While computer-generated animation moves closer and closer to photorealism, it is always nice to see an animated film that revels in its unrealistic form. When the camera was invented, some painters felt free to move away from realism and made impressionistic art. In a similar way, it is interesting to see how some animators are choosing to create painting-like films as CGI becomes more realistic. Tito and the Birds, the recent Brazilian animated film brought to Blu-ray by Shout! Factory!, looks like a thickly brushed oil painting come to life.
As a young boy, Tito’s father (voiced Matheus Nachtergaele) taught Tito (voiced by Pedro Henrique) that fear is like a disease. It can cripple you and be passed on from person to person. He also believes that birds have helped mankind for centuries but that we have forgotten how to listen to them. He invents a machine that he believes will help humans talk to birds but when it blows up, Tito’s mother, always skeptical and a bit skittish kicks the dad out of the house.
Years later, ten-year-old Tito is secretly rebuilding his father’s machine. At the same, time people all over the world are getting sick. At first, their eyes bulge out, then they grow increasingly erratic. This is followed by them transforming into a lifeless blob and eventually they turn into stone. Though it isn’t clear to the film’s characters, the disease seems to be spread by fear. A television talk show host turned real-estate developer (voiced by Mateus Solano) preaches fear on his daily show while simultaneously acting as pitchman for the gated communities that he owns where he says, “you never have to be fearful again.”
Tito and his friends Sarah (voiced Marina Serritillo) and Buiú (voiced by Vinicius Garcia) set out to solve the epidemic by fixing the bird-talking machine. Adventures are had. The day is saved.
There isn’t much more to it than that. As I said, the story is slight, though it is also rather timely. It is hard not to think about current American political situation while watching a movie that features a 24-hour news station spreading fear of outsiders and praising large walls that will save everyone, but it was made by two Brazilian directors who made the film in the midst of their own election of a far-right president. Which I suppose only shows that its story is all together timely, timeless, and universal.
It doesn’t quite pack the punch I suspect it is aiming at, but what it lacks in narrative bite it more than makes up for in visual splendor. It was made by combining oil paints, digital drawings, and graphic animation. It is beautifully designed and looks stunningly gorgeous. The backgrounds spiral and explode in fascinating ways exploring the emotion of the scene rather than depicting any real space the characters are in. The characters look fascinating. They are roughly drawn and feature messes hair, big eyes and overbites. These aren’t pretty people, but average and ugly.
Shout! Factory! presents Tito and the Birds with a 2.35:1 aspect radio and a 1080p transfer. Extras include an interview with director/writer/producer Gustavo Steinberg and producer Daniel Greco, plus the theatrical trailer.
Tito and the Birds is a beautifully animated tale of a young boy rising above his fears to save the day. Its story is fairly simple but the lush animation makes it well worth the watching.