Possibly you’ve never heard of this studio, or this story.
So, for fans of animation and family fare, let me introduce you to “Poupelle of Chimney Town.”
This is the Studio 4°C Co., Ltd. adaptation of a picture book by illustrator Akihiro Nishino.
The story has two leads. The first appears magically on, of all nights, Halloween. He’s a “garbage man” – that is, a creature made out of garbage suddenly brought to life – who goes unnoticed, at first, because the people involved in a Halloween celebration think he’s wearing a costume.
Then there’s Lubicchi, a child chimney sweep who has no friends. He’s the one who gives Poupelle his name when he rescues the unfortunate fellow from certain destruction in a rubbish furnace. The loner and the newcomer help each other discover their talents, and an unusual friendship begins.
Poupelle, through the experiences of Lubicchi, begins to learn about Chimney Town, an area where smokestacks create a skyline under a smoke-filled sky. Lubicchi, who is afraid of heights, was taught not to look down to overcome his fear.
He longs to look up and discover what’s beyond Chimney Town. But the townspeople and the fierce soldiers in charge laugh at the idea that there’s something beyond the haze.
Director Yusuke Hirota keeps audiences engaged with a lot of action, from tunnels to chase scenes. The environments are lush – notice the frames of smoke swirling at the edges – and the bright, stylized characters stand out.
Themes of friendship, self-confidence and loss all are addressed here in approaches that will appeal to both children and adults.
This reminds me quite a bit of one of my favorite movies that remains sadly unseen. If you like this one, seek out “City of Ember” (one of its attractions is Bill Murray as a thoroughly detestable villain.)
Meanwhile, look up for magic, and you’ll find it in “Poupelle.”
Running time: 100 minutes.
Rated: PG for some adult themes.
Watch the trailer here.
Streaming on Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube and Apple TV; and available on Blu-Ray and DVD.