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When it comes to contemporary "traditionally" animated films, attention has shifted towards Hayao Miyazaki and the wonderful Studio Ghibli. Unlike Disney, which has mostly shifted their attention towards CG-animated films, Studio Ghibli has incorporated a blending of hand-drawn animation with CG-rendering to create their films. Above all else, each Studio Ghibli film captures the innocence and spectacle that early Disney cartoons did.
The Day of the Crows attempts to capture that exact same level of acclaim that has followed Miyazaki's career, but does it succeed in doing so?
Day of the Crows (Le jour des corneilles)
After an event that results being cast away from a small town, the giant-like Pumpkin (Jean Reno) decides to raise his unnamed son (Lorant Deutsch) in a forest nearby. A few years pass and the young boy is somewhat wild, living off of hunted spoils with his Father, with his only friends being the forest spirits (which are made up of anthropomorphic humans with animal heads). Threatened by his father to never venture out of the forest or else he'll disappear, the young boy is intrigued when he spots a group of humans walking towards the town. Following a near-fatal event, the boy brings his father into town for medical help, where he realizes that there is a life outside the wilderness.
A lot of familiar themes are present in The Day of Crows for veterans of contemporary animated films. From the young child protagonist, the conflict between "the wild" vs. society, friendship, and the parent/child love are all reminiscent of Studio Ghibli films. Furthering the similarities are the prevalence of animal spirits guiding the protagonist. In fact, outside of the character designs, one could easily confuse this as being part of Studio Ghibli's repertoire.
Now is that a bad thing? Well, yes and no. As if it wasn't blatantly obvious, I'm a huge fan of Studio Ghibli, so any animated film that attempts to replicate the same magic will be seen pretty favorably. However, trouble can form when it's too similar. The Day of Crows is entertaining in its own right, but it doesn't really set out to separate itself from many other animated films. Again, it's a mixed bag, because it is a good film, but its specialty comes from what feels familiar, not what feels different.
That being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. As I previously stated, the character designs are enjoyable. The animation is smooth, and the way the young boy moves like a spider/wolf is so interesting. I don't know too much about the actual animation process, but just watching him move in such an unorthodoxy way captivated me. Furthermore, the overall tone of the film was very vibrant, with the colors radiating lively.
The Day of the Crows wears its influences on its sleeves. While that doesn't necessarily take away how entertaining and charming it is, something to help separate it from other modern animated films would have been very welcome. However, it captures everything that you love about Studio Ghibli films, and that's never a bad thing. The Day of the Crows is innocent, bright, and fun like the animated films you remember from your childhood.