Month: January 2021

The Wacky Hen (2019)

Written for Raf News Jan 2021

An eye-sore compared to the other hens, it is by some strange stroke of luck that Turu, the titular oddity, is bought for an elderly woman’s farm. Stranger still, that in lieu of laying eggs, she has taken to speaking the language and is prone to bang out the odd tune.

Watch La Gallina Turuleca (Turu, The Wacky Hen) ESP | Prime Video

Stranger things have happened in children’s animated films, and you can see elements of them propping up this simply plotted romp. When elderly saviour and vocal coach Isabel falls from her roof and is carted off to hospital (a Disney film would have surely seen her offed), Turu chases her to the big city by way of a travelling circus.

Dubbed from the original Spanish, The Wacky Hen incorporates contemporary pop songs to keep the energy high, with montages and car chases to the keep the little one’s attentive. The sense of mild peril is constant, what with the circus being threatened with foreclosure if they can’t get a decent audience, and Isabel seeming to suffer a bout of concussion induced amnesia. But it never feels too serious and it’s clear how it will play out: Turu packing the tent to the rafters with a thankfully reworked version of The Macarena (the translation of the original school disco number I had only discovered in later life).

Though the message and moral is that it doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, the implication is that so long as you’re talented. For Turu it’s a matter of having one-eye in the land of the blind as no other animal can talk; fortunate for our feathered hero as she wouldn’t have survived the first round elimination of Sing.

Away (2020)

Written for RAF News Jan 2021

Created in its entirety by one person, Away is an animated feature that follows a young boy as he crash lands on an exotic island, chased through a dreamlike oasis by a giant creature.

Away review – Latvian animation reaches Ghibli heights

Gints Zilbalodis has the sole credit on the film, a 26 year old Latvian prodigy with no formal training in animation, working with little to no budget. Writing and directing as well as providing the score, which is pivotal in imparting the tone and sense of unfolding wonder, he put together this minimal but dazzling film over the course of three years.

The story is simple, and unfolds more as a series of obstacles, as the young boy finds ways to evade this ominous dark spirit and push onward. The pace is gentle, working with the score to put you in a sort of trance, allowing you to experience the scale and spectacle despite the style of animation. Made without dialogue, it is the combination of music and sound design that plunges you into the world, finding moments of reflection in the boys’ interactions with different animals.

The visuals can be quite crude, like a video game from decades past, notable particularly in rigid, unnatural movement. In some places though, the ripple of a waterfall, or licking flames from a fire, there is an elegance to be found in its abstract simplicity. For the most part though it’s hard to look past the style, even whilst appreciating it, I felt unable to forget about its presentation.

It is some feat then, that with this reminder at the forefront of the experience, you are still able to be transported and care about the boy or the the small bird that he befriends along the way. Considering its humble beginnings, this is a remarkable achievement.