March 16, 2008

It's taken almost half a year, but I finally got the "Dance Off!' episode of the Spanish/British co-production Pocoyo on my PVR. I wasn't always a fan; for months I'd spotted the show on my satellite TV grid, but I never stopped to look at it. Then at last year's Ottawa fest I caught "Dance Off!" during the Kids Competition and—along with much of the rest of the audience—laughed my ass off.

During that half year, I recorded every episode of Pocoyo, hoping to find that episode. Since it repeats pretty frequently, that meant I was recording and skimming through three or four of the ten-minute episodes every day. It wasn't a hardship; Pocoyo is not only one of those rare kids' programs that adults can watch and genuinely enjoy, it's an animator's delight. Those two elements aren't unrelated; although Pocoyo is 3D CGI, it's animated somewhere in between UPA and anime. The character designs are simple and expressive; there's plenty of stylized motion and popping from pose to pose; and the characters have distinct body language. Since the show has minimal character dialogue (which, conveniently, makes it easy to translate to multiple languages), the animation has to carry the story. If you want to see what I mean, check out the trailer for the show's second season:

What kills me is that Dreamworks knocked themselves out to create cartoony CGI with Madagascar, and Disney did the same with Chicken Little, then both patted themselves on the back for all the time and effort and technology and research they poured into it. Meanwhile, a handful of animators working at small studios like Peter Lepeniotis (Surly Squirrel) and David Cantolla, Luis Gallego and Guillermo García (the creators of Pocoyo) just quietly and effectively nailed it.

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