The Goya Awards are Spain’s equivalent of the Oscars. Past winners have included Pan’s Labyrinth and The Orphanage. In 2016, Alberto Vazquez scored the first ever simultaneous victory for Best Animated Short and Best Animated Feature. The winning feature Birdboy: The Forgotten Children was recently released in America in its original Spanish and will soon be getting an English dubbed release.
Birdboy tells the story of an island inhabited by talking animals and anthropomorphic appliances. A past catastrophe has led to half of the island being left in a seemingly idyllic state while the other half is little more than rubble. The titular Birdboy is part urban legend, part scary bedtime story. The movie deals with the themes of conformity, addiction, and the pursuit of happiness.
Birdboy is a beautiful movie to look at. The characters are hand drawn and filled with emotion. This is seen most in the eyes of the cast — Birdboy’s eyes are filled with sadness, confusion and even acceptance, while Sandra’s steely gaze tells the story of a deep-rooted struggle. The creatures range from deceivingly adorable to suitably terrifying. Some scenes were done in watercolor and look absolutely stunning — the ocean scenes are particularly well done. At times it evokes older cartoons that used rotoscoping. Pixar and modern Disney animated films look gorgeous but also have a sameness to them; no other film looks like Birdboy.
The film is more about themes than plot. The actual story of the movie is little more than a trip from one point to another. The moments that play out during the journey are not about what is happening, but what everything means. Basically, this movie is not so much about what is happening, but why it’s happening. Animals fight, lie, steal, and everyone in the movie is in a state of calamity. Birdboy’s ultimate message is one of hope, but the path to get there is filled with potholes.
The short runtime is Birdboy’s biggest shortcoming. At under an hour and a half, it is almost too ambitious for its own good. The audience is introduced to a number of characters that do not have the time to become fully developed. This becomes apparent towards the end of the film when a revelation leaves no emotional impact. The movie also deals with weighty subjects that cannot be adequately handled in a little over an hour. There is more than one unresolved plot thread when the final credits roll.
Birdboy: The Forgotten Children has a misleading trailer. It hints at its dark subject matter and focuses on the cute talking creatures. This is not for young children as they will not enjoy some of the subjects tackled. There are also scenes that are also downright frightening. The movie is very good, but falls short of effectively delivering its message.