Plumiferos: Aventuras Voladores, directed by Daniel DeFelippo and Gustavo Giannini. 80 minutes. February 18, 2010.
Plumiferos was shown theatrically in Argentina in February 2010, but was released in the U.S. direct-to-video as both Birds of Paradise and as Free Birds on April 1, 2014. This created some confusion since Reel FX’s first animated feature (with the turkeys) was also released as Free Birds in the U.S. on November 1, 2013, just five months earlier; and the American tagline — “It’s an everyday universe that exists 7 feet over our heads. They are city birds that you can find in every tree or every corner.” – was inappropriate with the Birds of Paradise title, since they are hardly either American or Argentine city birds. But it did associate Plumiferos better with the exotic birds of Rio 2. The U.S. Birds of Paradise DVD release was admittedly timed to coincide with the theatrical release of Blue Sky Studios’ Rio 2 on April 11, 2014.
Plumiferos looks lush, but I can’t decide whether it has bad CGI, bad character design, or both. Opening its Argentine trailer with a gross-out belch joke doesn’t help any; and the movie opens with a sickly sparrow (blind in one eye?) escaping from Fredy, an inept cat. The movie cuts to Juan (Jack in the U.S. release), a healthy sparrow who hangs out with several other city birds in a Buenos Aires park, notably Pipo (Pete) the hummingbird and Libia (Larry, also creating a sex change) the pigeon. (One of each avian species, including several others, is not natural for a flock.) Juan is an ace flyer, but he has an inferiority complex over his drab sparrow’s coloring.
The park is adjacent to a skyscraper that is the headquarters of Sr./Mr. Puertas, an electronics/computer magnate (listed in the cast as a TV executive, but you decide) who looks suspiciously like Bill Gates. He carries Feifi (Aurora), a beautiful yellow canary in an electronic cage that he lets out in a locked room to entertain only him. Feifi escapes through an open window, but she doesn’t know how to live as a free bird.
Juan is knocked by a kite into the air vent of a closed factory where Fredy is a clumsy watchcat. Fredy knocks several paint cans onto him. Juan appreciates his fancy new coloring. That night, Feifi meets Clarita (Claire), a friendly big-eared bat who invites her into her bat colony. The next morning, Juan escapes when the factory is opened. He meets Feifi and, proud of his new coloring, invites her to join his flock; and she invites Clarita to join them. (If there is any explanation as to what a lone bat is doing out in the daytime, I’ve missed it.) Juan shows off by winning a bird’s flying contest while flying on his back; but he makes enemies of three seagulls. Meanwhile, Mr. Puertas and his bodyguards are shown in the background, following Feifi by a tracker on her leg.
Juan is attacked by the three gulls and tries to outfly them, but he is suddenly too weak to get away. The gulls worry that they may catch whatever he has and leave. He is saved from a hawk by Libia, while his friends all save the sickly sparrow from Fredy. They finally realize that the paint on Juan is poisoning him. Pipo, Libia, Feifi, and Clarita take him to a veterinary clinic to have the paint removed; but while he is inside, Puertas and his bodyguards recapture Feifi. The 15-minute climax has Juan, Pipo, Libia, and Clarita entering Mr. Puertas’ skyscraper through an air vent to free Feifi. Puertas’ bodyguards intervene with high-tech weaponry, demonstrating why you shouldn’t fire explosive weaponry wildly inside a futuristic office suite. There are a couple of scenes of the sparrow and the canary kissing, which are just unconvincing with otherwise realistic CGI birds.
Gaturro la Pelicula (Gaturro the Movie), directed by Gustavo Cova. 86 minutes. September 9, 2010.
Gaturro la Pelicula was an Argentine-Indian-Mexican co-production (Toonz Animation in Kerala, India, takes almost full credit for the production on its website), but it was easy to identify as primarily Argentine since it was based on another popular Argentine newspaper comic strip, this time by Argentine cartoonist Nik (Christian Dzwonik). It was also directed for Illusion Studios by Gustavo Cova, who directed Boogie, el Aceitoso. If the two movies don’t look anything like each other, Cova was deliberately directing them in the art styles of two very different cartoonists.
Nik became a popular cartoonist in 1992, with the character of Gaturro the cat and his family beginning in 1996. In 1998 Gaturro appeared on an Argentine postage stamp, in a set of six popular Argentine comic strip characters. (Patoruzú was one of the others.) In 2001 Gaturro reached the musical stage. There have been awards for Nik in general and Gaturro in particular; lots of popular Gaturro merchandising including book collections of the newspaper strips and video games; and in 2010 this CGI theatrical feature.
The feature, as is customary with the theatrical feature of any long-running comic strip, includes the full cast of characters and assumes that the viewer is familiar with all of them. In this case, Gaturro, a typical cartoon loser/buffoon, is the pet of human “Daddy” and “Mommy” (Daniel and Valeria) and their children, teenage daughter Luz and child son Augustín. Other housemate animals are the baby cat Gaturrin, the goldfish Emilio, and the dog Canturro. Other neighborhood cats are his friends Katy Kit and the long-necked Gatulongo; the shallow Ágatha, with whom Gaturro is in love; and the rich Max who keeps upstaging him with Ágatha. Apparently one of the appealing factors of the strip is that all of the cats are identical except for facial details, hair/fur, clothing, and size.
In this feature, Gaturro constantly tries to court Ágatha, who always happens to look away at the wrong moment while Max is always “on stage”. But Ágatha is really impressed by the TV cat superhero Tick Cat, played by the young cat star Michou. When Michou gets tired of acting and retires, the TV series’ announcer creates a contest for a new star to play Tick Cat. Gaturro convinces his humans (despite their obliviousness) to take him to apply for the role. At the studio he is coached by Rat Pit, a failed animal star. Max learns that Gaturro is about to become a TV star and tries to sabotage him with a dog’s fleas, but this gives the TV producer the idea of turning Gaturro into a new supergato: Flea Cat! Gaturro becomes a big TV star, but unfortunately this does not leave him any time to continue his romance with Ágatha; plus Max continues to sabotage him by making Ágatha think that Gaturro has rejected her for sexy feline star Gatulina Yolí. She accepts Max’s proposal for a super-wedding on the same night that Gaturro is to receive the Oscat award, sponsored by “Cosmogatilan” magazine.
A new villainess appears: Mimicha, the human owner of Michou, who has never accepted his being eclipsed by Gaturro. She kidnaps Gaturro on the eve of his success to humiliate him. Meanwhile, Rat Pit has learned of Agatha’s and Max’s wedding, and when he goes to warn Gaturro, he discovers his kidnapping. Rat Pit and Gaturro’s animal friends (Katy Kit, Gatulongo, and Emilio) try to save him, while he is helped “from inside” by Michou who does not want to return to stardom. Gaturro and his four friends next go to stop the wedding, and expose Max for manufacturing the phony romance with Gatulina Yoli. Max fights back with the giant robot from the Flea Cat TV show. The climax ends with Mimicha humiliated; Michou still happily retired; the wedding ruined; Gaturro and his friends reunited; Gaturro not appearing at the Oscats and losing his TV career (which he no longer wants; he’s replaced by “The Rat Pit Show”), and everything returning to the status quo ante.
Despite there being two 2010 animated features, there was no Silver Condor Award in the animation category that year. Maybe neither Plumiferos nor Gaturro were considered as of award status, since both were basically for children after the more varied animated theatrical features of the previous half-decade.
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