The world of animated cartoons has changed drastically since the days of Walt Disney and his first “live” action film, Steamboat Willie, featuring the character who would become Mickey Mouse. Instead of having to painstakingly draw each frame in a movie, animators now have computers, which not only “sculpt” images, but also bring them to life. The worlds that their creations move through are no longer hand-painted static backdrops, but three-dimensional backgrounds co-ordinated to move in conjunction with the action taking place in front of them. Although the ability to seamlessly integrate the animated characters’ activities with the world surrounding them has resulted in cartoons almost as realistic as live action movies, no matter how sophisticated our technology becomes it still can’t replace human artistry.
While there wasn’t anything artistic about the assembly line conditions under which many commercial cartoons were created in the past either, there’s something infinitely more impressive watching a feature drawn by hand than one done on a computer. To today’s sophisticated audience used to CGI special effects and 3D rendering, it might at first appear primitive and crude. However there is a certain magic to these efforts that will eventually win them over, especially if a film is as obvious a labour of love as Mia and the Migoo. The English language version of the film from French director Jaques-Remy Girerd’s Folimage animation studio was released on DVD on August 7, distributed by GKIDS Films throughout North America.
With every cell hand painted, the film took nearly six years to complete from conceptualization to final product. However, when you see the results of this painstaking attention to detail on your television screen, you’ll appreciate the care and effort that went into its creation. From the opening frames, this movie is a visual feast. The use of colour in the beautifully painted backdrops catches your eye right away. In an interview with Girerd included in the DVD’s special features he talks about how his studio works in the tradition of Impressionist painters like Cezanne and Van Gogh, and you can see their influence in every frame. Whether a busy street, the interior of a house, a lush jungle or a stark mountain top, each background is a celebration of the shades and hues of colour that go into creating everything around us.
Mia and the Migoo isn’t just beautiful to look at it, its an entertaining and thoughtful story. I hesitate in using the word, as people have the impression a movie can’t say anything of substance without being preachy, but the movie also contains some nice messages about respect: self-respect, respect for others, and respect for the world around you.
While some might bridle at the rather subversive idea that the environment and caring for those around you is more important than turning a profit, considering how so much popular entertainment aimed at children these days celebrates consumerism, it makes for a refreshing change. The only problem is the message, which is so subtle it is probably lost on most of its audience. While Girerd and company are to be commended for creating something that doesn’t assume its audience is stupid, when people are used to being bludgeoned over the head, they might not respond to a gentle tap on the shoulder.
The story is a combination of a classic road trip and adventure as young Mia leaves her village to look for her father, Pedro. He has taken a job far from home on a construction site building a resort in a remote wilderness area. Strange accidents have been happening on the site, cranes have fallen over and there have been landslides. When Pedro hears an odd noise in one of the tunnels they are building on the site he goes to investigate and is trapped by a cave in. Hundreds of miles away Mia wakes up from a dream of her father in trouble. With her mother already dead, she’s not prepared to lose her father and after visiting her mother’s grave heads out to find him.