Nahuel and the Magic Book (2020)
First Impression - Feature
Nahuel and the Magic Book is a Chilean animated feature from Germán Acuña Delgadillo. While it follows a well established narrative structure, it's amazing to see the mythology of Chile manifested so accessibly in a modern tale about facing fears.
I don't like comparing work to Studio Ghibli just because it's traditionally animated, or because it draws from a local cultural mythology. What I do like is that the magic of this feature is in the setting, which feels very Ghibli-esque.
While we see Nahuel's point of view as he navigates the word of bullies and eventually, magic. One thing that did stand out to me, is the world they were attempting to build. The meticulous detail in the background designs, as well as the wonderful rending of light, makes the world feel thorough and easy to image diving right into it. I could definitely feel the budgetary restraints, especially when it came to the animation, choosing lower frame rates and also trying to populate markets with background characters.
A thought that struck me while watching Nahuel and the Magic Book is just how the shadow of fear can be so crippling as it manifests in our lives. Finding ways around facing that fear can lead us on the wrong path, but ultimately we need to return and face that fear.
It's a simple primordial concept that we think we've all accomplished, but something as simple as speaking to someone can be blocked by the inner voice. I think here is where Nahuel and the Magic Book excels.
Fresia's roots in the Mapuchean culture add a rich diversity to the world Nahuel is discovering. In fact, that's part of the reason I enjoyed the feature the most is how it opened up Chilean history and culture to me. Like Cartoon Saloon or Ghibli, countries have rich histories and sharing them makes watching Animation so much more rewarding.
It's admirable they managed to get this feature through the pipeline and its a testament to the love and care the teams across the animations studios brought to the table. I'll be really interested to see what Germán Acuña Delgadillo brings to his next feature.