Apr 13, 2019


Birdboy: The Forgotten Children is one of Shout! Factory’s recent quieter releases and comes courtesy of their partnership with GKIDS, a distributor of animated indie features. Despite their name and the animated nature of their acquisitions, GKIDS don’t distribute your typical animated kids films. Their past releases, such as The Girl Without Hands, have been of a dark nature, and sometimes even disturbing. GKIDS’ daringness to release films that are challenging and bleak, but which seem to be geared toward younger audiences, comes to a fever pitch with Birdboy, an extremely dark tale that includes drug abuse and addiction, terminal and mental illness, depression, and suicide, all playing out between warring animals who engage in bloody and violent warfare. (You know, for kids!) Maybe I’m just not understanding GKIDS’ mission statement. Maybe the “kids” part of GKIDS stands for something else. But Birdboy, though it’s an excellent and eerie animated horror/fantasy/drama, is not for kids — not unless you want to scar them at a young age. My age is somewhere between 33 and Skeleton, and there were moments where even I was unnerved, or disturbed, or saddened. (Pretty sure one of the more angry adolescent characters drops the fuck bomb at some point, and not too long after a dog humps his owner’s leg and reveals his big red dog boner.)

The animation is beautiful and there’s an inherent sadness which drapes over every frame, and I’m not talking about the occasional Pixar sadness, but a more powerful one that goes for the throat and doesn’t let up. Tonally it’s similar to the animated adaptation of Watership Down, while stylistically there’s a slight Burtonesque look and feel that should appeal to those who prefer their art a little darker a la The Nightmare Before Christmas. (The titular character even has a slight Slenderman appearance, complete with large black expressionless eyes and a plain black suit.)

The synopsis refers to Birdboy: The Forgotten Children as “darkly comic,” and while there are moments of levity, they are very few and far between. I can’t promise that anyone will have a good time watching it, but it’s a dark and affecting tale which pretty much accentuates the sadness and complications of childhood and presents the pretty blunt statement that some children are doomed — in one way or another.

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