ANNECY - In one of the most significant distribution deals to date for Brazilian animation, New York-based GKids has acquired North American rights to Ale Abreu's upcoming "Boy and the World," the tale of a small child's epic discovery of the modern world.
Sold by Elo Company, a Sao Paulo sales agent/distributor, "Boy" bowed in competition Monday at France's Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival.
But it is the GKids pick-up - a gold standard these days for artistically ambitious animation features from all over the world - which, together with selection for Annecy competition, will really put "Boy and the World" on the map as one of the flagship films of the fast-growing and creatively adventurous Brazilian animation scene.
Like other recent features, such as Annecy's 2013 Cristal winner "Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury," "Boy" drills down deep into Brazilian culture - its music, songs, color schemes - to lend originality to its tales.
"Boy," Abreu's second feature after 2007's "Cosmic Boy," is no exception.
Dialogue-free, it begins with Cuca, a small boy, romping in the countryside where he wonders at the kaleidoscope colors of nature. Suddenly, his idyllic life is shattered as his father leaves for the big city, prompting Cuca to abandon his comfy life to follow him in a plucky bid to reunite his family. Following Cuca, Abreu portrays the modern world, as seen through the eyes of a small child.
"From the very first notes on screen, 'Boy and the World' announces itself as a special film, and a true discovery," said Dave Jesteadt, GKids distribution director.
He added: "We are excited to bring director Ale Abreu's very personal film to North America and share a compassionate musical epic that domestic audiences are sure to embrace."
Hand-drawn by Abreu, "the young boy's journey unfolds like a tapestry, the animation taking on greater complexity and variety as his small world expands. Simple line drawings of the village give way to broad brushstrokes forming giant bushels of cotton lining country roads and sweeps of pastel churned into roaring waves," GKids said in a statement Monday, describing "Boy's" stunning visuals.
Approaching the city, the boy discovers weird animal machines, TV, dehumanized factory labor, high rises, favelas, land fills, deforestation: the ills of the modern world.
Ultimately, "The Boy and the World" paints "the clash between poor and rich, countryside and city, indigenous and imperial, handcrafted and mechanized," the GKids statement added.
Awash with painterly colors, "Boy and the World" also boasts a soundscape created by Ruben Feffer and Gustavo Kurlat using scrap material, vocal and body percussion, leisurely Brazilian hip-hop, folkloric flute, electronic and orchestral overlay.
Produced by Filme de Papel, whose credits include Abreu's TV series pilot "Vivi Viramento" and "Cosmic Boy," "The Boy and the World" has enjoyed multiple state support benefits - one of the keys to Brazil's toon surge - including national subsidy coin from Brazil's federal Ancine state agency and its Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, support from Sao Paulo's regional culture authorities, and tax break investment from oil giant Petrobras and Brazil's BNDES state development bank.
"Boy and the World" has now sold over 20 territories, including France and Belgium (Les Films du Preau) and Latin American pay TV rights (HBO Latin America), said Elo Company CEO Sabrina Nudeliman.
Spain, Italy, Israel, Norway and South Korea are now closing. Established as a fest fave, "Boy" will screen at the Shanghai Festival, she added.
A distributor of award-winning movies specializing in animated features for adult and family audiences, GKids has scored four Best Animated Feature Academy Award nominations - one reason overseas sales agents prize a GKids pick-up so highly - "The Secret of Kells" in 2010, "A Cat in Paris" and "Chico & Rita" in 2012, and "Ernest & Celestine" in 2014.
Current and upcoming GKids releases include France's "Ernest & Celestine," a bear and mouse friendship tale featuring Forrest Whitaker, Mackenzie Foy, Lauren Bacall, Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy, Megan Mullaly, Nick Offerman and Jeffrey Wright; Spanish senior citizen buddy movie "Wrinkles," featuring Martin Sheen, Matthew Modine and George Coe; Isao Takahata's Annecy opening movie "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya," the latest Studio Ghibli film; and the highly anticipated "Song of the Sea," from Tomm Moore, director of "The Secret of Kells."
GKids also handles North American theatrical distribution for the Studio Ghibli library and is the long-term producer of the New York Intl. Children's Film Festival, North America's largest festival of movies for children and teens.