A noticeable trend that I have been slightly concerned about over the passing decade, is that children’s programming, in both film and television, is slowly declining in the amount of risks taken, in these vast forms of media. Pandering to a specific age demographic is already hard enough, but when dealing with strict contractual guidelines, censorship, and a whole other plethora of headache inducing legalities; it honestly makes sense why most children-oriented entertainment feel less liberated, compared to some other adult-oriented flicks. It’s only the real hardworking artists, who manage to slip through the cracks of this menacing stonewall, to produce a piece that stands completely by it’s self; away from any sort of forced upon obligations. Filmmakers who manage to add their own identity, their own personality, onto a work of art that isn’t associated with their key demographic, is an ambitious and risky undertaking, which most of the time, succeeds tremendously for those who see fit. With director Anca Damian, she managed to get through her limiting guidelines and narrative, to produce a film that’s uniquely only hers.
Marona’s Fantastic Tale is more of the same old “puppy love” shtick, that you would expect from films such as All Dogs Go To Heaven and the most recent offender, The Dog’s Journey saga. In concept, there’s nothing new presented here in terms of plot, character arcs, or even simple mere motivations. It’s exactly what you would expect; digestible, adorable vignettes, connected with a clumsy central timeline. What really elevates the material however, is the visual flare and the symbolic radiance of Damian’s aesthetic. Her film shines through the paper-thin material, as she adds color and life to what could have been an ultra-mundane environment. There’s energy in every frame, where regardless of your emotional connection with the characters, you can still view the film from a more artistically inclined and objective point of view.
And in some regard, the designs of the film’s vivid arrangement of character designs, represents a unique side-lined societal commentary to go along with Marona’s various human owners. The acrobat represents childhood and blissful youth. The construction worker, represents the hefty and mature responsibility of becoming an adult. The grandpa represents the act of ignorance and forgiveness at an older stage of life. By having the point of view of the film directly from a subjective lens of an adorable little puppy, your’re not only letting the audience interpret the film’s hidden meanings, but your’re also subliminally teaching young children about the workforce, compassion, and the evolution of time correlating with one’s occupation in a very entertaining and engaging matter.
While not as deep as it’s set up to be, Marona’s Fantastic Tale has plenty of material to dig through, in both pure visual ecstasy, and concealed thematic messages. Arguably being a gentle step towards the right direction for Damian, after her previous feature The Magic Mountain, her latest film is one that can be enjoyed and celebrated by all ages. It’s gorgeous film-making from an ever-improving, future maestro of contemporary animation.
Marona’s Fantastic Tale screened at this year’s Ottawa International Animation Festival. GKids will release the film in the coming months.