Big Fish & Begonia is a wonderfully animated film with stunning cinematic visuals coming not from Disney or Pixar but overseas in China.
While Disney and Pixar tend to have a stronghold on the best animated films of the year, this tale may very well be one of the most beautiful films of the year. It has the best of both worlds when it comes to animation–both hand-drawn and computer.
At the start of the film, we’re introduced to those beings who control the tide in addition to when seasons change. We also learn that when they turn sixteen years old, they are able to visit the human world much like the Amish rumspringa. They don’t transform into humans but into red dolphins. The film focuses in on Chun. Chun isn’t like the rest of them. She wants to do more than just observe. Rather, she wants to be able to explore the world. It isn’t that easy as she soon learns. As any of us knows, it’s a hard life out there. It’s even harder for a dolphin.
Chun learns that there is kindness in humans when a young boy sacrifices his own life in order to save hers. Chun has the power to restore his life but doing so isn’t easy. As they say in Once Upon A Time, magic always comes with a price. As such, it takes Chun on an adventurous journey of her own.
The mix of hand-drawn and computer animation makes for stunning visuals. In doing so, the film captures the ancient Chinese traditions. The filmmakers could have easily made a film largely inspired by Western culture but they didn’t do that–and for good reason. There’s a growing animation market in China but it’s nothing like the Disney-Pixar stronghold in the United States.
Unlike most animated features, there’s a price that’s going to come with it because it’s not a film that’s suitable for young children as it is PG-13. As beautiful as the animation may be, it’s not for the entire family. Could this film lead people to believe that animated films aren’t just for children? Maybe.
If there’s a legacy for Big Fish & Begonia, maybe it’s this idea that animated films can target older audiences instead of only young viewers. Time will tell as this film based in Chinese folklore sets sail.
DIRECTORS: Xuan Liang and Chun Zhang
SCREENWRITER: Xuan Liang
CAST (English): Johnny Yong Bosch, Fong Sung, Stephanie Sheh
CAST (Mandarin): Guanlin Ji, Shangqing Su, Weizhou Xu
Shout! Studios opened Big Fish & Begonia in U.S. theaters on April 6, 2018 in English and Mandarin with an expansion on April 11, 2018.