This daaaaaark animated film from Spain by Alberto Vázquez and Pedro Rivera is being released domestically as Birdboy: The Forgotten Children but was originally titled Psiconautas: Los Niños Olvidados. That echo of Luis Buñuel’s bleak kids-in-poverty epic Los Olvidados is appropriate. The new title also suggests that the character of Birdboy (co-director Rivero), a societal outcast tortured by demonic creatures, is a sort of superhero. But there are no heroes in this world of anthropomorphic animals and objects, an island in which a graphically depicted industrial explosion has laid waste to the inhabitants’ culture and spirits, most of whom are just trying to survive, no matter the cost. The real protagonist is young schoolmouse Dinky (Andrea Alzuri), whose parents abuse her while coddling her near-feral younger brother because he’s a boy and she’s not, as she sets out to escape the island with her friends.
Though the picture has been reflexively compared to the work of Tim Burton, the American artist it more calls to mind is graphic novelist Jhonen Vasquez — no relation to co-director Vázquez, creator of the source graphic novel. Still, Birdboy: The Forgotten Children is its own unique, damaged creature. Warning: You may find yourself growing attached to the character of Señor Reloggio (Josu Varela), Dinky’s alarm clock. For god’s sake, don’t.
Birdboy: The Forgotten Children
Directed by Alberto Vázquez & Pedro Rivera
Opens December 15, Quad Cinema