, does nothing interesting with the hook. The animation is kind of cool, but it’s nothing incredible or as iconic as what Spider-Verse did with its visual style. It’s a film with a promising elevator pitch, but that’s about it. 



32 Ni No Kuni 

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What do you get when you are a film based on a video game? The answer is a film that’s not even remotely familiar to the video games it’s based on. It’s related by name only. While it has a few decent story beats, it plays out like a very generic fantasy film. The only part that is kind of cool is the moments in time where the leads go back and forward between the real world and the fantasy world, but that’s about it. It’s a real disappointing film. 




31 Superman Red Son 

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Do you know what my least favorite kind of DC animated film is? It’s the one based on an adaptation that shouldn’t have been one film! While the story of what if Superman was raised in Russia is a compelling one, it’s not given enough time to let the proper story beats play out, and it doesn’t feel as compelling as you would think this premise is. It’s easily one of the most forgettable films from DC’s animation lineup, and that’s a shame. 



30 Dragon Quest: Your Story 

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The video game curse strikes again! This is why truncating an entire video games’ story into one movie is a bad idea, and it’s even worse when it’s based on what might be the most popular entry in the biggest RPG franchise in Japan. The CGI animation while better than most, does a few things that irked me. Why do you have Akira Toriyama’s iconic designs, but take out distinct design details that end up making everything look generic? The action and music are quite fantastic, but then the film pulls a plot twist in the last 10 minutes that causes the entire experience to drive off of a cliff. I get what they were trying to do, but maybe don’t try to make your own story when you are based on a story that already existed. 




29 The Last Fiction 

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I might not like this film, but boy howdy do I respect and admire how this Iranian animated feature wanted to be this epic that had dark tones, violence, and plenty of action beats. That doesn’t mean I can’t find some things to criticize. The scale of the story is ambitious, but it feels badly paced with huge leaps through time, and characters I found forgettable. The combination of 2D animation and CGI was also something that felt like it was from the early 2000s. Still, there is something to admire about the ambition of this film. Hopefully, we can see some other promising projects from this corner of the world. 



28 Manou the Swift 

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Way back in 2017, I reviewed a film called A Stork’s Journey. I considered it one of the weaker films of that year, and I still stand by that. Well, to me, Manou the Swift was what that film wanted to be. While it’s not a marginally better film, it at least has a lot more that I like about it. It has a decent cast including Josh Keaton, Nolan North, Willem Dafoe, and Kate Winslet, the animation was better, and it wasn’t as obnoxious in the comedy department. It still had a lot of the same problems as A Stork’s Journey, but it did just enough better with the story beats to not make this a total borefest. 

Still, the next batch of films on this list are at the very least more interesting, so stay tuned! 

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!

The Other Side of Animation 213: The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily Review

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(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 biggest problems with covering foreign animated features is a real lack of access to these films. You would think after so many of them getting nominated for awards, companies would be going head over heels to bring these films over. I recently wrote about the fact that there needs to be more companies like GKIDS, Shout! Factory, and LAAF out there bringing these films over. Luckily, with Neon picking up Flee and Magnolia picking up Cryptozoo, it means there will be more distributors putting their hats into the ring of foreign animation distribution to the US of A. One good thing about the pandemic is that film festivals, which would originally be offline and in person, are now all going digital. This is a great way for people to be able to see these films without having to resort to other means like importing them to view. I hope this situation continues because there needs to be a way for people to see films like The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily

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Directed by Lorenzo Mattotti, this CGI/2D animated feature is based on the book, The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily by Dino Buzzati. It was shown at Annecy 2018 in the Work-in-Progress section and was fully shown off at Annecy 2019. Unfortunately, the production company behind the film, Prima Linea, shut down and that’s just a real bummer because it probably killed some avenues for it to be brought over, but I hope that it can be brought over to the states by another company. Anyway, let’s see if it should come over because as we have seen, not every foreign animated film is instantly better than the films from the US. 

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The story starts us off with a traveling entertainment duo named Almerina, voiced by Leila Bekhti, and Gedeone, voiced by Thomas Bidegain. After taking shelter in a cave to avoid a snowstorm, they encounter a very large elderly bear and decide to perform a story for said bear. The story they tell is the famous tale of “The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily”. This is when we move into the story of the king of bears Leonzio, voiced by Thierry Hancisse, and his son, Tonio, voiced by Arthur Dupont. While playing in a lake one day catching fish, Tonio is swept away by the water and captured by hunters. Saddened by the potential loss of his son, Leonzio sits on top of a cliff overlooking the valley. When winter arrives, the king still sits on the cliff. Sadly for his clan of bears, they grow hungry and worry about their survival. The eldest bear among the ranks convinces Leonzio that his son could be among the humans. Once convinced, Leonzio takes his clan of bears and marches down the mountains to the city of Sicily to find his son and deal with whatever gets in his way. 

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I know a lot of my reviews recently have started with talking about the animation side of things, but I have to talk about the animation in this film. It’s a mix of 2D and CGI animation, and it’s some of the most striking visuals I have ever seen. The bountiful color pallet, the grand landscape shots, the surreal designs, the fantastical music that accompanies these visuals make for one of the most visually challenging films in the animation scene. Do you know the term “every frame is a painting”? Well, that describes every single frame of this film. If the Contrechampe section of Annecy is to challenge the perspective of how animation can look, then this film would sweep that category. It’s also one of the more seamless combinations of 2D and CGI that I have seen in European animation. It’s a visual treat if you can’t tell by my gushing about it. It all feels like a storybook brought to life. 

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However, a film with strong visuals also needs a strong story, and to be fair, this film uses fantasy and dream logic in its story of a civilization of bears invading a human kingdom to find the bear king’s son. Luckily, the story itself has some rather mature themes including death, forgiveness, the nature of humans, the bond between a father and son, anti-war sentiments, and it even has some elements of Animal Farm where the bears take hold of the vices of man. It’s a film that’s juggling plenty of plates, but I think the story was told well enough to not feel too busy or too jarring the transition from story 1 to story 2. It’s a different kind of story from the first to the second half. I didn’t mind it that much, but I can understand if people found it jarring. The performances were also stellar with each of the characters feeling distinct and not just because of the visuals that gave you pretty much all the details of who they were. 

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The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily is easily one of my favorite animated films of the year so far. With its striking visuals, fairytale-style storytelling that can mix complex themes about the flaws of humanity and corruption alongside a strong father/son dynamic makes it easily one of the most stellar animated experiences I have seen in a long time. It’s also an animated film that hits the target of being a film anyone can enjoy. It’s whimsical for kids, but it has enough of a mature edge to the overall story and themes that older kids and adults can enjoy. Well, next time, I will be talking about the second film I saw at the New York Children’s International Film Festival with the Chinese animated feat known as The Legend of Hei

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: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 207: Josep Review

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(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!)

You may have noticed that after 200+ reviews, I tend to like looking at films from overseas. I enjoy the foreign side of animation, because unlike the slowly changing, but narrow-minded way the US looks at animation, the other countries tend to respect the medium as a way to tell a multitude of stories. Sure, the US scene is starting to slowly go into more varied stories and characters, but the fact of the matter is that the foreign scene has been doing it much longer and it has no signs of slowing down. For example, while we may have had a slightly more mature family film with the previously reviewed Calamity, this time, we go into a more adult category with Josep

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Directed by Aurel, Josep is a war-time drama that has been making waves in the award scene by winning five awards including Best Director, Best Animated Feature, Best Screenplay, the Audience Award at Athens International Film Festival, and nominated for Best Fiction and others. I was fortunate to be able to catch this film at the Animation First Festival, the same festival that I saw Calamity. Let’s dive right in!

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The story takes place as a young boy named Valentin is with his mother and father to go see his grandfather Serge. While in the apartment with Serge sleeping on a medical bed, Valentin sees a framed drawing of someone. Serge wakes up and retells the story of where that picture came from. Back during the time a bit before France went into World War II, but after the Spanish Civil War, Serge was a guard at a concentration camp that held refugees from Spain. He is, of course, a guard that sees the refugees as human beings, unlike the other guards that are constantly vile racists and rapists. One day, Serge meets a man named Josep Bartoli, a real-life artist, after seeing some of his drawings and art. They form a bond as the days and years go by, as the war comes full circle and the lines become blurred on who are monsters and who is human. 

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The true emotional core of this experience is the bond between Serge and Josep. War is, to put it lightly, awful. I’m sure anyone with a heart doesn’t come out of this kind of experience without some baggage attached to them for the rest of their lives. It’s a film that captures more of a mood and a period than worrying about a cohesive three-act structure. It does have moments where the more trippy elements bleed into the more “realistic” elements, but just like Josep says in the film, “that is what it was like”. It reminds me a lot of that indie comic Maus. It can be a real downer of a film, and it doesn’t hold back the horrors those refugees went through and the racist standoffs between French guards, African guards, and the refugees. However, it does balance it out with very human and soulful moments of these people finding happiness and what little joy they can. Serge and Josep have a friendship and chemistry that feels extremely intimate and human. Even after the war is over, and they find each other in Mexico, it feels like they never skipped a beat between them. 

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While Josep may use a somewhat limited style of animation for its visual look, it shows how smart posing and what movements you can make, should be important. This might be an overused word to describe the visual style of this film, but the entire film has a unique look to it with its thin lines, rough sketches, chicken-scratch-like designs, and drops of surreal designs and moments implemented throughout the story. Luckily, it all flows well and is cohesive. It never feels distracting when the trippier or more dream-like moments hit, and it has more emotion put into it than most live-action films. The voice casting is quite grounded, and the performances between Sergi Lopez and Bruno Solo are fantastic. Everyone is quite good, but since the film is basically about them, they carry the performances in the story. The music is sparse but effective as you hear the joy and passion through the small moments of happiness, and the more somber moments are understandably dreadful. 

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While the limited animation that dips into fancy storyboarding animatics might turn off some people, I think you shouldn’t let that get in the way of a very powerful, haunting, but human film. It’s easily one of the early contenders for one of the best animated films of 2021. I hope a company like GKIDS or Shout! Factory or maybe even Neon will pick it up. It’s another example of a country and a team that knows you can go in every single direction with animation, and I hope the US starts to pick up on that more consistently in the future. Now then, I have a few screeners to go through, so forgive me if I don’t properly tease what I’ll be covering next. You will just have to wait and see. 

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: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 206: Calamity Review

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(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!)

In terms of animated films, one of my favorite features from the 2010s was 2016’s Long Way North. While it was an animated film, it told a more mature story about a girl who went north to find her grandfather and protect his and her family’s legacy. Remi Chaye and his team made a compelling experience with some truly out of this world animation. It’s always a good reminder that a lot of films and shows from overseas are not made just for kids or just for adults. Storytelling in animation can span a wide grayscale of tones, themes, and experiences. The rest of the world has gotten this, and a good example of this is Chaye’s film from 2020, Calamity: a Childhood of Martha Jane Canary

Directed by Remi Chaye, written by Chaye, Sandra Tosello, Fabrice De Costil, and produced by Maybe Movies, Calamity made it big last year at the Annecy International Film Festival as the film that took home the main prize. It has gotten glowing reviews since its October release in France, and made its US debut in 2021 at the Animation First Festival alongside fellow acclaimed French film Josep. Of course, if it wasn’t obvious, this is an adaptation of the story of the famed frontier woman of the same name. So, with the year still being young, and the world of animation looking vibrant as usual, let’s dive in and see what this film is all about. 

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Our story revolves around a young girl named Martha Jane Canary, voiced by Salome Boulven. She is traveling with her father and siblings in a caravan to Oregon. While her family is not liked because of classism shenanigans, Martha is annoyed about how she is looked down upon due to her being a girl. Even the other girls and women don’t go out of their roles in the caravan. After some upsets, like her father getting injured and Martha having to take responsibility and control of her cart and family, Martha encounters a supposed northern soldier. He decides to help her and her people out, but then one night, the soldier leaves, and not only that, supposedly stole items from some of the families. Of course, with this being the period that it is, Martha is framed for the thievery and decides to go on a journey to reclaim the stolen goods. Along the way, she is joined by a dog named Pik, a young man trying to find his way in this land, and a woman who runs a mining company looking for gold. 

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If I had to pick a theme or a topic of what this film is all about, it’s about how we are perceived in this world. Whether it’s by our wealth, gender, or occupation, this film has a lot of focus on identity and how you define who you are. You can see that commentary throughout the film as you observe the small character-based interactions. Of course, with this being a western, there is a lot of lasso-throwing, adventure, and exploration through the wild. You will find yourself going through the lavish open fields and countryside, small mining towns, and encounters with Native Americans. Luckily, the encounter with the Native Americans in the film is brief but way more respectful than you would think. If this film was made in the 60s and 70s, that might be a different story, and Martha doesn’t disrespect them or talk down to them. It’s a rough world in Calamity, as our lead character has to deal with discrimination and sexism due to her gender. Martha is a great female lead as she’s tough, takes no bull from the boys and men she encounters, but is not just spunk and grit. She’s vulnerable and has a tomboyish side to her as well. She’s on par with Chaye’s previous film’s lead. While the boy she encounters after leaving her group starts out annoying and a bit much, he does get fleshed out and you get his entire arc by the end of the film. Even Samson, the northern soldier has some of the better moments in the film. It’s a wildly fleshed out film, and while there are some antics and goofy moments, they never feel like they talk down to the audience and are fairly funny. The entire experience with the story and watching this film feels more like a True Grit or News of the World than a Magnificent 7 or some melodramatic western drama. 

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Since this is by the same director behind Long Way North, you can expect the film to look downright amazing. No shock, it does look amazing. Its mix of 2D and CGI animation is gorgeous, and while there are points where you can tell what is CGI, it’s pretty consistent overall and the noticeable parts aren’t major. I love how the bodies and the world around them don’t have black outlines, and it gives a distinct look with its soft greens, browns, yellows, and oranges. It feels like a painting of the west in motion. The music by Florence Di Concilio is delightfully western with a heavy emphasis on string instruments. It’s a fantastic soundtrack with a cute song sung by a children’s choir during the credits. The voice cast is pretty good, but I have to say that my favorite performances were from Salome Boulven, Alexandra Lamy, Alexis Tomassian, Jochen Hagele, and Leonard Louf. The overall cast was great. 

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Outside of some slightly clunky CGI moments, and some of the side characters being fairly forgettable, I adored Calamity. It’s a film that shows how to write female characters well, tell a satisfying and grown-up story without having to dabble in dark and edgy for edgy sake content. It talks to you like it considers you it’s equal. Once this film gets a wider release, and a US distributor, I think everyone should watch it! I have heard rumbles there is a US distributor, but I can’t say it with full-on faith until I’m proven right. Still, if you can find some way to watch this movie, do so! Now then, one Animation First film down, and one more to go. Next time, I’m going to review the acclaimed French animated drama, Josep

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: Criterion/Essential 

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2019 Finale

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(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!)

Finally, we are here to talk about the top 10 animated films of 2019! These are the films that I will recommend out of the year. I will rewatch them the most, and I hope people can see them. If you have yet to see part 1, part 2, or part 3, then I recommend checking out those parts before getting to this one. Now then, it’s time to finally count down my Top 10 Best Animated Films of 2019!

10. Children of the Sea

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The third act may be a bit too busy, and I can tell why some would not gel with Children of the Sea, but it’s such a euphoric experience that it was hard to find a film quite like it last year. Its mind-blowing 2D animation, the unique designs and art style, the gorgeous music of Joe Hisaishi, the complex themes of the mysteries of the universe and our connection with it, all leads to one of the most outstanding experiences you can think of for an animated film. 

9. Missing Link

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Due to this film’s failure, we may never see another stop-motion film in theaters, because the audience would rather see Avengers Endgame for the 60th time instead of a film that was original, unique, and refreshing in the scene of comedy adventures. I might like Kubo and Coraline more, but Missing Link still had plenty of charm, wit, clever jokes, and fantastic animation to make it worthy of that Golden Globes win. 

8. Marona’s Fantastic Tale

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I was super fortunate to see this film last year at Animation is Film, and it earned one of that festival’s highest awards, and for good reason. It’s a somber yet beautiful tale of a dog remembering her life with the humans she lived with. Its use of mixed media animation gives the film such a unique identity. It’s a beautiful film and it’s currently doing a virtual theater experience. You should all check it out. 

7. White Snake

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China might have had a prolific if troubled animation history, but if you want to show the world what you can do as a country in animation, then White Snake is going to be the best gateway drug into the world of Chinese animation. It’s an action-packed operatic epic about destiny and love. I loved this film, plus, if you look at the extras on the blu-ray, you can see me in the Animation is Film Q&A. Still, even with some minor issues with pacing and tone, White Snake is a unique experience that everyone should see. 

6. Promare

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Studio Trigger has become one of the most acclaimed anime studios of the last decade with popular series like Kill la Kill, Gridman, and the upcoming Brand New Animal. However, we are here to talk about their first feature film. While it is easy to call this their tech demo, Promare is more than flashy visuals. With likable characters, subtle yet complex themes about discrimination, it’s all wrapped up in some of 2019’s most vibrant visuals. It’s a film that knows what it wants to be, and everyone should own it! 

5. Weathering With You 

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I know some people have had issues with me not loving Makoto Shinkai’s work as much as I should for some reason, but it should mean something that I say that this is my favorite Makoto Shinkai film. It has the best visuals, the best story, and the best romance. Listen, I liked Your Name, but a lot of Shinkai films seem to have an issue with stories that have an actual connection. I loved the romance and chemistry with the leads, and I love the bond the characters share. It might have a rather shocking ending, but I can’t get enough of Shinkai’s newest film, and you all need to check it out. 

4. Klaus

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While Netflix can be criticized for many things in terms of how they handle movies and shows, you have to give them proper and actual credit when they are willing to invest in films like Klaus. Think about it for a moment. This 2D animated film about the origins of Santa Claus has a higher rating critically than any other big Hollywood animated film, and beat out Disney at the Annies. Which is even funnier when you consider that the director was an ex-Disney animator. Outside of all of that, the film is still a super touching and complex film about kindness wrapped up with wrapping paper made of some of the best 2D visuals you have ever seen. Even if it’s limited to only being watched at Christmas, I can still find myself watching this film any day of the year. 

3. The Swallows of Kabul

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As we wait for the inevitable GKids US release of this film, I still have to be one of the few people who have seen it and will shower it with praises. This somber story of living through a tyrannical reign of power focuses on characters going through what they believe and trying to find a way out of the chaos. The downright amazing watercolor animation is elevated by some of the best vocal performances of the year. You feel the struggle and conflicting thoughts that the characters have and go through. It’s a rough sit at points, but it’s one that’s worth watching. 

2. Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles 

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I’m still shocked that this film went under the radar for many because this should have gotten more eyes in the film fandom. It’s an animated film biopic about the famed surrealist filmmaker going through making the documentary that will save his career, while coming to terms with his relationship with his father. Bunuel is a poetic and powerful experience that tells a very human story of finding one’s self and what the bigger picture is. Seriously, this is one of my favorite films of recent years, and it’s a better biopic than most of the schlock that award season pumps out. 

1. Funan 

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Big shock, another year where a GKids-distributed animated film tops the list. It’s like they bring over the best animated films or something. Snark aside, Funan is the best animated film of 2019, as it brought over the most emotionally powerful film about a family caught in a rough situation dealing with the Khmer Rouge of 1975. It’s a film that checks all of the boxes for me, and should have been a major awards contender. It’s a story about love, family, and survival. It’s a film that pulled me in and never let go. It’s why I think it’s 2019’s Best animated movie. 

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

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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(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!

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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 161: Funan Review

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(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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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

Animation Tidbits: Annecy Part 2

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(Originally written: May 29th: 2019. Sorry for posting this late!)

(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. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Alrighty, for the final part of this look at Annecy 2019, I decided to combine a bunch of films from different categories. This is because the various categories don’t have enough to warrant talking about in individual articles. At least, that is my opinion on the other categories. The one major change they made was a new category called Contrechamp, a category with animated features that are in competition, but have visuals that challenge the medium of animation. Otherwise, the films on the list will be from the screening events and In Production section of the festival. Let’s get started!

Children of the Sea (Contrechamp)

Directed by Ayumu Watanabe, the story focuses on a girl named Ruka, who saw a ghost in her dad’s aquarium when she was little. She becomes attracted to the aquarium and the appearance of two mysterious boys named Umi and Sora, all the while the adults who work there figure out the mass disappearance of the earth’s fish. In a lot of ways, it’s almost unfair that this film is the perfect representation for the Contrechamp section of the festival. It’s almost unfair how downright jaw-dropping-off-your-face beautiful the film is. Studio 4C has done a lot of great work, but this easily looks like it will be their best. Plus, with GKids now attached to bringing it over to the states this year, I have major hopes it’s going to be at Animation is Film 2019! If that wasn’t enough to get you hyped, Joe Hisaishi, the composer behind many of the Studio Ghibli classics, is composing the music for this film.

Away (Contrechamp)

Directed by Gints Zilbalodis, Away is about a young man who’s riding a motorcycle, trapped on a mystical island while trying to avoid a shadowy monster chasing him. This is also a film that looks like it will be taking advantage of the Contrechamp title. Sure, it kind of looks like an indie game that’s trying to be the next artistic achievement in gaming, but that’s sort of the fun of it. Plus, this was directed and animated by someone who is 25 years old. That is wildly ambitious and I give him kudos for that. It looks like a visually creative film that I hope does well.

Underdog (Contrechamp)

Directed by Sung-Yoon Oh and Chun Baek Lee, the story revolves around a blue dog that was once a house pet, but ends up back in the wild. He encounters wild dogs, and tries to help them survive and live freely. Generic title aside, I really like the visual look of this film. It reminds me of the work arounds French animation uses in projects like The Painting. It has a super vibrant color palette, and while the CGI may not be Pixar or Disney level at all, it has its own identity and personality to it. I’m happy to see South Korean animation finally making some break-out titles to show that they can make animated features that aren’t tied down to propaganda, and can be watchable by all. Though seeing some of the marketing blurbs say it was more emotionally gripping than Zootopia? Yeah, we will have to see about that.

Ville Neuve (Contrechamp)

Directed by Felix Dufour Laperriere, Ville Neuve focuses on a man named Joseph, who moves into a house with his friend, and tries to get back with his ex-wife, and this is happening with the 1995 Quebec Referendum happening in the background. I like the minimalist approach with its focus on whites, blacks, and grays. It comes off like a more personal and intimate film, and I can’t wait to see what the reviews say about this one.

Playmobil (Screening)

Now then, let’s jump in with the first film in the “Screening” category. Directed by Lino DiSalvo, the story focuses on a young woman named Marla, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, who gets pulled into this Playmobil world with her brother Carlie, played by Gabriel Bateman. They get separated, and it’s up to Marla to team up with Rex Dasher, a secret agent voiced by Daniel Radcliffe and Del, a food truck driver voiced by Jim Gaffigan, to get her brother back and avoid the evil clutches of Emperor Maximus, played by Adam Lambert. Yeah, this film did not get the warmest impression, being negatively compared to the 2014 The LEGO Movie. I can understand why. It comes off as a bit outdated that there needs to be a reason for the Playmobil world to exist, when people would rather just enjoy the world that they make. Still, the film looks silly and aware about itself, and some of the jokes I saw got a chuckle out of me. Hopefully it can be an entertaining flick once it releases later this year.

The Prince’s Voyage (Screening)

Directed by Jean-Francois Languionie and Xavier Pircard, this is a follow-up to a film Jean Francois did a while back called A Monkey’s Tale, which follows the prince from that film, as he washes up on the shore of an island, and encounters an individual named Young Tom and his two parents, who were exiled scientists. The film itself looks great, but that should be no surprise, because it’s the same guy behind The Painting, but I am curious to see how they make this film work, because who remembers A Monkey’s Tale? It has only gotten an English UK release, and no one in America has probably heard of this guy or his films. Still, the CGI looks stylized, and I’m curious to see how this film does in continuing the story with these characters in a travel diary-style form.

Abominable (Screening)

Finally, we are seeing actual trailers and footage for this film. Directed by Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman, we follow the exploits of a young Chinese woman named Yi, voiced by Chloe Bennet, as she encounters an actual Yeti on the rooftop of her apartment building. It was previously caught by a scientist named Dr. Zara, voiced by Sarah Paulson, and an evil rich man named Burnish, voiced by Eddie Izzard. It is up to Yi, her friends Peng, voiced by Albert Tsai, and Jin, voiced by Tenzing Norgay Trainor, to get the Yeti back to his home in the mountains. This is an important film, due to this being DreamWorks first Chinese collaboration with Pearl Studio. As per usual with their non-comedy stuff, Abominable looks visually great, and has some endearing moments, but the jokes and references made in the first trailer and in the recent trailer are iffy. Hopefully, this is more of DreamWorks working at a How to Train your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda level, and not Shrek the Third level. Also, what is up with their marketing for this film? Everyone has already seen a trailer for the film for two or so months before the “official” trailer was released last week. What was the point of having two trailers and one of them was already viewable in theaters? Oh well, I hope this is a good movie.

Toy Story 4 (Screening)

Directed by Josh Cooley, we follow our heroes dealing with their new lives and a new encounter with a self-made toy named Forky, voiced by Tony Hale. One day, Forky gets out, and Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks, sets out to bring Forky back, but also runs into Bo Peep, voiced by Annie Potts. Shenanigans then ensue as Woody and the gang try to get Forky back to their new owner Bonnie, and Woody starts to have a crisis of what it means to be a toy. It’s too easy and frankly lazy, to say how this is a “cash grab”, when all films are cash grabs. We didn’t need a 4th one, but if we needed this one to get back on the train of original films starting with next year’s Onward, then so be it. Plus, I have been hearing good early word of mouth, and plus, who doesn’t want to see Keanu Reeves in his first ever voice role? Even if we might “not need it”, I’m glad to go back if the story is good.

Frozen 2 (Screening)

Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, our heroes from the first film, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf are off on another adventure to go beyond the kingdom of Arendelle. Yeah, there isn’t much known about the film right now, so let’s talk about how incredible the teaser trailer was. This film looks jaw-dropping-off-your-face-and-exploding gorgeous. I’m sure a lot of this is just teaser editing, and the film may not be this serious in tone, but wouldn’t that be awesome if it was? I know there is a bit of Frozen burnout, but I liked the first movie, and I’m excited to see how this new one unfolds.

Weathering With You (WIP)

In the Work in Progress section, we have the newest film from Makoto Shinkai. The story revolves around a young boy who moves to Tokyo alone, and almost becomes broke, until he gets a writing job for an odd occult magazine. His life feels like it’s constant misery, as rain and dark clouds follow him everywhere. One day, he encounters a young girl who has a mysterious power to clear the sky of the clouds and rain. While I have been critical of some of Shinkai’s efforts and directorial touches in the past, this one has me very excited. To no surprise that Shinkai has more drop-dead eye-popping visuals, something about the story feels instantly likable, and GKids recently announced that they will be bringing it over! I can’t wait to see this film, and I hope to see it sometime soon.

Promare (Midnight Special)

Finally, for the Midnight Special, we have Promare. Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, and animated by Studio Trigger, we follow Galo Thymos and his team, the Burning Rescue Fire Department. Their main goal is to take down a group of evil mutants called BURNISH that emits and can control a special fire that is engulfing the planet. This movie looks so over-the-top, silly, nonsensical, it’s super drenched in its anime identity, and this is why I follow foreign/indie animation. This movie looks crazy in the most positive way possible. Sure, if you know anything about Studio Trigger’s previous work like Kill la Kill, Space Patrol Luluco, Little Witch Academia, and SSSS Gridman, then you know you are going to get some of the most vibrant Japanese animation around. It looks like a lot of fun, and I hope to also see it soon.

And that wraps up what I think looks to be the most promising at the Annecy International Film Festival. Even with these listed, there are truly more interesting features being shown in their completed form or work-in-progress form. Just go check out the site, and see the multitude of animated projects being shown, and find your favorites.