2016 Animated Feature Oscar Nominee ‘Boy & the World’

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CHICAGO – If the 2016 Oscar nominations are examined a bit more closely, some real gems can be found. In the Best Animated Feature Category, beyond the familiar nomination of “Inside Out,” there is an offering from Brazil entitled “Boy & the World.” The Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago is screening “Boy & the World” through February 11th, 2016.

“Boy & the World” is a combination of simple line figure drawing through a colorful kaleidoscope of landscape and fantastical story settings. There is a boy going through this arena, in search of a father who has left the Eden he once shared with his son and mother. The writer and director Alê Abreu bites off a lot of themes – technology, urban identity, environmental issues and loss – and creates a hyperbolic world for that boy to explore. This is a big screen treat, with many animated indulgences, which becomes more of a sensation than even the story. This film has been around for a couple of years, and slowly rose through the miasma of animated features to earn the Oscar nomination, because this is a cartoon that reflects both the artist and his cultural radar.

Boy World
Hanging Out in ‘Boy & the World’
Photo credit: Gkids

The film opens with a boy exploring his home boundaries, which is a paradise of blue streams, colorful forests and animal friends. His revelry is interrupted when his father is shown leaving the homestead for parts unknown. This loss affects the boy greatly, and he packs a suitcase to find his Dad. Like Dorothy going over the rainbow, the boy finds himself whisked away to another land, one that includes a mechanized orchard of workers, the factory where the fruit of their vines are processed and the urban jungle that contains it. The search for his father is through this thicket.

One of the symbols used in the film is the simple kaleidoscope (the toy that you turn that allows colored glass to form unique shapes), and how the different viewpoints within the device create “worlds.” The writer/director Alê Abreu uses this “micro view” through the vision of the boy, and often we see what he sees through his imagination – there is a multicolored seed that contains fantastic patterns that repeat throughout the film, and a flute sequence on the soundtrack that emerges as colored dots.

Speaking of colors, the use of them in the film is spectacular. Even the less savory settings – such as a garbage dump – contain shades and nuances that highlight the animator’s hues and palette. The beginning sequence establishes the color splash immediately, as the boy moves through his immediate homestead all the way to the clouds, which even uses the color white effectively. This also emerges later, in the cotton-like white fruit of an orchard.

There is little dialogue in the film, as most of the action takes place in pantomime and within the journey. There is an emotional pathos, like a Charlie Chaplin film, for the adult characters the boy encounters, and he becomes the magic for their evolution and revival. The “wheel” of life is in constant motion here, both in the positive and negative aspects of the boy’s adventure.

Boy World II
All Packed Up For the Journey in ‘Boy & the World’
Photo credit: Gkids

The story could have used some streamlining. There are many themes that the filmmaker Abreu is trying to emphasize, but his main feeling of family gets a bit lost through the protests of industry-over-environment, and towards the end the timeline gets a bit muddled. But this more about the cartoon atmosphere, and the emotion that boy gets through this “world.” As in life, it’s about the journey and not so much the destination in this case, and it does seek to come full circle.

This would be a good choice to add to your Oscar roster, if you can catch it. The beauty of some of these deeper nominees, whether the less known Animated Features or the 2016 Oscar Nominated Shorts, is that the adventure of cinema is fulfilled beyond the usual offerings at the cineplex.

“Boy & the World” has a limited release, including Chicago – at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 North State Street – through February 11th, 2016. Click here for details. Featuring the voices of Vinicius Garcia, Felipe Zilse and Marco Aurélio Campos. Written by Alê Abreu. Rated “PG

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2016 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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