What are dreams? Pictures that we have in our minds when we sleep, or a reality so farfetched that others dismiss them as ludicrous? An orphan girl named Félicié (Elle Fanning) has dreams of becoming a ballet dancer and flees her grotty Britannic orphanage for Paris, with her best friend Victor (Dane DeHaan).
This children’s feature is set please the children that came out of Moana feeling great yet were refused entry to Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One. This movie is very much the definition of the old idiom, from “rags to riches.” Its main character, voiced by very capable actress Elle Fanning (Neon Demon), flees an orphanage to literally bullshit her way into a spot at the fin de siècle Paris Opera.
I always feel a good deal of pride when I go to see an non-Disney animated movie that delivers. Disney have set the gold standard for children’s animated movies so when you see films like Kung Fu Panda or Kubo And The Two Strings, it makes you remember there are those out there that sometimes do a better job.
I felt great joy in watching a female protagonist in pursuit of something other than a prince. She’s in pursuit of something greater, a career in which she can better herself as an individual. She’s put herself first and everything else second. To see a creative career portrayed as something other than a misdirected venture is really heartwarming.
I really liked watching an animated character on her own quest for self, rather than with an animal sidekick and a punchline at every corner, sorry Disney. We see Félicié conforming to her gender roles but we also see her breaking them on the norm. She wants to be her own person with her own ideologies and motivations. That’s a notion that even as late as 1960 would be frowned upon, as men were apparently the only ones who were capable of independent thought.
In addition, the animation style is no Disney, but it’s still well-constructed and it really pays attention to detail such as a partly-built Eiffel Tower. Paris in the 1920s is a city under construction and the animators have really honed in on that. The soundtrack is good, even if it is mostly pop sensations but it really enforces the fact that a female protagonist can be more interesting than a patriarchal one, regardless if they’re animated or not.
All in all, Ballerina is a good movie with a historical context but it’s a also a accurate depiction of human nature. Moreover, it shows us what people will do to survive. It shows us that even if you’re great at what you do, you can still lose because you grew up poor. The rich and the privileged will always have an advantaged over the working classes. This is something we can all relate to and it’s a thing we see on a daily basis in modern-day society. It is entirely possible to commit zero errors and still lose. That’s nothing new. It’s one of many of the trials and tribulations of real life. With excellent voice performances and sound animation, this should be on every child’s watch list this Christmas.