Tito and the Birds (2018) by Gabriel Bitar, Gustavo Steinberg and André Catoto Dias
Review by Zach Dennis
It’s always wonderful to explore international animation and I applaud distributor GKIDS for being a great resource for that. I don’t have any inside knowledge on whether or not Tito and the Birds would be on their radar, but it certainly fits the bill of unique, vivid animation that they’ve become known for.
Coming from Brazil, Tito and the Birds follows the titled character who is upset with his inventor father’s leaving from their home and attempts to pick up his life-long work in an attempt to bring him back. Tito’s father left after his project — a machine designed to translate the speech of pigeons and other birds — backfired and caused an explosion that injured Tito.
The world is in chaos, so fuck it, let’s ask some birds what they think could solve the problems. Tito’s world doesn’t break too differently from ours. A fear-mongering television personality flaunts his influence on the public to incite hysteria for anything and everything, namely a new disease called “The Outbreak” that (stick with me, please) causes people to turn into rocks.
Naturally, the pigeons know what to do, but they’re, well, pigeons, so it wasn’t the immediate thought in most minds as to finding the solution of massive medical emergencies.
Tito and the Birds blends elements of Expressionism and Impressionism, fitting the hysteria over the disease. Many sequences pull and curl with the movement of the characters, and the jagged texture in sequences where people look to the television or their phone for updates from the talking head accentuate the paranoia being evoked.
There have been better international animated offerings than Tito, but it is another example of why continuing to offer them is essential and important as it allows for the medium to explore themes and limits that American animation wouldn’t dare to touch. After viewing The Front Runner earlier the same day, which also features much contemplation on the changing tides in media and how it has led to a re-branding of the output of news, but Tito and the Birds seems to attack the same issue more astutely.
In the age of Fox News, it isn’t too difficult to find a connection between the media personality in Tito and someone like Bill O’Reilly, Tucker Carlson or Alex Jones. Not only just the radicalism of this personality, but also how the influx of money influences his manipulation as later in the movie, we find him attempting to find a cure for the disease in order to make profits from it.
I’ll be curious to see if Tito and the Birds can find a way into the U.S. whether through GKIDS or another route, but it certainly joins the ranks of international animation breaking away from the American standard we’re used to seeing.