Dorothy Wall’s children’s books, Blinky Bill became something akin to the Bambi
of Australia. Polish-Australian animator and Holocaust survivor Yoram Gross
could directly relate to the young koala who lost his father, which in turn
helped him re-popularize the character in a string of films and a television
series. However, a new reboot jettisons his tragic backstory, preferring to keep
things happy and saccharine. Kids who dig koalas will still find him endearing
but long-time fans and sophisticated animation audiences will judge Deane
Taylor’s Blinky Bill, the Movie (trailer here) rather light weight when it screens at the 2016 Rhode Island International Film Festival.
good news is Blinky’s dad (somewhat ironically referred to as Mr. Bill) is
alive and well and maddeningly irresponsible. The bad news is the self-styled
explorer up and got himself lost during his latest walkabout. Unfortunately,
that leaves Wilberforce Cranklepot, the authoritarian Goanna a free hand to
ride rough shot over formerly idyllic Greenpatch. Naturally, Blinky sets off
half-cocked to rescue his father, but he only succeeds in liberating Nutsy, a
zoo koala who does not want to be saved. Still, she might just develop a taste
for the wild life during her misadventures with Blinky.
Blinky is all very harmless. Koalas are always cute and Blinky still
demonstrates plenty of virtue. Screenwriter Fin Edquist also shoehorns in some
mild criticism of zoo captivity, but the feature does not have a fraction of
the bite viewers feel from the Aardman short, Creature Comforts.
CG animation is professionally polished, but unremarkable. The real problem is
the watering down and white-washing of Blinky Bill’s story. It is like a Bambi
reboot, in which his mother becomes an absent-minded corporate workaholic. As
in the case of Netflix’s The Little Prince, Taylor and Edquist clearly feel no need to keep faith with the
spirit of their source material. That is bizarrely problematic, considering the
iconic stature of both Yoram Gross and Blinky Bill in Australia.
On the other hand, there is no reason uncritical
little ones won’t enjoy the new incarnation of Blinky Bill. There are no
didactic excursions into class warfare, just nice and safe animal hijinks. Not
a priority for animation connoisseurs, Blinky
Bill, the Movie is what it is when it screens Thursday morning (8/11) during
this year’s RIFF.
Labels: Animated films, Australian cinema, Blinky Bill, RIFF '16