Belfast city centre on a wet Sunday is many things but magical isn’t one of them. It’s lucky therefore that my rain-sodden self was headed there for something that might raise my spirits. The premiere of Macropolis from director and creator Joel Simon and co-writers Mike O’Hara and Ciaran Morrison was indeed a real treat and quickly put pay to my thoughts of the squelch in my trainers and the rain drops racing down my back.
The premise of Macropolis is that toys with impairments are discarded from a factory production line. They come alive and chase the factory van desperately hoping to get back to their friends. Lost in the unfamiliar urban environment they struggle to come to terms with their new world. The clever little characters – Cat with her eye-patch and Dog with his prosthetic leg – reinterpret the objects around them and turn the stuff we take for granted into things to play with or travel by.
The characters in Macropolis don’t speak but instead are given personality by their gestures and facial expressions. I haven’t seen a film since Who Framed Roger Rabbit? that did the whole animated-characters-in-a-real-world setting schtick so enjoyably. The notion of unique toys finding their way in the world as a metaphor for focusing on our abilities and not our impairments has been done before – notably by my childhood favourite The Raggy Dolls – but Simon and his collaborators use the idea brilliantly.
Placing the characters into a real city really makes it easy to connect with their plight while the joyful character design further encourages the viewer to warm to them. The use of resin, silicon and good old plasticine to create the characters also gives a hit of nostalgia, harking back to the days of Tony Hart and Morph. I don’t want to say too much more about the story as I feel like I’d spoil it.
Macropolis is both a technically impressive piece of work and a really heart-warming story. The way in which the team behind it has tackled the issue of addressing the world when you have different needs and abilities is brilliant. I heartily recommend getting to see Macropolis as it wends its way round the world at film festivals and events. It’s one of those films that will make children and adults alike smile. And in a grey, rainy world, that’s a quality to be embraced wholeheartedly.
Macropolis is now showing daily at W5 at Odyssey, Belfast until 29 August. It can also then be seen at Picturehouse at FACT, Liverpool for one night only (21 August) before having another showing in Belfast at Queens Film Theatre from 24 to 27 August. From 31 August until 9 September, there are free screenings all day everyday as part of the London 2012 Festival at Southbank Centre.
Mic Wright is a journalist and blogger based in Dublin who tweets far more than he should via @brokenbottleboy