Animated Movies, Indie-mation, Podcasts, Reviews

[REVIEW] ‘Birdboy: The Forgotten Children’

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Birdboy: The Forgotten Children is such an unusual film that we thought it would be fun to provide two perspectives on it:

Jonathan North

Watching Birdboy: The Forgotten Children left me with a lot of conflicting emotions. Emotions like, “What is this?” “Why am I watching this?” “What am I watching?” “This is beautiful.” “This is horrible.” “I hate this.” “I love this.” “What the heck?” “What. The. Heck.”

Let’s talk about what I loved, first of all. The art. The animation in this thing is gorgeous. The hand drawn animation just flowed so beautifully, and it just makes me wish we could get more movies like this in America. The character designs were all very unique, the ‘good’ characters were very cute, and the ‘bad’ ones were, mostly, heinously ugly. And, without giving too much away, some sort of went back and forth and the transition worked pretty well.

The sound design. The music in this movie was SO good! It perfectly weaved its way through the background and punctuated every scene so well, mixing with the sound effects creating an extremely unique aural setting for this movie, unlike pretty much anything that I’ve ever heard before. And the sound effects were amazing! The horrifying bird-demons’ screeches were so masterfully made. I loved how terrifying they were!

The comedy. There was very little to laugh at in the unexpectedly somber film but, for what little there was, I quite enjoyed it (even if it did come out of nowhere and at weird times). Strangely enough, most, if not all, of it came from what were essentially inanimate objects. The little mouse-clock-robot thing, the inflatable ducky raft, the piggy bank – I actually liked all of these characters far more than any of the main characters. They were funny and endearing, and I wish the movie had been about them.

Now on to what I didn’t like about the film. Pretty much everything else. When I first saw the trailer I was expecting some sort of charming film about a cute little bird, with maybe some supernatural undertones. It was nothing at all like what I was expecting from the trailer. I was hoping it was going to be something along the lines of Adventure Time, but deeper. Something that on the surface looked adorable, but had a dark underside. Well… It did… But not in any of the ways I was expecting or hoping.

First off, the drugs. What the heck was up with the drugs? Were they supposed to be a metaphor for something? Were the demons a metaphor for the drugs? Were the two things even related? There seemed to be a relatively clear anti-drug message going on, but then they had the police going all out to straight up murder people who they assumed were involved in the drug trade, so was there also an anti-police message? It was all so confusing I feel like it would take several viewings to fully understand what they were going for, but I really have no desire to watch it again.

Next off, the violence. Now, I am not anti-violence in movies, not even in animated movies. I think it’s perfectly acceptable if it furthers the plot. Maybe if I’d been expecting it from the trailers I wouldn’t have had such a strong, negative reaction to it, but it just kind of came out of nowhere. Bludgeoning, disemboweling, and bullets directly through characters’ heads. There was one in particular that I feel like pointing out as especially gratuitous and unnecessary, but in the interest of not spoiling anything I won’t. Just know that you’re going to see an abnormally large number of characters get bloodied at best, and gratuitously murdered at worst, in this animated film starring cute animals.

Lastly, the whole plot itself. This story, and the overall mythology was so convoluted, that I really have no idea what the point of any of it was. The main motivations of the main characters were all pretty straightforward, but beyond that I have no idea what was going on. Drugs? Demons? Blood-thirsty trash rats? What was going on in any of this? There was little to no backstory for pretty much anything, and what little there was still didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I also still have no idea what Birdboy was doing. What was with all the adorable little glowing bugs? The golden acorns? The hidden tree in the magical grove? None of it was explained.

I don’t really know what else to say. I liked a lot of things about this film, but the negatives kind of outweighed the positives for me. Birdboy is definitely a work of art, and one of the single most unique films I’ve ever watched. I am glad I watched it, but I don’t think I’ll be wanting to revisit it any time soon.

Rachel Wagner

To say that Birdboy is not a film for everyone is an understatement. It is without a doubt a dark, twisted, violent film that defies any other animated film I’ve ever seen. It is made even more unusual by the fact that the lead characters are about as adorable as you can get, making the contrast of the art seem even darker and more shocking. I bet Birdboy will be especially appreciated by people like me who see 35+ animated films a year. To see something so strange and different is very appealing and refreshing. It takes traditions of accepted or popular animation and turns them on their head, which was very exciting for me.

Based on a graphic novel, Birdboy is about a group of anthropomorphic objects and animals living in a post apocalyptic world. We are told in the beginning that “the future is past” and “the garbage is the present. Blood is the law.” Then we see the lives of these various creatures. My favorite was Dinki, whose parents treat her terribly but she keeps plucking along. Then we have a rabbit who hears voices, a pair of violent police dogs, a talking clock, and our drug-addicted lead character, Birdboy.

The group make a plan to try and escape the island, but the world is gruesome and unforgiving. Directors Petro Rivero and Alberto Vazquez don’t pull any punches and things get pretty bleak for our group. At one point there is even a landfill full of the ‘forgotten children’. It is completely unpredictable and at 76 minutes it didn’t overstay its welcome. I was fascinated to see where the creators were going to take me next and what was going to happen in this bizarre world.

Enjoying something like Birdboy depends on what kind of movie viewer you are. If you can watch something experimental that is more about images than plot, then you will love it. If that doesn’t do it for you, then you probably won’t enjoy it. It is very different and that will either appeal to you or it won’t. It’s a movie asking viewers to think about concepts like religion, death, industrialization, childhood, drug use, art, the police state, fascism, etc. more than it is telling a linear story. The closest I can think to compare it with is the Oscar-nominated film Boy and the World from a few years ago. Another similar film is Fantastic Planet (I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Birdboy joins Fantastic Planet and Watership Down as a Criterion Edition film).

The problem with Birdboy for me is the dialogue is pretty fast, making it hard to read all the subtitles at times. I’m pretty good at that, but it seemed like it was zipping by so quickly. Also some characters, like the police, I wish were a little more fleshed out. A bit more of a traditional narrative might have been nice, but I appreciated seeing something new and fresh. It is also a film for adults only, so don’t let the cute little characters fool you!

If you can find Birdboy than I encourage you to give it a shot. I guarantee you it will be a film experience unlike any you’ve had before and that has to count for something. It’s a pretty cool animated film.

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About Rachel Wagner

Rachel has loved animation since she was a little girl singing songs from The Little Mermaid at the top of her lungs. She currently works in social media marketing and loves to blog and vlog about Disney, Pixar and all kinds of movies in her free time. Her favorite movie is Up and she considers herself quite the Cinderella aficionado seeing every version she can get her hands on. She also loves animated TV shows like Simpsons, Gravity Falls, Star Wars Rebels and more. Follow her on twitter @smilingldsgirl