TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Toto (Archie Yates) is a curious young boy with an affinity for music, just like his grandfather, Robert (Edward Norton). However, when his sister is taken away by the darkness, Toto must abandon his reality and do all he can to save her. Paper Birds tells the story of Toto’s journey and the struggles his grandfather and grandmother, Elsa (Joss Stone), faced in the past. While the two tales appear different from one another on the surface, the similarities between Toto and Robert are uncanny. The
The film, directed by Federico Carlini and writer German Heller, is a 3D, virtual experience that transports viewers into the world of Toto and his family. As the movie begins, viewers very literally see a new and vibrant world being built around them. The sets come into existence, viewers become immersed in Toto’s world and experience something literally unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. For the first time ever, as I sat (and stood, and walked) through a film, I felt as if I could reach out and touch the sets, that everything surrounding me was, in fact, tangible. The visuals are beautiful, and the attention to detail allows this animated film to resemble the real world. Animation studios like Pixar regularly produce top-notch films with near-perfect animation, often outdoing the competition.
“…his sister is taken away by the darkness…”
While Paper Birds is a different experience from what you might get from Pixar, the animation company behind this unusual cinematic odyssey, 3DAR, creates something genuinely interesting and comparable to the likes of the aforementioned blockbuster animation studio. Details like individual pieces of fruit on top of the refrigerator or each leaf on the bush outside the window make everything feel real, enhancing the drama. Seeing the emotion present on the characters’ faces, seeing their mannerisms change in the more dramatic instances, and the juxtaposition of light and dark coupled with beautiful melodies bring this story to life and create an animated film unlike any other before it.
Yates is a talented and charismatic young actor who wears his emotions on his face with pride. He’s tasked with conveying emotion through nothing but his voice. In this animated, three-dimensional short, the young actor brings his A-game. He provides a consistent and entertaining performance, allowing viewers to look past the incredible visuals and appreciate Toto. As brilliant as the visuals are, they can be distracting from the dialogue and story due to their prowess and detail. Yates keeps the story alive, and viewers on the edges of their seats as his uniquely compelling voice brings the film to life. In addition to Yates’s wonderful voice acting, Norton and Stone do a spectacular job of communicating emotion and developing their characters as well. These immensely talented actors help convey a charming message with which everyone can identify.
This is the first experience I’ve had with a 3D virtual reality film, and what a way to introduce me to the genre. Paper Birds is compelling from beginning to end, resulting from the impeccable animation and the honest and effective voice acting. From the opening scene, as Yates first begins narrating, I was hooked on the experience. While many films make viewers feel like they are a part of the journey, Carlini and Heller very literally places viewers in the middle of the story and allow them to interact with the characters and the scenery. This connects audiences to the content in new and exciting ways. Paper Birds is truly spectacular and one of the most unique films I’ve ever experienced.
Paper Birds screened at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.
"…one of the most unique films I’ve ever experienced."