On September 29, we go from an animated film from Ireland to an animated film from France. In recent years, we are seeing animated films beyond the US, Great Britain and Japan. Song of the Sea is brings Ireland into the animation world. This year’s Academy Awards saw Brazil nominated for Best Animated Feature (for The Boy and The World) and Chile win Best Animated Short (for the Bear Story). And this festival sees two feature length animated films from France. One of them is April and the Extraordinary World, an adventurous sci-fi mystery.
The film takes place in Paris of an alternate 1941 stuck in the industrial revolution because all of the scientists have been disappearing. Among them are April’s parents, who were taken away on a mysterious cloud when she was a child. Now April’s (voiced by Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard in the French version, Angela Galuppo in the English version) on the run from the law, especially the bumbling Gaspar Pizoni (Boili Lanners in French, Paul Giamatti in English). All she has left of her parents is the ingredients for their invincibility serum and her talking cat Darwin (Philippe Katerine in English, Tony Hale in French). While she trying to perfect the serum, she gets an unexpected message from her father (Olivier Gourmet in French, Mark Camacho in English). Reunited with her grandfather Pops (French film legend Jean Rochefort in French, Tony Robinow in English), chased by Pizoni and joined by pickpocket scoundrel Julius (Marc-Andre Grondin in French, Tod Fennell in English), April will find out the conspiracy behind the scientists’ disappearance and hopefully find her parents.
The film starts off fast paced and adventurous. With April’s parents on the run, we see the incompetent Pizoni and his crew trip over themselves while April’s parents and Pops leap across cable cars trying to escape. When April gets her message, she enters a conspiracy laced mystery and a journey of self-discovery. With this being a mystery, I can’t reveal too much of the second half.
What is consistent is the glorious environment. Based on the animation style of cartoonist Jacques Tardi (It was the War of the Trenches), Paris is all steam and no punk. With no progress past the industrial revolution, the power remains on coal, smoke consumes the skies and Europe’s trees are gone. Dogs wear gas masks and rats wear goggles. The most interesting set pieces seem to have set pieces overtop another, including a factory in an opera house or an abandoned mall surrounding France’s last tree. I haven’t even gotten through half of the interesting set pieces this film has in store, especially with spoilers.
What also work are the characters. Each character is uniquely entertaining, whether it’s the headstrong April, romantic Darwin and loveable scoundrel Julius. It makes it more entertaining when we see these characters play off each other. When April warns Julius to stay out of her way, Darwin responds “I think she likes you.” There are more characters ahead but again, spoilers.
I imagine perception for this film will be similar to that of Wall-E; some will love the whole film or only love the first half. The second half isn’t bad, but some people will consider it a bit weak compared to the first half. All that matters to audiences is whether or not audience will still enjoy the film as whole. With an intriguing steampunk environment, entertaining characters and fast paced action, audiences are sure to enjoy April and the Extraordinary World.
 For some reason, the film’s subtitles calls the film, April and the Twisted World.