‘Boy and the World’ could be set for this year’s animated Oscar race

Oscar-watchers should have learned by now that when it comes to the Best Animated Feature race, you underestimate GKIDS at your peril. The independent animation distributor has only been around since 2008, but has already racked up four nominations in the race — for the foreign titles “The Secret of Kells,” “A Cat in Paris,” “Chico and Rita” and “Ernest and Celestine.” Each time, they've edged out more moneyed (and more widely predicted) US studio contenders, proving that the animation branch is often more persuaded by craft than by commerce. 

GKIDS' campaigns aren't infallible (I remain surprised that “The Painting” missed out in the 2012 race), but any high-profile new acquisition by the outfit is immediately one to consider in the race. And their latest, Brazilian animator Ale Abreu's festival hit “Boy and the World,” sounds like the kind of exotic, artistic entry that could upend a Hollywood heavyweight or two.

GKIDS announced the acquisition followings the film's Competition screening yesterday at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France; it has already earned accolades at festivals in Ottawa, Rio and Sao Paulo. Company head Dave Jesteadt states, “From the very first notes on screen, 'Boy and the World' announces itself as a special film, and a true discovery. We are excited to bring director Alê Abreu's very personal film to North America, and share a compassionate, musical epic that domestic audiences are sure to embrace.”

The film tells the story of a young boy in rural Brazil on a quest to reunite his family after his father leaves to work in the city. Abreu uses a range of animation styles to convey the shifting sights and textures of the landscape as the protagonist's world expands — the stills available online look nothing short of ravishing. The film is dialogue-free, but is accompanied by a varied soundtrack of indigenous Brazilian music, from samba to hip-hop.

A release date hasn't yet been announced for the film. GKIDS could conceivably hold it until next year, given that they have some other properties to work with — notably the gorgeous-looking “Song of the Sea,” from Oscar-nominated “Secret of Kells” director Tomm Moore. Still, there's no reason to think they couldn't angle for more than one nomination — as they managed with “Chico and Rita” and “A Cat in Paris” in the 2011 race. At this stage, this year's competition (for nominations, at least) doesn't look too stiff. Keep an eye on the little guys, if you haven't been doing so already.